I was filled with hope, anticipation, excitement and stress as we packed up and made the hike for our first family vacation all together – including the kids’ Maw-Maw.
We filled our SUV to the brim with three adults, two car seats and two preteens.
I couldn’t wait to finally get some sand between my toes after four long years landlocked and, even more, I couldn’t wait for Charlie to see the beach for the first time and fall in love with it.
I stressed for weeks about this trip – having everything we needed so we didn’t have to do any last-minute runs to the store, and really, I wanted to make sure everyone had a fantastic time all together since it’s something we rarely get to do.
Side note – my six-year-old step-daughter lives in Tennessee and we get to see her about four times a year, mostly around holidays. This summer we had her for three fantastic weeks, including this beach trip.
We also had a custody hearing for my step-sons a few weeks ago and got pretty much the opposite verdict of what we were all – including the boys – hoping for. And we were all, and still are, pretty bummed about it. So I was hoping this trip would turn around all of our moods and get us back to our fun-loving, happy selves.
And with all the pressure I put on our ‘Amspacker Beach Takeover’ obviously it would not go as I planned.
Charlie did not like the beach. She hated it.
She hated the sound. She hated the smell. She hated the sunblock, the sand and the fact she had to wear an enormous hat to block the sunshine from her beautiful, super iridescent baby skin.
I was that mom with the screaming baby at the beach who was throwing off her sun hat, getting sunblock in her eye and refusing to put her feet in the sand.
Stress level: high.
After she fell into her milk coma, I sat back in the beach chair, took a deep breath, closed my eyes and sank back in defeat into the chair.
I sat straight up to check Charlie and try to get her back to sleep. But when I opened my eyes it wasn’t Charlie’s cries I was hearing. It was the little boy two umbrellas over who was crying because he couldn’t eat sand.
And as I listened more, in the other direction a mom was yelling at her son for knocking over her toddler’s sand castle. And the tent in front of us had two kids crying because they had to put on more sunblock.
I stood up and looked around and finally realized that it wasn’t just Charlie, and this was what going to the beach was: sad tears, suntans, salty hair, smiles and family together.
I already knew having children meant pretty much everything is unpredictable and as a parent you have to adapt to every situation, and I didn’t know why I thought going to the beach would be different.
As the salty air hit my face, it was a slap in the face for me to wake up and enjoy this time with my family. I felt the crashing waves on my legs and the pull of the tide and as the water rushed back into the massive Atlantic, it took all my stress and anxiety with it.
I used the rest of our trip coming up with ways to make our trip to the beach and around the sandy towns easier.
Family Beach Trip Tricks and Tips with Toddler and Kids
1. Bring a stroller to the beach. Use it to help carry all the towels, bags and shovels on the sand and use it as a make shift crib for naps. PULL THE STROLLER BACKWARDS ON THE BEACH, it makes all the difference, and works out your calves.
2. Buy a baby sun hat with straps. Under my husband’s recommendation, we bought one with no strap and that hat spent more time in the sand and making Charlie mad because we kept putting it on her head and she wanted it off.
3. Put sunblock on before you get to the beach. It’s less crowded at the beach house/hotel/car than at the beach, there will be no complaints about having sand in the lotion and it usually takes some time for the effects of the sunblock to actually kick in. Spray sunblock is amazing.
4. Bring baby powder. It will help with wet, sandy hands and feet. It will take away the wetness and the dry sand will just brush right off.
5. Have drinks handy. From swimming in the salt water to playing in the hot sun, your family needs to stay hydrated. Have a cooler packed with water, juice packs and a sippy cup ready to go.
6. Use an umbrella, or any other sun-shielding device, like a tent. You will want somewhere to put your babes in the shade and keep cool. We like to rent ours at the beach to help save room in the car.
7. Swim diapers – pack them but don’t put them on unless your babe is getting in the water. These diapers are great, but they are only made to catch #2 not soak in #1. So if they are in the stroller, car seat, on a towel, etc. and have a swim diaper on it will not stop the flow and everything will get all wet. No bueno.
8. Create a baby pool – it’s an easy way to get your babe adjusted to the beach and enjoy some of the water. Either bring your own baby pool or create your own with a deep hole and a shower curtain.
9. Ziploc baggies – are a God send. Perfect for everything you don’t want sandy or wet – cell phones, cameras, binkies, baby blankets, jewelry, etc.
10. Alcohol. This is your vacation too, mom and dad. Kick back with a cold one and relax!
Cheers beach bums.