It’s almost summertime! For many families in DFW, that means hitting the road and heading toward a favorite sandy destination. This year, for us, that’s Florida! By the time this is published, I’ll be there with my husband, our two-year-old daughter, and some good friends. I’ve learned over the last couple years that beaching with the family, especially when you’ve got really little ones, isn’t always easy. Let’s be real: sometimes it can feel like work.
The following are some tips we’ve used before, or will put to test for the first time, to make our getaway all the more enjoyable:
Keep ‘em busy!
Whether it’s in the car on the way there, or inside a condo when you’re not out on the beach, some activities to keep little ones entertained will come in handy…if even for twenty minutes. We’re looking at quite a few hours of driving, so I put together a “busy box” for our daughter full of simple activities. I went to the dollar store and spent about ten bucks on some jumbo crayons (bonus points for Dollar Tree having Frozen-themed ones), a blank sketch pad, stickers, and playing dough (AKA cheaper Play-Doh). You can find stuff like this in Target’s Dollar Spot, too. In addition, I’ll bring along some dot markers, plenty of bubbles, and Melissa & Doug ‘Water Wow’ activity pads.
Save money on groceries
We’ve learned from past trips that grocery stores in tourist beach destinations tend to hike up their prices – not fun, right? To save cash, buy whatever groceries you can beforehand (mostly non-perishable items) and bring them with you. Once you arrive, just head to the nearest grocery store and pick up the other items you may need. Speaking of groceries, we’ve also learned to keep vacation meals SIMPLE. Think sandwiches for lunch and an uncomplicated meal for dinner. You’re at the beach to take it easy.
Bring favorites from home
I find that when we’re away from home, it helps to bring some favorite toys and stuffed animals along to make our daughter feel, well, “at home”. She has her favorite blanket, a new stuffed beagle she’s totally into, and a mini version of nearly every character on Sesame Street (though, dear God, I hope we can get away with bringing just one of those). For her 2nd birthday, she was given a castle tent that’s easily collapsible, so we’ll bring that along to set up in our condo. Some beloved books and blocks should also do the trick!
Do some prep work
You know above, when I said going to the beach with your family can feel like work? Pretty sure I was really just referring to this next part – the actual act of going out onto the beach. Our precious little ones require a lot of stuff, and you definitely don’t want to be stuck without once you’ve already made your way out to the sand. There are the obvious items like sunscreen in case you need to reapply, and something to put down on top of the sand. I prefer an outdoor blanket over single beach towels to sit on, as it can provide a bit more coverage. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks – easy, mess-free snacks like crackers, grapes, pretzels, berries, that sort of thing! Some empty grocery bags are perfect for gathering small bits of trash. If you can get your hands on some sort of canopy tent, that can provide much-needed shade for little ones (and yourself!). Oh, and don’t forget a sand pail and shovel for building those castles.
But also…remember why you’re there
While quite a bit can go into a family beach trip, remember that you’re there to simply relax and spend time with one another. As mothers, it’s only natural that we want things to go perfectly. However, we all know family vacations rarely go according to plan. My daughter was 5 months old on our first beach trip with her, and could tolerate being out on the beach for maybe 30 minutes at a time (basically, a lot of our time was spent indoors that year, but we had a nice view from the condo!). Things may get crazy, stuff can happen, meltdowns will occur…but the fact that you’re there in the first place, with the people you love most, is pretty perfect in itself.