I’m going to start with the confession: I don’t really enjoy the beach with kids. In fact, going to the beach for me means surviving the beach. So let’s get the typical responses and gasps out of the way:

But there are so many great memories! Yes, I know. They are precious. I watch them closely. I inhale all the happiness. Promise.

These years will go so quickly! Enjoy them. I swear to you, I’m trying. Every day, I force myself to stop and smell the proverbial roses of my children’s actions and reactions. Promise.

The beach is so relaxing! Well yes, it is. Especially when you don’t have kids or you don’t worry that your toddler is going to be knocked down by yet another wave causing her to inhale and gulp a gallon of water. Yes. So relaxing.

It’s vacation. Get over yourself and just enjoy it. I would love to. In fact, I do often find multiple enjoyable moments when we’re on vacation. I’ve even let my kids skip naps, go to bed extra late, and have dessert before dinner. But that doesn’t feel much different than a random Saturday at home. Just a different location where I’m even more worried because I don’t know all the nooks and crannies. But I get your point. Promise.

Last summer, we spent 6 days at Kure Beach, NC. It’s a cute little town with great beaches and quiet streets. It’s hopping during the day, but everyone is friendly and wavy and nice. This was the third time we’d made it to the beach since our youngest was born, and we learned a little something along the way. I thought I’d share for the other parents out there who are — like I was — freaked the freak out about taking kids to the beach and even remotely enjoying themselves.

survive the beach

Planning

Where to stay: We made sure we had enough bedrooms so that babies didn’t necessarily have to sleep in our room or with other kids. The less the kids are awakened randomly in the night, the better. The first year, when Diva was only four months old, she was clearly in a room with Math Man and me. The next year, she slept shared a room with Sassy Pants. Last year, she’s the princess and gets the master bedroom to herself. Why? Because it was quiet and no one bothered her. She can nap. She could go to bed earlier than everyone else. She could sleep. And sleep is a good thing.

Location: Our other goal was to make sure that we weren’t too far from the beach. The first year, we ended up at a resort — which was fine, technically. What we discovered, though, was that it was too loud and too crowded and too SOMETHING we didn’t like. When the kids are older? Maybe. But with littles, we didn’t enjoy it too much. So, the past two years, we’ve used VRBO to find houses that offered relatively easy access to the beach but also some privacy. This has created a much better experience.

What to do: It doesn’t hurt to look at your location and surrounding areas prior to leaving. If you’re like me, you like to plan MONTHS in advance. So, I already knew which places to eat that would cater to our kids or be least-ridiculous in price. I already knew plans for inside activities in case it rained or was just too blasted hot. You know your kids, so it’s easy to decide whether they will actually enjoy the Civil War display or find it boring.

Packing

Less is more: More than likely, you’re going to go to a place that has a washer and dryer. I know that the resort where we stayed had them, and both houses where we’ve stayed have had them. I still packed too much last year, and we washed clothes as we went. I could have done with way fewer shirts for all of us and then washed and worn pants again.

What is offered?: At the first two places we stayed, linens and towels were offered. Last year, the house we found did not offer towels or sheets. While there were pillows and bedspreads, we still had to pack all the other stuff. We could have paid for a service, but it seemed smarter to just save the money and pack our own. It wasn’t too much of a burden, but it would have been nice to go to a place with these items provided instead. Additionally, there was only toilet paper there because someone left it from the previous visit. Luckily, I reviewed the rental information before we left our house and knew to grab a roll of toilet paper so we’d be sure to have something there when we arrived and before we went to the store.

Toys: Our first year to the beach, we packed a ton of toys. They took up space, were a hassle to keep up with, and were just annoying in general. Last year, we allowed the boys to bring 3 Transformers each and the baby to bring her most important babies & lovies. (The oldest was happy with her iPod.) This has actually worked to our advantage. The kids are being way more creative (shocker!) and playing with one another. They’ve found ways to entertain themselves without tons of toys (proving my theory that we need to get rid of more stuff at home).

Beach stuff: For whatever reason last year, we brought puddle jumpers. I think Math Man was worried the kids would need them in order to swim in the ocean. Turns out that they were more afraid of the ocean than not, so it worked out that we didn’t take the puddle jumpers down. We also took a little pop-up cabana tent thingy. It was helpful the first couple of days so I could change Diva before we left the beach and sand. Otherwise, it was freakishly annoying. We’ve could not figure out how to get it to its original size, so we kept battling it while we walked!

Playing

The beach is cool: So, I don’t even like sand or sweat, but my family — all of them — just want to go to the beach. We could probably do nothing else all day all week, and they’d be happy. I forget that just being out there playing is a once-a-year experience, and there’s nothing wrong with it. We don’t have to “entertain” them otherwise, really.

Local sites and sounds: What we do try to do, though, is go out to eat at least one time somewhere that isn’t a regular type of place. Half of my kids don’t eat what “normal” kids eat, so we have to be choosy. Or we just pack them something and are prepared to claim food allergy (I dare someone to question me). This is usually the highlight of our adventure side. Otherwise, we find a local aquarium or something similar. Bonus when we know the guy who dives!

Family time: As cheesy as it sounds, the most amazing times for our beach trips has been simply being with one another without the daily stresses of cleaning house, working, and the basic expectations of “regular” life. It’s hard, sometimes, to stop and just be present, but I’d say our best memories come from the dorky inside jokes we create.

What tips do you have for parents trying to keep their sanity and enjoy their beach trip (or vacation in general)?


This month, I’m participating in a Blog with Friends link up. Our theme was “Truth or Dare,” so be sure to check out my friends’ posts below!

Onion Poppy Bagels from Karen of Baking in a Tornado

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake with all the Fixin’s from Dawn at Spatulas on Parade

A Truth or Dare from Tamara of Part-Time Working Hockey Mom

Dare to Wear from Rabia of The Lieber Family