Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Planning a Family Beach Trip

 If you were wondering about the lack of posting from last week, I had good reason – we spent the whole week at Sunset Beach with my hubby’s extended family!  And after a week of sun, sea, and sand, I realized that a lot of our logistics were learned by trial-and-error over the past few years.  But for those of you just venturing into the “beach with kids” phase of your life, here’s a few strategies that might prove useful when it comes to planning…

CHOOSE YOUR VACATION PARTNERS –  This could be a make or break factor, so think through your options carefully.  Are you looking to have an intimate getaway with just immediate family – mom, dad, kid(s)?  Or do you envision everyone from Aunt Myrtle and her dog, to your grandmother’s second cousin, twice-removed?  We’ve found a nice niche of 8 adults on our now-annual family trip – one set of grandparents and 3 siblings with their wives.  More and more kiddos are slowly but surely being added to the mix, but that just adds to the fun! If your family is too far apart geographically (or just not “beach people”), you can always go with another family – having playmates of similar ages for your kids will take some of the “entertainment pressure” off of you as parents!

Cousins make great beach buddies!

Cousins make great beach buddies!

CHOOSE YOUR BEACH WISELY –  Not all beaches are created equal.  Aside from the obvious requirements of surf and sand, make a list of what other activities are important to all parties involved.  Are you looking for plenty of restaurants and activities at night, or will your family be cooking in and hanging out together in the beach house most nights?  Is being near a golf course important?  As an older child, I always loved the endless options for family fun on the “boardwalk” at the beach we used to go to every summer – bingo, arcades, mini-golf, sunset boat rides, and quaint boutiques filled with seashells!   But with every child in our crew currently under 4, none of that is necessary for our family’s life stage right now.  The past 3 years we’ve enjoyed the less commercial barrier island communities – they’re a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the bigger beach towns, but we love the lack of crowds and quiet evenings. 

LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION – Once you’ve settled on the beach, it’s time to figure out accommodation specifics.  Do you want everyone to live together in a house, or rent out side-by-side rooms in a high rise?  If you’re the type that like to stay on the beach from sun-up to sun-down, oceanfront may not matter as much, and you can save a ton of money with lodging a few streets (or more) away from the shore.   If you’ve got young kiddos who will need to come in to nap, or just simply prefer to get a break from the sun and sand every now and then, stay as close to oceanfront as you can possibly afford.      

A house within a short walk from the beach is ideal for lunch breaks!

A house within a short walk from the beach is ideal for lunch breaks!

RAINY DAY PLANS – The more options you have, the less the odds that you’ll need to use them, according to Murphy’s Law.  Aquariums, movie theaters, laser tag, or even an afternoon spent getting crafty with gathered seashore treasures are all great ideas.  Look up a few options ahead of time, that way you can be ready to present them when the inevitable afternoon thunderstorm strikes.  And don’t feel bad about working a “non-beach” activity into the mix, even in good weather – family time is time well-spent, regardless of the where’s and how’s.

The touch tank at the Ocean Isle Museum made for great drizzly morning fun!

The touch tank at the Ocean Isle Museum made for great drizzly morning fun!

OCEAN FUN – Though NO flotation device (even a PFD) is a substitute for a watchful eye within arm’s reach, inflatable tubes, rafts, and/or water wings can provide a confidence boost for getting wet and wild.  The ocean can be an intimidating place for children, who will be looking to the grown-ups in the clan for reassurance.  So in addition to frolicking with the youngsters on the shore, make sure your child sees you having fun out in the water – whether it’s surfing, boogie boarding, or even just jumping waves or floating.   

Boogie-boarding with Daddy

Boogie-boarding with Daddy

BEACH TOYS –  Make sure you’ve got plenty of beach toys on hand for when your crew isn’t in the water.  Bocce ball, frisbees, and  footballs are great for grown-ups, while the sky’s the limit for the little tykes – although sand castle paraphernalia, a few bulldozers, and maybe a net for catching minnows tops our essentials list.

Checking out the latest catch  (minnows, with the occasional crab)

Checking out the latest catch (minnows, with the occasional crab)

CHILD CARE DUTY – Depending on the number/ages of kids involved, all parents probably don’t need to be on deck at once, so rotate through the kid-watching duties.  This might mean that an aunt or uncle oversees the splash-fest while you and your significant other enjoy a walk on the beach, or it could even mean that the grandparents take a turn putting the kiddos to bed while you enjoy a date night out with your sweetie.  Bottom line?  Make sure everyone gets a chance to take advantage of the “It takes a Village” principle!

 

Riding waves with Mommy

Riding waves with Mommy

BE FLEXIBLE – This is a valid point for any family travels, but especially if you travel with other people.  Your everyday routines will need to meld with everyone else’s, and you won’t always get to do everything you want to do.  But if everyone comes prepared to compromise a little, all should work out in the end. 

We are truly blessed to have such great people to share all of our beach memories with.  A big shout-out goes to my in-law’s who year after year take on the majority of the planning (and expense) of our beach week.  Does anyone else take an annual beach trip?  If so, do you have a traditional place, or do you mix it up and go somewhere different each year?  What are some must-have tips you might have for anyone planning a first trip with wee ones? 

Our only proof that we were all there together, taken just 5 minutes before we all dispersed!

Our only proof that we were all there together, taken just 5 minutes before we all dispersed!

 

 

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3 Responses to “Planning a Family Beach Trip”

  1. Paula

    For our almost two year old who has only made a few visits. To the beach thus far, tidal pools pools and anything to scoop with has been a big hit; a bucket, measuring cups, and a few moulds do the trick for us. A beach with small waves and little undertowhasmade for a more relaxing experience. We’ve also enjoyed building on other’s abandoned sand creations, making easy to do quick bursts at the beach, instead of a full-day affair.

    Reply

  2. Kathryn

    Great photos and great information! I’m passing this post along to our son and daughter-in-law prior to our family beach trip in September. Our little grandson will be only 9 months old, but I’m sure these tips will be great for him.

    Love it that we’re not the only ones who get that family portrait at the last minute!!

    Reply

  3. Erica

    Paula – Yes small waves are definitely key for small kiddos! We lucked out this year with a sandbar about 50 feet out, which meant everything in front of the sandbar was 2-3 feet deep with hardly any waves! We’ve yet to do a full day either. Our strategy was to get out fairly early in the morning (830/9ish), and then go in at lunch time. Sometimes we’d go back out after naptime, other times not.

    Kathryn – I hope you guys have a great family vacation this September! And yes, our family photo opps tend to be a little helter skelter. At least we get them in though, right?!? 🙂

    Reply

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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN