Vacation, have to get away! I just love me some GoGo’s. Hearing that song, along with Margaritaville, is one surefire way to get me in the mood for vacation. I mean, who doesn’t love vacation? Being a Jersey Girl, my vacation of choice always involves a beach of some kind. But, long gone are the days where I can just grab my beach chair, favorite bikini, mindless beach read, and hit the sand. I learned very early that KIDS require a lot more to keep them entertained at the beach. I used to chuckle when I saw families lugging ALL that stuff down to the beach: sand toys, tents, chairs, umbrellas, baby pools, etc. It was all so funny to see. Until I had kids. Then it wasn’t.
As a family, we have logged many beach day trips and extended vacations, and while, at first, I had to ask if it was even worth it, last summer I even ventured down the shore for the day, ALONE with my kiddos. And survived! It took some time, but now I can say we have it down to a science, and I want to share a few tips on how you and your kids can get to the beach and live to tell about it.
Plan your necessities – What do you really need?
Naturally, you will need snacks, water, sunscreen, towels, the basics. What is essential really depends on the age of your children. Of course, if you have younger kids, you will need diapers, pacifiers, baby food, etc.
A very helpful purchase when we had babies was our beach tent. It had mesh side windows, so it did not get crazy hot inside, and our kids took naps in there. It totally extended our time on the beach. If you don’t have a beach tent, a beach umbrella and a comfy blanket could serve as a nap space as well. But, I don’t advise skipping the nap. A tired child makes for a very cranky, miserable child. Not fun at home, even less fun on vacation.
Other things to bring along with you include:
- Ziploc bags are also one of my must haves on the beach. They are great for keeping sand and salt off of electronics, such as cameras and phones.
- Backpack chairs are a LIFESAVER, perhaps the most useful item to take with you to the beach. They are inexpensive (check Sam’s Club or BJ’s) and have pouches on the back to store lots of things.
- Beach carts are also great because they can hold almost anything, but be warned, not all beach carts are created equal. To get the most bang for your buck, it is important to know the sand on your beach. Most carts will work on sand that is packed down, but if your beach has the nice, fluffy sand, you will need a beach cart with giant bubble tires. Otherwise, your tires will sink causing you to exert way too much energy (and maybe expel a few expletives) while trying to push it.
The one thing you can definitely leave at home is your child’s stroller. Unless you have a specific one with beach tires, strollers are pretty useless on the beach. The wheels will sink in the sand and will cause you more aggravation.
Sands toys – Be selective
As tempting as it may be to bring all the sand toys, that really isn’t necessary. Remember, you have to carry everything to and from the beach, so choose a few fun items, a few buckets, cars, boats, and the like. Make sure you have a sturdy shovel, and never underestimate the amount of enjoyment a child can get from digging a big hole in the sand. You will most likely be the one doing the heavy digging, but your kids will love climbing in and out of it, repeatedly. And, if not, you can always bury your child in said hole. Kidding, of course. =)
I also recommend using a lightweight mesh bag to house your sand gear. Mesh is your friend at the beach. The sand shakes right out of it, instead of pooling at the bottom, making it heavier, and causing you to take half the beach home with you.
Getting it all to the beach – Get a little help
So, now that you know some of what you should bring, how exactly do you get it there? Well, if you have young children, they won’t be able to help. In addition to all the items you will be carrying, they may even want you to pick them up and carry them! When my boys were much younger, I would wear one of them in a Baby Bjorn, to free my hands to carry other items. Once they were old enough to walk themselves, I asked them to carry the beach buckets and it made them feel that they were helping out.
Sea shells – Oh what fun it is to collect shells on the beach!
As an adult, I still enjoy it. But again, be selective in how many you take home. Unless you’ve found a super cute craft tutorial on Pinterest that requires several shells, pick the prettiest one for a take home keepsake, and leave the rest behind. They are heavy, and chances are they will sit in the bucket untouched, until you pull the bucket out for next year’s trip and realize they are there. Yes, guilty as charged.
Creativity – Don’t leave home without it!
Last year, we were on the beach and the boys were getting antsy. So, my husband invented Bucket Ball, a little game where you simply throw a ball into a bucket. Genius, right? It was a little more involved than that, but my point is, you can make a game out of anything, and your kids will love you for it.
Test it out – Do a dry run
When we first ventured to the beach with kids, we actually did a dry run at home so we didn’t have to figure out how to get everything from point A to B in the moment. This really helped. Over time, we tweaked our system and figured out what we could do without, and from then on it’s been smooth sailing.
Are you ready for the beach? To the seasoned beach goers, this all may seem elementary. But, for those of you who don’t go to the beach often, have yet to attempt it with little ones, I do hope these tips are helpful. And, if you wonder whether the hassle of getting to the beach is really worth it, in my opinion, for a day at the beach, it’s ALWAYS worth it.
Life’s a Beach, the rest is just sand!! Happy Summer!