We just got back from a beach vacation with our kids and I have some tips that made the travel easier. We've done this same vacation the past 3 years in a row so we've learned some things.
I laughed when I saw this funny article about a mom on a beach vacation with her family, but it can be true if you are not careful, the "vacation" can turn out to not really be a vacation for the mom (or really both parents)! We've certainly done trips in the past with 4 kids or even when we had 3 kids where it felt like even more work than being at home and I was exhausted at the end of the trip (yes, I'm talking about you Disney!).
So, here's a quick list of tips that help the beach vacation actually BE a vacation for the parents:
- If you are driving and leaving early in the morning (we left at 4:30am), put the kids to bed the night before in the clothes they will wear on the trip (you'll want them wearing comfortable clothes in the car anyway). This way you just get them out of bed, have them visit the potty, and then put them straight in the car -- so easy!
- Leave in the wee hours of the morning and the kids will be sleepy, disoriented, and most important, quiet for the first couple hours of the trip before the sun comes up!
- Rent a beach house with a washer and dryer. I know, wash equals work while on vacation, but it is tons easier than packing enough clothes for your family to survive the week without doing wash and plus it's nice to return home and not have a mountain of vacation laundry to tackle!
- Before you leave home, write up a grocery list of things to buy once you arrive at your destination. Plan to have easy breakfasts and lunches in the beach house to save cost and hassle of eating out every meal and then splurge on dinners out.
- I plan for one super easy dinner in, that way if it is raining one evening or we're all too tire or sunburned and don't feel like going out to dinner, there is a meal I can make at the house. This year I boiled pasta added a container of store-bought pesto sauce and a package of those pre-grilled chicken strips for an easy pasta dinner.
- Eat on paper plates.
- Every year we turn our beach vacation week into junk food week as well. You know the sugary cereal I say "No" to the other 51 weeks of the year, I allow during the one week at the beach. Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms -- sure, but just for this week only and nobody let me read the list of ingredients! Also, things like Twinkies that were staples in my childhood, but my kids have no idea about, we expose them to it during beach vacation week.
- With big families where you don't want everyone drinking after each other (I'm a freak about containing potential cold and stomach virus germs to one member of the family as much as humanly possible; you never know when someone is about to get sick and already contagious before you even know they are sick), label water bottle lids. My system is to label "Mom", "D" for Dad, and then numbers 1 through 4 for my kids, with 1 being the oldest, 4 the youngest, etc.
- Pack bleach wipes and have kids quickly wipe down bathrooms and empty trash every other day, this way the messes don't pile up.
- To make the sunscreen application process easier (and when you have 4 kids and need to reapply every 80 minutes, you want anything to make it easier!), we used these Wet Skin Sticks for the kids' faces. It goes on quick, they don't have to be super dry so it's great for re-applying while they are swimming, and with a stick instead of a liquid you don't have to worry about it getting in their eyes!
- It's a family vacation, but that doesn't mean you have to spend every single minute together! Trade off childcare with your husband so you each can go on a bike ride or shopping alone for an hour or two. And we had rest time nearly every day of our vacation where we came back to the beach house and everyone was expected to rest or read quietly in their bed for 45 minutes to an hour. That time definitely helps bring some parental peace!
- I pack each person's clothes in one of these packing cubes, that way I am not having to help each child find their clothes and pajamas. They have their stuff separated in their own cube.
- Really I think the number 1 thing that made the trip so easy this year and a real vacation for me the mom was that we'd done this vacation 2 times already. I knew the layout of the house, knew the amenities, and how to get everywhere in the little beach town. We knew how to rent bikes and have them delivered to our rental house. We knew the restaurants that were good to eat at and even what to order! Sure, there is something exciting about a new adventure, but with 4 kids there is nothing restful about a new adventure!
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