May 14, 2019

Beaching with Babies

I rarely went to the beach as a child.

My mother disliked sand, and with six children, an excursion to the beach more closely resembled an invasion of enemy territory than a joyful, memory-making opportunity. Because of that, as soon as I became mobile (read: drivers license + car), I made beaching my job whenever I wasn't actually, you know, at my job. Day trips, weekend trips, corn hole on the sand, day-drinking, wave jumping, body surfing, driving on the beach in a jacked up pick-up truck, raising the Jolly Roger high to the croons of Jimmy Buffett - these are all essential parts of the American beach experience!

Now that I'm on the other side of the child-parent dynamic, I want to encourage a love for nature in my girls, especially the beach. And we have taken our beach lovin' goal to heart this year as we near our fourth trip to the shore in just the last two months alone.

But when you're traveling with toddlers and infants, achieving fun in the sun isn't as easy as donning your suits and packing your favorite beverages. Kids are needy, and needy means stuff. Lots of stuff. After multiple trips to the shore this year, though, we developed a system for what to bring, what to leave behind, and how to improvise when away from home.

Man with a Plan
All great days with kids start with a great plan. In 2017, we took five separate day trips to the shore, one week-long mini-vacation at the beach, and a long weekend on the Chesapeake Bay for a wedding celebration. Each trip necessitated a quick plan for travel time (optimized and synchronized with nap times), meal and snack plans, entertainment, and safety (think: floating devices and sunscreen). Once we figured out what we wanted our trip to look like, it was easy to fill in the blanks and pack all the right things.

It may sound dreadfully formal and a little intimidating to put a plan of action together, but that's not how we see it. We err on the side of preparedness naturally, so it's not stressful to map out our day in detail.

Packing the Kitchen Sink
When it comes to domestic trips, we are serial over-packers. For just a simple day trip, we STUFFED our van with gear. Nevermind that the nearest Walmart was going to be less than ten minutes away, we were determined to take everything we needed, so help us!

What we did pack, though, was necessary for both kids and adults and can be summed up in just four categories: beach equipment (chairs, umbrella, cabana), entertainment (sand castle set, phones to take pictures), safety (flotation devices, sunscreen), and edibles (water, snacks, etc).

Quite possibly the most versatile thing we brought was our BOB double jogging stroller. Both girls can ride in it, or the baby's car seat can be snapped into one position, and the other spot can be piled high with all we needed. Generally, we enjoyed the latter arrangement best.

Just Roll with It
The best-laid plans of mice and moms often go awry. We joke that there's a silent "f" in parenthood, and it stands for flexibility. Kids get sick. Kids get grumpy. Toddler won't nap in the car or on the beach. Infant doesn't like nursing in "public" (although the only witnesses were the seagulls and Chesapeake Blue Crabs). Husband doesn't put on sunscreen and gets fried. Life happens! Traveling with kids can be stressful, but it will be even more so if you go into it with a heightened obsession of "what if" and are unable to adjust plans as needed. Just roll with it. It's about spending time with your family, making memories - good ones! So when you get to the beach and nature calls, remember there's one good thing about traveling with kids - you always have diaper wipes handy.

What are some of your favorite items or tips for beachin' with babes?

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