My husband and I recently experienced our first beach trip with children. And seeing as the Gulf Coast is a popular vacation destination for most families in Baton Rouge, I felt it was my duty to share a few horror stories… I mean, “helpful tips” for any parents considering such an endeavor.
1. Don’t bother with planned car activities.
Just toss a bag of fruit snacks towards the back every time someone starts whining. The 80-pack club sized box of Minion fruit snacks will last you until the Mobile tunnel. Make sure you save a couple to put in your ears for the remaining two hours.
2. Speaking of the road trip, whatever ETA Google maps gives you, add at least two hours.
Both there and back, hours of traffic spontaneously appeared within 30 minutes of leaving. I don’t have an explanation for this phenomenon, but you can use the extra time on the way there to decide if you really want to do this.
3. Minus a few bedtime favorites, leave all the toys and games at home.
I had a duffle bag full of toys that never got opened and a coffee table full of decorative seashells that never had a chance with my three.
4. Bring a set (or both sets) of grandparents to the beach and establish their condo as the “neighborhood bar.”
My parents were next door to us and every time we had a question or needed to discuss plans, one of us would go over there and inevitably come back with a drink. In fact, some mornings we would just get a text that said “Bloody Marys are ready, come and get’m.” They are pros at traveling with children and know the perfect alcoholic beverage to get you through it. Let them help you.
5. Leave the chairs and beach toys at home.
You are not going to be sitting, and your wagon will be much better suited for transporting sand-phobic kids and half a ton of individually packaged snacks. And if anyone suggests a small inflatable baby pool for under the tent, you can go ahead and laugh in their face. That thing will just be converted into a toilet by mid-morning of day one.
6. Make sure your kids are always wearing their puddle jumpers on the beach.
Besides their obvious safety benefits, the arm floats are perfect for dragging your screaming five year old across the beach while onlookers exclaim loudly, “Dear God!”
7. Embrace the wet bathing suit.
Your kids can pee anywhere at the beach and no one will ever know. To quote my husband in response to my 2.5-year-old saying she had to potty, “Just pee where you’re standing and cover it with sand like Boo (our cat).” Later, my five-year-old didn’t make it in time and peed all over the pavement while staring at the door to the bathroom by the pool. We just poured a bunch of chlorine water on it and went back to not relaxing in the pool.
8. Eager to experience your first lice infestation? Try to make it happen at the beach.
There is less decontaminating because you don’t have all the stuffed animals and bedding that you have at home. Also, the kids react to the treatment as if it’s just another weird vacation thing you’re making them do, like sleeping sideways in the bed or peeing in the sand. I don’t want to sugarcoat the absolute terror that is lice infestation (especially three heads worth), but I’m choosing to laugh instead of cry. I shed enough tears with SPCA commercials and greeting card shopping as it is.
9. Convince a non-parent friend to come along under the guise of a super cheap vacation.
My friend Sarah came with us and watching her reaction to my kids was a great baseline for my sanity. If she needed some time to herself, I took that as a cue to walk out onto the balcony for five minutes. She’s currently not returning my phone calls. As soon as I get in touch with her, I’ll post her favorite part of traveling with a family of small children, so you have some examples to share with your non-parent recruits. I have a feeling the lice infestation and constant screaming rank near the top.
10. Book the trip for longer than it needs to be to avoid the post-vacation blues.
By day five of the eight day trip, my husband and I confided to each other that if someone told us we had to leave that minute, we wouldn’t be mad. We were able to stay the course in spite of the obstacles and guarantee that the only post-vacation blues we experienced when we got home involved a shortage of Bloody Mary delivery services. Besides, if we had left then, we would have brought three heads of lice home and our kids would already be back to their normal bedtime (we’re currently inching five minutes closer each week).
Family beach trips are a rite of passage for southern Louisiana parents, and they can feel like running a marathon on sand with a few kids strapped to your back. Thankfully, over time, the only memories that remain are the looks on the faces of your kids the first time the surf knocks them over, the feeling of pride when your most cautious child finally lets go of the side of the pool, and the inside jokes between you and your spouse that will cause random outbursts of laughter for years. Enjoy!