Holy moly y’all…beach trips with the kids. WTH?! I know, I know. First world problems? Yes. Difficult in the age of COVID? Yes. Difficult because doing anything with 3 kids four and under is exhausting? Also, yes, but we did it. We do it every year. We pack up our little family, board our dogs, and make the 10-hour trek north to Bethany Beach, DE. Every year, we go. Every year, it’s a lot. And every year, I come home and vow to do it better next year. I’ve by no means mastered the process, but I’ve figured out a few things along the way (yes, pun intended).
- Don’t Over-pack. Just bring enough for a few days and do laundry. This is hilarious to me because it’s what I tell myself every year and every year, I pack way too much. We were there for 10 days this year. I packed 10 shirts/outfits for EACH BOY. That’s 30 outfits. And multiple shoes. And 3 different bathing suits. I don’t know what I was thinking. Actually, I do. I was worried there would be a clothing emergency, obviously. I also did laundry every few days, so they just wore the same 4 outfits. Just…don’t over-pack. Next year will be my year. I promise.
- When packing, use a separate suitcase for the kids. This is key when going for longer than a weekend. Have a grown-up suitcase and a kid suitcase. Know where your stuff is.
- Remember the sunscreen. I forgot this year. We had to buy more. One more errand to run on vacation is a no go. Remember the sunscreen.
- Start with a clean(ish) car. Plan for your time, in the car with kids, accordingly. Our super cool minivan does not have the built in DVD player. I’m OK with that, until it comes to long car trips, when we use a tablet. But then I have to walk the line between 5 movies or one movie and activities. My personal compromise? One movie on the way up and activities. It usually works. We leave early; the kids are excited. I can make it work. The ride home? All bets are off. I just keep hitting play. Don’t judge me. Or do. I’m still hitting play.
- What activities you ask? Enter “The Busy Box” (pics below). My mom did this when we were little. When my parents took four kids…on a 2-month cross-country road-trip…in 1994…in an even older minivan. She could not keep hitting play on a tablet (we had a CD player and I took a lot of naps) so mom put together the busy box. I have shamelessly copied her. This one is a clear plastic bin from Walmart (I think it was about $3.49) but it’s an upgrade from last year when I used a shoe-box. It was Walmart for the win for the contents too (but Amazon or a Dollar Store work too). Contents: Coloring books that use the water pens – no mess; sticker books; coloring books with built in markers; small toy figurines in characters the boys are currently obsessed with – these were a surprise hit – they played with these guys for a solid hour; notebooks for “notes” – my 4-year-old loves to take notes; and some snacks. Pack that guy up and slide it into the car where the kids cannot see it. You have to roll these things out like summer movie premieres. Steadily, but not too fast, and hope each one is a blockbuster.
- Patience. I am not a generally patient person. I have to take deep breaths. I don’t want to yell but have and will. I constantly remind myself that going to the beach with kids is not a vacation; it’s parenting with a change of scene. It’s a trip and not the ha-ha kind. It’s work and stress with small pockets of perfection and peace that make it all worth it. This beach is a part of me. I want it to be a part of my children. So, I make the effort and I hope, every year, that it gets a little bit easier.
The Busy Box.