We just returned from a beach
vacation trip to the Jersey Shore with two kids — our 3-year-old daughter (BRK), and her 9-month-old brother (Owl).
This morning I ran into a Mom Friend when dropping BRK off at camp. Mom Friend asked, “So, how was the beach? Was it an actual vacation?”
“YES!” I screamed.
Although it had such elements of a trip such as obstructed views out the back car windows and a final destination with a kitchen, it also had aspects of a vacation which would not have been possible without our incredible Beach Babysitter, whom I found on care.com.
There were a number of other Best Practices, identified either because we did them, or did the opposite, leading me to identify a Best Practice to target next year.
Without further adieu:
Our Family Beach Trip Best Practices For When You Have a Toddler and Baby
1) Ensure there is an extra adult. As stated above, we found a truly amazing babysitter on care.com. She just graduated from high school (tons of energy), is one of five siblings (can deal with kid chaos), and is a lifeguard (sigh of relief in re kids and the ocean). As a bonus, she is a prospective science major so we had several interesting conversations about medical history. We rarely left both kids with her — typically she would stay in the house with Owl while he napped or slept, so BRK and Eric and I could go to the beach during the day or go out to the boardwalk and rides at night. (Owl currently naps from 9 AM to 11 AM, and then from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM, and then goes to sleep around 6 PM, so without another adult to stay with him during naps/sleep, we would have been more constrained in our activities, or would have spent a lot of time in a one-parent-with-one-kid situation, or would have been dragging a non-napping demon baby around.) If a babysitter isn’t in the cards, perhaps a willing relative can come along.
2) Rent a house where everything is on one level. Two years ago we rented a gorgeous house with stairs. We thought this year about how difficult that would have been with an active toddler and a baby who wants only to pull up on furniture and attempt to climb. Just imagine packing the baby gates . . . . One level simplified everything.
3) Prioritize beach access over perks of the house. The house we rented was not my beach dream house. My dream house would have a grill, non-rusting and non-ripped deck furniture, and would have quaint and charming New England decorative elements. However, the house is a 2-minute easy walk to the beach. At this stage in life, easy beach access trumps all.
4) USE ALL THE ROOMS. At home, BRK and Owl share a room in our 2-bedroom apartment. The house we rented had 4 bedrooms. I was nervous to give each kid a room, worried that BRK might refuse to share when we got home. But finally on Day 2 we broke down and let each kid have their own room. And it was glorious. It was so freeing to not worry about them waking each other up, and they both slept later in the morning. And when we got home, there were no protests about returning to the shared room.
5) Make a grocery gameplan before you arrive. Fresh Direct now delivers to the Jersey Shore, but would not deliver alcohol. So, I placed a small order to arrive at home the day before we left to take with us in the car — namely, beer and canned bubbly, critical snacks, and breakfast food — and another order to arrive the day after we arrived, in case we encountered any delays getting down there. We did however order too much food. Next time we will order less food, and make it of the nonperishable type (eg, more peanut butter and less chicken salad). Having groceries delivered is much nicer than spending at least a half-day grocery shopping with children and fighting beach traffic to and from the grocery store.
6) Schedule a parents’ night out. This definitely made it more like a vacation. On Tuesday night Eric and I went out, to a real dinner, over the bridge to a place where restaurants serve alcohol. We wore normal adult clothes that didn’t have magic marker or baby food stains, and had a relaxed conversation overlooking the setting sun.
7) Dress the baby in a full-body SPF 50 lycra suit. The jury may be out on what is more difficult — slathering the baby with sunscreen or cramming his little body into head-to-toe lycra, but I found head-to-toe lycra a lot easier to deal with once on the beach. His little belly was better protected from the sun, and it’s less invasive than huge loads of sunscreen on baby skin.
8) Baths immediately after the beach. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, do not allow them to take one step into the rental house upon returning from the beach. Carry them into the house and directly to the bath tub, to dispense the 3 – 5 pounds of sand now stuck to their bodies.
9) Pirate’s Booty. So many problems were solved by Pirate’s Booty beyond low blood sugar. Such as calming BRK down from her screaming tantrum when Eric and I left for our dinner out, and bribing BRK to eat things like tomatoes and avocados or to leave the beach.
10) You can’t have enough towels — both cloth and paper. We did NOT bring enough towels, not by a longshot. We severely underestimated the number of baths and showers and spills and messes 2 small people can generate over the course of a day. (Note: it is double to triple that of what is generated at home). We were washing towels every single day!
Overall, it was a great time and I like how we are getting better at traveling with kids each year. More organized and more relaxed at the same time. Some favorite moments for the family:
Me — drinking summer ales on the deck in the afternoon and jogging in the morning along the beach.
Eric — taking the kids in water and setting off fireworks on the beach.
BRK — ice cream and carnival rides.
Owl — tiny waves and a new measuring spoons set to chew on.
Note: I have no commercial affiliation with care.com or Pirate’s Booty.