The beach before kids: toes in the sand, listening to the waves crashing, laid back in a beach chair and quietly watching sunsets.
Equipment needed: towel/chair, sunscreen, sunglasses
The beach with kids: constantly watching the water and counting heads, sand crusted children needing your help to build a sand castle/hunt for shells/get sand out of their suit/look at their boo-boos/carry them across the hot sand/carry all their "stuff"/make them a snack/get them something to drink/go back to the condo to get what they forgot.
Equipment needed: towels/chairs times ??, sunscreen, sunglasses, life jackets, kick boards, boogie boards, swim/scuba masks, snacks, drinks, and the list goes on.
Let's face it, as moms, we have a tendency to over-think things. Personally, over-thinking a situation is my comfort zone. But...it leads to excess baggage. "Let's bring...just in case" or "What if we get there and we need...." Before we know it, we're making a zillion trips from the condo carrying toys/canopies/accessories that take up enough beach real estate to build a high rise condo. Collapsing on the beach from exhaustion does not count as relaxed. A beach vacation with kids is a blast, but "relaxing"? I'm not so sure at times. I've found these tips to make your beach vacation fun and relaxing.
Limit excess baggage
Bring only what you know you NEED! We limit each child to: 1 duffel bag and 1 backpack with things to do. On our recent trip, we packed life jackets, a boogie board, a kick board and that's it for the beach. We happened to buy a pail and shovel when we got there. The kids played in the water, looked for shells, and built a sand castle with minimal tools.
I'm learning almost every condo has a place for extra beach stuff other people didn't want to carry home. Borrow it! That's why they keep it there! (It's probably a good idea to ask the management first, if the items are not specifically in your condo unit. Just to be safe.) We borrowed chairs, pool noodles, and extra sand castle toys. Convenient and easy!
Bring a crockpot!
I've heard this tip for years and never thought about actually doing it. DO IT!!!! Bringing a crockpot made me feel like I was on a real vacation. As a parent, vacations with kids are still work. Easy dinner recipes can be a lifesaver! Eating "in" is a great way to eat healthy and stick to your budget vacation. Doubling recipes enabled me to cook once and eat twice. On our most recent trip, we had Easy Crockpot Chicken Fajitas and Pork Roast with carrots, potatoes and onions. After cooking, I divided the portions in half to save for the next night's dinner.
Crockpot Chicken Fajitas (Beach/big family recipe)
Two 3-lb. bags of chicken tenders
2 packets taco seasoning
Bell peppers and onions
1. Dump the bags of chicken and veggies (see note below) into your crockpot.
2. Sprinkle the taco seasoning on top.
Cook on Low 6-8 hours or on High 3-4 hours.
Shred chicken and mix with veggies.
Serve with tortillas, cheese and your favorite fajita toppings.
Note: With the veggies you can add them in the crockpot with your chicken, but my family doesn't like the mushy texture. Instead I take bell peppers and onions and saute them in a pan right before eating. So much better!
Tag team it!
My husband is great about giving me opportunities to head out to the beach ALONE with only my chair, sunscreen and sunglasses. He watches the kids while I unwind. I do the same for him at a different time. Grandparents and extended family can be great tag team members. Maybe you like to travel with friends? Swap babysitting duties for the afternoon or evening. Everyone wins (eventually) when you tag team it!
Lower your expectations.
Expectations are the greatest stress inducer. If we expect a beach vacation to be as relaxing as spring break in college, we will be sadly disappointed. I've found that accepting seasons in our lives for what they are is the best way to relax and enjoy ourselves. Love the season of being with your kids because it passes all too quickly!
What are your favorite tips for a relaxing beach vacation experience?