I see all you moms taking your families to the beach. Summer is heating up and there’s no better way to escape the glacial pace of phasing back from COVID-19 quarantine than going to the coast. Sheltering in place there looks a lot like a regular beach vacation, and it feels that way too. After spending two weeks at Isle of Palms, SC, I’m convinced there’s no better way to spend vacation this year than at the beach.
That said, we all know a vacation isn’t truly a vacation if you’re a mom, particularly of young children. So after a little trial and error and learning a few things from a veteran mom friend who joined us for part of our trip, I’ve put together a list of things to do – and bring – to ease your load at the beach.
Here are 10 tools and tricks to make your trip feel more like a vacation for mom too:
1) Shop Coolibar.com for swimwear or whatever other UV-protected swimwear source you might have. This is our second summer using their long-sleeved (and long-legged) rash guards for our 2-year-old twins, and I think it’s shaved a year off my life. We apply sunblock on our twins’ hands, feet, faces and neck and we are on our way. We use sunhats too for extra protection too, not to mention total cuteness.
2) Use Blue Lizard Australian Sunblock and order it ahead online because it’s hard to find in stores. Our pediatrician recommended Blue Lizard and as hard as I tried to talk her into giving me a second choice – it’s so much easier to apply a roll-on or spray – she wouldn’t budge and now I know why. It’s the best. It’ll remind you of the old zinc oxide your mom used to slather on your nose, only Blue Lizard does eventually sink in. It works and it lasts. I watched my three sons (2, 2 and 4) swim in tidal pools, the ocean, and play in the sand for two hours every morning for two weeks and we didn’t get a single burn.
3) Potty train your toddlers before the beach trip. I know, I know. And I know it might be too late if reservations are rapidly approaching, but I can’t tell you how liberating it is to ditch the soggy swim diaper drudgery. Getting to unzip or pull down little bathing suits for a quick pee in the sand – or off the deck by the front yard pool (sorry neighbors) – makes long days of potty training pay off!
4) Pack one pair of waterproof shoes (Crocs, Natives, sandals) for each child and leave it at that. You have enough stuff to pack without bringing a bunch of things you don’t need. By having one pair of beach shoes for each child, it forced me to pay close attention to three pairs of little feet every time we left the house or the beach. I washed three pairs of shoes off with a hose and put them up by the front door to wear the next day. Simple. We lost track of one green Croc for about 20 minutes one day, but that was it!
5) Speaking of simplicity, I recommend throwing all sandy and wet bathing suits into the washing machine as soon as you come in from the beach. We were lucky enough to have a basement washer and dryer in the beach house where we stayed, so it was easy to rinse suits off with the hose and chuck them in the washing machine. After supper, I’d grab other wet suits we used later in the day in the pool or at the beach and run a load. I’m not big on doing 1,000 loads of laundry but since they were just bathing suits, no dryer was required. I hung them on a drying rack I brought from home and by morning they were dry and ready for the next day.
6) Take any and all offers to help lug the wagon-o-stuff to the beach. It’s hard enough getting kids to and from the beach. Thank goodness we either had my husband or my friend’s husband there almost every day of our two weeks to pull the wagon full of beach chairs, toys and towels. One of the rare days we didn’t, a male passer-by took pity on my sister and me and pulled the wagon through the soft sand for us. If the husbands weren’t around, I just kept it super simple. One or two toys for each boy, one big bottle of water, two towels for everybody to share, and one beach chair that I could wear on my back.
7) Don’t fall for the canopy at the big box store that looks like a great idea for the beach. We bought one with a neat case and wheels but it was heavy and required four people to put it up with any ease. After my husband lugged ours the quarter-mile walk to the beach multiple times last year, we didn’t even bother with it this year. We packed it in the car but didn’t use it once. Not until my best college friend and her husband joined us during the second week did I see what a better solution looked like: a Neso Sun Shade beach tent. It was lightweight – theirs weighed less than five pounds – and it was held it place by bags you filled with sand, not deep-driven stakes or heavy poles. Such smart engineering.
8) Baby’s Away. This was another idea introduced by my college friend, who does a lot more air travel than I do these days. Who knew you could rent a box of toys?! (Along with cribs, high chairs, car seats, bouncy seats, you name it.) Now that our twins are 2 and we stay in a pretty accommodating rental, I could get away with packing just high chairs and one pack-n-play. But I always feel the need to pack a bunch of toys for both the road and the destination. They’re like a crutch for me. Of course, my boys played more with the toys already at our rental house (it’s super kid-friendly) than ours, but after my friend told me you could rent a box of age-appropriate toys for your children at Baby’s Away, and they would deliver it to your door, I bookmarked the idea to use on our next long family trip.
9) If you’ve got the luxury of a pool to use, mix in pool time with beach time. We were lucky enough to have a pool at our rental house, and it was such a good way to beat the heat in the late afternoons, avoid the second sandy mess of the day, and keep beach play feeling fresh.
10) From one mama to another, pretend you’ve got a newborn again when you’re at the beach and nap when your child naps. Taking care of children at the beach can take a lot out of you – whatever happened to those days of reading and relaxing on the beach?! That midday nap with your kids is calling your name. And unlike at home, you don’t have 20 things around the house you could be doing, so why not sink into the sheets, or the comfy couch or the hammock? Then you’ll be better rested for one more push until dinnertime and then some fun adult time after the kids are in bed.