The thought of sitting on a beach somewhere used to fill me with endless excitement. From the moment the flights were booked, I’d be counting down the days until I had a good book, a fruity drink and my toes in the sand. I still smile at the thought of it.
So when my brother and sister-in-law (who have a 9, 4 and 3 year old) suggested we take a big family vacation to Florida this summer, I was pumped. I pictured the kids building quaint little sand castles under a big beach umbrella while I dusted off my book and got in a well-deserved summer read.
Turns out vacations with kids…not so much of a vacation anymore! In fact, it’s a lot of work to be on vacation now!
Packing for yourself is always a bit of an effort, making sure you don’t forget anything critical…but add in packing for a one-year old and it’s a new level of precision, because if you get there and forgot the stuffed animal they sleep with, you are in trouble! Add in diapers, wipes, enough sunscreen to douse a small country and you’ve just doubled your suitcase size.
Then let’s talk about the beach shall we…I’m not sure if you noticed, but the beach has sand, like everywhere! As an adult, I have the ability to keep the sand to my feet or general leg region, but kids, they get sand in nooks and crannies that I didn’t know existed. And since they don’t tend to play quietly by themselves while you soak up the rays, you tend to get covered as well!
Alone, I can manage to go to the beach with a small bag, heading to the beach with the four kids required multiple trips to the car for the five adults to get everything! We needed shade and snacks, towels and extra sunscreen, buckets and pails…and the kids of course, who sometimes required carrying.
And packing up was always done right on the brink of needing immediate naps, so there may have been a fit or two thrown in for good measure.
So how do we parents make sure vacation is fun for us too?
I asked Rebecca Focht of Mama Bear Vacations for her thoughts and she had two great tips-
KEEP IT SIMPLE
This sounds obvious right, but I didn’t use half of the stuff I packed. I wanted to be prepared for all scenarios, which is noble, but did I really NEED all of that? And did we NEED a wagon full of things at the beach? So keep it simple and just bring what is necessary for survival and let the rest go. Kids can be pretty good at entertaining themselves when we let them.
STEER CLEAR OF ACTIVITY OVERLOAD
It can be easy on vacation to try and do everything humanly possible to do, you want to pack every minute to get the most out of it. But going here, there and everywhere can be exhausting. The key thing is spending time all together, not so much what you are doing. So pick the couple things that you have to do and really enjoy those things instead of rushing off to the next thing.
In the end, every bit of the extra work and planning stress was worth it for the smiles and laughs that we had, I wouldn’t trade that for my simple toes in the sand vacation any day (well most days!)
I want to hear your tips for making vacations with kids fun and not just work – leave a comment!