FINALLY! It is here – summer 2021. Truth be told, it has felt like it has taken two years to get here since my family didn’t do any vacation celebrating in 2020, but that doesn’t matter! We are ready to soak up the sun to all of our heart’s intent. When I heard my whole family was planning on going to the beach, pure unadulterated joy doesn’t begin to describe my feelings. I have dreamed of the day when I would take my daughter to the beach, to see her unfiltered delight at sand and castles and waves–the whole nine yards. The only thing I dreaded was the car trip. Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to let a few hours of screeching and screaming get in the way of fulfilling my long awaited milestone. But as I’m sure any rookie parent will tell you, there are lessons learned on the first beach trip. If you are planning your first one, or thinking about, this guide will hopefully help the planning and packing process a little bit easier.
We picked the best place for our first beach trip with baby, unintentionally. I am ashamed to say I did not really think this one through, but still, the universe delivered. We ended up booking a condo with our family at the Turquoise Place Resort in Gulf Shores, AL. I didn’t know we needed a resort, but am I so glad we chose this one. In addition to spectacular beach views, multiple balconies, and the most beautiful window-to-window rooms I have ever seen, the amenities offered were a godsend. There were multiple pools (including a toddler pool and inside pool for the too windy days), a lazy river (more on that later), restaurant and bar, and of course, prime location with the condo situated directly on the beach. Having various pool options was great for the younger-than-two-years babies who needed a break from the beach, or when you needed a break from the sand. It was also quite nice having a bar so close when you just needed a frozen island drink.
Buy it, buy it, buy it! I thought about this too late and offhandedly told my husband we needed to purchase one as we drove to the beach. However, I got to witness first hand the luxury since my brother and his wife thought ahead. There is nothing more cumbersome then trying to lug all your beach gear, toys, chairs and children down in one load. The wagon makes this process incredibly easy. Simple fill the wagon with all your essentials and children and voila! Crisis adverted.
If the pandemic never happened, Charlotte, my daughter, would have first experienced the beach at age one. However, due to circumstances beyond my control, it turned out her first trip would be at two years old and stepping back I can definitely see the advantage of this. One year olds don’t typically enjoy the beach as much as toddlers who are a little older. However, if you’re still determined to soak some sun with you little one, don’t let this deter you. We just need to get creative! We threw in an inflatable baby pool in our car last minute, and it turned out to be something that all the toddlers on our trip loved, from 1 all the way to 4. We brought the pool down with us to our beach spot, filled it up with water, and let the littles go to town. It was a hit and gave us parents a chance to relax a bit.
Keep it in the Kitchen
Any seasoned parent knows this, but as tempting as it is to eat out, sometimes that’s just a meltdown waiting to happen. Take turns cooking with your other vacation buddies, or spouse, and enjoy family time in the condo or beach home. If you want a break from cooking, getting take out and bringing it back to your lodging is also a fun way to change it up.
If you’re still choosing a condo or place to stay, I can’t highly recommend having a few amenities that will make the vacation extra special for adults. For my husband and I, being able to sneak away at nap time (with a babysitter of course) to grab a frozen margarita and spend an hour in the lazy pool made all the difference. This may look different for you, but just something to keep in mind when deciding between all the amenities different accommodations can offer.
Separate toys and snacks
Man, did we learn that the cousins and siblings can’t share everything. This includes beach toys and beach snacks. If possible, I highly recommend having each kiddo have their own set of beach toys (bucket, shovels, etc) to ensure peaceful beach digging. Also, opt for small bags of chips instead of a large family size unless you wish to watch the toddlers fight over cheetos and hover around you like seagulls on the seashore.
Best beach tote?
I’m sure you may have heard that Bogg bags are all the rage. If you haven’t, it is a bag that is made out of “crocs” material, designed for multiple things, but great for beach use. It’s material is durable, flexible, and includes inserts to avoid any sand or water accidents for special items. While it’s definitely tempting, it doesn’t come with a pretty price tag (can run $70-$80). I myself use my own sand friendly tote that still works like a charm. There is also this great article by Trip Savvy that lists some of the best bags for the beach that won’t break your beach budget.
Of course we can’t go without listing those essentials that are already on your list, baby/child sunscreen, aloe vera gel, baby hat, baby towel, etc. These are always needed and will come in handy no matter where you vacay.
Just Have Fun
Hopefully this guide has been informative and given you a couple of things to think about that you hadn’t considered! While taking the little toddlers and kiddos to the beach isn’t always the most seamless and calm process, seeing their absolute joy in discovering the waves and sand is priceless. Beaches were made for these kids! I hope you trip is extra special, and more relaxing as you feel even more prepared for a rejuvenating time.