A few of you reached out to me about sharing my tips for vacationing with small kids. First of all I want to say I am no expert on this subject! We've taken Miller to the beach five times and Matthew twice. Since Kyle and I love the beach and traveling we knew we wanted to turn our kids into beach lovers early. The first time we took Miller he was 8 weeks old and we haven't looked back since! While I'm no expert I figure I can share what I've learned along the way and how to approach a vacation with small kids and still have fun.
1. Throw out all your old expectations about what a vacation is- Remember when you would lather up the spf 4 oil and lay out from 10am until 6pm, while casually reading magazines and sipping cocktails ?! Yeah this vacation with kids will be nothing like that but that doesn't mean it's going to suck! It's just going to be different and your first step to enjoying it is changing your mindset about what a vacation should be. The second summer we took Miller to the beach he had just learned how to walk and never sat still, I was convinced it was going to be awful. I was wrong. It was so much fun watching his pure joy and fascination with the beach and ocean. I got to see the beach in a whole new light that year.
2. Stay calm and positive- This one is huge! I don't care how old your child or children are they can sense if you're stressed, worried, or unhappy and they will feed off that. Before Kyle and I leave for any trip we always have a little chat where I remind him that we need to be calm and happy no matter what happens and just roll with the punches. If we're stressed the kids will be stressed too.
3. Take turns being in charge- One thing that helped us in Mexico this year was taking turns being the hands on parent. Kyle would spend a half hour sitting in the sand playing with the kids while I enjoyed a drink or read my book and then we would switch. Did this work all the time? No because sometimes both parents were needed but we tried to give each other a few breaks a day to just sit and relax.
4. Get over the sand- I can't stress this one enough and I will admit this one was tough for me this past year with Matthew (because he puts everything into his mouth) but you just have to get over it. Every inch of your kids body will be covered in sand. Hair, eyes, mouth, fingernails. Just let them have at it and let it go. At one point in Mexico both my boys were tasting it because Miller suggested it as an idea and after calmly saying "Oh Miller I don't think we really want to eat it, let's just play trucks in it" they still proceeded to do it. One trick to remember- baby powder! Baby powder will take the sand right off without irritating the skin.
5. Have your beach bag stocked and bring extras- Bring everything you think you could possibly need at the beach. The last thing you want to do with two small kids is have to drag them back up to your hotel or beach house. Snacks, waters, toys, toys, and more toys. Change of clothes, extra hats, sunscreen, and towels. You name and we had it with us. I'm a big believer in over packing with kids. I've found that my kids need options at times to keep them happy so I try to have everything I think they could need to avoid any meltdowns.
6. Apply all sunscreen before you get to the beach (even your own)- I know this one seems like a no-brainer but once you get your toddler on the beach there is no way you can wrangle them to sit still to apply sunscreen without also covering them in sand. Your best bet is to make sure you get it done before you hit the beach. I also highly suggest you apply your own sunscreen before the beach too because it's going to be near impossible to try to do it when you need all eyes on your constantly moving kids.
7. Dress your kids appropriately and have them dressed before you get to the beach- Again another no-brainer but making sure your kids are comfortable and wearing the right clothes on the beach is so important to avoid any and all meltdowns. My kids are super fair skinned thanks to inheriting our Irish blood so I always dress them in a rash guard and hat when we're at the beach or the pool. The rash guard and hat are non-negotiable and I have learned that in order for me to enforce these rules they must be fully dressed before we reach the beach or pool. Quite a few of you have asked me about how I get my kids to wear hats and all I can say is that I've been putting them in hats, in all seasons, since they were newborns. I don't know if that helped or maybe I just got lucky, but we have very few fights over wearing hats.
8. Don't expect your kids to adjust right away- Going to a new place can be very overwhelming for toddlers. Many of them thrive on their routine and creature comforts of home so it can be hard for them to understand why they are supposed to sleep in a strange bed or eat dinner in a strange place. When we first arrived in Mexico after our long flight and first day on the beach Miller kept asking if we could go home to mom's house now (that's what he always says when he wants to leave somewhere and go home). When we told him we were away on vacation and we couldn't go home to mom's house he started to cry and said he wanted to go sleep in his bed. It broke my heart but we sat him down and explained to him that our hotel room would be mom's house for the week and that he got a very special big boy bed all to himself. We made a huge deal over going to sleep that night in his special bed in mom's special beach house. It worked great and the rest of the week our hotel room came to be known as mom's house :)
9. Don't stress about your routine or schedule- I am pretty strict about our schedule when we're at home. As much as I try to keep my kids on a schedule when we travel it rarely happens. In Mexico this year Miller refused to nap. Instead of spending an hour fighting with him everyday we just said ok you don't have to nap and we stopped trying. Sometimes he fell asleep at lunch, sometimes at dinner. While these weren't ideal we didn't want to waste our few precious days on vacation trying to force something and making everyone miserable. It was only five days away and we figured five days wasn't going to screw anything up and it didn't. When we came home he went right back to his rest/nap schedule with no problem.
10. Have Fun!- Run around on the beach, build sand castles, find sea shells, jump over waves, enjoy some adult beverages and just have fun! Take this time away to make memories with your family. Some of my best memories from growing up are on vacation with my parents and I hope to provide that for my kids too.
Have you traveled with your kids to the beach? Do you have any tips or tricks for vacationing with young kids?
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