Vacations are fun. That's common knowledge. If they weren't fun, people wouldn't go places and everyone would just work all the time. No. We need vacations every so often to help reset our brains and keep us sane.
Traveling with small children is a whole new level of stressful and might seem like more work than it's worth. I'm here to tell you that it is doable, and it might even be easy!
We started talking about taking the boys on a beach vacation a month ago. My parents have a time share and my mom rented a condo for the week in Galveston, literally right across the street from the beach.
I love the beach. If I had a the extra cash to burn, I'd redo our whole house with a "coastal" theme. It's been nearly 2 years since we went to the beach because every time we tried to go last summer, it was storming or a hurricane was threatening us or some crap like that. So, when my mom called and said she had this place for the week and invited us to come stay for a couple days, I jumped on it. It wasn’t until later that night, when I was telling hubs about it, that I realized that we were going to attempt a vacation with 2 small boys. One of whom has never slept in any bed but his own crib. Well, minus those first couple nights in the hospital.
Was I serious? How did I think this was a good idea? There’s so much crap to bring, plus Connor hasn’t slept anywhere else in a very long time and when he did, he ended up sleeping in the bed with us. Were we really ok with letting both boys in the bed with us? Were we really going to be able to get any sleep like that? Maybe we should just cancel and stay home. Try again when they’re a little older.
The more I thought about it, the more nervous I got. However, I missed the beach and my mom was going to be there with us, so we would have built in help. We’d go down on Thursday night when hubs got off, stay all day Friday and head home on Saturday afternoon. That’s simple enough, right? 2 nights and essentially 2 days. I didn’t want to let this beach opportunity slip through my fingers. I refused.
Then we had a week of drama. Hubs might have to work Friday. Did I want to go to the beach with the boys without him? I didn’t want him to miss out on Kylar’s first time at the beach and Connor’s first time really enjoying it. I hate when he misses stuff, but he always says it’s ok. He wanted us to plan on going, regardless. Oh, and don’t get me started on Tropical Storm Cindy. She was heading right for Galveston and threatening our whole vacation. Yet again, a stupid storm was trying to kill all my fun plans.
If you don’t know anything about me, know this: I’m a stubborn as a damn mule. I decided we were going to the beach, so we were freaking going and the universe better get in line. Turns out, that worked. Hubs didn’t have to work and Cindy took a hard turn and missed Galveston completely. I guess that’s the power of positive thinking.
I dread packing normally, but packing for a road trip with a toddler and a baby is a tad complicated. I’m a list maker, so I wrote down everything I’d need for each kid, plus kitchen/pantry items, beach specific stuff, and “misc”. You can see, it’s a bit lengthy.
Alright, now for the reason you started reading this in the first place. My tips!
Make a list: Write down everything you use on a daily basis, mentally go through your routine and write down all the things you use. What do your kids need/do first thing in the morning? Then what? After that? What do they need for a bath? Bedtime? Snack? Naptime? Write it all down. Once you have it all on paper in front of you, sort through everything and cross out everything you honestly think they can do without for a couple days (or whoever long you’re going to be gone).
Keep your kids involved: Connor helped me pack his clothes, which is why he ended up with wooly, footed pajamas and 3 Paw Patrol shirts. But he was excited about vacation and really enjoyed helping me pack. Obviously, a 2 year old isn’t a reliable packing partner, so you will have to follow and make sure he actually has everything he needs, but keeping them involved makes it fun and less stressful.
Enlist the shows: Wallykazam has an episode where they go on a beach vacation. Danny Tiger goes on vacation and to the beach a few times. Watch those shows with your kid(s) and make a point to bring their attention to it. “Look, Wally is building a sand castle with his dad! Do you wanna do that on vacation?” “See how Daniel’s mom wants him to stay with an adult and not run off on the beach alone? That’s very important. You have to stay safe.” and so on. It’s amazing how much of a difference that can make when you’re correcting risky behavior on vacation. “Remember how Daniel was supposed to stay with his mommy? You need an adult with you too.”
Invest in a really good travel bed: This isn’t a requirement, by any means, because these things don’t come cheap, but I will say that it saved our vacation. Last summer, I won this Kid-o-Bed in a giveaway (so you know they aren’t endorsing or sponsoring this post at all). Connor loves it! We set it up right next to our bed, covered the top with a blanket and turned the bottom into a tent. He was in little boy heaven! Went down without a fight, both nights, and slept like an angel. It was perfect. Kylar slept in the Pack’N Play that we got at my baby shower with Connor. He didn’t like it as much, and ended up sleeping with us the first night. The second night was 1000x better. He slept in the Graco, by himself, and didn’t wake until 7:30.
Bring snacks: And bowls, spoons, forks, sippy cups, a bottle or two… Everything your kid(s) need to get through a meal without breaking anything.
This list is far from foolproof, but these tips are how I managed to get us on the beach, relaxed, sand covered and having a blast for a few days.
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Writer and Contributor for the Motherhood Community