Beach vacations have always been the highlight of my summer (or winter if you count our trip to the Virgin Islands), and I couldn’t wait to bring Hattie on her first sandy adventure. I scoured the internet for tips on bringing a baby to the beach, and found a bit of useful information that I collected here and there, but I knew that I had to do a whole lot of mental preparation as well. My previous beach trips were, well… all about me. I would read the majority of the time, and do what I wanted, when I wanted. Motherhood brings with it much selflessness and I knew that reading a few books, much less one was out of the picture this year. Vacation as I knew it would be quite a bit different for years to come and I was ready! Being the planner that I am, I knew that a game plan, and prior preparations would be necessary to make this trip enjoyable for everyone. Along with those beach tips were also horror stories about how miserable both baby and parents were during their stay in “paradise”, I was determined to make this vacation work. So continue reading for a few “baby friendly” beach tips, and for our family and friends, a few extra pictures and details for you to enjoy from our first family vacation!
Tip #1. If you can help it, invite someone who either has reared children of their own, or who have children of their own. As much as we love our friends sans kiddos, we knew that unless they had a very high level of patience, they wouldn’t have much fun with a 10 month old. Nap times replace happy hours, and flexibility takes on a form never seen before. We convinced our friends, who have a little mister the same age as Hattie to tag along, and it worked out beautifully.
Tip #2. Plan to leave at a time that works for you. We toyed with this idea trying to figure out the best possible solution. We chose to leave at 5:00 A.M. hoping that the babies would sleep most of the morning, and then we could stop for breakfast with a good chunk of our traveling completed. Our destination was 6.5 hours away, and we approximated 2 or 3 stops. This worked beautifully and the babies slept until we stopped to eat breakfast, we changed them out of their pajamas here, filled up their bellies, and hit the road for more traveling, only stopping once more to change diapers before reaching our destination. The babes never let out a cry, and they were well rested once we hit the beach that day.
Tip #3. Choose to stay at a place whose complex and amenities will improve the quality of your vacation. This may require dishing out a few extra pennies, but if you save far enough in advance, or budget more for your condo than you do your meals or souvenirs, its possible. Plus, if it makes your vacation that much more convenient, its totally worth it. We chose to stay at Turquoise Place and I think we would have a hard time staying anywhere else when we venture to the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area again. The complex had 5 pools (2 indoors), 2 large hot tubs, steam rooms, a spa, a giant outdoor game of checkers/chess, a tiki bar near the pool for drinks/snacks, activities every day for kids and families (shirt tye dying, ice cream eating contests, dance offs, and much more), a movie rental machine, a small store with beach necessities, a lazy river, a playground, tennis courts, indoor hallways, 3500+ square foot rooms, not to mention your own built in grill and hot tub on your balcony. They even hosted a church service on the beach Sunday morning! It made our stay SO convenient with babies.
Tip #4. Set up camp! Most private beaches will require you to keep your tent a certain distance from the water, typically behind the chairs and umbrellas that they rent out. We were able to set up our tent on the waters edge by moving off to the side of our condo’s beach, where there were no rented chairs. The husbands set the tent up on the first day, staking it down with buried sand buckets. We left it on the beach until the day that we left so that no heavy toting had to be done every day. This made our trips to the beach much easier, having to only carry a baby and a beach bag. Beach chairs are a must, and so are a variety of sand toys. We kept all of our beach toys hanging on our tent in a large mesh bag so that the sand and water could drain through. We also brought a small pool, that the men filled with ocean water, for the babies to play in. This was a lifesaver and Hattie and Rhett spent a lot of time splashing in it. Be sure to include some small squirt and water toys as well. A box of corn starch in your beach bag will help to rub away that stubborn sand that sticks to baby skin!
Tip #5. Invest in baby tents. Both Katie and I purchased these baby tents prior to our trip. They travel well, since they can fold into a nice 12×12 sized package. I keep my tent in a small zipper tote bag, and it hardly took up any room in the vehicle, but it is super easy to set up as well. It comes with a mat that you lay in the bottom of the tent so that the babies aren’t laying on the hard ground. The sides are mesh also so that it is ventilated. The only downside is that it doesn’t zip closed, it just Velcros, but I wasn’t trying to cage Hattie in anyways, so that didn’t matter much. We used these tents for the babies to have a clean, cool place to nap. These tents stayed at the beach all week as well, and we purchased these small drawstring bags in the dollar section at target, filled them with sand, and posted them at the 4 corners of the tent under the mat to keep it from flying away.
Tip #6. Bring fans. We had this larger fan at the beach so that the babies were comfortable while napping. It runs on batteries, which sit in the base, thus holding it down. We also had these small fans made of foam to avoid damaging baby fingers. It’s hot at the beach! So these came in handy during outdoor meals and things of this nature.
Lunch al fresco made bearable with a fan.
Tip #7. Pack the gear. Make room for the baby gear…it will make your life easier. The bumbos with the tray were an easy replacement for high chairs, Rhett’s walker kept him entertained when we were in the condo, the strollers were necessary for any outings we wanted to take, my Baby Bjorn helped me haul Hattie around the resort while carrying bags and towels, and the pool floats let the babies and parents both enjoy the pools and lazy rivers with sound minds. I carried my book sack from college to the beach and pool. It was much easier to sling it over my shoulders, plus it had lots of compartments. It was also more manly for Benjamin to carry than my monogrammed beach bags.
Tip #8. Make sacrifices to keep the babies as close to their schedules as possible. Eating out is great, but it usually involves a long wait time, and a late night. We ate out quite a bit during our week, but we would try to hit the restaurants earlier, so that we could escape before the babies were exhausted. We also separated our nights of eating out with nights of eating in, so that the babies could go to bed early and catch up on their sleep. Having the outdoor grill and hot tub made this extremely pleasant. We were able to put the babies to sleep, and still have an excellent evening on the balcony. As an added bonus, the men folk were able to spend some quality time scoping out the local meat markets, and then cooking for their women. There is something masculine about a man grilling, is there not?
Tip #9. All hail the babies. When the babies are tired, let them sleep. When the babies are hot, go inside. When the babies are hungry, feed them immediately! Our vacation revolved around the babies, and I think that this is why it went so smoothly. The babies were well rested, and happy for the majority of the trip. We never felt miserable or strung out, because we bent with them, and in return, they were super pleasant little beings for us. They napped a couple of times on the beach, but if we were at the pool when nap time hit, or if they were really hot, we would bring them to the room to sleep instead. Either the two women would sit with the sleeping babies, or the two men would, allowing the other parties to enjoy some free time fishing, tanning, swimming, or reading. I employed the hot tub quite a bit while reading during nap time and it worked perfectly. The babies were also young enough, that we were able to get them on about the same sleep schedule the first few days so that we weren’t spending opposite time awake and asleep. For the most part, we made sure that we kept enough food, and milk with us wherever we went so that we didn’t have to make any mad dashes up to the room for supplies and we could satiate the babies immediately with whatever they were needing.
Tip #10. On the other end of the spectrum, don’t be afraid to try something new. At times it can be easy to just sit back and follow hum drum schedules every single day just to keep the babies happy, but its good to venture out as well. Just because we had babies with us doesn’t mean we avoided any sort of adult fun. Babies love new sights and sounds, so we fed their curiosity with lots of new places. Don’t ever be afraid to show your baby something new (as long as it is safe for everyone involved). They will most likely love it, and everyone will walk away happier.
Tip #11. Document your fun! Bring your camera, video camera, and extra batteries. Capture as many moments as possible! You will want to reminisce about your vacation for years to come, and your babes will want to see their first beach trip as well! Take family pictures! As casual or as dressed up as you want, just take our advise and avoid the morning sun…oh and the wind.
So when all was said and done, my over preparation made for a nice week at the beach. Babies cooperated, parents relaxed, and much fun was had. With a lot of teamwork we accomplished an enjoyable week. Babies require a whole lot of give, but it was well worth it. And guess what, I actually did finish a book Go me!