We’ve returned from my dad’s vacation condo in Florida, which I guess is technically located on the outskirts of the Redneck Riviera, but because we’re high class we call it Papa’s beach. That way people don’t know if we’re talking about my dad or perhaps Ernest Hemingway. Come to think of it, my dad does bear a slight resemblance to Hemingway when he grows a beach beard.
Having made this trip twice now in the past 10 months, I thought I’d share some tips for driving to the beach with two children under the age of 5 (my hat’s off to any of you who travel with three kids under the age of 5…I don’t think I’m a strong enough woman to handle that):
Do invest in a portable DVD player with dual screens. It’s so much better than drugging your kids with dramamine (kidding!)
Do bring new movies that your children have never seen.
Do stock up on road snacks so you’re not tempted to buy a $6 bag of stale trail mix from the gas station or stop at McDonald’s every 100 miles. Publix had a great buy one get one free sale a few weeks ago and I filled a snack duffel bag with lots of goodies, including cereal bars. I threw in some surprise bonus sugary treats, including the ever popular fruit rollups (tongue tattoo variety…I get a little crazy with the vacation prep shopping!)
Do bring along a favorite book and stuffed animal friend from home, as well as your child’s pillow.
Do stock up on adult snacks, like wine and cheese, once you get to the beach, as well as some breakfast foods because I guarantee your kids will get up earlier than you anticipate. Coffee at your condo or beach house is also essential as is beer. We tried Landshark, a new lager beer, from none other than the mastermind behind Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffett. We also tried the new Miller Chill. Both have a a Mexican influence and were quite good, especially if you’re a fan of Corona with lime, which is a must, in my opinion, as an adult beverage at the beach.
Don’t order two kids’ meals if your kids tend to be remotely picky and eat nothing but chicken tenders, nuggets, fingers, whatever variety of processed chicken on the kid menu they gravitate towards. Order one kids meal and have the server bring two plates and bring the sippy cup kiddos their own beverage. Do you really want to buy a $3 cup of cranberry juice for your 2-year-old?
Don’t count on your kids going to bed on time or napping. And don’t be surprised if they sneak down into your bed at 4 a.m. for a snuggle.
Don’t count on your kids getting along all the time. A precious pink rubber frog will be lost at a restaurant, only to be found and then crippled the next day when baby sister rips one of its legs off. Big sister will cry hysterically and a lesson will be learned about being responsible for one’s treasures. Or something like that. That is my PC version. There was more screaming, by the adults, in the real life scenario.
Don’t forget to have someone take your family photo.
Don’t forget to pack the baby powder. It removes sand! It helps chafing and prickly heat! Why things like this are exciting, I don’t know!
Don’t discount the back of your minivan or, in our case, SUV as a handy alternative to those nasty public restroom diaper stations. Somewhere in southern Alabama I plopped Miss A on some beach towels on top of our luggage and changed her wet diaper when we stopped to fill up on gas. You know how Dateline does exposes on hotel room cleanliness? I dare them to do a special on restroom changing stations. I’d rather spread a blanket on the ground and change Miss A outdoors.
Don’t be afraid to try out that roadside biker-esque open air restaurant because you may be pleasantly surprised to find they have excellent casual beach food and a kid friendly atmosphere, with a corner featuring a big basket of books and coloring books and crayons. Of course the cinder block unisex bathroom was not Ritz quality, but it was clean. Jail cell ambience, but clean potty is A-OK in my book.
And last, don’t forget that your kids, as annoying as they can be at 7 a.m. when they start chanting “SWIMMING SWIMMING SWIMMING,” are only going to be this little for a few years before they head to the other end of the beach and deny your existence .