I am the ultimate planner, list-maker, early packer, you name it. So of course, I’ve married the man who pulls his suitcase down the night before we’re scheduled to go on a trip. It would probably be the morning of if I’d let him get in bed without showing me his suitcase that night.
I hate when yet another item hits my mental load, but I’m too much of a control freak to let go of the planning even if I could. I’d much rather be mad at myself than someone else for forgetting a critical item.
Two years ago, we bought a beach house in the Outer Banks (NC) that we rent out most of the time to cover the cost. Since then, I’ve learned a few things that have made it easier for our family to function on vacation. For reference, our kids are 2, 8, and 10.
Before you go:
- Make a clothing list for each person. Mark it off as you’ve packed it. Don’t forget extras of everything—and plan for how your kids normally act. Right now, my 8 year old wants nothing to do with PJs and likes to be “ready for the next day” when he goes to bed, so he sleeps in his shorts and t-shirt. At the beach, he’ll probably sleep in a bathing suit! So for him, I may pack a few extras.
- What can you send directly to the house or rental agency? This one is hit or miss at the beach, but if you can Prime beach toys, diapers, a baby gate—anything that takes up a lot of space, ask if it’s an option! Our house is not delivery-friendly, but the rental company is a mile up the road, and when you’re an in-season renter and paying a premium, you’re more likely to get what you want from these companies!
- Have your beach bag stocked before you go. You know what you never want to run out of at the beach? Sunscreen! It’s so expensive there! I’m always on the hunt for Costco’s promotions, and I recently found one on Amazon where you could get a BOGO deal, plus an additional 25% off by doing subscribe and save with it. (Remember, you can always cancel Subscribe and Save items after that initial purchase!) I’ve become a huge fan of the roll on sunscreen for their faces, and then I use a spray to quickly get the rest of the body. I also really like keeping baby powder in my bag to get sand off as we come inside. But if you’re nervous about talc, I recently learned about this Powder Pouch that uses corn starch instead.
- Bring your shade. Last year, I splurged and got the Shibumi Shade. If you’ve never seen one in person or have no clue what I’m talking about. Click on that link! This product is so easy to set up by yourself, stores compactly, and it provides all day shade with just a slight breeze (which is pretty much guaranteed when you’re on the beach). I know a lot of people love the canopy tents, and they work just fine. But if your family’s car is jam-packed like mine, then anything smaller I can bring is a win for me.
- Still using baby monitors? If you’re bringing someone small enough that you need a monitor, make sure you check with the rental on their inventory. Our house provides 2 Pack n Plays, a changing table, step stools, 2 high chairs, and a bunch of random baby toys and books. If you know these things before you go, you don’t need to pack them. Worried they won’t be there
When it’s time to hit the beach:
- Pack sand-safe snacks. Grapes can we wiped down, yogurt or apple sauce pouches are self-contained, and things like watermelon can drop on the ground and be instantly ruined by sand! While you’re at it, make sure those snacks are packed in individual bags.
- Baby under 2? Bring a baby bath tub. I loved bringing a baby bath tub to the beach so my little ones could enjoy some splashing in a controlled environment. And I used a light towel to cover them for a nap—my mom loves holding the little ones on the beach and they always fall asleep in her lap.
- Look for a mesh beach bag or sand friendly beach towels/mats. It really is game changer when you don’t have to shake down your towels and have sand fly into someone’s face. Even better, those beach towels take up so much less space!
- Freeze water bottles. We buy so much ice when we go to the beach, and have cases and cases of water. I recently heard this tip, and it’s so good! Freeze some of those water bottles before bed and use that as your ice for the cooler. As it melts, you’ll have refreshingly cold water on a hot summer day.
- Vinegar. Be ready for jellyfish stings. I bring vinegar and you can soak it in a towel to lay on the sting. Also bring a small first aid kit with bandaids, antibiotic ointment, and of course some hand sanitizer. (And some small bills for ice cream—either a cart that comes by or maybe it’s a walk to the pier.)