We kicked off summer 2013 with a family trip to Garden City Beach! It was special for many reasons... first family trip since before we lost Pops, very generously hosted by Mimi, and a reunion with A&E and kids who live far away in California.
We had a great time. Garden City was quiet and residential--no high rises in sight. The beach was flat and the water was beautiful (albeit cold). We had a good mix of weather, some overcast breezy days (my favorite!) and few hot, sunny days too.
And don't even get me started on the set-up! We got to stay right on the beach, with our own pool, kiddie pool, and hot tub in a great house where everyone had plenty of space, including bathrooms in each room. And there were two full size decks with a swing and gliding adirondack chairs for those of us who need daily alone time to recharge. :)
Matt, Reed, Molly, and I all enjoyed our week with our Morgan family at the beach.
Reed liked both the pool and the sand pretty much the same as last year.
We were especially thankful for the ability to quickly change scenery (beach to pool to inside, etc), as I think Reed was a little overwhelmed by all of the non-stop action and company.
This was Molly's first real beach trip (looking cute sleeping in the jogging stroller last year doesn't count) and first time in the pool this summer. She cried a couple of times in the pool, but mostly seemed to enjoy it.
And she LOVED the surf and sand! She only tried to eat the sand twice. :)
This was our first time (since we've had kids) to share a house with other families (and family!) on vacation. And I guess we went all in, with seven kids, age 5 & under!! I am always seeking and sharing beach tips and ideas when we go to the coast, so in keeping with tradition I wanted to share some helpful thoughts about our latest stay at the beach.
First, here are parts 1, 2 , and 3 from 2011 (somewhat focused on the young toddler).
And here are last year's beach tips and tricks for the older toddler and young infant, plus a bed rail hack, thank you pinterest.
Without further ado, here are 5 things that made our multi-family beach trip a success:
1- Location, Location, Location
As I already mentioned, we were blessed by my MIL with a killer set-up this vacation. Especially with the seven 5-and-unders, the set-up made all the difference in the world. First, we were right on the beach so we didn't have to worry about forgetting something or hauling supplies for an entire campsite with us to the beach. Or about walking very far for that matter! We could grab a shovel and go to the beach for just ten minutes and it was no big deal. I don't think we even packed snacks to the beach once. Second, having our own pool meant we didn't have to pick up any toys up all week long.
...Obviously, I get that a mansion on the beach with a private pool isn't in everyone's vacation budget (It certainly isn't in ours!) But I think there is a lot of value in thinking through what is important for your family and your stage and planning toward those things. For example, if you want to vacation with friends, could you put your budgets together and find a place right on the beach, or with a private pool? Or if you have little kids, search for a condo on the ground floor with a patio that backs up to the pool area-- this would eliminate all the hauling of toys and floaties and towels up and down the elevator. If you do have to travel to get to the beach, perhaps pick a few of the best weather days to be beach days and go all out, setting up camp there with plenty of snacks and toys.
2- Sun Safety
This year, I tried to look at the EWG's updated database and choose some sunscreens that were both affordable and safe. We tried several new ones, and Caribbean Solutions was a favorite. I'm still getting my feet wet in navigating the world of unregulated cosmetics. We were usually outside early and back inside for an early lunch and naps, which meant avoiding some of the worst sunshine hours between 10:00 and 2:00. And, of course, my little beach babies sported sun shirts and hats. :)
*Bonus tip: This is so OCD, but I brought a big blanket for the pack n play, and put it over Molly's sheet whenever she hadn't had a full bath before her nap. If she was squeaky clean, I took it out. There is nothing worse than sleeping with sand! (Since Molly slept in our closet, Reed had two beds in his room... so he had a clean bed and a beachy bed!) :)
3- Pool & Beach Gear
At our kids current stages (newly three and newly one), our pool gear consisted of a puddle jumper for Reed and a baby float for Molly.
We also brought our garage sale jogging stroller, which meant Molly got to take her morning nap during a beach walk a couple of times. One new item we brought this year was a cheap inflatable pool. Molly and her cousin Reese were both barely one, and played in there a little with some very shallow water. Molly was pretty busy climbing in and out!
4- Nom Nom Nom
In planning for our trip, the adults decided we didn't want Mimi to have to cook at all so we paired up and each took a night to be in charge of dinner. The dinners were home runs! A couple of nights, we fed the kids early and ordered take out for the adults after the littles went to bed! That was fun. :)
We chose not to go out for any meals, which worked well for us-- we never had to get everyone dressed and ready and we didn't have to terrorize any restaurant staff or patrons. :) Lunches were anything from sandwiches to salads to left over dinner fare. It seemed as if we had an entire grocery store in our house, but somehow we ate it all. My sister-in-law is a super mom and pretty much rocked breakfast and lunch for all seven kids.
5- Attitude Schmatitude
A multi-family vacation in a single house requires an it's-not-about-me attitude for sure. Especially when it is family, but that's all I'll say about that! :) Seriously, though, a flexible mindset made the week work. Trying our best to get all of the kids on the same schedule was huge. My sister-in-law puts her kids to bed very early, but since she was on California time it worked well for us to meet in the middle and mostly have the kids resting at the same time and in bed at the same time each night. Grown-up time meant pool to ourselves, playing cards, naps all around, or just visiting or relaxing.
Whether it was the beach sunrise or hearing one of the 7 stir each morning, our kids got up at 6AM almost every day! That was sometimes stressful in a house with an aunt and uncle trying to sleep in, but we tried our best to sneak outside quietly and enjoy some early mornings on the beach or some poolside coffee and cereal. :)
I love the beach with my people. Garden City Beach is probably my favorite beach we have been to! I loved the weather, the beachscape, the quietness... What a week!