Saturday, October 5, 2013

Have Baby, Will Travel - the beach edition

This makes it sound like we just got back from the beach when it was, in fact, 1 month ago. In some ways I feel like I'm just finally recovering and in other ways it feels like forever ago. In my head I was mentally packing and preparing for that trip from the moment we booked it until the night before we left, which was probably like 10 weeks, and it takes awhile for that mental energy to drain away. Just me?

A few things I thought may be helpful:

We rented a house in Watercolor, Florida through VRBO and it was just perfect for our group of 3 families with 5 young children. Our friends are very familiar with the resort and pushed hard to get us close to the beach and pool, which was KEY. I didn't anticipate how many trips I would make back and forth in the stroller with Georgia, but it was a lot. The older kids rode in trailers on bikes with the adults after the first day of everyone walking wasn't super pleasant / efficient, but I couldn't really do that with her.

We were so lucky that the house had 4 bedrooms and 4 full bathrooms, giving everyone as much privacy as you can get on a beach vacation. In retrospect, the only thing that would have put the house over the top would have been an extra room / nook for alternate child sleeping arrangements. We put the 3 bigger kids in a bunk room together and figured the first night would be rough and then they would settle in. Not so much. Would have been nice to have an air mattress and a separate place to put someone. Next time. (The closets were big enough for babies in pack n' plays - hooray!)

Speaking of Pack n' Plays, I didn't want to travel with ours and looked into renting one through a local baby gear rental place, but it was actually cheaper to buy the bare bones version at Walmart and pick it up when we got there. I had it shipped to the store for free and the Walmart was like 10 miles away. Perfect.

We ended up booking a shuttle from the airport to our house as we were leaving a day earlier than the rest of the bunch and there really wasn't a car big enough for 4 adults / 4 kids in car seats anyway. It was a little cheaper than a rental and (mostly) more convenient. I hemmed and hawed about the car seat situation and, in the end, rented seats from the shuttle service since it was just the trips to and from the airport. Again, similar to my previous experience with renting car seats, it was mostly a shit show. The drivers, though nice as could be, had no idea how to properly install a car seat, which left me fumbling with a strange car seat and installing it rear-facing for Georgia. Ugh. And, though I requested a high-back booster for Ellen, she had just a regular booster, which made me nervous as she is still in a 5-point harness in our cars. I just held my breath and thought lots of good thoughts while we were in transit, but it wasn't great.

We booked the trip in June, but didn't travel until Labor Day, so I watched Target and such for sales on their pool and sand toys and bought some cheapie things, along with some $1 activities and mailed a big box ahead of our trip for pick up at the local UPS store. It had pool/sand toys (I didn't know what would be at the house, but there were quite a few things when we got there), a box of crayons, a big roll of coloring pages that was a big hit, glow sticks, a few card games, and food for Georgia. I also picked up a cheap mesh laundry bag at the dollar store to hold all the beach toys, an inflatable pool that I thought G could sit in on the beach (never opened) and a floaty pool thing for G (which she did use).

I was trying to avoid getting to Florida and spending our first day (or days) at Walmart and the grocery store, though turns out we pretty much did that anyways. We talked about planning meals ahead of time, though I guess had too much other stuff to think about, so we just did it when we got there and also had some aimless wandering at a strange Walmart. If we go again, I will try to plan a little better in advance, though you are always at the mercy of a strange kitchen and that can make cooking your "go to" easy meals kind of tough. Of note, I did intend to take a Sharpie to put names on plastic cups, but forgot it and we scrounged one up half-way through the weekend.

We packed pretty compactly, but still brought too much. We had laundry at the house (again, KEY) and multiple loads ran everyday. The kids just pretty much rotated between swimsuits/cover-ups and PJs, so didn't even make it through the limited number of outfits we brought. Also, that tip about rolling clothes really is a space-saver!

As for the beach, neither of our girls were into it. Georgia was newly crawling - no bueno in sand - and Ellen didn't like the feel of the sand very much and far preferred the pool. Huh. I did get some pictures of them (most expensive pictures of 2 girls in swimsuits of all times), but we hardly spent any time there. Also, this particular beach is white sand and gorgeous, but almost no shells - I think that would have entertained the older kids a bit more.

Speaking of pictures, if you intend to get some family pictures on vacation, try to do it earlier in your trip. I kind of realized the day before we left that we really didn't have a good sibling pic of the girls or any documentation of the 4 of us together. Tried to squeeze that in with showers / cooking dinner / fantasy football drafts and, well, you can see all of that in our faces.

The flights were actually great. We had a short-ish layover on the way down and little longer on the way home, but I think I almost prefer that to a 2-3 hour continuous flight with small children. The older kids were entertained by coloring and electronics and Georgia didn't sleep at all, but ate for entertainment (unlike our trip to Austin). I had read a tip to bring blue painters tape on the plane for entertainment and the older kids didn't care, but surprisingly Georgia was really into it. And, could be used for baby-proofing at your destination!

All in all, it was so fun to see the girls have so much fun. This was not a "vacation", but rather a "trip" as our friends said. It was not relaxing for us, but I'm glad we did it. I think we may even attempt it again someday??? And, next time, we are instituting the "buffer day" when we get home - one more day off at home to get your bearings. Jumping right back into work /school is tough.

No comments: