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How to Have an Awesome Family Beach Trip with a Toddler

Oh, friends.  Where do I even start with this past week?

After all the house drama of this past summer 8 months, Doug and I felt so desperate for a break from reality and not the kind that lands you in the hospital. (ba-dum-cha, self-deprecating humor.)  Each year we face the decision to go it alone as a family of three, or to join my entire family for a week at a North Carolina beach.  I don’t know if we’ll ever decide to do the tiny family thing, but for now we adore our big family vacation where there’s tons of love and no agenda.

Plus, it’s great to have help with the kiddo so we can get our relaxation on as well.  Having an aunt and uncle on hand to build a sandcastle gives us time to take a walk or a snooze.

Maybe some families do the putt-putt and ice cream nights and jet skies and schedule, and that’s perfectly fine, but our family has always gone to the beach for the beach.  We head out early in the morning after breakfast (usually by 10am) and we’re there until lunch.  Lunch, nap, then back out until dinner. We have no itinerary.  We have no plans other than what’s for dinner, where we all take turns cooking our favorite meals — since I’m deathly allergic to seafood, we don’t even go out to dinner.  This might be boring to someone not raised going to the ocean, but it’s perfection to us and we’re already looking forward to the 2013 family beach trip.

Here’s how this past week went down for us:


  • My soul comes to life here. 1 of 12
    My soul comes to life here.
    When we pull over the bridge to the island for the first time, it's like all the worries melt away.
  • On the road! 2 of 12
    On the road!
    I stopped for a Skinny Iced Caramel Macchiato because duh, vacation.
  • That first glimpse of the ocean. 3 of 12
    That first glimpse of the ocean.
    It gets me every year and I think Harrison feels the same. That first peek as we cross the old wooden walkway and hear the roar of the waves. It's so awesome to feel so small next to the water.
  • Snacks on the beach. 4 of 12
    Snacks on the beach.
    We'd head down to the ocean every morning after breakfast for a few hours. Freak outs over sand usually happened when he was getting hungry, so I kept crackers and treats on hand (and plenty of water!).
  • Separating fools from their money. 5 of 12
    Separating fools from their money.
    On a rainy day, we took Harrison to the aquarium. He loved it but those folks are smart - the only exit is through the gift shop, aka GOTCHA, PARENTS OF TODDLERS!
  • Kayak on the waves. 6 of 12
    Kayak on the waves.
    So my big brother trained for years and is an amazing paddler. I'm not so great, but Harry was thrilled to see his uncle in action when the surf was rough.
  • Mint juleps. 7 of 12
    Mint juleps.
    It's not the Derby, but it is a Southern favorite. My sister-in-law brought mint fresh from her garden and we had a great time making the syrup.
  • We went down to the beach immediately. 8 of 12
    We went down to the beach immediately.
    While my entire family goes on this trip, Doug and I always get there first and head straight to the ocean with our boy. We don't even unpack the car first - this year, we changed in the outdoor shower. By the time everyone else arrived, we were sandy and wind-tossed already.
  • Beach naps are the best. 9 of 12
    Beach naps are the best.
    The sun and waves wore us all out, which meant we took 2+ hour family naps every day. It was glorious.
  • Freckles. 10 of 12
    Freckles.
    I tried desperately to keep my face covered with SPF 50 and a hat. I still freckled a little but the sunshine was so worth it.
  • Coffee on the back deck. 11 of 12
    Coffee on the back deck.
    One side of our house faces the ocean (2nd row) and the other sits on the marsh. I love sitting on the back porch in the morning where deer tend to come tentatively across the grasses.
  • Momma & Hibby time. 12 of 12
    Momma & Hibby time.
    Walking while holding hands and swinging them, singing our favorite silly songs. This little dude is my best guy.

p.s. forgive me as I get back into a routine of writing and working and reality.  I think I left my brain on the beaches of Carolina or in a mint julep.  xoxo.

More from BA:

Yep, you’re that mom.

I’m going to eat my young.

Morning Routine

Toddler Superlatives, including Most Likely to Make Out with a Hotdog

Beth Anne writes words & takes pictures on The Heir to Blair. You can also find her on the Twitters & Facebook.

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