Tracy McArdle: OK, it's here: your long-awaited August beach rental! In case you've never been on vacation with your kids before, you should know that it's ... um ... different from when you and your husband used to go on vacation together by yourselves. To help you survive, I've assembled this handy list, based on painful experience. Enjoy!
- Plan ahead. This means researching your vacation location's best kids' spots in advance. Where is the ice cream stand? Where is the beach with no life-threatening waves? Is there a library with crafts or story time for rainy days? An alpaca farm? It's great to have this list beforehand and not have to spend your first day there making it -- especially if you have no Internet connection at the beach house!
- You can't bring too much sunblock and bug spray. Ditto swim diapers. Sunhats and sun shirts are also good ideas. And DON'T buy this stuff (even diapers) at your vacation destination -- unless you like paying double. Have one bag that's specifically "beach day" to leave in the car, and rotate swimwear and towels.
- When you leave the house in the morning, pretend you'll be gone all day. If you travel with extra diapers and wipes, a change of clothes and plenty of snacks and sunscreen, you can be open to spontaneous suggestions for a fun-filled day anywhere. There's nothing worse than stumbling upon the world's best kid beach ... with no bathing suits or towels.
- Do I really have to tell you to plan your car travel around naptime? Plan your car travel around naptime. No matter how nice a day it is.
- Baby powder -- the magic sand eliminator! Don't go to the beach without it ... unless your kids enjoy wet sand in their cracks when you put on a fresh diaper before their post-beach nap. Seriously: It works.
- Bring your cheap plastic sand toys from home, even though they take up an annoying amount of space in the car. (Unless you like paying $10 for a plastic shovel because you bought it on Nantucket -- which I guess some people do.)
- Get a beach blanket with a waterproof or vinyl bottom. These are also great for picnics on damp grass, and sand shakes right off.
Stay on the kids' normal eating and sleeping schedules, even though a five-hour afternoon nap sounds like a nice way for you and your mate to enjoy vacation. If you don't, there'll be hell to pay when you get home. And I do mean hell.
- Keep sleeping arrangements similar to home. We put our boys in the same room while on vacation. (Cute!) Got home, and the 2-year-old wouldn't sleep in his own room anymore. Fun.
- Did someone say "babysitter"? If you have a (reliable) local connection, there's nothing like being on vacation from your vacation. Or you can always invite a grandparent for a day or two. They usually appreciate the free getaway, and you two can go out to dinner sans sippy cups and hot dogs. Imagine the possibilities! Note: Say no to tequila shots, however -- no matter how good an idea they seem to be at the time.