Monday, June 7, 2010

A Slippery Slope?

M. and I are officially immersed in planning for our week-long beach vacation this summer. Once nearly a year away, we now have only about 6 weeks to go until the much anticipated trip arrives. You may think, "Oh, how relaxing, a week at the beach." And then I let you know that we are going to be taking this trip with 30 of my closest family members. And all of us are sharing two houses together (large though they may be).

So perhaps (or definitely) this trip will not be relaxing. I don't care, though, I'm super excited for it. For a number of reasons. First, my kids have never been to the beach. Which is just crazy in my mind, because with few exceptions, my family spent at least two weeks on Cape Cod every summer of my childhood. I think even when my sisters and I were only 3 months old (prematurely born triplets, fresh out of the NICU - crazy then? No. Crazy now? Maybe), we were likely schlepped to the beach for a couple of weeks. It's just how things were done (colic be damned! Which I apparently had, as my mother likes to remind me). Second, the trip is in honor of my maternal grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. SIXTY! YEARS! It's just so amazing and wonderful. Ten years ago we all got together for the same vacation - one week in the Outer Banks, NC - and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. And I'm so glad that we can all come together to do it all again, ten years later. It's crazy to think of how things have changed since then. My sisters and I, all unmarried at the time, have gotten married and started families. Between the three of us, an uncle and a cousin, eight new members of the family have been born. There are new husbands, wives, significant others. Numerous cousins have finished high school, started and finished college, started careers. Since I live far away from all of them, and rarely get to see everyone, I cannot wait to catch up and hang out.

Work has been stressful for longer than I can remember, and we had a HARD winter. I need a vacation in the worst way. Needless to say, I have been anticipating and pining for and planning for and looking forward to this vacation for what seems like forever. But now we are legitimately close to the trip, and I am justified in my preparations. It's OK if I buy the kids water shoes, they will likely still fit in to them by the time we hit the beach. Swim diaper coupons can be used before they expire. A detailed and ever-growing packing list has been started. Every weekend shopping trip to Target involves conversations like "Ooh, hey, $5 movies, maybe we should buy some for the car ride," or "Do you think we need a canopy for the beach?"

Most of our discussions have centered on our mode of transportation to the beach, however. We have long planned to purchase a new car just before this beach vacation. At a very manageable 5.5 hour predicted route, we will definitely be driving to the Outer Banks. However, given our two children (with two car seats), multiple suitcases, beach chairs, pack 'n play, booster seat, and various other planned trappings, there is no way we can actually drive to the beach in one of our fairly compact (now defunct) Saturn sedans. Our older car is nearly 11 years old, and we can safely justify purchasing a new car. A bigger car, in fact. But nothing crazy, nothing really big. And NOT a minivan. I, like many other women of my generation who spent many road hours in a minivan while growing up, have sworn an oath to NEVER own a one. Despite M.'s best arguments (he would love it if we got one), I am determined to keep this oath. With only two kids and no large pets that need to travel with us (I frequently forget that we even HAVE a cat, no way would she come on vacation with us), I cannot see any valid reason or excuse to actually own a minivan.

We went to the trouble of testing several small/mid-sized SUVs, and even selected the car we would like to buy - the Chevy Equinox. It has a little less cargo space than the Honda CRV, but at 32 mpg on the highway is very fuel efficient (yet not as expensive as a hybrid). Unfortunately, everyone and their brother apparently wants to buy an Equinox. As such, Chevy is a barren desert when it comes to incentives and deals to purchase this in-demand car. We have been watching and waiting, but with crappy financing rates and no cash back in the last 6 months, we have not been able to pull the trigger. And now it's too late. At this point, if we ordered a car (low inventory at all the Chevy dealerships due to popularity means we can't just walk up and buy one), it would take 8 weeks to get to us. Two weeks AFTER our beach vacation.

Our new strategy is to wait a bit longer on buying the new car, closer to the release of the new 2011 models (and keeping our fingers crossed that a 2010 model of the trim we want will still be available then) when there should be some good deals. And in the meantime, we are renting a car for our beach vacation. A much larger car than the ones we currently own. A minivan, in fact. Lord help me, I hope I don't like it.

I will end this nonsense post here, but put out a plea. For those of you that have undertaken beach vacations with young children, what did you bring that you didn't actually need? What was right on the money? What did you not bring with you that you wish you had? Your tips are welcome!


  1. We never went with the boys when they were Lucy's age, so my only advice is for 2 and up.

    What we did not use:
    * Rarely used swim diapers if they were getting in the water. There is some kind of parasite in the water on the NC coast that causes a horrific rash called swimmer's itch. Swim diapers hold the water and can cause the rash to appear quickly. Take the swim diaper off before they go in the water then put it on when they get out.

    * Beach chairs for the kids. I know I have a picture on my blog where they were sitting in them but they sat for one minute at a time. Mostly they wanted to sit in our chairs.

    * Books to read on the beach. Even with two four year olds, we had to stay alert.

    My must packs:
    * A cover up for the parents. You will be picking up wet sandy kids, best to have something to protect your swimsuit.

    * A mesh bag to store beach toys. It will be full of sand and water and shells and you will NOT take the time to clean off the toys before leaving the beach.

    * Dual headrest DVD player with headphones. We will not let the boys watch tv in the car without headphones. That way we do not have to listen to their shows!

    * Beach shoes that do not fall off. I like the Target mesh ones. That way there is no crying over lost shoes or hot sand. Plus they can easily be rinsed in the ocean.

    * Rash guards for the kids. The sun is brutal here.

    General advice:

    * We had to man-to-man it when shlepping stuff to the beach. We tried to plan it so we could comfortably carry a child (who might be objecting to leaving!) and the stuff we needed. Our beach bags had minimal stuff - sunscreen, snacks, towels, toys. It might be different since you have so many people there but I would say to plan that you will not get help carting stuff.

    * Our boys are beyond the point of napping when they travel, so we always plan some down time in the middle of the day. We all lay in beds together watching tv or reading books. That really helps with afternoon crazies. Sometimes we will even drive around if they are clearly overly tired, so we bring podcasts to listen to while driving around. Having the expectation ahead of time that some part of each day will be lost to dealing with mid-day crazies helps.

    Overall I would say have fun! Sounds like it will be an awesome trip!

  2. What, no fond memories of the Toyota Coppertopper?

  3. What minivan did you rent? I'd recommend the Honda Odessey.

  4. We are apparently getting a "Dodge Grand Caravan or equivalent." And I complained to M. and said "who the heck drives a Dodge?" I wanted a Sienna or an Odyssey. But that was more for status ;-).

    Laura, great tips!!

    And Mom, many fond memories of the coppertopper, but mostly involving all the jokes we cracked at its expense.

  5. Oh I was one of those - I will NEVER have a minivan. We actually had an SUV and I hated it. Road like a truck, very uncomfortable for long rides (we went up to VT in the SUV). But I think it depends on the SUV and the minivan. The minivan we have rides smoothly but doesn't get great mileage.

    As for what to bring to the beach and what not to - I am making note because I hope to bring the kids to the beach sometime soon to!

  6. Joel wants a minivan, I am also resisting!

    Thank you LauraC for all of your helpful hints! I will be going to Crane Beach for the day with J next week. I will let you guys know how it goes.

    We bought a sun tent thing that Joel and Ken lugged out to the beach at Hilton Head, but because it was so windy it DID NOT work. So, I think I will not even try for Crane's.