Top 10 Things a Beach Virgin (with Children) Should Know

Growing up in land-locked Iowa, there are not many opportunities to experience a real beach. Sure, there are a few man-made lakes with imported sand – the crappy kind, capable of cooking your feet – but no “real” beaches.

Central Texas isn’t much better.

When my husband and I discussed traveling to the beach with our five year old and two-and-a-half-year old – despite honeymooning in Jamaica – we were still total beach virgins.

With children.

Trust me when I say, children add a whole new level to your beaching experience. For the benefit of other beach virgins (with children), here are things I’d wish I’d known before traveling to the beach last weekend.

Top 10 Things a Beach Virgin (with Children) Should KnowTop 10 List of Things a Beach Virgin should know.

10. The idea of traveling to a beach is so exciting to young children, you will be asked “are we there yet” at least 50 times during a 4 hour drive. Even a movie playing in the car – which typically places your five-year-old in a stupor – will not be enough distraction.

This would the perfect time for a new movie – not one they have memorized.

My son enjoys a sandwich while seagulls watch - PB & J with sand.

“But we don’t buy crunchy peanut butter…”

9.  Sand is the new seasoning. It’s your salt. Your pepper. Chances are, it will overseason all of your food in spite of every effort to remain sand-free. Accept it. Embrace it. Or don’t eat on the beach.

8.  Seagulls are evil. I learned the scene in Finding Nemo where the seagulls chase Nigel (the pelican), Dory, and Marlin is not exaggerated – at all. If you have food they will stalk and dive bomb you – and you will feel like you are guest starring in a scene of Hitchcock’s The Birds.

Whatever you do, DO NOT bring a fresh hot pizza to the beach to eat on your first night. Because a seagull will steal the pizza out of your two-and-a-half year old’s hands, and attempt to do the same thing as you try to hand the last slice to your husband – punching a hole into the middle.

A swarm out of Hitchcock's "The Birds". Only taken at our beach.

Taken when someone mistakenly let the seagulls know they had food – not us this time. It screams “Hitchcock!”

7.  You need at least 4 people to assemble a canopy/tent. Beaches are windy. Turn the canopy the wrong way, and suddenly you have a sail capable of whisking your five-year-old into the sky.

6.  Read reviews before you buy a canopy. Because the one in stock might be too light and not rigid enough. Even with four adults helping you and your husband, it will not be possible to assemble without the wind destroying it.

5.  Sand is great for exfoliating. By the time it’s time to reapply the sunscreen, sand is everywhere – your face, arms, legs, and hands. Even if you try to clear your hands off, rubbing the sunscreen onto your body will gather sand from those regions. Not recommended if you possess sunburn.

4.  Bring beach chairs. Do not think you don’t need them, especially if you have young children, who think nothing of running over your beach blankets/towels with sandy feet. And don’t forget them.

Clam hunting - an unplanned hit.

Who knew, just beneath the surface, lived millions of clams – who are shockingly fast at digging into the sand.

3.  Prepare for unexpected joys. You can haul a fleet of sand toys, expecting to build the largest sandcastle ever (which never quite happens because of your children’s delight in smashing them). Instead, watch them learn kneeling and standing in the sand – as waves crash over them  - unearths tiny clams. Remember the obscure fact that clams have a muscular foot to dig into the sand. Marvel how fast they use aforementioned foot to bury themselves before your two-and-a-half-year-old grabs them.

As if they know the fate awaiting them otherwise.

2.  Stay somewhere with a pool. As previously mentioned, sand and salt will be everywhere. Use the hose or beach showers to rinse the layers away, then the pool to access those hidden areas. Even after all of this, do not be surprised if your toddler hauled home half the beach in their swim diaper.

My children were lucky to escape the jellyfish - the sun exposure (despite sunblock) - not so much.

Not pictured: my husband and the jellyfish/portugese man-of-war (species is unknown) that stung him. In hind-sight, he thinks he was stung at least three times – the worst on Sunday night.. Meanwhile, the sun attacked the rest of us.

1.  You will feel a burning sensation at least once. It might be sunburn. It might be hidden jellyfish. It might be something you ate. My two children have pink cheeks, the tops of my feet are burned (shoes are not my friend), and my husband – who tanned instead of burning – was stung by a jellyfish (possibly multiple ones at varying times).

This is all inevitable. Make sure you have some vinegar, after-sun lotion, and Pepto-Bismal on hand for any occasion (note: the latter was not an issue….. this time).

* * *

Even with all of the seagulls, wind, sand in places it should not be, stings, and sunburn, our trip was a huge hit. A lot of thanks to the ability to visit on an “off” weekend before the main season starts.

And now?

My son wants to live by the beach.

What tips did I miss to help out future beach virgins? 

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About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos (www.writingwithchaos.com) sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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23 Responses to Top 10 Things a Beach Virgin (with Children) Should Know

  1. Lance says:

    we’re beach whores, I mean veterans. so I would say, with children, packs snacks and a lot of them. You will not be eating at your normal times. since it takes 30 minutes to an hour to get everything together and to a car, eating at a restaurant will be hard to do.

    use aloe. we call it blue bubbly stuff. it will prevent days where you have to keep people inside.

    • My children are snackers, so I always pack a lot of snacks. Beach time seems to increase the need and frequency for them, so my tendency to over-prepare was very useful…

      We only dined out one night – after spending six hours on the beach. Hence the sunburn.

      The After-sun we use has aloe, but I’ll look into the blue bubbly stuff too.

      Thanks for the tips!

  2. Annie says:

    We took our kids to see the ocean for the first time last October. They were in LOVE with it. It was too cold to swim and that was disappointing. So they insisted we go back this August.

    I think you hit the main points perfectly. :) Was this the Gulf? I’m from the land-locked plains myself. Grew up swimming in murky catfish-infested lakes. That takes a tough gal. ;)

    • Yes, it was the Gulf – Port Aransas to be exact (it’s not far from Corpus Christi). We debated about going to Padre, but the extra distance for slightly better beaches was outweighed by dislike of extra time with kids in the car – and therefore lost beach time.

      I also grew up with catfish man-made lakes. I didn’t see the ocean until I was 13.

      I also never wanted to leave.

  3. Have you heard the baby powder trick yet?

    It’s a damn miracle, I swear. Pour liberally over the sandy legs and feet of your children when it’s time to leave the beach and watch the sand (even damp sand) magically disappear from their skin.

    What’s left is smooth and soft. And sand-free (almost).
    I would have bought stock in Johnson & Johnson when my kids were little.

    Then again, we live twenty minutes from the beach. Nope. No virgins here.
    Ahem.

  4. Katie says:

    You could also take our approach and rent a big oceanfront house with a group of friends with kids the same age:) Our first beach trip with kids will be this August. The snacking and packing up and napping issues were precisely why we wanted to be just a few steps from the beach (with a pool of course). Sounds like you had a great time!

    • I would love to do that sometime – in fact I’ve tried to see if we could do something like that for a ski trip.

      The thing is: Murphy often LOVES our vacations. My children come down with something about 90% of the time (even if it’s just The Cough) and then someone is stuck with the sick child all night and during the day as they are quarantined – and if the child was intended to share a room with another child, they must be removed.

      I am forever grateful The Cough was only minor this time and my son was so worn out he didn’t appear to hear it.

      But hey, I think we should totally plan a trip together? Willing to take on Murphy with me?

      Just don’t forget your luggage. :)

  5. Kate says:

    Sounds like you have it covered, Kelly. Glad you had fun playing in the water and sand. We’re taking a weekend respite to Port Austin (on the freshwater coast of Lake Huron) for Memorial Day weekend. It’s a crap shoot (literally) because Michigan weather teases. It could be 80 and sunny; or it could be 50 and overcast.

    • I know that weather well, having grown up in it for 26 years.

      I shall say a blessing to the weather Gods it is on the warmer end.

      But they don’t always listen to me–though they were very kind last weekend.

      Let me know how the trip goes!

  6. thealaskan815 says:

    Hey at least you put them in bathing suits. Remember when we saw the ocean for the first time in1990 where when waded in our clothes then changed into our bathingsuits when we done?? You’re definately making progress! :-) love the baby powder idea!

    • Yes–I always found it ironic my first time in the ocean was fully clothed, only to change into suits.

      I recall my teenage self was also rather pouty – because I was upset we’d “wasted” an entire day at the space center, then less than an hour at the beach. Or even Disney World.

      It’s good I have “experienced” beach readers – because now we know all about the baby powder. I never would’ve thought of that in a million years.

  7. Rob Rubin says:

    We are renting a beach house for a week early next month. I fully expect to be pulling sand out the kids’ hair till they start college.

    • Well, you heard it here: bring baby powder. And meat tenderizer and/or vinegar (for stings) and aloe lotion. In addition to the planned list.

      Then just pray to the weather Gods, send Murphy a case of wine for distraction, and cross your fingers.

      They will have an awesome time.

      And their faces as they jump in the waves or bury themselves in the sand–totally priceless.

  8. Dianne says:

    I second the baby powder. We never leave home without it when going to the beach. There are also these awesome mats called sand n play mats that you put down that keep the sand down and your stuff sand free, highly recommend getting one of those.

  9. John says:

    Every year, we vacation at the same beach . . . this will be the 2nd trip down with kids.

    What gets me is that we used to say “let’s go to the beach,” pack up, and then, 20 minutes later, we were there with lunches and activities for the day. Now, the pack-up takes, at least, an hour & a half . . . and there’s still stuff we forget.

    But, it sure is fun watching the kids giggle when they venture out into the surf.

    • You summed it up–it takes an eternity (compared to before kids) for packing. Depending on how long the trip is, you have to include in flight/drive entertainment/food as well.

      I think just getting ready to leave the condo we stayed at took at least 45 minutes. By the time you hunted down the suits, changed the newly dirtied diaper, greased the kids with sunscreen, packed the snacks and cooler, couldn’t find one of their sandals..

      The giggle is totally worth it.

      And the manical cackle from smashing the sandcastle.

      And the screech of “Look at all of those clams MOMMY!” as if it is the most amazing thing in the world.

      Now if we could just rig a jellyfish-free area….

  10. Bri says:

    Great tips! We keep wanting to take Ava to the beach, and it keeps not working out. Hopefully soon!

    Glad it went better than your family ski vacation :)

  11. Bri says:

    PS – Little Diva’s hair has gotten so long!

  12. Pingback: The Only Way to Guarantee Failure is to Never Try | Dances with Chaos

  13. Yay! Thank you for the Rec. We are excited to go.

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