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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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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.
My son wants to live by the beach.
What tips did I miss to help out future beach virgins?