how to go to the beach

this pic is over a year old, and it’s not at the beach, but it does have a sun hat, so that works right?

Sometimes, in the face of some awesomely fun family activity, I become paralyzed by the thought of packing.  I’m not talking about packing for a week-long trip – I mean, like, packing to go to the park.  Do I have enough diapers in the diaper bag?  Does it make more sense to do cloth diapers or disposables on this trip?  Are the girls going to need snacks, sippy cups, rain jackets?  Do I need an emergency change of clothes for each kid or just for the baby?  Do we need sunscreen?  Should I bring the Ergo carrier?  … and on and on.

Which is why I was pleasantly surprised this weekend when we took the three kids to the beach and it all went really smoothly!  We woke up, had some leisurely coffee & breakfast, decided to go to the beach, and BAM – we were on the road before 9 AM.  Once there, I had exactly zero moments of “shoot, I forgot to pack the –“.  Apparently, after four summers of taking babies to the beach, we actually know what we’re doing!  Amazing.

So, in case any of you also suffer from beach-prep anxiety, I thought I’d share how we do it …

The Location.  We’re lucky to have dozens of beaches available to us only an hour or two away from South Bend.  For several years, our favorite was a small, free, un-crowded little beach at the end of Town Line Road in Union Pier.  But now that we have three kids (and all their gear) to transport from the car to the sand, our new favorite is Weko beach in Bridgman.  Nice beach, decent facilities, and no stairs to get down to the beach.  If you get there at the right time you can park two feet away from the sand.  Which brings us to …

The Timing.  We discovered over the past few years that morning trips to the beach work best for us.  Morning nap schedules get messed up, but it usually works out – anyone truly in need of a nap gets one in the car.  Meanwhile we have the beach practically to ourselves, we can park really close, and most importantly, we’re all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for an exhaustingly fun time at the beach.

The Beach Gear.  The first three items on this list live in the trunk of our minivan throughout the summer, and we throw the rest in the trunk on beach day:

  • Sport-Brella (love this thing.  Shade, wind protection, and privacy for nursing)
  • two bag chairs
  • picnic blanket
  • beach towels
  • beach toys (send the four year old out to the sandbox to gather them)

The Beach Bag.  These are the items *I* deem essential to comfort and enjoyment when we’re all set up on the beach:

  • diapers/wipes/changing mat (I really like this one)
  • swim diapers
  • nursing cover & baby blanket
  • sun hats
  • sunglasses (boy, is it a trick to keep track of my own AND my kids’ sunglasses)
  • baby toys (just a few like a rattle, Sophie the Giraffe, teething toy, etc.)
  • book or magazine
  • cover-ups and/or sweatshirts (even if it’s hot, someone is bound to get chilly)
  • food (we pack a lunch, usually PBJs)
  • drinks (my water bottle, the kids’ sippies, and a Diet Coke)

The Car Bag.  This one stays in the car while we’re on the sand:

  • sunscreen (screen everybody up BEFORE leaving the car – I hate rubbing sand in with the sunscreen)
  • change of clothes for each person
  • plastic grocery bag for wet suits
  • Ergo carrier (stays in car because I don’t usually end up using it, but it’s there just in case)
  • baby powder (put the container inside a ziploc bag to contain mess)

If you remember nothing else from this blog post, when you go to the beach, bring baby powder.  Sprinkle it on your damp, sandy child and the sand will brush right off rather than sticking to them and chafing.  It works miracles!

I am a list-maker, so I wrote out all of those bulleted items before we started packing, and now that I have it all written out, the list will stay in my desk for easy reference throughout the summer, and then I never have to be anxious about packing for the beach 🙂

One final note … The Expectations.  We are not in a season of life where we can hang out on the beach all day sunbathing and swimming out in the deep water for as long as we want.  And that’s actually fine!  This weekend we spent about two and a half hours at the beach, which is about average for how long our kids can handle being there.  Pete took Maggie out to the water a few times, she ran up & down the beach by herself a few times (I pointed out boundaries so she’d know how far she could go), Elizabeth played in the sand (she’s currently afraid of the water but I expect that may change this summer),and I mostly stayed in the shade with the baby (she’s not crawling yet, but she probably will be before the summer is out … so that will be harder, haha).

The highlight of the day for me was the sheer delight on Maggie’s face anytime she was in the water.  It’s a lot of work to get there, it’s a lot of work to be there, but it’s definitely worth it.


6 thoughts on “how to go to the beach

    1. shoot, I’m sorry I didn’t see this comment … they don’t roll up but they do clip up, if that makes sense … you fold them upwards and they clip to the top. So it can be used as a regular umbrella or a shelter. It can also be staked down into the sand, which is almost always necessary to keep it getting blown away 🙂


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