Last May we took our very first family vacation down to Hilton Head, SC, and we’ll be making the trek down south to the very same spot again this month! We had so much fun on our trip last year…it was truly everything we wanted for our first beach trip with our then 2-year-old. This year, we really aren’t looking to change a whole lot. Beach days and sand castles to the max? Yes, please. Little to no responsibilities? Sign me up.
Traveling states away for a trip like this with a toddler can seem daunting. I remember doing a lot of Pinterest searching for tips to survive the road trip and beach days. I made lists on lists of things we needed to pack. In the end, I felt very satisfied with how we prepared, but I did learn a few things once we got there and experienced the week. So, if you are heading on a road trip with your kiddos this summer, or dreaming about one day down the road, here are 5 things we learned during our first beach vacation!
1. come prepared
I pretty much thought of everything we might need during our week stay last year, down to the point where we only needed to buy groceries for the week. One thing I didn’t think through, though, was the beach umbrella and chairs. I knew the condos had them for rental, so why mess with them? We realized quickly on day 1 that it wasn’t ideal…rental costs were high ($50/day!!), you are sandwiched right up next to other families, and you can’t move the units. A quick Amazon search quickly proved that we could have purchased our own umbrella and chairs for a fraction of what we spent on renting last year. This year, we are prepared, and ready with our own beach set up.
2. …but don’t pack too much
While we did pack a lot to make our condo feel like home for the week, I tried very hard to practice constraint. Corinne uses a booster seat at home, but did we need it in the rental? Nope. I also really reeled ourselves in when it came to toys for her. We had so much fun and activity going on, the last thing she needed was all her toys from home! We packed a tiny bag with some of her favorites, and I’m so glad we kept it to a minimum. The less you bring, the less you have to worry about!
3. treat it like a vacation
We loved staying in a condo last year, so we could enjoy all the amenities we are used to at home…kitchen, washer/dryer, separate bedrooms, etc. But, just because it felt like home, didn’t mean I should always treat it like we are at home (I’m looking at you, mamas!). We used the kitchen for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, but I didn’t cook dinner the entire week we were there. Some nights were out on the town, other nights were carry-in from a local restaurant…point is, all of us were resting each night (amen!). We also indulged in pre-packaged snacks and drinks that we wouldn’t normally at home…who wants to get sand in the just opened box of Cheezits, or spend time splitting the snacks into separate baggies? No, thank you!
4. know your season
I think it is so important to know your family’s “season,” and adhere to the limits that you know exist. Before this first family vacation, Brian and I loved to take road trips, and see how many quaint little towns we could see in a 3-4 day span. We were all over the map, and loved it! We knew this trip would be so different. We did go on one day trip to Savannah, GA (gorgeous), but most of our days were filled with beach, pool, condo, and some nights out. Staying near the condo allowed for easy naps, and Brian and I could take turns staying in or staying out at the beach. It was such a change of pace for us, but so welcomed – I felt so refreshed coming home.
5. stop. drop. and enjoy.
Our time in Hilton Head last year was literally one of our best times together as a family. With Brian and I both working full-time, this uninterrupted time is so few and far between, and so precious. I’ve never laughed and smiled so much, and felt closer as a family. I’m so excited to turn the real world off and get back on island time again this month!