As a first-time-mom, packing for my child’s first trip to the beach, I overpacked. I packed for the 7-day getaway the way Imelda Marcos did seasonal shoe-shopping. Nearly 5 years and two additonal kids later, these are the top 10 things I have learned not to bother packing when going on a week-long beach vacation.
1) Changing pads: why did I think my little snowflake could only have her diaper changed on a changing pad? Why did I think a towel would not suffice? Ditch the changing pad… your little petunia will do just fine having her drawers freshened on a towel.
2) Numerous perfectly coordinated outfits: 3 to 4 outfits should suit baby, in addition to a few swimsuits and a couple pajamas. You’ll be doing laundry every day anyway, so there will be quick laundry turnaround.
3) Diapers and wipes: just buy them there or ship some via Amazon to your location. Do pack a few in the car for the drive there, of course
4) Magazines/books: there will be no poolside lounging or beachfront lazing. Don’t kid yourself (see #10.)
6) A beach blanket: your child will be a sand-coated land beast within 15 minutes of your toes touching the dunes. You could choose to either accept your sandy fate or spend your entire beachside outing dusting, clearing, and securing a destined-to-be-gritty beach blanket. Bring some foldable beach chairs for brief sitting stints but, otherwise, don’t be a diva: become one with the sand. (See this post for sand removal tips.) Note: If you have a newborn, stick to a foldable beach tent with a standable stroller fan tucked inside, and a baby carrier to contain your little nugget.
6) Pricey beach toys: any toy on which you spent more than $1.50 or which requires multiple pieces to remain intact to be functional, should be reconsidered. Beach toys get lost, broken, and/or stolen by the ocean. Keep it simple… and cheap.
7) Motherhood-unfriendly attire: that strapless one-piece that baby can pull down faster than you can sneeze? Those dangling earrings that just scream “yank me”? Those shorts you tug on every few steps? Forget about them. Save suitcase space for a pair of beach flip flops, a pair of functional-but-cute sandals, close-toed shoes you could wear on a mulched playground, a couple pairs of shorts, underwear that doesn’t ride up your nethers, a few kid-friendly swimsuits, a zip-up swim cover-up, and a few tops or (if you’re nursing) a handful of nursing tanks. If you’re feeling extra hopeful, throw in a sundress just in case you maybe go somewhere that doesn’t ask if you want crayons with your menu.
8) Hygiene items: just buy them there and save yourself some packing drama. You’re going to have to do a grocery run upon arrival anyway. The adults and kids can share the same shampoo, conditioner, facial cleanser, bodywash, and moisturizer for one trip. Go simple, scent-free, and gentle to keep everyone’s skin (and eyes) happy.
9) The hope to sleep in: maybe — just maybe — your child will be the glimmering, rainbow-farting unicorn of an infant who actually sleeps better on vacation. That’s a big “maybe.” A better bet would be to accept some adjustment roughness for the first night or two. It’s survivable, especially if you anticipate it.
10) The expectation for relaxation: enter into this expedition knowing you will be on your feet most of the time. Any reprieve will be a bonus. Don’t fight it; just accept it. You’ll be happier in the end. Think of it as quality time with your kid(s) with built-in exercise!
Family vacations are memory-making, calorie-shredding, laughter-breeding, utterly exhausting experiences. You will simultaneously love and loathe the trip, and you won’t be alone wading through that emotional juxtaposition. All of us vacationing parents feel it too. Appreciate all you can, commit every magic moment to memory, and let the unsavory wash away with the tide.
Soak it in!