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Although my kids have four days left of school as I type this, our family spent this last week at the beach. Our coaching philosophy is “family first whenever possible” and that includes taking vacations when our schedule allows. Thankfully, our principal and teachers were very supportive of our respite and went the extra mile to arrange for both boys to take their SOL tests early.
With tests behind us, we were able to spend the week relaxing, staying up late, sleeping in and spending days playing in the ocean. We haven’t taken a family trip longer than a weekend in quite some time (unless you include moving) and I picked up some “new to me” tips with our week-long adventure, so I thought I’d pass them along.
- Less is more. With an agenda that included a few outings and mainly pool and beach attendance, our wardrobe options were easy. We each packed 3 outfits and a pair of jeans in case of cooler evening weather. I threw in exercise gear thinking I would go for walks before our crews awoke. We rented a house that had a washer and dryer, which made things convenient, and as I was doing laundry before we packed to come home I realized even our 3 outfits were more than we had used.
- Shop your pantry. I always feel better leaving an empty fridge for longer trips. The thought of moldy food greeting our arrival home is not appealing. As I pulled out a few snacks for the road I decided it was worth the trunk space to grab a few additional items for the week. Cereal, bacon, bbq sauce and salad dressing, as well as nuts and dried fruit, were added to the cooler. As we wandered Walmart that first evening at 9pm grabbing the rest of our supplies, I was really happy with my decision to bring pantry items along.
- Save the packets. We have a cup that holds the extra ketchup, mayo and Chick-fil-A sauce that gathers over our outings. These items were added to our cooler in addition to the bacon, which cut down on space and cost.
- Bring the favorites. My nieces (4 and 7) are both gluten and dairy free. Thankfully, grocery stores have come a long way and most things were found at Walmart. My sister-in-law had sent me a new favorite recipe of the girls and I decided to bake some of their beloved muffins for our trip. I made a triple batch for our crew of 8 to snack on and the last morning there were 4 left! These muffins were frozen after baked, so travel was a breeze and having a homemade goodie was much appreciated. Here is the recipe for Healthy Flourless Pumpkin Muffins.
- Flexibility is key. With kids ranging 4-11 I wasn’t sure we’d find much for the kids to enjoy together. Thankfully water was an equalizer in many ways as the kids jumped the waves and hunted clams side by side. Memories were formed by all. A day trip to an amusement park included time split up. Very little was planned until the night before or morning of. This allowed for kids to sleep in if needed or get some quiet time alone.
- Pick wisely. My sis-in- law and I spent several days hunting for the perfect place. We ended up renting a house on a resort with multiple pools and beach access. We were close enough to walk to our amenities but also could drive or be taxied around. Our house had enough bedrooms AND bathrooms for everyone plus it was a minute away from restaurants. Since neither of us had been to the area we were choosing we asked for advice on locations and read a lot of reviews. We took the advice of those with experience and it paid off. We explored our area a bit over the week and I really think we picked the best place we could have. I’d head back for a repeat before picking any other location in that area in a heartbeat!
- Set the agenda. Prior to our trip my boys kept asking what we would be doing. I set the agenda with them early on and it paid off. Our week was about having fun, but it was also about being together. Since my boys are older than my nieces I wanted them to actively be engaging their cousins. They could have easily felt disappointed by the lack of agenda, but instead they engaged their cousins and spent time in their bedroom when they needed a break. At the end of the week they were grateful for our time away and could list multiple fun memories of their cousins.
The rest of our summer is crazy busy as my job coordinating swim lessons at our local YMCA picks up speed and football camps are still to be had. I’m so thankful we took the time to rest and reconnect before we spend the summer going our separate ways, even if it meant taking the kids out of school.