Zach and I promised each other that no matter what this year we were going to take a family vacation. We haven't been on a real vacation that didn't include visiting family since we have been married- which will be FOUR years next month! *gasp* That paired with being a stay at home mom, Zach's full time job, seminary and new ministries we were LONG overdue. We ended up getting a killer deal at a resort in Myrtle Beach, SC and we packed up and headed there for a glorious week. Such a blast! People have been asking us what we did while we were there to which we replied "Uhhh, pretty much just lay on the beach or in the pool." No regrets. And, we got to see my sissy and her family and some long time friends too so win, win, win.
I decided to write down my thoughts/tips on family vacations with a little one as it is new territory for me and may come in handy for other young moms out there! Emmalynn just turned the big 1 and she is very mobile right now which presented some interesting challenges. Hope this blog can be helpful to you if you are in a similar boat! If you think it is too hard to vacation with a baby I hope this encourages you to try- the memories and family time are worth it.
We were traveling a long way- 17 hours- by car. We decided to travel by car to save some money and to allow us to have transportation during our week long stay in SC. Also, a car allowed us freedom to get a little comfy during our travel, sleep and stop when needed. We got to see some neat things along the way as well as make stops to get out and play in new cities.
Because we had such a long trip Zach and I chose to split the drive into two days. The first leg we started in the middle of the night while Emmy was asleep. We got a few hours of shut eye before we took off and by the time she woke up we had already accomplished around 8 hours of our trip. This allowed us to stop for breakfast once she was awake, play and get her changed before finishing out the remainder of leg one. We stopped in Knoxville, TN for the day around 1pm and had all day and night to rest and play at our hotel and a local park before finishing our drive the next morning! We purposely planned leg two to be the shorter of the two days so that it would feel more like a vacation day than just a travel day.
For entertainment during the drive we brought some kid DVDs to play on our laptop which helped to keep her attention and keep her happy. We also tried to pack a few newer toys or toys that she hadn't played with for a while as well. Also SNACKS are a life saver!
These are inevitable especially with kids. Something that I failed to do and will plan to do on our next trip is plan out where we plan to stop for lunch or dinner in advance. For little ones the park or a play place at a mall would be great. They need to get our their energy and this is a great way to do that. We ended up scrambling to find places to stop and I wished I had done some more planning. If you choose to stop at a park plan to pack a small cooler and a blanket for picnics and keep them easily accessible in the car. This was a huge money and time saver for us! This way we didn't also have to waste time looking for food options as it was already packed up in the car.
As you plan your travel and think about your actual time on vacation is is SO important for kids to try and stick to their regular schedule. We did our best to plan meals and stops around the times that Emmalynn is used to eating and napping. If you choose to stop at a park to play I would recommend setting your kids up for nap time as soon as you load back into the car if they still take afternoon naps. For Emmalynn this meant making sure she was dry, fed and didn't have any distractions around her so she could get a solid nap in. She is at the stage where she wants to constantly move so being strapped in her car seat is not ideal for her. Making the most of nap times was imperative to having a smooth drive time.
We booked an AWESOME deal at a beach resort through Groupon. I highly recommend this site and my family uses it often for various things. We booked our vacation during the "off season" and ended up getting a suite with a kitchen, living room and beach view balcony for under 1/3 of the original cost. Not only did we save on cost but we also had an awesome week with hardly any crowds of people at the pools and beach. Totally worth it! If you can try to plan your vacation during the off season that would be my recommendation.
In the future our family will aim to book a room that has access to a kitchen and living room space if possible. The kitchen was a HUGE money saver and made things a lot easier with our little one. By having an extra "hang out" space in the hotel room we were able to put Emmy down for her naps and bed time and still had the freedom to be active and not disturb her. Again- try your hardest to keep them on a schedule. Doing this made a ton of difference for us and we had little to no issues coming back home and adjusting to a post vacation schedule. Some days it was tempting to blow off her schedule to stay in the water longer but in the long run she was happier and we all had more fun when we stuck to a schedule. Worth it!
Also- check with your hotel about early check in times. Our hotel allowed us to check in a couple hours early and we got to head down to the beach once we checked in making a travel day feel like a partial vacation day!
STUFF TO DO
Staying at a resort may not be something we are able to do always especially if we don't get such a killer deal. However, it was awesome being at one. In addition to being an elevator ride down to the ocean they also had multiple pools, a kiddie water park, free putt putt golf, a coffee shop and a couple of restaurants that would be an awesome choice for dinner if you didn't want to get back out.
We decided to check out other things to do in Myrtle Beach that were baby friendly. I ended up stumbling across another Groupon deal (I seriously love them) for a Children's Museum just minutes from our hotel. The babies LOVED it and it provided a couple of sand free hours of entertainment for us. Try to explore the area around you and look for deals and events through city websites!
Sorry this was long- I am sure there are tons of other tips but this was some of our experience. We had such an amazing time and I can't wait to travel even more in the future.