Here it is, friends. I finally put to words my amazing vacation experience. I’m actually still in awe of the fact that we not only survived, but genuinely enjoyed the trip we took with our troop. Like, I had to pull myself together to face the fact that maybe this isn’t such a big deal after all, and maybe taking 4 kids on vacation is actually not as hard as I thought it was. And it wasn’t really anything in particular that I did- that’s the beauty in the whole thing.
So how did we do it? How did we take 4 kids (ages 9, 6, 20 months and 6 months) to the beach for 6 whole days, including a 5 hour, one-way road trip? I’ll tell you over the next few posts.
Let me first say that I HATE leaving home. Seriously. I give birth at home; I cook all our meals at home; I am the absolute embodiment of the proverbial homebody. But even I have to admit that once the home became my workplace (just 6 months ago), I’ve had a gradual change of heart in regards to occasionally leaving the house. This particular vacation was exactly the right combination of planning and freestyling to assuage my anxiety and let me relax and enjoy my crew. That combination included:
- Where: a quiet, less-crowded, less-expensive beach area- Tybee Island. We stayed in a nice house with a pool, within walking distance to the beach. No, it wasn’t the gilded resort community along 30A that all our friends were enjoying, but it was perfect for us.
- When: The end-of-season beach trip meant we had very little competition for beach space, but all the kitschy little shops and tourist traps were still open. Plus it wasn’t too hot.
- Who: We were hosted by my absolutely fabulous in-laws (I am sooooo blessed!) and joined my brother-in-law and his wife, who were a Godsend in helping with the kids.
- What: I am thrilled to say we did absolutely ZERO planned outings. Like, the choices for the kids were beach or pool. And they loved every second.
Rather than try to give you all the deets right here, I’ll break this baby into a few small posts: Prep, The First Half, and the Last Leg. So here’s how we prepped for the 5 hour car trip and getting all the goodies that are involved in taking 4 kids (including 2 infants in cribs) on a weeklong away-from-home stay.
- Groceries: we had the advantage of staying in a big house with a full kitchen, so we didn’t have the stress of going to a restaurant the entire trip. We packed foods our kiddos like, and what we needed for our night to cook (my MIL took virtually all the cooking, with one night of our cooking and one night of my brother and sister-in-law’s). I also took our water bottles, 4 gallon jugs of filtered water, and mess-free stuff for the road trip.
- Activities for the kids: I bought these caddies at Target on clearance in the Back to College section (there are still a ton there if you want some!). Each kid got a coloring book, a journal, a pencil pouch with crayons and pencils, sunglasses, a toy of their choice, a water bottle, and a snack of applesauce and a cheese stick. I also took a page out of my awesome friend Laura’s book, and used cookie sheets for each as magna-boards and packed some magnets (laminated paper drawings with magnets on the back, or actual Melissa & Doug magnets from Target). More on how I administered each of these activities below.
- My front-seat essentials: I put my book (which I didn’t read till we got to the beach- in hindsight I wouldn’t have wasted space in my caddy with it), my spice-bottle full of disciplinary beads (which I mention below), stories for reading aloud to the kids, board books to hand to the little dude one-at-a-time, hand sanitizer wipes, a plastic baggie for trash, and my first aid kit, which includes essential oils, ointment, diaper creme, tweezers, and nail trimmers. I actually used almost all of these on the trip, so I was glad I packed them!
- Luggage: in hindsight I packed entirely too much for myself. But the kids were exactly right- I did 2 pairs of shorts and 2 pairs of leggings, bathing suits and cover-ups, undies for the week, and big t-shirts for PJ’s. That was perfect. I must have been thinking I was going on a separate vacation where I would be dressing for tea every day. I virtually wore the same sundress and shorts/shirt combination for the entire week. I also did not need 3 bathing suits- one would’ve been fine.
On the road:
- Leaving at the right time: we packed the car overnight- including our portable crib/crib mattress (because James wants nothing to do with a pack-n-play), and all the luggage/caddies/etc. The girls also got to take a blanket and a pillow pet for the road, so they packed those the night before too. We said the blankies were “getting a sleepover in the car.” I made breakfast in advance (pumpkin banana bread) so we could literally eat a quick breakfast, say a quick prayer, and hit the road. It was so much less stressful when all we had to do was dress, diaper the boys, and load ourselves in the car.
- Keeping kids occupied: I’m pleased to say we actually did this really well. Again, I took a
page out of Laura’s book and paced myself with the activities for the kids. This was BRILLIANT. I gave out coloring books, magnets (in pencil pouches), magazines, and stories at each hour mark, so the kids knew they had something new to look forward to. Those things stayed in a grocery bag up front with me until time to hand them out.
- Food on the way: I thought I’d pack us a picnic, but I am not superwoman. I honestly could not possibly pack all this stuff and make picnic food. So we used the Panera app and ordered food to be ready when we hit the half-way mark on our journey. Then we got the chance to sit down, eat a good, non-disgusting fast food meal under $30. How did we do that? I have the girls share a PB&J, order two extra yogurts, let James eat the bread from daddy’s soup (always the tomato soup in a bread bowl), and give him a few bites of my You-Pick-Two. We have water bottles so we don’t need a drink, and the 99 cent pastry that comes with my YP2 is almost always enough to give each kid a little treat 🙂
- Limiting insane behavior: In my caddy, I have a little glass spice jar. Inside that little spice jar is my discipline trick: colored snap-beads- 10 each of purple (for Cora) and green (for Celia). Each kid starts the day with 5, can lose beads for negative behavior and can earn one bead for going above and beyond expectations, up to 10 beads (we’ve actually never made it to 10). It was AMAZING for the car ride- I think I only took away one bead per girl for fighting over the course of the whole round-trip.
By having an early lunch on the road, we actually were set up for an awesome first day. As soon as we arrived, we unloaded suitcases, and the girls put on their suits and hit the beach with Grandma and Grandpa, with no stops for snacks or lunch. Exactly how they wanted it. Stay tuned for more notes from our adventure, including a few ah-ha moments that will shape the way we vacay from now on!