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Challenge: Traveling with Kids

After 20 years of trial and error, here's how we have a stress-free day at the beach

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My husband hates the beach. I am not sure which he dislikes more, the risk of sunburn or the annoying feeling of sand in between his toes. The kids, on the other hand, can’t wait to dive in.

With our trunk filled to the brim with everything we could possibly need, from towels to snacks, we are ready to roll. With our arms over-filled and a wagon loaded up with the rest, we are off to find a spot big enough for us and all our stuff. Maneuvering around a myriad childless people with their one towel and bottle of water, I think back to carefree afternoons at the beach.

Those were the days.

Sounds of “I'm thirsty!” and “It's hot!” break me out of my daydream.

Over 20 years of trial and error has helped me figure out what it takes to have a fun and (almost) relaxing day at the beach with eight kids. It all comes down to organization and being prepared for anything and everything.

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Being prepared ensures you will have a stress-free day at the beach.

Arrive Early – You want to claim an optimal spot for your full enjoyment. Do you prefer sun or shade? Do you want to be out of view of the concession stands? There's nothing like having the ice cream cart right in your toddler's line of sight to ensure a tantrum or two. Also, scope out the location of the restrooms. If your children are anything like mine, I'm sure you will be visiting the bathroom quite a few times over the course of the day.

Bring lots of your child's (and your) favorite snacks – My children can be occupied for at least a few minutes when I bring out a special treat. I often reserve snacks that I do not usually buy, such as fruit snacks, for such occasions. A hungry child is a cranky child. If you do not want to wind up shelling out big bucks at the hot dog vendor, throw a few sandwiches in your bag as well. I also fill a separate cooler with drinks. Staying well hydrated is key.

Have plenty of sand toys to play with – Grab a shovel and pail and keep your kids occupied building a sandcastle. Fun sand molds are also a big hit. Can't locate the bag of shovels and pails on your way out the door? Plastic food storage containers can double as tools to build a mighty sand fortress. Don't forget to include a moat!

Don't forget the sunscreen – My husband and I have both had sun poisoning and I never want to experience that again. With fair children who burn easily, I am very vigilant with sunscreen application. Not only am I concerned about sun safety, but I am cautious about what ingredients are in the brands I buy. My children have very sensitive skin and have had horrible breakouts even with hypoallergenic varieties. It took trial and error to find the brands that work for everyone. With summer right around the corner, it's time to research your sunscreen options.

A little planning goes a long way. Grab your towels and beach umbrella, and have fun!

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