So recently Geoff, Camden and I joined my cousin, Corey (who is like my sister) and her family for a few days of fun and sun on Folly Beach in Charleston, South Carolina. I was blown away by how prepared she was for this beach trip. The only thing I contributed was the vitally important wine-opener. Anyway I asked her to share her list, tips and lessons learned so you can better plan if you are heading to a beach VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) this summer. – Chelsea
What to Pack for Your VRBO Beach Adventure (With Toddlers) by Corey Mitchell
This past June my husband and I made the brave decision to take our first family vacation. Our girls are two and four and I once heard, a vacation with kids is not a vacation…it’s an adventure. That is very correct. But I was determined to make this a fun-filled family adventure and wanted things to run as smoothly as possible. So I did what almost every stay at home mom would do and relied on the best thing ever invented…Pinterest. I scoured packing checklists, tips and tricks for travel with kids but there is one thing I learned and that is: nothing prepares you more than just diving right in and learning from experience.
We chose Folly Beach located in Charleston, South Carolina. Neither my husband or I had been there, I heard great things about it from friends and it was just three short hours from my cousin Chelsea who lives right outside of Charlotte. I had been dying to visit her since she moved there a few years ago. I used VRBO (love the website btw) to find a “home away from home” type of environment that would make things easy with two small kids. I found the perfect solution. A three bedroom, three bath townhouse located in a quiet beach community. It had a full kitchen with a dishwasher, a washer and dryer, a community pool and great reviews. Not to mention it was right in our price range. Sold!
Now to get ready for the trip. I am a notorious over packer and trust me, this time I did not disappoint. But there are a few things that stood out that I was very glad to have…and a few things I wish I would have added to the already overflowing mini van:
1. Busy Bags: What is a “busy bag” you ask? It’s just that. A bag chock full of activities to keep your toddler occupied on a 8 plus hour road trip. My girls each had their own bags with almost identical contents. I used My Little Pony tote bags that my aunt had sent them for birthday gifts and filled them with treasures I found in the $1 bins at Target. Sticker books, blank notebooks for stickers and doodles, magnetic dress up dolls, coloring packs and an assortment of snacks in little containers I also picked up some color wonder stickers and let them each pick out a special item to put in their bags. Allie chose a Thomas the Train coloring book and Annabelle chose a doodle book that came with markers. These bags were lifesavers and they even used them in the evenings to have something quiet to do after a long day at the beach.
2. A giant plastic tote bin filled with household items and food: I took one of those big Rubbermaid totes and filled it with items I knew we would need and I wanted to have things on hand in case we couldn’t immediately get to the store. Most home rentals come with “starter paper products”. Let me tell you they aren’t kidding when they say starter! So in the bin I included paper towel, toilet paper, trash bags, ziplock bags, paper plates, peanut butter, jelly, mac and cheese, breakfast bars, chips, bread, rice, pasta sauce, popcorn and other snacks. Bonus? We didn’t have to haul as much from the store when we went to get our fresh veggies, fruits and meats AND after I put everything away in the cupboards there I was able to use the empty bin as a laundry basket.
3. Sun Tent and/or Beach Umbrella: When my youngest was born I purchased a sun tent similar to this one here. We brought it along not sure if we’d use it but I’m so glad we did. The kids sat in their chairs inside the tent to get a break from the sun and have a snack and Allie used it as a spot to take a great nap on the beach. Bonus? It’s UV treated with SPF 30.
4. Beach Towels: Bring your own. Most places only provide bath towels and those don’t work out so well at the beach. My advice is to bring two per person unless you plan on doing laundry daily.
5. Baby Powder: Put this in your beach bag. It makes removing sand from you and your kids a breeze. Bonus: It smells great.
6. Night Lights: Your kids are sleeping in a strange place and it helps to place one in their rooms and the hall leading to your room. Those won’t be at the beach house and you don’t want to run to the store right at bedtime when your little ones are scared of the dark!
7. Sound Machine: Same reasoning as above. Your kids are in a strange place. Sound machines help block out unfamiliar sounds that they aren’t used to. Especially helpful if you are staying in a noisy area. We use these every night in our girls rooms at home and they really help.
8. A Blanket from home: It’s nighttime, your kids are in bed and you want to relax on the couch with a good movie or book. I can’t tell you how many times I wished I had a blanket from home to curl up with. Plus the a/c always makes me chilly. They had some there but trust me, it wasn’t the same and I wasn’t positive how clean they were. A blanket from home would also have been really nice in the car. Luckily, I did remember one for each of the girls.
9. A Bottle Opener/Corkscrew: Our beach house had almost every kitchen gadget you can imagine. But when I went to open a bottle of wine with dinner there was no corkscrew to be found. Luckily, my cousin and her family were up for the night and she just happened to bring one. Chelsea to the rescue!
10. Tupperware Containers: Last but not least bring a few Tupperware containers. You went with a beach house so you could make some of your own meals so make sure you have a place to put the leftovers! This was something we had to pick up at the store while there.
11. Collapsible Beach Cart or Wagon: Make sure you ask the rental if they have some way to transport your gear to and from the beach. Luckily ours had one, but if not, invest in a cart or wagon. Not having a means of carrying everything, especially with toddlers, is a recipe for short tempers.
That’s it! Trust me I could go on and on but the van is only so big and this post should only be so long! Hopefully you find this helpful when packing for your fabulous family vacation! And remember, if you do forget it, you can most likely buy it when you get there. It just might cost more! – Corey
What are your tips when having a VRBO beach adventure with your kids? We would love to hear!