Yay!! We just finished up a week of fun in the Outerbanks! Fun in the sun…..cocktails, beautiful summer breeze, watching the kids run like crazy in the sand. This was us the last time we went to the Outerbanks….we only had three little ones….the Fashionista was just totting around and I was pregnant with Mini Me.
There is just something about the ocean…..listening to the waves…..the smell of the salty air. I LOVE just hanging out with extended family. Soaking in good conversations around a hot tub……building sand castles in the sun…and making excuses to eat treats all week long.
However, in order to truly enjoy my vacation, I like to take care of a few things.
Some of theses tips were ideas that I came up with after packing for several vacations. Some of these tips are tried and true and yet some of them are things that I wish I had thought of before I was on vacation. So…here goes…
- Plan out your trip. When I first decided that I wanted to take this fall trip, I started with some research. I compared the cost of renting a large 6 bedroom house in the Outerbanks in September with the cost of renting one in June- August during “peak season”…it was clearly 1/3 of the price….. so I decided that this was the route to pursue. Next was sitting down with my husband to decide what we thought the ideal house would have. We both definitely wanted a hot tub to relax in, and a beachfront property as neither one of us wanted to shlep a bunch of chairs, towels, bags, and buckets to some distant beach area. Beachfront also seemed ideal with the current ages of our children. Miss Missy still needs a 3 hour nap everyday so either one of us could stay with Miss Missy during her nap but watch out for little ones who came back to the house for the occasional potty break or snack.
- Check out what the area has to offer. If you are an avid Pinterester, like I am, I put in Outerbanks in the search section, and I got some great tips on places to visit. Additionally, I hit up my friends on Facebook, who I know vacation in the Outerbanks, to get suggestions on “must see” places to visit and eat. Why try a dive restaurant unless you can have someone tell you how “phenomenal” it is??!! A couple of my friends suggested duck donuts. This was my third trip to the Outerbanks, and yet somehow I had NEVER tried Duck donuts!!! I mean….Duck donuts???!!! Crazy, phenomenal, so-glad-there-is-not-one-near-me good!!! I also added the Outerbanks area to my Groupon account to I could snag any deals that may come up that way! A few years ago I went on restaurant.com and bought a $50 gift certificate for dinner to a local spot for $10!!!
- Plan out the attire for your trip. What activities are you hoping to partake in? Do you plan on getting the kids dressed up for church or a fancy dinner out? Are you hoping to take a family shot on the beach for a Christmas card? or are you just hanging at the beach? This will determine how you pack your family. If you are just hanging by the pool, you will need more bathing suits than “outfits”. If you are planning a picture or dinner, you will need to ensure that you and your kiddos have the proper attire down to shoes. =) Do you like to just hang out in your pajamas for a while?…then packing a robe is a must!
In my Tip Tuesday post this week, I discussed how to prepare your house for leaving.
This post is about preparing yourself and your family for the actual trip.
- Prepare a spreadsheet of everything you think you will need for the week: Grocery items, kid’s clothes, adult clothes, tolietries, electronics, and toys are just a start. If you aren’t a list person, I am sure you would become one for a week away. I put up a list about two weeks before my trip on my bulletin board and when I think of something…I add it. The week before, I will type it up and finalize that list.
- I also create a menu for the week. Now this is a little more extensive. I don’t have a lot of room in my van when it comes to food but menu planning allows me to save money on spices or canned stuff that might already be sitting in my pantry. I plan for around 4 dinners, 1 “leftover” night, and two dinners out. Typically, the first night there we just grab pizza and we will go out for a special seafood dinner since we are at the beach. Pre-planning your meals is a great way to avoid a constant run to the grocery when you are trying to enjoy your vacation. It also ensures an empty fridge at the end of your week with little food waste. (HUGE pet peeve of mine…wasting food)
So…I’m going to try and tackle this with as much mental organization as I can muster but bear with me…I’m still in vacation mode..haha
- Bring dishes that suit a larger family. I am packing my 11 X13 baking dish, my huge deep skillet, and large pot for cooking. If I had the room, I would be bringing my crock pot. These are essential to making dinner for a large family and seeing as we are going with another family of four….we need to be able to make large amounts at a time. I don’t want to rely on the beach house providing the sizes that I need.
- If you eat organic or buy specialty stuff, bring the stuff that you want with you. I brought my own tea bags, local honey, organic cereal, organic granola and pure maple syrup. Miss Missy has a peanut allergy and an egg allergy so I often bring some of her “goodies” with us. Miss Missy also needs a special body wash and lotion which I made sure I through in my bag.
- Pack spice essentials. I packed salt, pepper, onion powder, olive oil, italian seasoning, garlic powder, steak seasoning, a small tub of sugar, a small tub of flour, and vegetable oil. I used several of these two or three times. =) I also grabbed ketchup and mustard.
- Raid your pantry. This tip may not be loved by all but I feel that if I have it…why buy more? Some people may be of the mindset that they would prefer not to empty their pantry. I personally would rather finish off some cereal or pancake mix rather than buy some when I arrive and then have some leftover to take home. Simply put…I am hoping to come home with LESS than I arrived with. =) This trip included the following items during my pantry raid: ketchup, pancake mix, syrup, granola bars, candy, gallon and qt. size food storage bags, my swifter and swifter wet pads, graham crackers, a full jar of apple sauce and some paper towels.
- Raid your fridge and pack stuff for easy pickings. Our family was not going directly to our beach house as we were stopping off to see family in NC. So the food that I brought from the fridge was stuff that we would nibble on during the drive. Cold cans of seltzer for the hubs and I, precut slices of sharp cheddar, apple slices, baby carrots, yogurt drinks, raw cashew and grapes. If the kids got hungry, I could just grab something out of this bag that I kept handy.
- Raid your freezer. If I WAS going right to the beach, I would have saved money by using some meats from my freezer. I would have looked for great deals before I left and loaded up on chicken breasts or ground beef.
- Don’t wait til the last minute to pack….Tuck stuff away. About two weeks before our vacation, I created an “outerbanks” laundry basket that sat on my blanket chest in my bedroom. Everytime I would do laundry and find something I wanted to pack..I just threw it in the laundry basket. I didn’t have to find that one dress or pair of shorts…it was already laundered and ready to go. I tucked baseball caps, coverups, or anything that I could in that basket ahead of time.
- Pack full outfits. Don’t spend your time on vacation looking for a headband or those sandals that you packed. My one SIL packs her kids clothes in freezer bags for each day. (outfit, hair bow or headband, socks, etc.). She is one organized lady. =)
- Don’t overpack. Because there was a washing machine and dryer on the premises, I only packed two bathing suits and four sets of outfits for the kids. They were going to spend most of their time in bathing suits and coverups anyway. No need to get crazy with outfits.
- Divide your packed items into two groups: items that need to be easily accessible and items that don’t. This will lead to little fighting with the hubs and a happier car ride. Your husband will be able to pack accordingly. There is nothing worst than driving and you realize that one of your kid “essentials” is in a back in the trunk. =(
- If you are spending a few days in a mid-point location before venturing to another location, pack separate bags. On this vacation, we stayed for two days in North Carolina visiting family. However, we never once opened our FULL TRUNK. I packed all the clothes that we needed for those two days in a large duffle bag. One bag for 7 people. I made sure it was in the “easily accessible” group when packing the van. We had another bag full of tolietries that we needed. Our hotel stay was very simple. All the clothes that we wore were then thrown into the laundry bag we found in the hotel closet. They were the first load of clothes I threw in when we landed at the beach house.
- Make use of all your space. I tossed all my spices that I brought in my big pot. I used the space under the kids’ bucket seats to store my frying pan, and large baking dish. I brought a large laundry basket and used it to store all my towels and bed linens that I needed for the house. The laundry basket would later be used to fold laundry when we arrived.
- Don’t forget chargers for all your electronic devices. Plug everything in and fully charge before you pack for your trip.
- Pack specialty bags for each of the kids. I bought small colorful tote bags for each child for the trip. I put several little treats in the bags (fruit snacks, 2 lollipops, a granola bar) and then let the kids fill the bags with activities/toys that they wanted for the trip. The children packed coloring pages/crayons, barbies, legos, small balls, and reading books. These little totes were added to the “easily accessible” group and placed at each child’s seat.
- Pack a throw blanket for each passenger. This was essential for our trip. With the nights growing colder, the kids used their throw blankets on the drive down. These same throws were used at our beach house to snuggle on the couches and wrap around ourselves during the cool, windy nights on the back deck.
Plan, prepare and get your packing underway early so you can enjoy your vacation!!!