On these increasingly dark and chilly days, it’s not visions of sugar plums dancing through my head, but rather warm aloha sunsets. I’m not alone in my winter tropical longings, whether it’s Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean, or even the exotic shores of Southeast Asia or South America, winter is peak season for families to head out on tropical trips.
I recently had the good fortune of spending a week in Maui with my young family, which was our first big vacation as a family of four! As is my habit on trips, I took note throughout about what worked, what didn’t, and ways to make our next vacation as smooth and fun as possible. Here’s what I learned:
- Don’t Expect Much out of Day One. Day one of a trip is usually hard. Expectations are super high (all that planning, not to mention the expense!), but even the best of us end up fatigued and grumpy, and often the lines and waiting don’t stop once you touchdown at your destination. Don’t expect much out of this day other than getting through it, and possibly becoming acquainted with your locale. Remind yourself that you are on the threshold of immersing your family in a new life for a stint, and well on your way to vacation bliss.
- Plan a Mid-Day Break. Planning a break or two throughout the day was of course mandatory when I still had nappers. But even though my kids have grown out of that phase, I still insist we head back to the room for an hour or two to mid-day. This gives everyone a chance to get out of the sun, hydrate, relax, regroup, and of course re-apply sunscreen. Dim the lights, put on a movie or a cartoon, maybe even re-visit naptime. I know it’s easy to get tempted to squeeze the life out of every inch of the vacation you’ve worked so hard for, but recharging makes experiences and memories better because you’re coming at them with a full tank.
- Pack a Smart Beach Bag. In an effort to ward of grumpy kids and multiple trips schlepping back to your room or car, it helps to pack a smart beach bag. To minimize packing and hassle, call the resort or vacation rental where your planning to stay ahead and find out what sort of items and amenities they offer to loan, rent, or sell (think in terms of beach towels, boogie boards, life jackets, and such). A few essentials you will always find in my beach bag include:
- Baby powder. Pack a small vacation-sized bottle on beach trips to remove stuck on sand from feet and legs.
- Sun protection. I’m not just talking sunscreen here. Everyone in my ginger-crew comes equipped with rash guards, hats, and sunglasses.
- Snacks (tons of them) and Drinks. You cannot over-estimate how hungry and thirsty the sun and swimming will make your children. I recommend packing twice as many snacks as you think you’ll need. I like to includes lots of veggies (most restaurants have very few kid-friendly veggies options) and fruit. Because fresh fruits and veggies have a short shelf life, dried options such as seaweed or apple chips are great too. The need for hydration cannot be overestimated. Although I steer clear of non-water beverages mostly with my kids, I will lure them in with Gatorade and flavored waters on tropical trips to aid in my hydration attempts.
- You will Get Tired of Eating Out. Plan Accordingly. I know the idea of not having to take care of multiple family meals on a daily basis seems amazing, but eating out can quickly get tiresome and expensive. I try to plan one “experience” meal a day at a local hotspot, aiming for a time of day when my kid’s behavior is at their best. One of the other meals is typically grab-and-go, like a sandwich or meal from the pool bar. Whenever possible I opt for a room with a kitchenette, which makes easy meals a cinch. I recommend starting the day with a simple breakfast in the room. We bring along the vacation-only treat known as the mini-cereal fun pack, fruit, and Starbucks Via Instant Coffee to supplement what the room provides (it’s never enough!). Eating a quick breakfast in the room ensures we head down to the pool/beach area early and get the best spots. Honestly, I’m a banana and a cup of coffee sort of breakfast gal, so I typically grab my breakfast and go find a great spot while my husband gets the kids fed.
- Comfort and Ease Are Key When It Comes to Your Beauty Routine. I had vast ambitions of looking like a perfectly polished and sexy beach mama, but quickly realized that tropical temps were in opposition to my best laid beauty plans.I quickly lost all interest in spending more than a minute or two on hair and makeup when paradise was calling.However, vacation is prime picture-taking time so I do suggest putting in some pre-emptive beauty efforts (if your so inclined). Some suggestions include ditching the mascara in lieu of eyelash tinting, hitting up the spray tan bar, which I’m convinced immediately take 10-pounds off my bathing-suit bod, and figuring out a hair plan the doesn’t involve electronics. Prior to our Hawaii trip I swung into a salon and had my hair French braided. After a few days when I was in need for wash, I put my freshly washed hair in braids or buns overnight, then in the morning simply hit my locks with my favorite surf spray for beachy waves, and threw on a fedora. For long hair, you can’t go wrong with a sexy top knot. Comfort will be the name of the game when it comes to you and your family’s beach attire. Breezy and soft clothes should be your go-to, and comfortable shoes are must. After losing my favorite sunglasses, I learned the hard way that expensive accessories should be left at home as its hard to keep track of things when hopping from place to place with kiddos in the mix.
Splashing in the giant tropical waves of Maui with my children is easily one of my favorite memories (in part because my Pacific-Northwest kids had no idea ocean water could be warm)! If you’re planning to escape the winter chill and makes some family memories of your own, don’t forget my top 5 tips for tropical family travels.
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All photos by Adobe Images.