A Much Needed Beach Vacation
After almost 100 days of “homeschooling” our very active twin two-year-old boys, on top of our full time jobs, my husband and I knew we needed a change of scenery for more than just a few hours.
The beach was calling our names. It’s something magical about the beach; being in the presence of God’s beautiful handiwork makes the daily challenges of life an easier pill to swallow. A beach vacation with our kids was needed! Lucky for us, two of the boys’ TiTis (my close girlfriends) wanted to join us, giving my husband and I a bit of a much-needed break from parenting.
Living in New Orleans, the closest beach community is about four hours away- either Destin, Florida or Orange Beach, Alabama. As a result of our last minute planning, most of the lodging options we wanted were spoken for. Luckily, we found an “affordable” beachfront condo resort in Destin, Florida.
Beach Vacation Rental
‘Affordable’ Beach Vacation Rental
Okay, let me clarify “affordable.” Most of the oceanfront 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom options averaged out to be over $500 per night with all the fees added. You say whaaaaat! $500 a night to stay in Alabama or Destin. Nope, I’m good love. So when we found our partial oceanfront 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo on Airbnb for less than $450 per night, we went for it. Because honestly, outside of Orange Beach and Destin, our options to get to the beach within a reasonable drive was limited.
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Easy Beach Access: A Must With Kids
A beachfront location was a priority for us. We wanted to be able to wake up and go to sleep to the view and sound of the ocean. Just as equally important, we wanted to have easy access to the beach. Twin toddlers require a lot of stuff, especially for the beach: towels, shovels, buckets, water toys, floaties, etc. There was no way that I wanted to pile all this stuff, along with the boys in the car to get to the beach. I’m grateful that we went with an oceanfront property because it started raining while we were at the beach, two days in a row. We needed to quickly gather our belongings and head back inside.
In addition to beach access, the resort had three pools, including a kiddie pool. The boys had a ball playing in the kiddie pool- floating on their bellies, playing ball, and splashing water. It also had a restaurant and bar at the pool which always makes for a good time.
Details On Our Beach Vacation Condo
Our unit was located on the 7th floor of the Tops’l Tide Resort in Miramar Beach, offering a huge corner balcony with a partial view of the ocean. You could witness this beautiful view from the open kitchen, dining room, and living room floor plan. It was a beautiful treat to wake up to. It was obvious that the condo had been recently updated with a new kitchen, flooring, bathrooms, and modern furniture. The only complaint was the air conditioning. The breaker would trigger causing it to go out. Therefore, the first day was rather warm inside the condo until maintenance came and told us to reset the breaker if we noticed the air went out.
You can get my tips on how to find the best lodging, here.
Road Trip To Our Beach Vacation
As I mentioned, Destin is about a four hour drive from our home in New Orleans. Which in reality, isn’t a big deal. The hubs and I have taken this trip every summer from 2014 until I was pregnant with the twins in 2017. However, the thought of being stuck in the car with my twin two-year-old boys for four hours was a bit concerning to me (I’m not a big road tripper.)
Luckily, we had taken two ninety minute day trips during the quarantine so the boys were a bit accustomed to sitting in their car seats for an extended period of time. But I didn’t want to be naive so I attempted to prepare for our road trip as much as possible. Below are my road trip with kids must-haves:
Bring new, reserved for travel only, or their favorite toy(s).
Buckle Toy – The boys love buckles so I purchased both of them pillows filled with buckles to fasten and unfasten to keep them occupied. I also bought them removable stickers to put on the window. Unfortunately, their arms are still too short to reach the windows, but we turned it into a game, naming the animal stickers on the windows.
Reserved For Travel Only
Magnetic tiles for the win! The boys, especially Jaimeson, love magnetic tiles. He loves to tell us the color and shape of each tile and he amazes himself at the amazing things he can build.
Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet – During the quarantine I purchased each boy a tablet so they could do ABC Mouse, an educational program, individually. Well, let’s just say they do more than ABC Mouse- including games and watching their favorite show, Blippi. Before our trip, I downloaded all of their favorite programs on their tablets so they could have access to them while on the road. Too bad, one of the twins decided to put one of the tablets in the toilet the night before we left (insert eye roll!)
There’s no such thing as too many snacks with my hungry men. Our favorite road trip snacks include dried strawberries, popcorn, string cheese, cheese bites, pepperoni, berries, alphabet cookies, and chocolate chips. I promise you, these two very hungry caterpillars ate through about a quarter of these snacks within the first hour of our trip.
To make the boys excited about the road trip, I purchased them their very own big boy travel water bottles. Man, did they think they were so cool carrying around their water bottles and pressing the button for the straw to appear (sometimes it’s the little things.) I loved the water bottle as well because they were actually spill-proof. Most of the other cups we have for the boys spill if dropped.
Let’s not kid ourselves, toddlers will be toddlers. So come well-rested in preparation for any “fun” your toddlers may present. A few things you can do to limit the “fun”:
- Travel during their scheduled sleep time: either driving early in the morning- well before their scheduled wake time, during nap time, or after bed time.
- Leave space for an adult or an older child to sit in the back with the toddler(s) for “entertainment” and “food service” purposes.
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Protecting Against COVID-19 During Our Beach Vacation With Kids
At the point of our trip, Father’s Day Weekend 2020, Florida’s case of COVID was trending back up. Luckily for us, the “hotspots” were not in the Florida panhandle, where Destin is located. This fact and us planning to take every precaution possible to avoid COVID-19 made us comfortable to take this trip. Below are actions we took to protect ourselves:
Bring Your Own Cleaning Supplies
We brought our own cleaning supplies to disinfect our condo. From using disinfectant wipes to clean the door knobs, remotes, counter tops, handles, faucets, toilets, etc. to our beloved Lysol to spray down all surfaces including bed linen, couches, chairs, and rugs. You’ll also need these cleaning supplies if you plan to rent any beach equipment. Remember, we were traveling with toddlers. They touch and lick EVERYTHING!
Order Take Out Or Cook At Home
We arrived in Destin early evening on Father’s Day so we wanted to do something special to celebrate my husband’s third Father’s Day. Therefore, we attempted to be seated in the outside dining area of one of his favorite restaurants, Cantina Laredo. Unfortunately, the wait was 45 minutes for outside seating. On the contrary, the wait for inside seating was only 15 minutes. After taking a quick scan of the restaurant, we quickly agreed to get take-out. It was a bit crowded inside and the tables were a bit too close for our taste.
From that day on, we either did take-out or cooked. We didn’t have the patience to wait for the limited outdoor seating nor did we want to risk being seated too close to others inside a restaurant. And plus, one of the boys’ “TiTi’s” is a trained chef, so we were in good hands!
Go During “Off” Days And Hours
We were intentional on not taking this vacation on popular days, i.e. Friday and Saturday. We arrived on a Sunday evening, knowing that we wouldn’t go to the beach or pool until the next day- in hopes that most of the crowd would be on their way back home.
Well, we were slightly correct. When attempting to go to the pool around 2 in the afternoon on Monday, it was extremely crowded. That was an immediate “no” for us. Therefore, we continued to the beach which was slightly less crowded. We found a good, moderately social distanced location to set up our stuff. Soon after we learned that a storm was on the horizon. We had about 30 minutes of playtime at the beach before the storm made its presence. I’m sugar, so I melt in the rain, causing us to rush back indoors. A few hours later the storm had passed and both the pool and beach had plenty of space for people to enjoy safely.
PRO TIP: Early mornings and evenings proved to be the best time to go to the pool or beach from a social distance perspective. Plus, during that time the weather was perfect- not too hot or humid.
Our last day in Destin, a Wednesday, was surprisingly perfect. Check out was at 10AM (why is it so early!!) but we wanted to get some pool action in before we headed back to NOLA. Most importantly, we wanted to wear out every bit of energy from these two roadrunners. When we arrived at the pool, specifically the kiddie pool, it only had one child in it. It was like that until we left, for over two hours. SCORE!
Bring Your Mask, Hand Sanitizer, and Create Your Own Boundaries
So, let’s be frank. Folks in Destin do NOT wear masks. I mean nobody…okay, maybe a few but not the majority. With that said, protect yourself and wear your mask in public.
On the same note, hand sanitizer was my best friend on this trip. From touching the buttons on the elevator to Jaimeson, my very social two-year-old, who attempted to play ball with every stranger he encountered. Thus, hand sanitizer was always in use. I know some parents would’ve attempted to stop his interactions but this kid is persistent. I was not going to ruin his, my, or anyone else’s vacation by attempting to break up his multiple interactions with others. We handled it by allowing him to do “his thing” while the adults socially distanced.
Similar to masks, boundaries were not enforced. The signs at the resort specifically indicated “no more than 2 individuals per elevator, unless immediate family.” Well either folks can’t read or they didn’t care. Therefore, we took it upon ourselves to let elevators with others inside pass. Let’s just say, we got a lot of funny looks. But, oh well.
Highlight Of Our Beach Vacation
Besides the amazingly relaxing time at the beach, the highlight for me was the eldest twin, Marley. On Wednesday, the day we were leaving, his twin brother, Jaimeson, was determined to go in the “big” pool. So I finally caved in. I dressed them in their life jackets and led them to the “big” pool (3 feet deep). Jaimeson quickly learned that the “big” pool wasn’t for him as he flipped from his belly to back repeatedly, as a result of the life jacket. The goal for this mama was to confirm why I didn’t want him in the “big” pool. Let’s just say, he learned his lesson.
Well, big brother Marley either didn’t watch Jaimeson’s performance or was up for the challenge. He entered the pool and immediately started kicking his legs and arms. This boy was a natural! He literally swam to the middle of the pool. Man, everyone around the pool was amazed at his natural skill. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the opportunity to record his first true swimming interaction, but man was he amazing!
Tips To Planning A Beach Vacation With Kids During COVID-19
The peak in COVID cases is a bit of a rollercoaster. Personally, the most important decisions are the location of your trip and your lodging.
Monitor Cases At Your Beaches Of Interest
If data shows the particular location you’re interested in is becoming a ‘hot spot’, avoid it. Also, know the location’s quarantine requirements, i.e. if there is a 14 day quarantine period or restrictions on out of state visitors.
Pick Lodging With Flexible Cancellation Policies
We chose a location that allowed us to cancel up to five days before check in. This gave us the confidence to know that we had cancellation options if cases increased dramatically.
Pick Lodging With A Sanitation Policy
Obviously, we don’t know what the lodging location really did before we arrived. However, if they haven’t spent the energy to create a sanitation policy, my confidence in them actually executing a cleaning policy is non-existent.
Post Vacation COVID-19 Testing
I had initially planned to take a COVID-19 test upon my return home as I was leaving for Atlanta to visit friends 2 days later (I needed time away from my amazing family- this mama was going CRAZY!) Unfortunately, I learned that there was not same day testing available in New Orleans. Therefore, I took the COVID-19 test upon my return from Atlanta. After three days of waiting for my results, they came back negative.
I recommend anyone who does chose to travel during this time to take a COVID-19 test upon their return home. It’s best to know if you became infected during your travels so that you can avoid the spread to your friends and loved ones.