Every year we bring our four rambunctious, ocean-loving kids to the 30A beaches in Florida for a week-long vacation of fun and sun. And, every year I end up lugging around all the required stuff: the beach chairs, enough towels to dry a beached whale, a cooler (packed to the brim with snacks by my wonderful wife) and every beach toy and accessory known to man.
It's always a great time - we vacation with my sister, her husband and their three equally rambunctious kids. We rent an amazing home in Seaside just a short walk from the beach and spend almost every day on the water. And unfortunately every year I trudge through the hot sand carrying our stuff on multiple trips while my family frolics in the waves. By day three, I’m not sure if I still have skin on the bottom of my feet since it’s all been burned off during my trips from the car to our spot on the beach. I do it because I love my family, but I secretly laugh when a massive wave knocks my slacker of a brother-in-law over, as I’m slaving away under the hot sun bringing everything we need to our family spot on the beach.
This year, I vowed it would be different! I wasn’t going to wish tidal waves on my brother-in-law anymore because I was annoyed that he was playing with his kids, while I juggled all of our stuff. I wasn’t going to be a grump on vacation. I wasn’t going to sacrifice the soles of my feet. I wasn’t going to leave this vacation with a backache because I carried 14 tons of sand castle building supplies up and down the beach twice a day. I wasn’t going to leave this vacation wishing I had spent more time with my wife. I wanted more time with my family, less stress, and more organization!
As I pondered how to best keep this vacation resolution, the light bulb went off with three ideas. I could hire a beach caddy. Find a kid, pay him $20 and have him lug all of our stuff to and from the beach every day. My wife vetoed that idea. We could go the minimalist route, all share a towel and a beach chair, let the kids have one shovel each and forgo the cooler all together. I vetoed that idea myself because who wants to share a towel with all those soaking wet, sandy kids? So that left just one option: listen to my genius wife when she suggested we just rent a beach wagon.
My wife showed me a picture of her girlfriend and her family at Rosemary Beach. She pointed out how happy and tanned they looked and told me about how refreshed her friend and her family was when they got back from their trip. She asked me what I noticed about her friend’s husband; what did he have that I didn’t? Right away, I saw it. Abs of steel. That couldn’t be it. As I looked closer, he had all of his family's beach supplies loaded on a sturdy beach wagon! The cooler, the chairs, the perfectly rolled towels, the beach toys, all packed on the wagon. And I could tell his broad smile was from taking one trip from the car to the beach, unloading everything, and spending the rest of his time enjoying the beach (and apparently not the snacks from the cooler). Plus his wife looked equally happy and rejuvenated from spending quality time on the beach with her family.
My wife left the name and number of the rental company her friend used as a reminder in my calendar the next day. (She’s really subtle like that.) I called and effortlessly scheduled a beach wagon to be dropped off at my rental home the day we arrived. As we pulled up and I saw that shiny beach vessel at the front door, I already felt like "Father of the Year"! And then remembered it was all my wife’s idea, and further confirmation that I'd definitely "married up."
Our first trip to the beach was unlike any other. All of the kids played quietly and patiently as my wife and I packed up our wagon. Okay, that’s a lie, but they did help pack up the wagon and even took turns/fought over who could pull the wagon. The baby soft skin on the bottom of my feet remained intact as I only made one trip across the hot sand to our spot! I raced my wife playfully into the waves and we splashed and played with our kids together. And although I was still the only one who set up our beach spot (cough, cough, slacker brother-in-law), I was much happier because everything took so much less time.
The beach wagon gave me more time with my wife and kids. It made me look forward to second (and third) trips to other local beaches each day. It allowed me to spend more time with my wife while the kids played.
Now, whenever our friends ask us the secrets to ensuring a great 30A beach vacation, we always say sunscreen, a babysitter, and a beach wagon!