For over a decade now, my side of the family has taken an annual fall beach trip. It's something I look forward to each year. We stay in the same hotel, take over the hotel pool, cram into a suite for a spaghetti dinner, and walk the boardwalk together. This year my siblings decided to take a camping trip in the mountains rather than the beach. While I will always prefer the mountains over the beach, we were less than thrilled at the prospect of camping with four kids ages five and under in freezing weather. We don't own any tents, air mattresses, or sleeping bags. The cost of cabin rentals was more than twice the cost of a hotel room at the beach. We made the hard decision to forgo the camping trip and go to the beach on our own.
We were out of school on Friday because of Veteran's Day, which meant we had a nice long weekend to enjoy. I wanted to leave at 4 a.m. on Friday so the kids would sleep the whole way and we could make the most of our time. Unfortunately, we were still in the throes of car rental hell due to the oil change gone wrong. Rather than pay for a car we weren't going to use for three days, we returned it Friday morning. The problem was the rental place didn't open until 8, so we were set back several hours.
The kids were restless along the car ride, but it was tolerable. We stopped halfway for a play/lunch break. There are so many random ghost towns on the way to the beach. I pulled over at a park I saw on the side of the road. It was an eclectic mix of new equipment and old, borderline unsafe equipment. It was a great way to get energy out and enjoy the sunshine.
We were able to check in as soon as we arrived. We immediately changed into bathing suits and went to the beach. Our cheap Ikea sand toys served us well once again.
Only our toes made it in the water. The ocean was much colder than we were willing to brave. (FYI, it was becoming overcast when we left the beach, but I don't know why this picture is so dark.)
We specifically looked for a hotel that was directly on the beach and had multiple swimming areas. This hotel had a lazy river, waterfall, and multiple swimming pools and hot tubs.
James made it his goal to go under this waterfall as many times as possible. Mind you, he wouldn't go alone, but he loved the water over his head.
After our outdoor adventures, we dried off and went to the grocery store to stock up on food for the weekend. One of my favorite features of the hotel was a washer and dryer in the suite.
Saturday morning was cooler and drizzling. We found a Groupon for the Children's Museum of SC. Our morning plans were made! All four kids were happily entertained for a few hours.
The skies cleared but the temperatures were still too cold to play in our bathing suits. We headed down to the beach wearing bathing suits under our clothes so we could hop in the pools when we grew tired of the sand. I made Jesse take a picture of me showing how many accessories are needed to take the kids to the beach.
I brought a box of Cheerios for our traditional bird circus. There were more pigeons than seagulls.
As we were building sandcastles, a string or horses came by. The kids didn't even flinch, as if it is common place to see a half dozen horses trotting just yards away.
I traced Jackson in the sand. He spent a considerable amount of time decorating his outline with shells and other other treasures.
Our pool time was short due to the cold winds. Jackson was shivering and Maddie refused to get in the water.
We dried off again, ate lunch in the room, then headed out to Broadway at the Beach. The kids had money to spend from their MiMi and next door neighbor. When asked what they wanted to buy, their unanimous response was "candy". This is the only and only blurry picture I took before hands were in the candy buckets. A warehouse sized store filled with hundreds of candy bins at kids' level creates a very stressful environment! The kids left happy and Jesse and I were happy to leave.
The last time we went to Broadway, James was very distressed over the "upside down house". Without prompting, the sight of the Wonderworks house was once again a cause of concern. James was adamant about fixing the house. He demanded we get a screwdriver and start fixing it.
The girls spent the rest of their money in Claire's. The boys went to a toy store.
We were all tired, hungry, and getting grumpy on the ride back to the hotel. Jesse was trying to navigate to a pizza place but it ended up not existing. Eventually we were back in the hotel, scarfing down dinner.
I had lofty goals of taking a family walk on the beach after dinner. I underestimated how cold the sand would be without the sun shining down. We ended up dipping our toes in the hot tub. Jesse took the trio back upstairs while Jackson and I went on our night adventure.
Jackson began collecting shells. He kept asking, "Where is it? I can't find it." I eventually figured out he was looking for his person that he outlined in the sand and decorated. When I explained that the waves would have washed it away he lost it. Tears turned into inconsolable hysteria. I finally convinced him to walk to the pier with me. I had secretly planned to take him on the giant ferris wheel, but I had taken the money out of my back pocket. Oh well...at least he calmed down.
We returned to traditional Krispy Kreme doughnuts, then went to bed. I should mention that while we had a spacious suite with two queen beds, a couch bed, and a pull out bed from the wall--we all slept horribly. Jesse and I played musical beds, trying to comfort crying children throughout the night.
When we arrived on Friday it was 80 degrees and sunny. Saturday it was 60 degrees and partly cloudy. Sunday morning it was 40 degrees and raining. I didn't get my family picture on the beach. We told the ocean "bye" from the balcony, then left to go home.
The other thing I didn't mention about the hotel was the parking was two blocks away. It was an inconvenience in general, and a major pain while trying to load the van.
The kids acted incredibly silly until we stopped for breakfast, then slept the rest of the ride. I don't think any of us had a good night's sleep.
While it was a fun weekend away, the case of Sunday blues set in hard. We returned to laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning. I'm sure we'll enjoy a more carefree time when we return this summer.