1. That feeling you have, while driving away, of having forgotten something important — that is in fact accurate. In my case, we headed out to the coast for three days lacking two things: Nathan’s coat and our camera. The first was easily replaced at a thrift store. The second was not. This is why there are no pictures in this post, despite the fact that we were in some of the most beautiful coastal territory imaginable.
2. Kids at the beach don’t need toys. At least young kids don’t. They have sand, rocks, dunes, grass, sticks, water, foam, and their hands. Toys are irrelevant. The only place where toys are useful is in the hotel room, where you would like the kids to entertain themselves in some way that involves neither destruction nor excessive noise. Speaking of which:
3. Hotel choice is critical. Thanks to Oregon Coast Magazine and Google, I decided on the San Dune Inn. It billed itself as kid-friendly, and boy was it ever. It wasn’t just that they had things like videos in the office that you could snag for a quick distraction. Far more importantly, the hotel room required almost no child-proofing. Compared to the room we stayed in the year before, which was crammed with all kinds of games and knick-knacks, this was a dream. And then there was the kitchen…
4. Don’t eat out. Eating out with small children just annoys me. Trying to select something they’ll eat, entertaining them before the food comes, trying to snatch bites of my own food in between helping them with theirs, running off with them again once their appetite and patience wears out… I think it was on our last trip to the coast that I began to hate the whole process with a passion. So this time we didn’t do it. Our hotel room had a decently stocked kitchen; I brought supplies for our meals; and I planned ahead (again, thanks to Oregon Coast Magazine) for fun places to scrounge our dinners. The first night we were there, the Manzanita Farmer’s Market was open, and we feasted on corn-on-the-cob and a stir-fry of beef and fresh veggies. The second day we hit Cannon Beach and the Ecola Seafoods Restaurant and Market, and used the salmon and prawns thus obtained for another rather excellent meal. I’d planned to go out a few times, but in the end we didn’t — and we all enjoyed it much more. Especially me.
5. Young kids must be outside. Maybe there exist small children who will play quietly and contentedly for an hour in the hotel room before bed. I wouldn’t know; I’ve never met them. Except for meals or sleep, our children needed to be outside pretty much all the time for things to be happy. I had mostly planned on that anyway, but making slight adjustments to our plans to include things like, say, after-dinner walks… that made everything smoother.
6. Always carry extra clothes. Not just because of the rain, either. You never know when your tired two-year-old will try to stomp in the edge of a tide pool, totally misinterpreting the clear water to be shallow, and end up stumbling down the steep side of the pool four steps and falling over into the water, so that you have to pull him out and take him, wailing, back into a cave out of the wind to be stripped down and wrapped into warm dry clothes. Just as an example. We got so many Bonus Parent Points for having those extra clothes on us.
7. Know when to bail. Our first day, Friday, was lovely; we spent all afternoon in beach heaven. The forecast for the weekend had called for a few showers Saturday and Sunday. Saturday morning this was true, and we got in a great hike to another fantastic beach. It poured all Saturday afternoon. We are not afraid of rain, but shivering little kids are not happy kids, and their parents are not happy parents. Coupled with Lesson #5, this meant that we drove back Sunday instead of Monday. We first got in a another great rainy morning at the beach on Sunday — and then, when everyone was wet, cold, and (in Ryan’s case) exhausted, we changed into dry clothes (Lesson #6) and headed out. It was the right choice.
And we’ll go back again. We like Manzanita a lot. Maybe we’ll make the coast trip a yearly tradition.
Undoubtedly more learning will occur every year.