Though we love to travel, we spent most of the summer in and around our hometown. With so many people traveling, we decided to just lay low for a while and avoid the crowds. We couldn’t end the summer with no big adventures though, so after school started back, we packed up and drove to the beach! I had researched what beach we wanted to go to based on toddler-friendly activities, but really narrowed it down based on what beach had the type of resort we needed. My husband and I aren’t big beach people. We love hearing and seeing the ocean, but neither of us enjoy sand or being in the blazing sun for hours. Because of this, but still wanting a beach trip, I looked for locations that had a great kid’s pool area, easy beach access, and was close to other activities and restaurants. We ended up choosing Waterscape Resort on Okaloosa Island, right outside of Destin, FL.
Destin is about a 7-hour drive from home, so we easily made it in one day (whereas we usually break up our drive to Disney into 2 days). I was unsure how we would like the resort, but we were all very pleased. It exceeded my expectations as far as the amenities and the condo unit itself. Because toddlers love to run, and two toddlers usually run in two different directions, I was very thankful to have my side of the family join us for this trip. My sister and parents enjoy the beach far more than I do, so it was wonderful to have them down in the sand with the girls while I got to watch and play from a beach chair! Yes, I still had sand on me, but it was far better than having to sit down in that itchy mess! (I know, all you beach lovers are rolling your eyes at me right now!).
The first couple days, the girls weren’t too sure about the sand or the ocean, but the longer we stayed, the more they started to like it. Whoever suggested I bring a small kiddie pool, thank you! That was some of the best advice. My girls love to play in the water, so we filled the small pool with some ocean water for them to play in and stay cool.
We knew the girls would wake up earlier than usual on the trip, mainly because the condo didn’t have black-out curtains like we do at home, so we got up each morning, ate a quick breakfast, and hit the beach before it got too hot or too crowded. We averaged about 2 hours on the beach each morning before heading up to the pool area. The pools were the biggest selling point for this resort for us. They have a zero entry main pool with a small obstacle course and fountains, a lazy river, a smaller quieter pool, and a good sized kiddie pool area. The kiddie pool was more like a small water playground! It was separately fenced, so the little ones couldn’t escape to the bigger pool, had several fountains, foam animals to climb on, and a pirate ship slide. Beside the pool there was a dry playground made of these same foam materials. The water playground was a huge hit with the girls and absolutely worth the research I did to find the right place!
After an hour or so at the pool each day, we headed into the condo for lunch and naps (for all of us- not just the girls!). While we napped, my parents and sister were able to head back out to the beach for some more relaxing beach time. A few of the days, we had afternoon storms, which is typical for Florida in August. The girls played in the condo or on the balcony on those days, and on the nice days we went back to the pool after naptime. We went out to dinner each night, finding several seafood restaurants both in Fort Walton and Destin, and also visited a few shopping centers. If we got back early enough, back to the pool or beach we went!
After 5 nights, it was time to pack up and head back home. We took one last walk on the beach and splash in the pool before loading up, and the girls were asleep in the car within 30 minutes!
We can’t wait to visit the Destin area and Waterscape Resort again (though I hope grandparents will go with us again- I was actually able to get in a little bit of relaxing time, which I wouldn’t have if I was on kid duty the whole time)!
Top tips for the beach with small children:
Have eyes on them constantly. Over communicate who is with who/watching children. They can get away very quickly and some are fearless when it comes to the water.
Take a basket/bag to collect shells. My girls would have done this all day.
Sunscreen. Sunscreen. Sunscreen. And a hat.
While a beach umbrella is great if that’s all you have, the half- tent worked wonderfully! The morning sun wasn’t high enough for the regular upright umbrella to block out. The tent/umbrella/canopy thing my mom brought didn’t have a bottom, so the girls could still play in the sand but be totally in the shade
Small blow up kiddie pool and buckets to fill it with water
More drinking water and snacks than you’d ever need at home
Baby powder and a paintbrush! You may be thinking “huh?” but stick with me- baby powder will soak up the moisture in the sand that’s stuck to your/your child’s body. To get the sand off, just sprinkle on some baby powder and then use the paintbrush to dust it all off!
If you have a wagon or cart with wheels that will roll in the sand, take it! Having our wagon to haul everything back and forth was a lifesaver
Though I’m sure there are many more tips, tricks, and pieces of advice that I either don’t know or have forgotten, these are the things that have stuck with me the most and that I’ll remember for our next beach vacation!
Kara Brown is a frequent contributor to MSTTW so be sure to check out her other articles as well as her guest appearances on the podcast.
Kara is a vacation specialist with Coasters & Castles Travel and mom to 2 year old twin girls. She loves to travel and explore with her family. Walt Disney World is their favorite destination, but they also love exploring new destinations. Kara can be reached at KBrown@TravelCnC.com for vacation planning services!
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