My family and I recently returned from a 10-day vacation to the beach wonderland that is Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
For anyone new to Mind of Modern Man, I have two kids – a 3.5 year old son (H) and a 1.5 year old daughter (CJ). In fact, H, turned 3 and a half while on this vacation and we celebrate half birthdays in our family. Both of our kids have winter birthdays, not usually the best for venturing out in New England. However, their half birthdays fall in the summer and we celebrate with adventures.
My wife’s family rented a really nice house just outside of Provincetown on the Cape. They invited my little family, as well as my brother-in-law and his wife to join too. The arrival date was on a Sunday, so my wife and I decided to leave home a day early and celebrate H’s half-birthday adventure.
Last summer, I found out about Edaville Theme Park from a Facebook post of a friend. It’s a theme park, perfectly built for younger children and toddlers. And… the biggest part is THOMASLAND! That’s right, they created the Island of Sodor right there in Carver, MA. So, last year, we took H who was 2 and newborn CJ and had a ball for the day. We stayed in a hotel near the park and drove into the Cape for seal viewing at the beaches and to find mini golf for a quick 3-day vacation in October.
When we asked H what he wanted to do this year for his 3.5 birthday, he said to go back to Thomasland. Carver, MA isn’t too far out of the way to Cape Cod, so it made sense. Our early departure allowed us a day at Edaville and Thomasland, then we’d venture to meet up with everyone else at the vacation house the next day.
The car ride to Edaville is just under 2 hours. Then another 90 minutes, at least, to the vacation house after that. H is ok in the car, but CJ really isn’t a big fan. We stayed in a hotel – strange for both kids. We were away from home for TEN days – strange for anyone. And oh… Tropical Storm Jose parked himself just off the coast of the northern Cape (where Provincetown is) for the entire week we were there. So, how did we keep everyone happy? Good question!
I’m going to share my Top 10 Toddler Travel Tips with you. Please, keep in mind that as with most Modern Men – I’m nothing without my better half. She is a PRO at planning for this kind of thing and she gets all the credit for this. But, she doesn’t have a blog, so I’m sharing it here for all you guys!
ONE: SNACK TIME
The car ride can be rough. First of all, the SUV is packed within an inch of its capacity. A double stroller, bed railings (for the vacation house), a potty seat, baby gates for stairs, suit cases and beach toys. That’s just the major items.
Right in the middle of the kids’ seats and in front of the giant pile of books for them, is a bag PACKED FULL of snacks within easy grasp from the passenger seat. Dried fruit, granola bars, raisins, yogurt covered raisins, goldfish, and some splurgy items like Pirate’s Booty and Chex Mix.
No one went hungry on the ride, and we saved a lot of money not paying for roadside and amusement park pricing for crap food. Full tummies and time spent enjoying the crunching of these snacks helped the ride stay calm.
How do you avoid coming home with hundreds of dollars’ worth of vacation crap, but still let the kids not feel like they didn’t get anything? Bring the stuff with you!
We raided Target, The Dollar Store and Consignment Shops. Packed in our luggage and a bag in the front seat, were wrapped gifts to make the ride and vacation more fun. When the kids woke up on the day we left, there were Thomas the Tank Engine sippy cups filled and waiting for them at their breakfast seats. YAY! When we left the driveway – PRESENT TIME! When we crossed over the CT/MA border – PRESENT TIME! The presents were simple – books, car games, even mini Thomas figures (we opened it and wrapped each one separately) but they pay off big.
After a day at Thomas Land we stayed at a local hotel and on their beds, were new Thomas PJs. A perfect ending and smiles all day long. The presents continued through the week to keep the kids from getting too homesick. More books, Candyland, etc. A lot of fun for everyone, and a TON of savings.
THREE: SPLIT THE VOYAGE
Home to Edaville 1.5 hours. Easy to do as the first leg – the kids are fresh. We picked a hotel 30 minutes towards Cape Cod from Edaville for that night. Doable after a fun day at Thomas Land.
Next morning we woke up, had our ‘continental breakfast’ at the hotel and drove another 20 minutes to the town in Cape Cod that, turns out, MY parents were staying for the week. Bonus family time! We spent the morning with them playing on the beach and having lunch.
Got the kids back in the car at nap time and they slept the rest of the 45 minute ride to the vacation house. It worked out great having so many breaks in the drive. No one ever got uncomfortable and no tantrums.
FOUR: PLAYGROUNDS ARE FUN AND FREE
Since H was born, we like to find fun playgrounds to take the kids to. Vacation is no different. We did some research and found one of the coolest playgrounds we’ve ever seen in the town my parents were staying in. It’s a Community Playground in Orleans, MA and before we met up with my folks, we took the kids to run around for an hour or so. There was even a little kid specific area for CJ to play on. It was GREAT! The kids got out a lot of energy and were happy to sit and spend some time with my parents (and aunt and uncle) for the morning.
In fact, later in the week, with Tropical Storm Jose still swirling and making the sun stay away and the beaches quite windy – we drove back down to this playground for another morning of running around.
Call local libraries of where you’re staying – they’re usually in the know. Or just google it, there are a ton of parenting sites out there that will point you in the right direction.
FIVE: PREP FOR THE SAND
We’ve been in touch with the folks at Chillax about their amazing inflatable lounge – PERFECT for vacation. Not only did they send us that, they also sent us their sand-free GIANT beach towel for free to try out. This thing was amazing and PERFECT for this trip.
It is 9 feet by 10 feet. HUGE. Made of a parachute-like material. It comes with four corner stakes and even in Tropical Storm winds, it stayed flat to the ground. Our whole family of four, and two grandparents, all our stuff and lunch all fit on this beauty. Wet sand – covered. Rocky sand – covered. HOT sand – covered.
Having a focal point or ‘safe haven’ on the beach was great for the kids – they knew where to stay near and had a place to sit or laydown to get off the sand for a while.
It also folds up into its own pouch and weighs close to nothing.
Seriously, I love this thing.
SIX: BRING MEALS IF YOU CAN
Our vacation house had a full kitchen and giant fridge. We sent coolers of pre-made dinners (seriously, my wife is amazing) with my in-laws who went direct (while we veered off to Edaville). We had eggs, bacon and muffins for breakfasts. Yogurt. Juice. Pasta and Meatballs. Tacos. Salad. Even a beef tenderloin and mashed potatoes.
We did venture out to the local grocery store for some other necessities, but having all this ready to go was awesome.
The kids got to eat food familiar to them and allowed their tummies to be filled with stuff other than restaurant food from time to time – keeping a sense of normalcy to the vacation.
SEVEN: KNOW YOU CAN’T CONTROL THE WEATHER
Let me preface this with saying, the destruction weather has plagued us with this summer/fall is horrible and I know that a cloudy vacation PALES in comparison to what so many people are suffering through. I, by no means, am comparing this to that destruction.
That being said, you do need to prep for vacation weather issues. We went on a beach vacation for a week and didn’t see the sun until the last day. So, what do we do?
Go outside – You’re not going to melt. Bring raincoats. We went into town and bought some warm winter hats for the kids. Jump in the puddles. Wet sand is perfect for building with. Restaurants and shops are less crowded in a tourist town when it’s bad weather – everyone is staying inside. We bundled up and took on the town. Was peaceful and we had our run of the place. We even went and played mini-golf in the rain. In fact, we did it twice!
If you stay inside – have plenty of board games and coloring books. Dress up dolls (Melissa and Doug sell MAGNETIC dress-up dolls and they are amazing, our kids loved them) are fun. I also brought the Roku – Netflix and Mighty Machines to the rescue.
EIGHT: FIND ALONE TIME
A lot of good hotels or resorts have some kind of child-care options. For us, grandparents were there! My wife and I got to run out, just the two us, and it was like being on a date. It was just a little bit, but it was nice to have even a small part of the vacation be just us.
One day everyone was out on the town and the 4 of us were at the house for nap time. The kids napped and my wife and I sat out on the beautiful deck (this was the one sunny day) and read and talked and laughed. Make the most of the time together – soak it in.
NINE: SHOPPING – EARN THEIR OWN MONEY
As any returning readers know, my wife is a farmer and we live on our family farm. H is a flower farmer (no joke, he picks out the seeds, plants them, cuts them – even arranges them). He sits at CSA pick up day and sells his flowers. He’s earned so much he’s opened his own bank account (I was in my late 30s before I was this put together) and still had close to $90 to bring on vacation.
With all the rain of the week we searched out every top-rated toy store on the Cape. H and CJ used their own money (CJ gets a cut of the flower sales, too). They bought some thoughtful remembrances of their trip as well as some fun items that made the week more fun at the vacation house.
As opposed to just being lavished with stuff given to them and whining for things from Mom and Dad, they had a mission with their own money. It made shopping an enjoyable experience rather than the whine-fest we witnessed other families having.
TEN: MAKE THE MOST OUT OF IT
When you envision 9 days of sitting on the beach in the sun and waves and in reality, have a week-long discussion about the amount of fog lifting or coming in, things can get grim relatively quickly.
It’s up to you to enjoy it for what it is. Sure, we couldn’t go to the beach for fun in the sun, but we did go to the beach. We got to witness the power of a Tropical Storm in wind and rain and WAVES. Living on Long Island Sound we rarely get to see more than a ripple. Watching the fury of the waves was something else for us to see. The sand was pelting our legs and I got knocked over in the wind a few times.
On the cove side of Provincetown was Herring Cove where the water was calm and sand was smooth.
The day we were supposed to leave was forecast as a beautiful sunny day in the 80s. Of course. My wife called and moved a doctor’s appointment and I took an extra day off from work. We were going to have our one day in the sun – and it was glorious.
I’ll never forget those experiences and they will be a fun memory for the rest of my life for our vacation with the kids, in-laws, Thomas and Jose.
Here’s a list of links to some of the items I talked about above, and some of our favorite spots if you’re vacationing out to Cape Cod!
Chillax Beach Blanket
Melissa & Doug Magnetic Dress-up Dolls (Dress-Up Joe | Dress-Up Abby & Emma)
Edaville & Thomas Land
Orleans Community Playground
Cape Escape Adventure Mini Golf, Orleans, MA
Cape Cod Gift Barn Mini Golf (Farm Themed!)
Red Balloon Toy Store (Our favorite)
Race Point Beach, Provincetown (Big Waves on the Atlantic side)
Herring Cove Beach, Provincetown (Smooth water on the Cove side)
Skaket Beach, Orleans (AWESOME low tide tide pools)
Favorite Food & Restaurants:
Spiritus Pizza -Take-Out, Provincetown, MA (Cash Only – HUGE Pizzas)
Donut Experiment – Take Out, Provincetown, MA
Kung Fu Dumplings – Take Out, Provincetown, MA
Provincetown Fudge Factory – house made peanut butter cups of all kinds – AMAZING!, Provincetown, MA
Lobster Pot, Provincetown, MA
Lobster Claw, Orleans, MA
Jailhouse Tavern, Orleans, MA
KKatie’s Burger Bar, Hyannis, MA
[Note: Mind of the Modern Man was given the Chillax products, free of charge, but were allowed to express their own opinions on the products. All other suggestions don’t have any affiliation with Mind of Modern Man.]