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Packing for a Family Beach Vacation

Updated on June 10, 2013

A Vacation is all about fun

Packing for a family holiday may feel like a chore, but with a bit of creative thought, preparation can actually become part of the fun. What to take on holiday? Making packing lists can be helpful, younger members of the family can write or draw their own. Make a separate page for each family member, secondary lists for items you will share and things you still need to buy.
Start your bargain hunting ideally some months before, so can take advantage of special offers that you may come across.
Don't put too much emphasis on clothes!
So many of us lead busy lives, running around to work, school, having to appear smart, wearing suits, ties, uncomfortable shoes and uniforms; having a family vacation is a time to unwind, relax and simply enjoy each other's company.
If you are visiting a swanky resort then you may need several suitcases of designer clothes, but for others it is a time to sit on a dusty harbour wall and let ice cream dribble down our fingers.
Many children especially don't enjoy having to be smart, and will happily wear the same four t shirts for a fortnight. You may like to bring string to make an impromptu laundry line and a small amount of detergent so t shirts can be washed and left to dry in the sunshine. Wearing simple tops and shorts on holiday can be the practical option, children will make a muddy wallow with a stick and water, drop pudding down their front, and get seaweed stains on their pants. None of this really matters, it's their holiday too, and if they are happy, then be happy for them, freedom is a wonderful thing.
Do take enough clothing to protect adults and children from the burning rays of the sun. All members of the family need hats, sunglasses for older children, and little ones may need UV suits, and long sleeved T shirts .Be prepared to allow your child to wear a T shirt and hat in the swimming pool. Importantly everyone needs comfortable shoes.
Dressing up too can be fun, especially for the female members of the party. Again keeping it simple minimises packing; take a few separates for evenings, a couple of dresses, you can always ring the changes with jewellery, scarves and accessories.
On a practical note it is wise to take some first aid supplies. Depending where you are travelling you made need a simple medical bag with band aid, tweezers, analgesics, anti diarrhoea medicine, calamine lotion, antiseptic. Any other items you can buy at your resort.
Taking a few essential practical items too will help if you have any small repairs or emergencies. String has a multitude of uses, I take laundry pegs too, some cup hooks, a swiss army knife, bottle opener, small sewing kit, plastic bags, sticky tape, scissors. Toiletries, including plenty sunscreen, and some talcum powder which is a lifesaver to remove sand from damp feet and little toes.

Everyone can enjoy Rock Painting

Keeping children Busy

Children love to charge about, and if you are near a beach or a swimming pool most children will love swimming or playing around in water. You may like to take a football, some inflatable toys or a small folding kite.
The sun and activities can get too much, children may find themselves tired on holiday, so planning some peaceful activities will give keep children happy in the shade and allow some peaceful family time.
Packing paper, pens, pencils, card, safety scissors, PVA glue and a small paint set with brushes will delight children. Acrylic paint sets can be bought cheaply and are good for painting rocks and shells and driftwood, perfect as a momento or gift for someone on returning home.
Making mobiles or windchimes is easy too, using the string, bring a selection of beads, use shells, glue and paint- time to get creative.
Small travel games are great, a fortnight holiday is the perfect time to learn how to play chess or checkers, don't forget to bring playing cards, adult versions and picture cards for younger members. Children often appreciate a favourite cuddly toy, settling into a strange room in a foreign country may be a little difficult for the first few nights, and a familiar friend will help them feel secure.
Older children may like to take a hand held console or MP3 player, even a laptop or tablet- don't forget all the chargers and adaptors! Don't forget books too- for all the family, we all deserve the relaxation.

A Word About Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes can give us a big problem on holiday, bites can be painful, very irritating and itchy, while looking unsightly. It seems true than some individuals seem to be more of a target for the female biting mosquito than others. When she bites she injects the area with an anticoagulant to keep the blood flowing while she feeds, and it is this foreign protein which causes an immune response within the host. Histamine floods the area, causing swelling, itch, redness and local oedema. This itch can irritation can persist for several days.
If we travel to a malarial area it is very important to avoid being bitten, and we may need to use anti malarial prophylaxis . None of these drugs are without problems, some are becoming ineffective, some have unpleasant side effects. We then need to take our precautions a bit more seriously, including screens and mosquito nets.
Even in areas with no risk of malaria avoiding mosquito bites is a sensible thing to do.
Mosquitoes are notoriously fickle when it comes to choice of victim, and generally seem to prefer adults to children. Perhaps of course children may get equally bitten but their histamine response does not seem so active. In any case it is best to protect the whole family.
I adopt a belt and braces approach to warding off mosquitoes on holiday, but being on vacation can be a time to suspend our normal behaviour patterns and even find a playful attitude towards mounting a crusade against our blood sucking adversaries!
For adult I have found the following two medicinal products very useful:
1. Brewer's yeast tablets or a vitamin B complex. Take daily while on holiday. Some evidence suggests that mosquitoes are repelled by the odour of these vitamin B compounds which are excreted through our skin. This is not sure fire, but will do little harm, and may even be health boosting!
2. Take an anti- histamine tablet daily whilst on holiday, I start two or three days before I leave, there are some very effective non drowsy medications, which will help calm the irritation if you do become bitten.
For all the family including younger ones:
Mosquitoes like to hide in quiet dark places, and bite more often in the evening or early morning, so covering the skin is the single most effective thing we can do. Under tables in restaurants are a favourite hiding place of the blood thirsty monsters, so the lower leg, calves and feet are common areas of attack. Wearing socks in the evening and long trousers will prevent bites.
DEET is an effective and well trusted chemical that comes in many formulations, as a spray, a roll on or a liquid. It is quite toxic however, and not something that I like to use too liberally, especially on children.
However it can be very helpful to use DEET on calves and feet of adults. You can also use DEET on clothes, which may be preferable for children, their shoes and socks can be sprayed as DEET may be absorbed through the skin.
Citronella oil is a big favourite for many of us, it has the most heavenly smell. Extracted from different species of lemongrass stalks and leaves, it has long been used in the perfume industry and it well known as an insect repellent, hated by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. It can be used liberally throughout your holiday apartment or hotel room, Simply putting a few drops on some tissue and leave in areas where mosquitoes may sleep, such as behind curtains, or in damp corners of bathrooms. Be careful however, pure citronella oil can lift paintwork, so use an empty glass ashtray or saucer to place the tissue in. A few drops of the oil can also be placed directly onto clothes, sneakers or socks; the oil can irritate if rubbed directly onto skin so proceed with caution.
Another favourite of mine which can certainly be used directly onto skin is Avon So Soft dry oil body spray. Although not developed as an anti mosquito repellent; it seems so effective that the US army and the British SAS use it to ward off flies in the jungle. It can be applied liberally onto the skin, including children and smells wonderful.

A Sarong

A Sarong or Wrap

A sarong is a garment worn in many parts of the world, through Asia and the Pacific islands, by both men and women and is one of the most useful items to pack- in fact pack several!

Basically a large piece of lightweight fabric but has many other uses too. These are the first items I put on my packing list. Light and easy to wash and dry in hot climates they areextremely versatile.
I have found the following uses for a sarong:

1. A beach dress or wrap, to preserve dignity when going to or leaving the beach. The sarong can be either tied around the chest or halter style around the back of the neck and worn long as a cover all. It can be folded over and wrapped around the waist, or doubled up, tied around the hips with a flirty knot for a sexy mini look. Dress it up with a belt and some jewellery and go glam for evening wear. Men can also look great in a sarong, tied casually around the hips. Because the fabric of a sarong is so lightweight it can be folded over without being bulky, so can easily be used a dress or a wrap for children.

2. A towel, a lightweight one, but very easy to dry.

3. A tablecloth, either spread on the ground to make a picnic rug, for a family lunch on the beach, or spread over any table for instant color.

4. A bed sheet, great if we are travelling with toddlers who may fall asleep in the evening and may feel the chill of the night air. Also great for air travel; planes can become very cold at altitude, and a sarong will fit easily into a handbag without bulk, and can be very protective from cold air conditioning. Using as a sheet has been unfortunately necessary on several occasions when I have found myself stranded in less than salubrious establishments in some far flung places. Moving swiftly on...

5. A sun cover, can be used to protect areas when we have accidentally over exposed ourselves to burning rays. Use to protect the shoulders feet or chest while continuing to enjoy the sun.

6 A tent. Great for little ones. A sarong- or several sarongs can be tied to branches, draped over bushes, tied over chairs or on a sun terrace to provide sun cover and fun when little ones want to continue to play in the sun but need a bit more protection- or simply to have an adventure!

7. A swimming pool toy. Those of us who have ever done life saving classes ( or played with a flannel in the bath) will know how well wet fabric can trap air. A wet four foot square sarong can contain a huge long lasting air bubble when gathered underneath by the four corners in a pool, and can make a fun impromptu toy for a child. It will easily support the weight of an adult for a short while, and saves carrying bulky inflatables around on day trips. Obviously young children will need supervision when playing this game.

8. Visiting temples or churches.If out sightseeing it can be very handy to carry some sarongs to wear if you happen to visit a church, temple or mosque. If you are wearing spaghetti straps or shorts you may be required to cover legs, head and shoulders, a couple of sarongs can easily achieve this.

9. A backpack. Beaches are so full of treasure for children old and young, and if like me you have started a leisurely stroll only to find your hands and pockets becoming increasingly full of shells, pretty stones and other nautical must haves then again the sarong comes to the rescue! Tie up the treasure in a sarong and sling over your back, or find a piece of driftwood and tie it to the small sack in the mode of Dick Wittington. Your 5 year old will then offer to carry the bundle back all the way with this one!


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    • Silver Fish profile imageAUTHOR

      Silver Fish 

      6 years ago from Edinburgh Scotland



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