It's crazy that we live just a short two hour drive away from the beach, yet we have not made a trip out to the Atlantic Ocean not once in the three years we've been in our current house. Each summer I've thought about renting a hotel and spending a few days on the beach but it never happened.
Well with Joseph's parents visiting us for a few days, it was the perfect opportunity for us to take a day trip out to Ocean City, Maryland.
Though we've never been to the beach as a family, I have made the drive out to Ocean City quite a few times while working at my previous job. Reeves was just an infant back then so I always drove back and forth each day rather than spending the night away from him. So I knew from personal experience that driving to the beach and back in a single was completely doable. Plus we'd made a similar drive on our recent trip to King's Dominion without any problems too. For us, two hours is probably the outer limit for a trip to qualify as a day trip.
Getting Everyone In the Car
Our day started out pretty early since we'd left the packing to the day of. We were traveling light because our car doesn't have much trunk space when all three rows are up. Speaking of our third row, when we first bought this car we were a family of three. Joseph and I went back and forth about whether we needed a third row and I'm so glad that we decided to get one. Though I think in our next car we'd want to have a third row and plenty of trunk space.
So we threw together everything on our beach trip packing list and made it out of the house by 9am, just one hour later than we'd planned to leave. That's a win in my book. With everyone fed (and me with a keto-approved thermos of bulletproof coffee) we set out on the road.
Alexis and I hung out in the third row, while Reeves, his massive car seat, and his Gigi sat in the second row, and Joseph and his dad hung out in the front. I spent most of the trip on my computer doing One Big Happy Life things (just like how I'm writing this post on the trip back home).
Two hours later we were closing in on the beach and it occurred to me that there was another Maryland sight I'd been wanting to visit just a short distance away. Right down the road from Ocean City was another, less developed stretch of beach known for its camping and wild horses: Assateague State Park. Luckily it didn't take much convincing to get everyone on board so we hung a quick right and headed to the state park instead.
An Educational Detour at the Park Visitor's Center
We stopped in at the park visitor's center to use the restroom and learn a bit more about the park. If we had brought bikes with us, it would have been the perfect spot to park and ride into the park via the dedicated bike lane, thereby avoiding the in-park parking fee while also getting to take in the gorgeous views from the bridge.
The visitor's center was very nice and definitely worth the stop. In addition to the typical maps and gift shop items, it also had a number of exhibits including several with live marine creatures. Joseph and the kids even got to get their hands on a live horseshoe crab!
After talking with an employee behind the desk, we learned that there were several beach and swimming areas within the park and that the wild horses could be anywhere in the 25 mile stretch of island. Our plan was to drive to the farthest beach in the hopes that we would run into one of the wild herds along the way. Then we'd head to the beach for a bit before continuing on to Ocean City for lunch and more fun.
Perfect Weather for a Day at the Beach
We didn't end up seeing any horses on the way in but we knew they had to be somewhere because there were horse flies. Lots and lots of horseflies. We stopped in the parking lot just long enough to throw on some sun block. Then we headed across the short boarded pathway to the beach.
It really was a perfect day to head out on the water.
The weather was a hot 85 degrees, which felt closer to 90 thanks to the Maryland humidity. Although the forecast called for rain, the skies were blue with just a few white clouds. The parking lot was right next to the beach so it wasn't long at all before we could hear the roaring of the waves up ahead. On the way in we noted that the beach came equipped with outdoor showers for rinsing off sand and salt on your way out.
As we were walking along the beach, I realized that my Taos sandals (as much as I love them) just weren't appropriate footwear for sand. Thankfully, I did bring along the only other reasonable pair of beach shoes I have, a pair of Keens. Still, as I worked my way across the sand I found myself wishing for a good old pair of flip flops.
Although the parking lot was just about full, the beach itself wasn't crowded at all. We found a nice spot right by the water and laid out our towels then headed into the water.
Stepping into the Northeastern Atlantic
It had been almost 10 years since I'd dipped a toe into the northeastern Atlantic Ocean. And let me tell you, I'd completely forgotten just how cold it was.
As a child, I'd throw myself into the frigid waters for fun because that was part of the thrill of going to the beach. As an adult, the prospect was a lot less intriguing. Instead, I was quite happy to wade in the water up to my knees while I worked to coax Reeves into joining me.
My normally fearless baby had taken one look at the ocean and decided that he didn't want anything to do with it. He was quite happy to play on the sand a few feet away instead. Over the course of the next hour he started to become more comfortable with the idea of getting his feet wet. He even walked over to the water a few times without being prompted.
Meanwhile Alexis was quite happy to wade deep into the water with Joseph.
I think if we'd stayed at the beach a few more hours we might have been able to convince Reeves to go deeper into the water. But it was almost 1pm and we are all hungry for lunch, so we decided to leave Assageauge and head over to Ocean City for lunch. Sadly, in the short drive off of the state park we didn't encounter a single wild horse. Maybe next time.
Seafood Lunch In Ocean City
Meanwhile we decided to head to Ocean City for lunch and an afternoon of fun. The day before I'd given Alexis the task of finding fun things to do in Ocean City and the best seafood places. I always try to get my kids involved and to give them as much responsibilitie as they can handle when it comes to planning our trips.
Alexis settled on the Blu Crabhouse & Raw Bar for lunch, which was a short 20 minute drive away from Assateauge. The food was amazing and we'll be showcasing all of that deliciousness in another post later this week.
Dealing With the Unexpected When Traveling With Kids
So let's talk about what happened after lunch and how unpredictable traveling with kids can be. Right as we were packing up to leave after our meal, Joseph noticed that Reeves had leaked through his diaper. When he turned and mentioned it to me with a panicked expression on his face, I was ready to reassure him that all would be well and that leaky diapers happen.
Then I looked over at Reeves, who was still sitting quite happily in his booster chair, and saw solid waste. dripping. on. the. floor.
We all hopped into action with paper towels, trying to contain the mess while Alexis ran to the car for the baby bag. That's when we discovered that we forgot to pack baby wipes. Oops.
Luckily we had a giant tub of baby-friendly disinfecting wipes which we used to clean up the area while Joseph took Reeves off to the bathroom to change him. Except there were no baby changing stations in either bathroom so we ended up changing a squirming, now cranky toddler covered in you know what, in our car (on a changing pad). It took a full 10 minutes of wrestling our resistant two year old for us to get him fully cleaned up.
Before lunch we'd tossed around the idea of playing a round of miniature golf after our meal but we decided to head home instead so that Reeves could nap on the drive. Back at the house we relaxed, grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and watched Reeves play on his new play set.
Our family beach day took an unexpected turn there at the end, as traveling with kids can do. Still, we all enjoyed our day at the beach. It was fun and easy day trip that's a perfect way to spend a hot summer day.