Beach, Please: A Neurotic Mother’s Guide to Stress Free Vacation Planning


Beach, Please A Neurotic Mother's Guide to Stress Free Vacation Planning

Summer has nearly come and gone. Most of us have taken a beach vacation or two, starting in late May and ending a few weeks ago as our kiddos embarked on the back to school journey. Except… We didn’t.

There was a job loss issue, a farmhouse purchase gone astray issue, and a retainer fee for an attorney issue that left us sort of poor and reeling. However, the clouds parted and the sun got all shiny and my mother told us to come on vacation with her… To Charleston, SC. MY FAVORITE PLACE IN THE HISTORY OF PLACES. Normally, I would approach a week and significant car time with my mother the same way I would approach running into interstate traffic naked while clutching my children; which is to say, not at all. But I would most likely go to Charleston, SC with anyone, so while y’all read this, I AM ON INTERSTATE 26, LADIESSSSSS!! SEE YOU, BYE, WE ARE ON VACATION.

Now, to those of you who know me in real life, this will come as no shock. To those of you who find me here, seemingly well adjusted and normal, I’m going to shatter all that for you and tell you all that I have some issues with managing expectations and tend to be just a smidgen on the neurotic side. “But what do you mean, Ashley? You’re clearly rad and awesome and all the things!” You will say to yourself. While I am well aware of that (and I am also humble) I will tell you that I just flat out cannot can’t can’t trying to can but just can’t with vacations. So lucky for you guys, I have put great thought and effort (I am writing this in Chick-fil-A while my children go Lord of the Flies on smaller children in the play area. My brain is already in the ocean so not really all that much of either of those, sorry not sorry) into this helpful guide on the psychoses that is going to the beach with me. YOU’RE WELCOME.

1. On packing clothing:

When a normal person goes a’packin’ for the beach they bring an outfit for each day at the destination, some swim suits, and maybe a few extra pieces of clothing to rotate into the mix, just in case. When I pack for vacation, I pack as if we are crossed between refugees leaving our homeland, heading to an unspecified locale forever more and a Real Housewife of _______ (whatever city).

Vacation weather to me would seem a whole lot like outer space weather in that it will clearly be wild and I will be unable to correctly map out the forecast. Thus, I pack no less than 4 outfits for every day and make sure to have a varied enough palate to handle: subzero temperatures, rain, snow, an eclipse, a zombie apocalypse, surprise paparazzi photo shoot, boiling hot sun explosion, shoes for hiking, shoes for just casually hanging out, and shoes suitable for a runway event in Paris.

Clearly this is a totally fine and normal amount of belongings to bring. My weeks, apparently span longer than yours.
Clearly this is a totally fine and normal amount of belongings to bring. My weeks, apparently span longer than yours.

(Never mind that I spend most days here in good ole East TN looking like a cross between someone who has spent all their morning hours in the gym and someone auditioning for the role of Street Urchin #4 in Oliver). Vacation me is off the chain in the wardrobe department. Vacation me is going to dress fancy and accessorize well.

2. On packing my children:

Maddox is in a uniform 90% of the time now that school is back in session. (Shout out to responsible parenting and pulling my kid out of kindergarten 2 weeks after school starts!) Walker has somehow learned of the inexpensive brand, Under Armor, and refuses to wear anything that doesn’t have that distinct logo emblazoned upon it. Most days, they would just sit around in their underwear, or run around naked like feral castaways if I didn’t manhandle them into clothing, so I just feel like I have really done something spectacular if they don’t look as if Tarzan raised them.

Apparently, I feel like my kids will turn into fashion forward Baby Gap models the instant we step foot onto the South Carolina soil. They have all the above mentioned outfit choices that I packed for myself, plus a few more, PLUS some that match and/or coordinate with each other, because every little boy past the age of 2 really yearns to match their brother, who they have just spent an entire car trip yelling at because “he is breathing air and that’s my air not his air…” They yearn for that I tell you. I just know that they do.

3. On packing toiletries:

In my heart of hearts, I’m aware that we are going to Charleston and not a sand bunker in the Sahara with only a cactus to use as moisturizer. In that same heart of hearts, I am also 90% sure that I will not put clear gel in my eyebrows, nor will I create a dramatic smoky eye, and I am probably not going to find the time to highlight and contour like I were a YouTube makeup blogger.

BUT… I have bought extra make-up just for the beach. I’ve been Pinning new hairstyles to try. I’ve packed every last thing we as a family could ever need in case we get there and someone, let’s say, has an overwhelming urge to deeply condition their heels. There are no less than 8 sunscreens in my bag, because CLEARLY Charleston sun is a different sun than that which has shined on us every day here in TN.

“You know they have drug stores in Charleston… Right?” Someone asked me. Well. No someone. I don’t know that. And what if half way there we need the tweezers or a Sally Hanson gel top-coat or a Naked 2 palate? I mean. Common sense here… hello.

Won't be doing it. But sure as heck Pinned it.
Won’t be doing it. But sure as heck Pinned it.

4. On packing beach gear:

I just refuse to believe that we don’t need 3 coolers, an umbrella, a utility wagon, a beach tent/canopy, beach chairs, monogrammed towels, personalized Tervis tumblers with matching plastic drink holders to spike into the sand below, new sand toys, a beach blanket, and at least 2 methods in which to play music. I also just cannot wrap my head around not needing an entire library of books and magazines in my arsenal, because every mother not living in fantasy land knows that two children under 6 in close proximity to water is just relaxing and all around fine and warrants very little supervision, giving me crazy amounts of time to knock those best sellers right off my reading list.

I did click “remove from cart” on monogrammed baby sized beach chairs for each one of my boys. Not even “save for later” like some might have been tempted to do. I have clearly sacrificed more than enough you guys.

5. On pre-planning:

There are people out in the world who go on vacation and just sort of “play it as it lays” in regard to planning. They have one or two notable things that they would like to get in, but account for small children, busy seasons, time constraints, etc., and will not be let down in any way if these plans don’t come to fruition. I have been told these people are out there, wondering about. I think they are the vacationers I see looking radiant with their faces all not creased up from worry. Either that or they just have really great Instagram filters.

However, I have most all of our days mapped out. I have our schedule planned and even have a loose grasp on what I want to wear to each hypothetical event. Here’s the best part that makes me sound not at all like a crazy person. Like 0% crazy: it is all in my head and I have shared it with no one therefore, I am bound to be disappointed when things don’t go as planned. (Remember when we talked about my issues with managing expectations? Its a spiritual gift I think…). My aptitude for pre-planning while telling no one about the actual plans has to be one of my biggest flaws.

The stages leading up to vacationing with me are really super fun and relaxed and chill. Obviously. I’m working on it. Its a process. Or something.

Basically pray for us is what I am beseeching from all of you.


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Mama to Maddox, Walker and Finn plus three unruly dogs: Nick Carraway, Ladybird, and Charlotte. Owner of Nest, a custom painting and furniture restoration business run out of my SoKno home. I've written for Knox Moms since 2014, and have also written for The Dollywood Company, Her View From Home, and I'm a recovering type-a personality, overcaffinated, sleep with too many pillows, am a better person near water, and love a good British period drama or anything about gruesome true crime. I'm going to die trying to pet something I shouldn't or lifting furniture I have no business lifting, and am a firm believer in convenience meals. Probably a top contender for the title of World's Okayest Mom.


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