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One of my favorite benefits of homeschooling is being able to take a family beach vacation while most families are in school. The beaches are less crowded, Airbnb prices tend to be lower, and even airfare is cheaper.
We recently returned from a vacation to Maui. Living in Washington means that we need to travel if we want to see the sun in the winter months. This winter sunshine break is just what we need. I used these tips to make the most of our family beach vacation and I think they will work for almost any beach.
Make the Most of a Family Beach Vacation
Rent an Airbnb
We rent Airbnbs for vacation as much as possible. Our condo this year had 3 bedrooms, which was the perfect size for us. Paul and I stayed in the master bedroom, Hannah and Ben shared a king size bed in the loft, and my in-laws had an attic bedroom. This gave us room to spread out. I can not imagine being confined to a standard hotel room!
Renting an entire Airbnb also gave us access to a full kitchen and in unit laundry facilities. My kids eat nonstop, so it was handy being able to whip up most of our meals. We ate healthier than if we had eaten out and we also saved money. I was even able to wash laundry on our last night so I didn’t bring any dirty clothes home – which was handy because my daughter had a co-op class 8 hours after we got home.
Sign up for AirBnB through my link and first time guests will receive a $40 travel credit.
Stop at Costco
Groceries on the island tend to be more expensive than on the mainland, but Costco prices were pretty comparable to what we pay at home. We tried to be cognizant of only buying what we could actually use up during our week visit so that we didn’t have to throw out much food.
We bought a couple of rotisserie chickens, a ham, ground beef, bread, chips, a veggie tray, sliced papaya (so good!), eggs, bacon, and premixed pineapple-coconut margaritas. It sounds like a ton of food, but it was just right for 4 adults and 2 growing kids. Shockingly, the only thing we didn’t use all of was the margarita mix. Go figure.
Arrange family photos
This is my favorite souvenir of all time! Family photos are one of my favorite possessions. If I could save only one item (not counting people or pets) from a fire, I would save my photo albums. We take family photos every year and I love seeing how much my kids have grown.
I found an amazing photographer who lives on Maui through Instagram. She is also a homeschool mom and I love seeing all of her Instagram photos. I reached out to her and was able to set up a sunset beach photo shoot. My phone (and therefore my camera) died a sudden death part way through our vacation, which meant I couldn’t take any more photos. I’m so glad Angela was able to capture this vacation for us!
Bring a Go Pro
You know all those stereotypes about how little husbands do to prepare for vacation? That is usually how it works in my house. I spend weeks preparing for the trip and my husband remembers to adjust the thermostat as we walk out the door. He completely redeemed himself before this vacation though! He bought a Go Pro camera so he could film the kids snorkeling.
The Go Pro is a small waterproof video camera that can be worn on a wrist, attached to a helmet, or just held in a hand. We got amazing videos of the kids playing in the waves, swimming in the condo pool, and building sand castles. The Go Pro is coming on every vacation from now on.
Check out a variety of beaches
We stayed in the Maalaea Harbor area of Maui. There are of course beaches there, but it didn’t take us long to figure out that these were not our favorite. The location was perfect though, because it was central to a variety of truly amazing beaches. We could drive 30 minutes west and swim in the calm turquoise waters of Kapalua or drive 20 minutes south and find amazing snorkeling opportunities.
All of the beaches in Hawaii are public. Hotels are not allowed to privatize beaches, which means you can go to any beach of your choosing. One of our favorites was the beach in front of the Four Seasons Resort. The waves were just big enough for boogy boarding, without being too crazy powerful. There was amazing snorkeling. Depending on the tide, tide pools form in rocky outcroppings. We spent quite a long time observing the shellfish and tiny fish. Please, please, please be respectful of the animals though! Ben saw a lady using a shovel to force the shells from the rocks…killing the animals living inside in the process. He was horrified that a grown adult could be so selfish.
Sneak in a little education
I wanted to take a complete vacation from school so I left all of the school books at home. Hannah kept up with the required reading for her Harry Potter co-op class, but there were no lesson plans packed in my carry-on.
Instead, we took an unschool approach to the week. I read a bit of Dickens A Christmas Carol aloud while the kids played in the sand. We read signs and travel guides. We also took a field trip to the Maui Ocean Center. We went there last year and loved it so much we wanted to go back. It was the perfect way to kill a few hours before hopping on our plane to come home.
Allow plenty of downtime
We run crazy during our regular life, so we don’t want to on vacation! Time to decompress and relax was very important to us. We checked out beaches most days, but left time to stroll aimlessly around Lahaina while eating shaved ice. I brought a pack of Monopoly cards and our condo had a deck of regular playing cards. This was the perfect activity when everyone was tired, but it was too early for bed (time changes are brutal).
Bring extended family
For the second year in a row, we invited Paul’s parents to meet us in Maui. They live in South Carolina and we are in Washington, so we don’t get to see them very often. Meeting up on vacation lets everyone reconnect and make memories. Paul and I were able to sneak in a date night one evening while the grandparents took the kids out to their favorite Maui restaurant, Beach Bums.
Hannah almost drowned twice in Nags Head, NC so I can get a little paranoid about my kids being in the ocean. Having grandparents with us meant that there were always extra eyes on the kids. Most of the beaches don’t have life guards, but I didn’t worry because we had so many eyes tuned to Hannah and Ben.
What are your favorite beach vacation tips?
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