Not all was a disaster of course, we had a great time together, but unless beach holiday means something other than spending the day by the sea (coming from Italy, this is more or less my idea of a beach holiday!) it isn’t going to be dream holiday…unless of course you have someone helping you Wait, let me give you the picture: when Liam and Santiago were 13 months old we decided to have some beach time in Puglia in the Salento area. I’m Italian and heard so many times about how gorgeous the beaches in Salento are, so I booked to stay in 3 different places in order to see many different areas without being in the car more than 1 hour (also because I struggle with the idea of staying in one place longer than 3-4 days and prefer to explore different environments).
Well first of all I can confirm the beaches are beautiful and the sea is clean, but too many people have discovered this! We went there in the second half of June and the beaches were packed like Ostia in August or Oxford Street at 6pm if you prefer! That in itself was a shock for me, I was not prepared to find so many people. The owners of the places where we stayed confirmed that in recent years they have seen a strong increase in visitors, especially foreign tourists (of course 90% of Italians only go on holiday in August!). So how was it a disaster, what went wrong?
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1. Avoid going out during central hours of the day = impossible.
OK, maybe we are not the quickest family to get ready in the morning, we like to enjoy our breakfast and take some lazy time, but let’s not forget that Liam and Santiago usually sleep 12h. While on holiday they usually go to bed 2 hours later than usual, around 9:30pm, which means they don’t wake up until 9:30am. So also when we are quick it is almost impossible that we are ready to leave before 11:30. At that point of course I get grumpy because it is late and we shouldn’t bring the boys out, but then what to do because if we don’t go out then we are locked in until 4pm…wow it is stressful just to remember this. Luckily for the first time in my life I booked places by the sea that had swimming pools (again my Italian blood always made it difficult for me to understand why you should sit by the pool while you have beautiful beaches close by, but then I started to understand why), so in the morning we were spending some time in the pool to be cool and then back to our patio for lunch and then nap time. After all this we would reach the beach around 5-6pm when many people start to leave! So basically to avoid to go out during the central hours of the day we were not going to the beach until late afternoon sacrificing most of the day!
2. Keep them out of the sun = impossible.
Before leaving on holiday I decided to buy a big (really big, 2.5m x 2.5m) beach towel for the boys, so I could strategically place it in the shade and they could play without getting burnt …hahaha silly Clo, better if I had saved that money! They were crawling everywhere, and also though I dressed them in swimming costumes and rash vests, and I covered them with tons of Factor 50, their Lily white arms and legs, inherited from their Father, still became bright pink!
3. Protect them from the environment = almost impossible.
The big beach towel, (from point 2) should have worked also for this point, but it didn’t. Again silly Clo! I thought they would have been happy sitting on it, playing and rolling over the 6sqm towel, but it was clear this limit it isn’t something they are happy to consider (OK deep down inside I was hoping they would have been 2 of those children that hate sand and don’t dare to move out of the beach towel). Instead of this Utopian scene, before I had even put down all of our stuff, they had already crawled out of the towel and were chewing a cigarette butt and heading towards the sea!
4. Keep them alive = almost impossible, at 13 months they are fearless
…at least L&S were, and still are, fearless! Liam in particular is always happy to wander around without being bothered if he can see us, and that huge amount of water is just too attractive to resist, even if he risks to be swept away. They can be completely covered by waves three times and crying desperately, but they will still go back into the water.
5. Enjoy time on the beach = impossible
…please do not misunderstand me, I didn’t think I could lie down sunbathing or read a book, but I was hoping to get some time playing with the boys, not just chasing them and apologising to the occupants of every Beach towel they walked through, or hearing them scream with every toy that gets returned to its rightful owner! After half an hour you are of course exhausted (or at least I was), and you would like to pack up…well try doing that in 35 degrees, with your 11kg baby (yes Liam and Santiago are big!) in the baby carrier while you are all sweaty and with sand all over…
Bonus reflection: Puglia it is a really lovely area and there are many beautiful villages to visit, stunning old towns, and wonderful people, but don’t forget that summer there is hot, so plan to fill some days with sightseeing instead of the beach but don’t forget points 1 and 2!
Not sure if this post will help you to decide to book or not your beach holiday, for now I decided we will wait until they are around 2½ or 3 before to try again. How has been your beach experience with toddlers? Were you more under control?