What makes for a perfect family vacation?

This past week, Tracy has been soaking up the sun in a little slice of paradise. Here's her recipe for the ideal summer vacay.

Sorry for my absence over the past week. Scratch that — I’m anything but sorry. I’ve been blog-silent because I’ve just returned from the most glorious holiday with my family and two other wonderful families. We didn’t traipse across Europe or hit Disney. It was as simple as this: Two side-by-side cottages, right on the beach — add water, sunshine and let sit until golden and bubbly.
It never fails to amaze me that my kids — who seem to need my constant attention and involvement in every moment of their lives at home — can entertain themselves on the same stretch of beach for six full days. Anna loves the water and spent hours upon hours floating around, and on windy days, riding the waves. Sean used a boogie board and ball to play baseball with the kids out there too, because the water was so warm, sandy and shallow. Avery was much more into the water than last year, but also content to loll around on the shore and play in our sandcastle community (with moat).  On top of that, there was a little creek to catch frogs and tadpoles, boating and tubing, rock and shell collecting and burying kids in the sand. 
At the cottage, there was an outdoor movie night, complete with virgin daiquiris from my sister and make-your-own movie necklaces (candy and other hole-centred treats, looped through string), compliments of my Pinterest-loving friend; a scavenger hunt; an end-of-week party created by the kids that included a dance party, sidewalk chalking, skipping, and water balloons. In between, we go-karted and mini-golfed (on the one evening we bothered to venture out from our little piece of paradise), there were fancy kid-manicures, naps, fake s’mores (because of a fire ban), beach races, games, books, great meals, incredible sunsets, lots of late nights and snacks and desserts and copious amounts of sunscreen. And, of course, a few cocktails after bedtime.

I feel it makes such a difference to go on a holiday like this with other families. There are more adults around to take the stress out of constant supervision around the water and to let everyone have some downtime, along with shared meal prep and clean-up and entertaining. Most of all, with six kids, there’s always someone to play with. We didn’t plan a lot in the way of entertainment — the kids really did occupy themselves on the beach almost all the time — but the little activities we did organize added an extra-special, unforgettable element to the holiday.
The kids were amazing (and we all noticed it’s getting easier each year). The weather was incredible. The company was lovely. And, after some smart pre-planning, it all felt relatively easy — that Hmmm… which-bathing-suit-to-put-on-today? kind of easy. I feel so relaxed. All I can say is, same time next year. The countdown is on.

I’m determined (for real, this time) to put the hundreds of gorgeous photos of this trip into a digital album. Wouldn’t that be so much nicer than cuddling up around a computer screen to relive the moments? Do you have a company you LOVE to use for digital albums? I’m looking for the best recommendations. And I’d love to hear how your summer is going so far!

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