Help me do a vacation, part two
August 18, 2014 11:28 AM   Subscribe

A month ago I asked for help picking a place for our upcoming vacation. Based in part on community suggestions, we ended up booking a place in Wildwood, NJ, for the first week in September. Now help me make my beach vacation with two very small kids as awesome as possible!

This is our first vacation with kids, our first beach vacation as a couple, and our first time renting an apartment instead of staying in a hotel. So now I'm looking for your advice on stuff specific to the Jersey Shore (Wildwood is 15 minutes from Cape May in one direction and 40 minutes from Ocean City in the other).

I'm also looking for general "you might not have thought of this" tips and tricks for vacationing with two kids under three - my daughters are 14 months and 2.5 years. Two examples of this are 1) bring blackout fabric to cover the window in the bedroom the kids are sleeping in, and 2) bring bedding from home for the kids, even if you don't need to, so bed smells like home and is more familiar.

Possibly relevant: The trip will take about seven hours by car, which will be our first trip this long since before the younger kid was born. Both kids require an afternoon nap, and the younger one could do a morning nap as well if circumstances permitted but is okay without it. Both kids are in bed by seven most nights and do not sleep later if kept up later, to my chagrin. We will be vacationing without a sitter, so nightlife stuff isn't terribly relevant.
posted by SeedStitch to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Lots of indoor activities, if you can find them. It's been unseasonably chilly in the NJ/NYC area.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:38 AM on August 18, 2014

I don't know if 2.5 years is too young for boat tag, but if she's old enough to help you out with boat tag, please do it. (Boat Tag is this thing on the boardwalk in Wildwood with an enormous tank with floating armored boats in it surrounded by a net. If you're outside, you get a bucket with soft squishy balls and a shooter thing, and you try to hit the targets or the boats. You can also play inside the boats, but I don't think you could with small kids.) I don't think there's any possible way to get hurt playing Boat Tag, and it's pretty much less violent than dodgeball, since balls can't really touch the people. There's another lighthouse close by.

Cape May: the lighthouse is a lovely spot for a drive, a walk along the beach, and a picnic, though they're maybe too young to climb up inside the lighthouse itself. If they like Chinese food, Cape Orient is good and kid-friendly. There's also a zoo and the Nature Center of Cape May. Cape May does require beach tags, so while I like their beach more than Wildwood's, that might be an issue.

(not sure if you have them locally, but Wawa is a chain (mostly PA, NJ, and DE) of convenience stores that are actually convenient and which sell everything from freshly-made sandwiches to soup to hummus to veggie sticks. It's definitely not all healthy (oh mac and cheese) and it's more expensive than getting ingredients from a store, but they are tremendously convenient for quick meals or stopgap snack supplies.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:55 AM on August 18, 2014

I just got back from Wildwood! Everyone told me it would be seedy, but we didn't find it that way and had so much fun. We parked our car at the motel and didn't drive the entire time. I'm excited for you!

Will Mariner's Pier be open while you're there? We really enjoyed the flying pirate ship and seagull cycles (both rides are monorails that weave around the Pier, one is just a ride and the other is pedal-powered and had seats for little kids). There's a big and little Ferris wheel. The carousel was the best I've ever encountered - two stories, safety belts on all horses, and plenty of nonmoving benches. It's also fun to take the boardwalk tram up and down the boardwalk.

There are a million bike and surrey rental places. They also have child seats on the surreys, so your kids could sit and ring the bell while the adults pedal.

Also, the water's edge is really far from the beach access point at the street. Far enough that people make money giving rides to the water. So be prepared to walk and plan your snack/beverage/diaper supplies and bathroom trips accordingly to minimize repeat trips. I saw a lot of beach wagons/wheeled coolers. There are outlets to the beach from the convention center and some piers if you want a partially shaded/paved route.

You might want to have a meal in one of the themed retro diners or share a snack from a boardwalk stand or old-fashioned candy shop. Obviously you know your kids' food limits, but I think beach snacks are the things vacation memories are made of. Spiral fries, Laura's Fudge shop (or any of the old-time handmade candy stores), and brightly colored water ices were big hits with my family.

And if you're coming up from the south on 95, the Delaware Guest House rest area was clean, spacious, and saved our sanity on one leg of the trip.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 12:43 PM on August 18, 2014

One thing to keep in mind for Wildwood in September is there are alot of weekend events (gets people to keep going to the shore after summer). So check event calendars some may be really fun - some may be a little much (like the Roar to the Shore Motorcycle rally - can be pretty noisy). Also double check what will be open and closed especially during the week - Wildwood will probably not have everything open in September. Cape May will however so there is always that - also Cape May does not have beach badges after Labor day.

Do you have a little kitchenette - even if you don't have an actual stove top bring an electric frying pan (if you don't have one you can probably get one really cheap at a thrift store). They work great for cooking / reheating all kinds of food that you may not want to microwave.

For the drive down - wrap up little toys / gifts / dodads in comic paper and unwrap as each of the kids start to get a little antsy. We used to drive from NJ to NC and this was a lifesaver to have just a little something for fun.

In Cape May - The zoo is great, also rent one of those 4 seater bikes they are fun to ride around in. Also if it's not too expensive take a horse and buggy ride - that would be fun. Also the Washington Square mall is all pedestrian and is a great way to spend a few hours.
posted by MrsMGH at 12:56 PM on August 18, 2014

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