After finishing up my chemo, we decided to go on a family trip to celebrate. One of our favorite destinations is the beach. Maddie and I love the sand and the waves, while sun-shy daddy loves seafood! He even goes so far as to plan our family trips around what great restaurants are nearby! We try to get to the beach a few times a year, so we wanted to make this time extra special for Maddie after going through a rough few months. We decided on Panama City Beach. David did some research online to find a fun outing that would be something different to do. I tried my best to find a beach wheelchair, that we could rent for Maddie, to give her more independence. Panama City Beach has a plethora of beach chair rental stores. I called six to be exact. The only trouble was that no one had a chair for kids. I looked online with thoughts of maybe purchasing one. But boy, are they expensive. I did come across step by step directions for making one out of mesh and PVC pipe. Maybe soon when I’m feeling craftier, we will give that a try. For this trip, we decided to settle on our trusty collapsible wagon. It was a great ride for Maddie and came in handy lugging the whole house to the beach since that’s what you do after kids are in the mix.
While packing, I tried to focus on our must haves. This list includes enough catheter supplies for two weeks, even though we were only going to be gone four days. We’ve run into complications that made our stay longer in the past, so we always aim to be overly supplied. I also bought her a few bathing suits that had long sleeves and swim pants (closer to a wetsuit), and swim shoes. We love swimming pools that have the beach entry because Maddie can crawl in and play where the water is super shallow. We learned the hard way that this can lead to bad scraps on the knees, elbows, and toes. Our new choice of swim attire helped protect her skin from scrapes and also doubled as sun protection! That’s a mom win if I’ve ever seen one! Whenever possible, we called ahead and made sure that our hotel would have an accessible room, as well as, pools equipped with chair lifts and, many times, the beach entry pool that Maddie loves so much. I did, however, find that people’s definition of accessible isn’t always so true. When I asked on the phone about accessibility to the room, I was cheerfully informed that all rooms were accessible by elevator. The glaring error in that logic jumped out at us as we disembarked on the seventeenth floor and that if there was a fire, we would be running down a heck of a lot of stairs carrying a four year old. I’ll chalk that up to a lesson learned for next time.
Now on to that excursion Daddy found and blew out of the water. We were going to be pirates for the afternoon! We boarded the Sea Dragon pirate ship that docked in St. Andrews, after being careful to cath right before so as to not have to worry about bathroom accommodations on the boat. The staff was very helpful lifting Maddie and her chair on the boat. While aboard, the boat is very open on top where most of the activities took place, which was a definite win. They have seating for parents all along the edge of the deck so you can sit back, enjoy a frozen drink, and watch your kids play. They had activities planned for every minute of the two hour cruise. From squirt guns, to plastic sword fights, Maddie wheeled around swiftly taking out her new pirate friends. The staff made sure to be inclusive in every activity, treating Maddie just like every other child, which is a simple task, but one too often neglected at some attractions. Maddie’s favorite parts were getting to shoot off the kiddy cannon, and watching them lift up the treasure chest from the sea! There was one point that we had to take her out of her chair and tote her downstairs below deck for their treasure map story, but at her age we are still able to do this with relative ease. All in all, we had a blast. Maddie said it was the highlight of her trip and we will definitely be doing it again next time.
Beach trips come with their own set of challenges, but with good planning and some creativity, they are sure to be lots of fun! If I could offer any advice to mommas out there before going to the beach with their wheeling angels, it would be to pack smart! Take plenty of supplies and some good protective swim wear. Don’t be afraid to try fun excursions! Just do some online research (and make a few inquisitive phone calls) to find the best fit for your family before spending money on them. Lastly, find an easy way for maneuvering on the sand. Whether it is renting a beach chair if your child is big enough, investing in a great wagon, or even making your own chair! It’ll be a lifesaver when trekking down to the sand and allow your child to feel as independent as possible. Happy travels friends!
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The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BMD/BMDA/0915/0020