My least favourite thing about a family trip to the beach is getting home and realising you've got to empty the boot. Carefully organised bags have become sand-encrusted jumbles of clothes, leftover food and wet trunks.
My number one learning for this week is that a "quick trip to the beach" with young children is not wise, since it requires just as much packing and unpacking as a long trip without the time-filling advantages.
The outing started well. Our four-year-old hadn't been on a train before, besides the steam train, so we parked up on Ryde Pier and caught the train to Lake.
If you aren't familiar with the Island Line service, it manages to be both a useful transport connection and an historic attraction. The trains are former Northern Line London Underground stock and bump up and down enough that you feel you should be a minimum height to be allowed to ride. Personally I love it, and suspect most holidaymakers find it charming.
Most people travelling from Ryde stop at Shanklin or Sandown for a seaside outing but we went for Lake since it's only a short walk through a housing estate to the beach and we only planned to stay for an hour. If you want a proper day out then Sandown, Shanklin or Ryde Esplanade are better choices.
Things were going swimmingly until we reached the beach. I'd coped with the steps and slopes with the pushchair and we'd timed it all precisely so we wouldn't have to cough up nearly £7 for parking on the Pier (two hours was £1.70 which seemed more reasonable).
The train ride was great fun and only cost about £10 return for the four of us. I wouldn't say the scenery was stunning as it is mostly inland but the Pier section is a nice novelty.
As we approached the golden Sands and sparkly water of the beach at Lake though there was only really one way it was going to end. Within seconds the baby was eating sand and the four year old looked like a sandcastle statue. We were somewhat ill-prepared with a towel and not a lot else (besides the usual nappies, drinks, sling, cardigans, healthy snacks for the children and unhealthy snacks for us that we eat in secret when the children aren't looking).
And so after about five minutes of paddling in the water we declared it was time to go. Thankfully this didn't result in a meltdown but I suspect it might have done at another time of day.
We spent most of the return train journey trying to remove sand from both children.
I do think a train and beach trip is an excellent day out for younger children. Next time though we'll either pack for a full day out or keep them away from the water and fill the time with an ice cream.
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