For most, birthdays are a must-have family tradition. However, I’m terrible at remembering the exact date of anyone’s birthday. Lucky for me, our ongoing tradition is taking annual family trips – and those, I never forget. We go skiing in the winter, and in the summer, we hightail it to a beach. In the early years, the extended family would pile into a condo in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and later on, Ocean City, Maryland. These days, our most recurring summer destination is Rhode Island.
As a coastal state, Rhode Island has quite a few beaches, all with long stretches of sand and water, nearby restaurants, changing rooms and lifeguards. In spite of these civilized amenities, my family opts to set up camp on a rugged bit of land. Kept a secret by locals, this land is a secluded public area with gentle lapping waves from a saltwater pond. The “beach” itself can only fit three or four groups, so we have to plan ahead to secure a spot on the sand.
The day before the trip, we lift and strap our small sailboat, a Sunfish, onto the roof of the car. We hit the road bright and early at 6am – without pausing for a single pit stop. Our race to get to the beach before 9am ends with us staking our claim in the sand with a beach umbrella, lawn chairs, and a cooler of pre-packed sandwiches and drinks. After a relaxing day of sailing and swimming, we head home, stopping for dinner along the way at either Mystic Pizza (made famous by the Julia Roberts movie of the same name) for “a slice of heaven” or Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tale for their out-of-this-world fish and chips with homemade tartar sauce.
As with our trips to Hermit Island, the Rhode Island trip started out with just the four of us (Mom, Dad, Derek, me), but it has since grown to include extended family and friends. In addition to sailing, we have also started kayaking, paddle boarding, and net fishing for minnows (for my littlest cousins). Spending the day at the beach is not a uniquely summertime activity, but since most of us are city folk and suburban dwellers, my family looks forward to some respite in these sand and sea escapes.
If you’re feeling landlocked in Beijing’s concrete jungle, you needn’t look far for relief from the heat. Dive into one of the city’s refreshing swimming holes, and stay cool, yet active with a variety of indoor and outdoor summer activities. For a breath of fresh country air, take a road trip for the day or book an exciting overnight retreat. Also, check out our recommended iPad apps for kids to bring while traveling.
My parents invested in a Rhode Island condo a few years ago, ensuring an annual summer trip to the same remote location. The “beach” is merely a strip of sand, but it has become our summer place to spend time as a family. As your family explores Beijing this summer, perhaps, you too will find a small spot to call your own and revisit for years to come.