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Hilarye Fuller, http://www.dottingthemap.com
ToddlerTravels plays at the beach.

Read more about Hilarye's travel challenges on DeseretNews.com: challenge 1, challenge 2, challenge 3, challenge 4, challenge 5, challenge 6 and challenge 7.

When I first set these challenges, I included the challenge to take a beach vacation because I knew somewhere amidst all the difficult and daunting trips we would need a break, a respite if you will, from all the traveling, sightseeing and exhaustion of carting around two small children.

However, as I brought out the map and set out to choose our sandy locale for our challenge, I realized we would need a destination that would offer a little bit more than just a promise of relaxation and sandy swimsuits. We needed substance, adventure, culture and even color. This is why we concluded Oahu, Hawaii, is where we needed to go.

Something about those little islands in the Pacific was calling our names and we knew we could not ignore it. We did realize that it would mean another redeye flight and a dreaded four-hour time change, but we were willing to deal with it all for five beautiful days in paradise.

After a very long flight, with extremely tired and cranky children and an even more under-the-weather husband, we had arrived in Honolulu, and even though it was dark and windy, the air had a certain promise to it that tomorrow we would start an unforgettable and even inspiring vacation full of warm weather and vibrant culture among vast and impressive landscapes. I got chills just thinking about it.

The trip was far from perfect. The children woke up around 5 a.m. local time every morning (9 a.m. MST). Reid, my other half, was sick the entirety of the trip. We needed to schedule sightseeing and beach excursions around nap times, and the children were in bed by 7 p.m. every night. While many of these challenges were less than ideal, we made the best of them and even enjoyed watching sunrises and our daily trip to the beach before breakfast.

As for the adventure, culture and inspiration we sought by choosing such a destination, we were not disappointed. A trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center and the Bishop Museum helped us appreciate the local and distant culture we craved. We received adventure in the form of surfing lessons, hikes and playing in the waves.

Inspiration was abundant as we ventured to the lush Valley of the Temples. We were humbled by the national monument of Peal Harbor — a remnant that was met with reverence and appreciation (minus a timeout for a certain someone for going into roped-off areas). We also sat on the less-crowded beaches of the North Shore and stared out seemingly forever as the turquoise water turned to deeper shades of blue and continued on to the horizon.

A few memories I will never forget from this trip include BabyTravels gobbling down handfuls of sand, Reid’s first surfing lesson, ToddlerTravels giggling and jumping in the waves out of pure glee, and the countless cultural and historical lessons we learned from our simple beach challenge. This was a vacation that left us rejuvenated, humbled and reconnected with ourselves and generations past.

A few tips for taking young kids on beach vacations:

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Always apply sunscreen before you leave the hotel room. Once you get to the beach it will be nearly impossible to get a good coat due to sand and water.

Learn to let go. At first I tried to keep BabyTravels from eating every last granule of sand and when I gave up trying, I enjoyed the beach that much more and so did the baby.

It’s impossible to get rid of sand. Bring two swimsuits, one for the beach and one for the pool, preferably an older one for the beach.

Don’t miss out on seeing cultural and historical sights in favor of spending every day at the beach. A great mix can make an unforgettable vacation for everyone.

Hilarye Fuller lives in Salt Lake City, where she stays at home with her two young daughters and pens the travel blog DottingTheMap. For more information on the 12 in 2012 challenge and for tips and reviews, visit http://www.dottingthemap.com.