The beach is, obviously, a popular summer family destination. But even the allure of sun and sand and surf can lose its luster over the course of a week, especially if all the family — grandparents to grandkids — comes along.

Judy Collins’ family, which ranges in age from 85 to 3 when it heads to Orange Beach, Alabama, thinks they’ve got that figured out, and they’re happy to share their ideas. It takes a little planning, and a whimsical spirit.

Collins, an administrative program specialist at LSU’s Economics Department, said the family’s favorite part of beach week is its “pirate day,” which can involve everyone.

This year, the day will begin with a pirate-themed breakfast. Collins found a mold by Funnyside Up that forms two fried eggs into a pirate skull, with yolks as the eyes. Two slices of bacon arranged as crossed bones completes the effect. She plays pirate songs and videos for entertainment.

But the highlight of the day is a treasure hunt, in which it’s more about the journey than the destination.

Collins creates riddles as clues, prints them on paper which she crumbles and singes the edges to make it look ancient. Sometimes, an adult — dressed in pirate garb, of course — has a clue, but the kids don’t know which one.

“They may have to ask the adult, ‘Do you have the clue?’ The adult may say, ‘Can you bark like a dog?’ … They may say, ‘That’s a good dog, but I don’t have the clue. Go to another pirate.”

Eventually, those clues lead to a spot in the sand where the treasure chest is buried. It’s filled with doubloons, Mardi Gras beads, little plastic guns and daggers, and velvet pouches with toy rings.

“They had such a good time finding the clues and finding the treasure,” she said. “This year they’ve been hounding me: ‘When are we going to do the treasure hunt?’”

Here’s Collins’ other tips to a successful beach trip:

Plan a special trip, particularly on the water. Even if you don’t have a boat, many beach resorts have cruise boats, some of which highlight sea life, such as dolphins, or bring in nets for an up-close look at fish.

Don’t worry if your family beach photo — you know, the one where everyone is dressed in white — isn’t perfect. “There’s got to be a crier every time,” Collins said. “One kid is going to cry.”

Make meals as easy as possible. Collins said the large surface of a griddle is a must to cook breakfast for her gang of 13, which includes six children 10 and younger. A high-speed blinder for making smoothies creates healthy, popular treats, and almost every dinner is prepared in a slow cooker so no one is stuck in the kitchen all day.

Here’s a favorite:

Baked Potato Soup

Yields about 10-12 servings.


5 pounds russet potatoes, diced into about ½-inch cubes

1 medium/large yellow onion, diced

10 cloves of garlic, minced

64 ounces (8 cups) chicken stock or broth

16 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon seasoned salt

Optional garnishes: crumbled bacon, shredded cheese, green onions

1. Add potatoes, onion, garlic, seasoning and chicken stock to slow cooker.

2. Cook on High for 6 hours or Low for 10 hours.

3. Add the softened cream cheese and puree soup with an immersion blender until the cheese is incorporated and about half the soup is blended. (Alternative: remove half the soup and the cream cheese to an upright blender, then re-incorporate.)

4. Stir well, top with garnishes.

Follow George Morris on Twitter, @GWMorris.