Socially Responsible Tybee Vacations and Family Sessions

A mother kisses her daughter during a sunrise family session on Tybee Island's south beach.

This blog post is two part: How I will prepare my photo sessions to ensure client safety and how to have a responsible vacation with advice and options so you all can feel safe while visiting Tybee and that you are taking care of others at the same time.

The reason I have such a fulfilling career is my clients and because I believe I know how to create an experience where they feel safe to express themselves and therefore walk away with images that are unique, yet true to their personalities. Well, I feel that now is the time to double down on making sure my clients feel safe. All the below protocols are because it’s simply the responsible thing to do.

STEPS FOR SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE PHOTO SESSIONS

We will utilize one of two locations for our session that are less frequented sections of beach and our sessions will occur at not peak times.

For a usually abandoned beach session please request a sunrise shoot.

Before and after each session I will thoroughly was my hands with soap and hot water.

I will wear a clean mask during our session.

I will remain six feet or more from you and your family utilizing verbal instructions during your session. This includes refraining from handshakes and hugs. ( I know this one hurts many of you like it does me, but remember we’re doing it for others, not ourselves. I’ll probably repeat over and over how much I’ve missed you due to this and try to find the best alternatives to display my affection and gratitude for you and your family in my life.)

I will follow all directives issued by government and public health officials.

Please note these are to make everyone feel equally comfortable and safe. After all, I do interact with hundreds of people over the course of the summer and I feel it my responsibility to protect you all.

STEPS FOR SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE TYBEE ISLAND VACATION

Please allow me to introduce April Collier, she is a home health physical therapist, a certified holistic nutritionist and as you’ll soon see an expert at not only vacationing on Tybee Island, but doing so away from all the crowds in every aspect of her day. She’s going to share her story with a list of recommendations at the end. If you’d like to read a bit more about April and her journey please visit her at her blog The Gut Gospel or her Instagram account where she shares health tips and life of a busy mom of two toddlers. Also, if you’d like to reach her for a free consultation to improve your overall diet and health you can find that information here.(Note: She’s also an expert at planning and preparing for family photos in Tybee island. All these images are from her and her adorable family over the years.)

April Collier’s Story

Hi, I’m April and I am a Tybee Island enthusiast. Since I first vacationed in Tybee in summer 2013, I have been somewhat biased to go anywhere else. Sure there are other beautiful beaches, seafood places and sand, but Tybee has it all without having too much at all. Let me tell you what I mean.  

I’m a bit of an introvert. I am an only child. So that summer of 2013 when I went on vacation with my husband’s family of 9 people to share one big house for a week, I was excited but also overwhelmed.  I love his family, but I also love alone time and my own routine, which is hard to find when you are vacationing with a large group of people, no matter who they are. One evening, I was desperate for solitude, so I went for a walk by myself. We were staying close to the back river, so I found the closest dock and hit the beach. There were not many people out as it was dinner time but maybe a few kite surfers which I had never witnessed before. I kept walking towards the pier side and discovered the low tide sand bar. I walked and walked. I felt like I was so free. I could walk for several yards where the deep blue sea had been just hours before, overwhelming the shore. I could see the intricate lines in the sand that the current had carved. I could find shells and other sea creatures in the tide pools. Having grown up in the rural country with less than 10 trips to the beach in my entire life, I had never seen anything like this. Most beach trips were at crowded sky rise hotels with umbrellas and chairs shoulder to shoulder with a sloped sandy shore. Tybee had given me just what I had been craving, wide open spaces with unique things you can’t just witness any time of the day. I didn’t buy it.  I didn’t sign up for a tour. I just stumbled upon it. Having no clue about tide time predictions, I made sure to make my husband go back with me the very next night to see it and of course it was awesome even with another person. That was our last vacation before having kids and I love taking my kids there to explore now too. 

Vacationing with a newborn

Due to having a fresh newborn, we did not take a vacation in 2014, but every June since 2015 (and a few random fall and spring breaks too), we go back to Tybee for our week of renewal and rejuvenation. When we were looking for a place to stay with our 1-yr-old, we needed a private place for her to sleep but did not want to pay for a 2 bedroom condo.  My husband found a great gated complex on the north end of the island with a sunset balcony view, so we could still watch it when we put our baby to bed early.  The room had a bedroom but also a built in bunk bed hallway/entryway where we could set up the pack and play and have privacy for the baby. When we checked in, the first thing I saw was an empty beach with calm waves and dolphins yards from shore. I was hooked and ready to move there. Every year we come back to stay in the same complex as we enjoy the limited crowds, the amazing pools, the proximity to everything, (yet not on top of anything), the sunsets, the view of the bay with the sunset, barges coming in and out of the port of Savannah and the dolphins following the shrimp boats.  I could literally never leave my balcony and still have the most amazing vacation. 

So what do we do while at Tybee? I’m an early riser, so I get up to walk, bike or run to the sunrise which is 1-2 miles depending on the view I want towards the lighthouse. I may pass 3-4 people total until the sun is fully up.  I usually leave about 30 minutes before sunrise as twilight is the best part of the sunrise to me. I listen to worship music and just ponder life from the sand or sitting on a rock or swing. I get back to the room about the time my kids are waking up. We make breakfast and sit on the balcony. Then we hit the beach by 8am, in which there are never many people out by then.  We watch the dolphins, boats and barges while building sand castles and catching crabs. We usually then transition to the pool (also rarely crowded) for some playtime before going back to the room for lunch, baths and naptime/rest time. After naptime, we usually play games in the room and get ready to go to an early dinner, again to beat any crowds and avoid a wait.  (Kids don’t wait well and neither does a hungry mama). Once we get back from dinner, or eat a take out dinner, we usually go back to the beach to take some pictures, explore, play or even swim if the kids are up for it.  My kids are in bed by 8 and my husband and I then enjoy music and the sunset together on the balcony. 

Things to do while on Tybee

Some other things we love to do while on Tybee are go to the Marine Science Center (new building opening in September I think?) It’s a small little center with tons of sea animals and even a touch tank.  My kids love it. I also bring my kayak down so whenever the bay is pretty calm and the dolphins are out (usually with an anchored shrimp boat), I go paddle with them. You can also rent kayaks at several places in Tybee. Taking the tour to Little Tybee island is on our list one day when the kids are bigger! Last but not least, our annual photo session with Shannon Christopher is a major highlight of our trip. We get all dressed up and go play on the beach just being ourselves and loving on each other while he captures it all for us to treasure forever in photos.  He makes us feel so at ease and there are not any tears from our kids. They think he is super fun, which makes for wonderful family photos! Our trip is not complete without our session with him, so we can take our piece of heaven and our memories home with us every year.  I found Shannon on Instagram through a hashtag search on Tybee Island. I was immediately captivated by his crisp images, perfect balance of light and how natural his subjects looked with how much fun they were having. When someone truly loves what they do, it shines through their work. With every post and new picture I saw, I knew I had to have our family photos done with him too. I can look back at every session (this summer will make #5) and remember specific things about things we did, how my daughter reacted to things, the weather, jewelry I lost, how much sand was in my dress, etc. The photo session just isn’t a photo session, it’s an experience from beginning to end and even reliving the session when you get your gallery back (very efficiently might I add). Shannon has become a dear friend of our family whom I can never thank enough for how much I treasure the gift he shares with us.

To me, our vacation at Tybee is as social distanced as it can get for a beach trip. You will not find me shoulder to shoulder trying to “see” the ocean through rows of chairs and rental umbrellas or in line at the Tiki bar. I was social distancing long before it was a “thing.” I am a physical therapist, working full time while being a wife and a mother of 2 young children. When we come on vacation, I need to relax and fill my cup as much as I possibly can, while still witnessing my children discover new things and making memories which are far more priceless than any toy I can buy them.  While it’s a family vacation, I find “me time” by getting up early to watch the sunrise, getting out during naptime to lounge by the pool or kayak with the dolphins and enjoying the sunset in the evenings with my husband.  It works for our family and as our kids get older, we will be better able to do more things with them that they are big enough to participate in. 

Health and wellness on Tybee

I am also a certified holistic nutritionist and have been chasing wellness for several years now removing all toxins from our home, lives and foods we consume to naturally remedy mental and physical health issues. The beach is just as much as part of what keeps me physically, mentally and spiritually well as any herbal supplement or massage treatment would.  Grounding on the sand while soaking up vitamin D and breathing in the salty air boosts my immune system and renews my mind year after year. I bounce out of bed every morning, eager to see what color the sunrise will be that day and what shells or creatures I may see along the way. From sun up to sun down, I take in as much Tybee as I can banking more precious memories until the next summer. Until I am able to move to the beach one day, my yearly week long home away from home will have to suffice. I always have pictures to take me back while keeping in touch/supporting my friends and their businesses through social media. I appreciate all the variety of healthy food options with only local restaurants/non chain places of business. Many of them offer fresh seafood, fresh veggies and gluten free options. Some of our favorites are The Crab Shack (Feed the gators!), The Creek House, 80 East Gastro Pub, Salt Island Fish and beer (gluten free crab cakes are to die for!), Bubba Gumbos (on the dock, a fresh as it gets), The Deck (Right on the water), Hucapoos (cheap huge pizzas), North Beach Bar and Grill, and Tybeans coffee. Most have outside seating options and/or take out options. 

Tips for avoiding crowds on Tybee Island

If you need any advice on how to make your Tybee beach vacation as socially responsible as possible, please reach out. You may be pleasantly surprised that it’s the best way to do it from here on out, as less to do is actually more. I have put together a small list of ideas to get you started.

  1. Stay on the far north end or back river (less crowded beach, calmer waves; keep in mind you can drive to other beach spots for a different experience if so desired)
  2. Get a beach house if you desire the utmost privacy
  3. If that beach house has a pool, even better
  4. Make sure you have a kitchen if you desire to only cook in and not eat out
  5. Do take out only as many offer this and don’t sit down to eat if you don’t want to
  6. Do sit down for eating if you feel comfortable, but go early (like 4-5pm) to avoid crowds and a wait
  7. Hit the beach/pool as early as possible to avoid as many other people being there. The noon-4pm sun is usually so intense we don’t mind to avoid being outside at this time. Use that time to go shop, rest, read on the balcony, play games, etc.
  8. There are several grocery stores just off the island that will do grocery pick up if needed
  9. IGA on the island will actually deliver your groceries to your house or condo for $5. (Not even kidding)
  10. Keep your distance at the pool or beach from others being respectful of where you are setting up your space.  Make sure your kids are aware of your wishes when they may attempt interaction with other kids.
  11. Rent a kayak or jet ski and go explore the water!
  12. Check out the sand bar on the back river at low tide (you can google tide schedules) IMPORTANT: do not walk super far out as the tide can turn quickly and you can get stuck or possibly drown. Pay attention to the tide timings and use common sense. 
  13. Play games in the room/on balcony with your family.
  14. Walk/jog/bike the beach in the morning or evening to get your steps in, fresh air, grounding and salty air in your lungs! (there are many bike rental shops on the island)
  15. Schedule a family photo session.  With amazing technology, payments can be done electronically online or Venmo with no exchange in person and professionals can easily shoot from a safe distance away. With all the current events, document your time together and cherish it.  I promise you will walk away with a smile on your face and the most fun you have ever had taking photos. 

email: shannon@shannonchristopher.com

706.580.1281