As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
The sun is out, and hopefully, that means you have a little beach time coming up! Our family lives for beach time! We put together this helpful beach packing list to make sure you have everything you need (and some of the things that are just really nice to have) to make your next beach trip a success.
Pick something large, comfortable to carry, and gender-neutral. You’ll want gender-neutral so that NO one in your group will be afraid to help carry that bag (otherwise mom might end up carrying it every time and can’t have that!) Don’t pick anything too fancy since it’s going to get covered in sand and potentially saltwater. You don’t want a beach bag that will get ruined by actually being used on the beach. You’ll also want either some smaller pockets in your beach bag, or a smaller bag you can stick inside to organize electronics, wallets, or any other smaller items you don’t want floating around the bottom of the bag. And if you can find something insulated, even better.
My preference is a simple mesh bag. The mesh ensures we don’t bring home ALL of the sand from the beach, and means minimal cleaning of the bag. I love this simple bag.
Somewhere to sit
No one wants a sandy butt, so bring anything you can to sit on. Bring a beach blanket that is large enough for everyone in your group, plus extra space for the stuff. We love this travel-friendly beach blanket that folds up small, and is big enough for a family.
Another great option is this amazing inflatable lounger. They are actually super cool! They have a huge opening, you can inflate them in a matter of seconds (no blowing into a tube forever), and they are surprisingly tough, and comfortable. Plus they fold up semi-small for travel.
Beach towels are kind of a given. But make sure they are on your list so they aren’t accidentally forgotten! It’s best to bring one for everyone in the group, plus maybe an extra for those that are in and out of the water all day. But if you love traveling light, don’t mind air drying, and you have a great place to sit, you can probably get away with fewer towels.
Often vacation rentals or beach hotels will stock beach towels for your use. We always look for places that include beach towels because packing your own takes up SO MUCH valuable suitcase space. However, for little guys, we sometimes make an exception. Our boys have these adorable poncho-style fox towels and they LOVE them. They are really great for kids who need to warm up and dry off, but do not want to sit still. Plus they really are cute!
Sunglasses, hats, and sun-protective clothing
Make sure everyone in your family is protected from the sun with UV protective gear. Wearing UV protective clothing is the best way to protect your skin from the sun and it minimizes the amount of sunscreen you need as well, to protect the reef, ocean animals, and your wallet.
Rash guards are great because they dry quickly, are comfortable to wear swimming or as soon as you get out of the water, and are available in all styles and colors.
You’ll also want a great hat to protect the top of your head. And sunglasses with UV protection for you and your kid’s eyes. We love Babiators for kids because they are indestructible (and if you DO manage to destroy them, they will be replaced for free), and offer 100% UVA/UVB protection. Plus they are super cute!
The state of Hawaii and the city of Key West are mandating only reef-safe sunblock be sold beginning in 2021. But no matter which beach you are visiting, it’s important to do your part to protect sea life and reefs. And it’s easy to do now, with tons of great reef-friendly options! We love Sun Bum products– they have tons of great options that will make the switch over to reef-friendly easy for your family!
Elastic for hair
If you or anyone in your family has long hair, the sun and the wind and the water is gonna tangle it just 100%. Pull it back to try to manage SOME of the tangles, or at least keep it out of your face until you can properly deal with it.
The wind and the sun can do a number on your lips. Bring chapstick for the whole family to keep those lips from cracking.
When getting in and out of the water and playing in the sand, my skin gets SO dry. Hand lotion helps keep me more comfortable and prevents any cracking from extreme dryness after a day at the beach
The beach is the best place to play with toys, according to my kiddos. And if you are traveling to the beach, beach toys don’t have to be anything special. Small monster trucks are always on our travel list because they are such a hit with my boys, and can be played with nearly anywhere.
Buckets and shovels are also so great to have. If we can’t take buckets and shovels in our suitcase, or rent them at a resort, we stop by a Target, or similar, and pick up a set. Typically, we can find something for around $10-20. At the end of our vacation, we look around for a family that is just beginning their vacation and doesn’t have sand toys. We love passing the toys on to someone who will love them ensuring that those toys are getting at least a few more days of use.
For trips where we can bring our own gear, we like quality buckets and shovels that can stand a little digging in the sand or rocks without snapping or bending. We love these strange looking, but very sturdy shovels.
If you are looking for something a little bit different, bigger bouncy balls that float are a surprisingly fun beach toy. Big beach balls are perfect for all ages. Boomerangs, kites, construction truck toys, or any favorite toy you don’t mind getting a little sandy are all great options.
Don’t forget life jackets, especially for younger kids or kids that are heading out into deeper water. If you are heading out in a kayak, paddleboard, or any kind of boat, they are often required.
The footwear you need depends on the specifics of the beach you are visiting. For rocky beaches, tide pool beaches, or anything that isn’t just soft sand, you’ll want a quality sandal. My kids absolutely love their Crocs– they protect their toes, have enough traction for climbing around, and are totally fine to go 100% into the water. Plus they come in so many fun colors and prints. And Crocs are great for adults too!
Another great protective sandal are Keens. They are comfortable and high quality, and perfect for playing in the rocks, or even hiking.
If you are visiting perfect sandy beaches, you will just want something to protect your feet from hot sand, and to wear home. I love Sanuk flip flops because they are SO comfortable and well made- I am completely obsessed with mine and wear mine constantly in the summer (even when people are telling me I NEED sneakers, like while walking around Disneyland)
An insulated water bottle
On a hot day, a bottle of water that has been heated in the sun just ISN’T what you are gonna want. Keep your water ice cold with a fantastic water bottle. ours nearby.
If you are REALLY thirsty like me, you’ll want to bring some extra water to refill. Just make sure your Hydroflask is FULL of ice so you’ll be able to cool the warmer water that you are refilling with.
Snacks that don’t melt in the sun
When you are traveling, you probably won’t have a cooler to bring with you to the beach. But you can be sure the kids are gonna work up an appetite out there swimming and playing in the sand. So make sure you bring some snacks that aren’t going to get smashed or melted in the sun. We love Clif bars (ok they might melt a TINY bit but they’ll be fine), dried fruit, and nuts because they can take a beating and still taste great.
A small first aid kit
Probably just some baby wipes, some Neosporin, and a few bandaids will be enough. It seems like someone is going to end up with some kind of cut or scrape. It’s nice to have everything you need to fix them up on the spot.
Nice to have items- if you have the space
Beach chairs for everyone
Having a chair for yourself and all your stuff is luxury at the beach! You can hang your beach bag on the back, and keep everything (relatively) sand-free, and dry. It’s great to have a really comfortable spot to watch your kiddos play while you relax, and maybe even read a book or something
Beach Umbrella or Shelter
Having a spot for some shade is so nice to have at the beach. At some point, everyone gets kinda sunned out, it seems. Or at least could use a few minutes break from the sun. Taking a few minutes in the shade can help you feel refreshed and ready for more. A 3-sided tent is great for families with babies or younger toddlers who need more shade. Standard umbrellas tend to get blown around and won’t stay put, so you’ll want something sturdy. We like
Cooler with yummy snacks
A cooler with cold drinks, and cold, fresh snacks is such a refreshing treat at the beach. I love eating fresh fruit, and maybe a nice picnic lunch while relaxing on the beach. I like bringing a lightweight, roller cooler, or cooler bag to the beach. The extreme coolers that can keep things cold are just not necessary for a day at the beach, and the extra weight makes lugging stuff from the car that much harder. The Yeti cooler bag is perfect for a day at the beach.
A cheaper cooler that’s not too big, and has wheels to help with transport to the beach is also a good option. It’ll keep snacks cold for the day no problem, and it doubles as an extra seat.
A camping table
A little table for the great snacks and beach picnic mentioned above means so many LESS plates accidentally knocked in the sand by an excited child. Or a place to put your water bottle so that sand doesn’t get into every single crack and stay there forever. It’s a super nice-to-have item if you have the budget and the space to bring it.