Packing tips for a beach vacation with kids

Nov. 19, 2021


If you're planning a beach vacation, here are plenty of sandcastles, water games and hops in front of you for a family moment. Our best beach trips are the ones where we pack all the important tools and toys, but also the ones where we don't overpack. What we bring depends on where we're going and whether we're driving or flying to our destination. Here are our shared tips for packing for a beach vacation with kids.


Tips for packing for a beach vacation with kids

When packing for a trip to the beach with kids, you want to find the best place for you where you can have everything you need without overpacking. Knowing your destination and the types of beach facilities available there can help you plan. If you're visiting a beachfront resort that offers lounge chairs, umbrellas, towels and even toys, you'll only need the essentials. When driving to find your own public beach, you'll want to bring more items from home. If traveling by air, you will be limited to a few basics and may be able to purchase or rent some items when you arrive at your destination.

Sometimes we stay at a beach resort and do some exploring on our own. Do your research by asking about items included in your hotel or available to rent nearby. When I arrive, I make a list of items to purchase to make sure we have everything we need and free up luggage space.


Pack the necessary sun protection

Wherever you go, you'll need to add these items to your list when packing for a beach vacation with kids: hats/masks, sunglasses, swimwear, UV protection shirts or UV protection sets, reef-safe sunscreen, lip balm with sunscreen, these are so important!

You can pack these items or add them to your shopping list of items to purchase when you arrive. Sometimes it's easier to buy full-size liquid sunscreen at your destination during your flight. Some beach destinations in Hawaii and Florida have banned the sale of chemical sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate to protect coral reefs and marine life.

At the beach and in the water, each of us wears a wide-brimmed hat with a hat band to protect our heads and faces. Although the sand and water reflect the sun's rays, taking these steps definitely helps minimize sun damage and keeps everyone from burning and feeling excited.

A full UV suit will protect your child's sensitive skin. This saves us time and saves her from accidental burns and sun damage because we only need to apply sunscreen to her face, ears, hands and feet. Keep in mind that wet UV protective clothing can leave the body cold after leaving the water.


If you are not at a resort beach that provides shade, bring a parasol or some kind of shade to help keep those rays off of you. Seeking shade under trees is also possible, but this option is not always available. Setting up camp in the shade will also keep food from getting cold and water bottles from getting hot.

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Bring beach toys

The best beach toys are somewhat lightweight and easy to carry. Be sure to label all toys. Many toys look the same and labeling them will eliminate confusion!

Some of our favorite beach toy essentials include.

▸ Buckets and shovels


▸ A heavy ball

▸ A kite

▸ A plank with a wrist strap

▸ A diving suit

▸ A floating object

▸ Mask, snorkel and flippers

Speaking of balls, special water balls float and are perfect for catch games at the beach or pool. Ground toss sets are slightly heavier. Make a fun open beach floorball game that the whole family can enjoy together.

In addition to having fun, water buckets also come in handy. Fill it with water to rinse sand off your hands and clean your flippers and feet while you snack. Buckets are great for holding a few other toys or items.

Many beach destinations do not require a wetsuit. However, short wetsuits with short arms and legs are more convenient. Suits with sleeves are more suitable for winter. If you don't want to bring a wetsuit or don't have one, you can sometimes rent one.

Are you visiting an area known for snorkeling? If you have a good mask, snorkel and flippers, bring them with you if you have time. If the snorkeling gear is too bulky to carry, you may be able to rent snorkeling gear at your destination. Some hotels rent them. If you are taking a snorkeling trip, the company should provide the equipment. If you want to get off on your own, bring your own equipment, which is probably much better than most rental equipment.


Some essential health and safety items

Life jacket (if your child is not a strong swimmer)

▸ Swimming goggles

▸ If exploring tide pools, wear sneakers, water shoes or sturdy open-toed shoes (flip-flops are too slippery and dangerous)

▸ Swim diapers for infants, toddlers and newly toilet-trained children

▸ Bottle of fresh water to rinse sand out of eyes (don't rub eyes)

▸ First aid kit

Although disposable swim diapers exist, the reusable kind come with plastic liners and elastic bands at the waist and legs to prevent solid waste from escaping.

On all of our water vacations, we carry a small first aid kit with us. We always seem to use it for disinfectant wipes, antibiotic cream and bandages. Tweezers can remove debris or sea urchin spines. These medications (painkillers and antihistamines) come in handy if anyone has a headache, allergic reaction or other discomfort. Having a first aid kit helps mitigate the damage of minor accidents so we can have fun again. Pack adult and child doses.


With some preparation for your beach vacation with the kids, you'll be well prepared for the beach fun to come.


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