What to pack for a Family beach vacation
Whether you are heading on a road trip up the coast, or a destination abroad, what you pack can often make or break your family beach vacation. Knowing what and how to pack can be less than relaxing. Dare I say stressful even. I’ve put together my list of 30+ essentials you’ll need, into a family beach vacation packing list, to help get your holiday off to a relaxing start.
Because, let’s be honest, travelling with kids requires a little more prep, and a whole lot more patience than that trip you took around Europe in your 20’s. Ok maybe that’s just me.
So put on your sandals and let’s get your sun, sand and surf adventure started.
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FAMILY BEACH TRIP PACKING LIST
Beach Essentials for Kids
Sun Safe UV Blocking Products
When you think of things to pack for the beach, the first thing to come to mind is likely sunscreen, and UV blocking products. Sun safe UV blocking products are an essential part of any family’s beach kit.
Most people think of sunscreen as the first line of defense. In fact this should be one of the last. There are many other things you can do to avoid too many uv rays, before even applying the sunscreen. These include:
- Wear protective clothing (long sleeve shirt & pants, hat, rashguards)
- Find or make your own shade
- Avoid going out mid day when the sun is the hottest (10am-3pm)
- Check the UV index
Sunscreen & Lip Balm
When choosing a sunscreen for my family I consider three things; ingredients, effectiveness, and impact to the environment. A day (or week) by the ocean shouldn’t end up with lobster coloured skin. We’ve been using Badger sunscreen since our kids were babies, and love them.
- Ingredients. Like a lot of parents, I worry about the impacts of what I choose for my kids. Is the sunscreen safe for their bodies and skin? Does it have as few ingredients as possible? I also have chemical sensitivities, so I can’t have any products around me with synthetic scents, or I get migraines. Luckily pure essential oils cause no problems.
- Effectiveness. Hands up if you have ever put on a supposedly water resistant sunscreen on your kid, only to have it wash off in 5 minutes? Water resistant sunscreen, with adequate broad spectrum protection is a must for a family beach vacation.
- Environment. As a family we try to minimize our impact to the environment. Is the sunscreen reef and ocean safe? The Environmental Working Group website (EWG) is the place I go to do my research on sunscreens. They put out an annual Sunscreen Guide to help people find safer, more effective products.
PRO TIP: Mineral sunblocks are the best choice if you are trying to avoid chemical sunscreen. Also pack a lip balm (or two) with SPF to avoid burnt lips.
Hats. Could there be a more contentious item of clothing for kids then a hat?
While the struggle is real to get a hat to stay on the head of kids both young and old, sun hats with UPF protection are another must. Preferably pack at least two, in case one goes missing, or gets washed out to sea, or the tag itches their head, or any of the many surprising things that can happen with hats.
Hats are a necessary addition to your family beach trip packing list.
PRO TIP: We recommend bringing at least two sun hats per child, one for the water and one for on land.
Before our Cuba trip I found Wallaroo Hats. So many fun styles for adults and kids with UPF protection. As a bonus, many are designed to be packable.
I loved the Scrunchie Hat and the Naomi Hat I bought for myself. Stylish, easy to pack, and reshaped nicely once unpacked. Miss Six wore her rainbow striped Petite Nantucket hat and Mermaid Water hat non-stop. The Petite Scrunchie Hat would be a super cute alternative for kids 5+, especially if you are into matching hats!
Swimsuits & Rashguards
Rashguards are an ideal choice, for when you want to reduce the amount of sunscreen you have to apply to your kids.
Choose one with a higher SPF rating for more sun protection and throw it over top of a swimsuit, or wear on it’s own. I prefer the long sleeve version, however they come in a variety of long/short sleeves, and one piece outfits for babies and toddlers.
Miss Six and I pack our Kanu Surf Rashguards for all beach days. The looser Women’s Solid Long-Sleeve style works well for beach lounging, sandcastle building and swimming. They have different styles of rashguards and bathing suits for the whole family.
If your children are still in diapers, a reusable swim diaper is a good eco-friendly option.
PRO TIP: If going for more than a day trip, bring at least two swimsuits / rashguards per adult and child to avoid having to pack and wear a cold, wet suit at the beach.
BEACH TRIP PACKING LIST FOR FAMILY – Safety
Family First Aid Kit
Safety First. With a family, it is always a good idea to bring a basic first aid kit on your beach vacation, that covers all the usual suspects like band-aids, antiseptic wipes and cream, guaze, and tweezers. Bites, slivers, scrapes, and stings happen.
I also like to include a few beach specific items to add to your first aid kit on your beach trip packing list for family.
After Sun Lotion
Aloe Vera gel is soothing for the skin after a hot day in the sun, or in the unfortunate event that someone gets a mild sunburn.
Bug Spray & After Bite
Don’t let a few bugs ruin your family beach vacation. Bug Spray and After Bite cream are two other essential items to add to your beach vaction packing list and first aid kit. Our daughter prefers the kid version of After Bite, as it stings less.
- Citrobug is a natural bug spray option or Badger have both worked well for us, even while camping in mosquito country.
If you are traveling somewhere where malaria, or the zika or west nile virus is present, you will want to use an EPA-registered insect repellent as recommended by the CDC. Check with a travel doctor first who can give give you their recommendations for the best products to use.
Baby Wipes, not just for babies. Baby Wipes are handy for long car or airplane rides, and wiping off sandy hands before beachtime snacks. They can also double as toilet paper in a pinch, for those inconvenient emergency pit stops.
We’ve used Aleva Naturals Bamboo Baby Wipes since Miss Six was a wee babe.
Pro Tip: Write out the local emergency numbers and keep a copy in your first aid kit, as well as add them to your phone contacts. You don’t want to be scrambling to find these numbers in an emergency situation.
Times they are a changing. It is a good idea to bring the following items just in case. They are also great for wiping down plane tables, arm rests etc. and for when you don’t have access to washing up before eating on the road:
- Hand Sanitizer
- Disinfectant Wipes
Beach Essentials – Clothing to Pack
While it’s easy to remember to pack shorts, beach themed t-shirts, tank tops and summery dresses for warm weather, there are a few other clothing essentials not to miss.
Long sleeve shirt and pants
Long sleeve shirts and pants offer some sun and bug protection and are handy for cooler mornings or evenings on the beach.
PRO TIPS: Choose light coloured cotton, linen, rayon, or light merino wool clothing that hang slightly off the body, for hot and humid destinations.
Avoid clothing made with synthetic fibres, unless it’s specifically moisture wicking.
Light Jacket or Sweater
For cooler weather or chilly nights, a light jacket or sweater is a must have and small enough to pack in your suitcase without problems.
My new favourite merino wool sweater is by J Crew. I love this sweater so much I recently put in my third order for two more colours.
Bring comfortable sandals for wandering the beach and town. Water shoes are also a good idea to protect little (and big) feet from scrapes and bruises, especially if the beach will be rocky.
Our family found Crocs to be the ultimate beach shoe for our last vacation. I know. Don’t judge us too harshly. I too swore to never wear them, BUT, they are quick to dry, good in the water and comfortable for strolling the beach, and town. Plus they have so many styles now, and Kids love them too!
For the women. A couple of other options if you are looking for a sporty, comfortable walking shoe:
- Teva Verra Sport Sandal – a more sporty look and feel
- Chaco Sandal – simple and versatile, plus great for quick drying.
Here are a few more comfortable highly recommended fashionista approved woman’s sandals:
For the whole family. Besides Crocs, our favourites over the years have been Keen sandals. They’re durable, versatile (for water and land), plus comfortable when walking for the day:
- For the little Kids water & walking sandals ( or Keen’s sandals in pink, if that’s their fav colour).
- For women’s Keen’s water & walking shoes
- For men’s Keen sandals.
I like to think of raingear as preventative packing. If I bring rain gear, it won’t rain, right?! Unfortunately weather isn’t always predictable, so it’s best to be prepared.
Rain ponchos are a light weight versatile choice. As ponchos are roomier, they fit over top of you, keeping your clothing, backpack and electronics protected from rain. They also can be used as a tarp, or a ground cover.
The Tuffo Muddy Buddy all in one rainsuit was a favourite for our daughter from 12 months, until she outgrew the largest size (5T). The rainsuit is light, waterproof, and easy to pack.
A rain jacket would be a better choice if you are expecting strong winds and heavy rains. Here are a couple of top recommendations for packable rain jackets:
Family Beach Vacation Checklist – Clothes You’ll Need
- 2 swimsuits each
- Swim Cover ups
- Long sleeve shirt / Button Down
- Skirt / Sundress
- Jeans / Capris / Yoga pants / Light pants
- Underwear / Bras
- Dress-up Dinner Outfits
- Light Sweater / Light Jacket
- Sandals / Water Shoes
- Exercise clothes / Gear / Shoes
- Rain Gear
Other Essentials to Pack
Toiletries to Pack
- Medicines / Prescriptions
- Toothpaste / Toothbrushes / Floss
- Hand Lotion
- Lip Balm
- Shampoo / Conditioner
- Hair Products
- Hair Brushes
- Hair Elastics
- Make up / Make up Remover / Make up Case
- Menstrual Products
- Shaving cream
- Nail Clippers
- Contacts / Contact Solution
Documents, ID & Cards to Bring
- Wallet / Cash
- Drivers License
- Bank & Credit Cards
- Hard Copy of Reservations
- Health Insurance Documents
- Roadside Assistance Cards / Info
- Auto Insurance Papers / Info
BEACH PACKING LIST FOR KIDS
I like to be pretty minimalist when I pack for the beach. I like to encourage my daughter to play with whatever natural objects she can find.
Although now that she is older, and sees the other kids with beach toys, floaties, snorkels and such, our packing list for the beach has grown. If you are driving to your destination and have lots of room, this may not be an issue.
However, if you are flying, or aiming to be minimalist, feel free to remove any extra toys from your beach essentials list for kids.
Fewer items, also means less for the adults to carry. Let’s face it, it’s not usually the kids who have to carry the bulk of the supplies. A win-win in my books. Now only if there was a fool proof way to avoid bringing home sand.
While most vacation rentals will provide beach towels, there are times when you may need to bring your own. Check with your hotel, or rental before you leave. Cuba was one of those times for us that was hit or miss.
One towel for each person is ideal, or at least one per child.
- Microfibre Towels are quick drying, and roll up fairly small, making them easy to pack, and are a popular beach towel option.
- Dinosaurs, Mermaids and Stripes, oh my. Hooded beach towels for babies and toddlers, are not only adorable, they can also double as a coverup. Anything that can do double duty, is an advantage for travel.
PRO TIP: Bring a compact Travel Clothesline to hang up wet items at the end of the day. Do you really want to keep throwing your family’s wet stuff over the chairs, couches, tvs at your rental?
Bring a wet bag to stick all those wet, sandy bathing suits and towels into. They come in many fun patterns, and you can avoid the pitfalls of plastic bags.
Start your sand free quest here. Use a sand-free mat, so you can bring home the mat, not the beach.
Hot sun and beach fun lead to thirsty beach goers. Taking a refillable water bottle is good tip for any type of vacation, but especially for a beach destination.
If water quality is an issue, choose a waterbottle with a filter. Don’t forget a sippy cup if your kids are little.
PRO TIP: Freeze water in your waterbottle overnight. This keeps your water colder, longer for a day at the beach with your family.
Swim Goggles or Snorkel
Swim Goggles and kids go together like peanut butter and jelly. If you ever forget them, be prepared for some unhappy kids!
A snorkelling set is a good option for older children that can keep them entertained for hours.
Life jackets are a good idea for kids, especially if your family is planning on participating in watersports. Even on calm days, the ocean can be dangerous. When choosing a kids life jacket make sure it has the following:
- Must be Coast Guard-approved. Check the label.
- A collar big enough to support your child’s head, with a grab strap on the collar.
- A safety strap between the legs, to prevent the jacket from slipping up over your child’s head.
- Reflective material.
Beach Tote or Backpack
OK, now that you have all your beach supplies gathered, you need something to put them in. Beach tote, bag or backpack. So many options depending on your preference.
We went the minimal route for our last family beach vacation. We took a small light weight, foldable backpack which also doubled as one of our carry-ons and day pack. This likely wouldn’t work if you have a baby or toddler, but a backpack diaper bag would work great, as it has all you need anyway.
If your kids are of an age they need their own back pack, check out our post on the best travel backpacks for kids. Perfect for hiking, the beach and school as well.
Family Beach Vacation Packing List – Extra Beach Supplies for Babies and Toddlers
Other items that may be helpful to have on hand at the beach if you are heading out with a baby or toddler. Some of these may only be suitable if you are travelling by car.
- Extra diapers, bottles, snacks
- Baby / Toddler Beach Shoes – perfect for wading
- Beach Tent or Umbrella for shade – or try a pop-up shade tent
- Beach Wagon – for carrying all your stuff.
- Baby Carrier – This cool and breathable, newborn to toddler carrier looks perfect for beach days
- Fitted Sheet – For babe to lie on. Anchor with beach bags for a sand barrier
- Wet Bag or Disposable Bags – for wet swimsuits or soiled diapers. This is such a sweet waterproof wetbag.
- Mesh Bags & Baby Beach Toys – keep the sand at the beach, shake out before bringing home
PACKING LIST FOR FAMILY BEACH VACATION
Entertainment & Electronics
Perhaps bringing entertainment on a beach vacation seems like a fanciful dream for those with young babies / toddlers / kids. Hopefully the kids will be worn out from all the sun and fun, and you’ll have a few quiet moments at the end of the day, to sit on the porch and read a book, or enjoy the view.
Here are the essential entertainment and electronic items you’ll want to add to your packing list for family beach vacation.
Book / Kindle
Bring a book, or a Kindle for a little quiet reading time. I prefer a Kindle as it allows me to carry hundreds of books, and it weighs hardly anything at all.
There are are also great Kindle options for kids. We like the comfort of knowing the Kindle Kids edition comes with parental controls, and is designed only for reading. There is even a dashboard where parents can adjust age filters, add books, and view reading progress.
Or try out the Kindle Fire Kids Tablet if you’re looking for a nearly indestructible device, that also gives access to not only books, but apps, games and more.
A portable charger is essential for charging your cellphones and other devices when out for the day. We have an older solar powered one, which works well for sunny beach days, but weighs a bit too much for our liking.
Waterproof Cases for Electronics
When heading to the beach you definitely want to make sure your phone, camera, e-reader etc. are protected from water, and sand with waterproof cases or sealed plastic bags.
We like taking a waterproof dry bag for cellphones, that comes with a lanyard. Cool thing is they also float.
Other Electronic Stuff
There are a few other things you may want to add to your electronics list:
- Charging cords
- iPad / Computer
- Waterproof camera (Good time to invest in a GoPro )
It’s also a good idea to have a back up plan for rainy days, or for times when your children want to hang around the hotel or beach rental.
Some of our favourite travel friendly essentials include:
- Card Games ( Uno, Sushi Go, Deck of Cards, Qwirkle, Monopoly Deal,
- Blank Notebook and pencil crayons or pens
- Mess Free Art (Melissa and Doug or Crayola)
- Kids Activity Books
- Craft supplies (stickers, beads & cord, small craft kits)
STEAM Subscription Boxes are our favourite way to bring learning and crafts on the road. Portable all-in-one boxes of fun science, technology, art, math activities. Our favourites are:
- The eco-friendly Green Kids Crafts box. Without a doubt this is an awesome set for budding scientists, who like to also get crafty.
- KiwiCo, for it’s age and box flexibility. They have fun crates for ages 0-104. Learn about other countries, create masterpieces, tinker with science and engineering projects, craft away.
- Little Passports, for the world explorers in the family.
PRO TIP: Use a soft pencil case with a see through mesh or plastic front, to keep activities such as the craft supplies organized and easily accessible.
Here’s a quick list of all the beach essentials you’ll want to gring, plus some extras for babies and toddlers.
WHAT TO PACK FOR FAMILY BEACH VACATION
Beach Vacation Checklist for Family
Here is the list of must-haves to add to your beach trip packing list for family:
- Sun Hat
- First Aid Kit
- After-sun lotion
- Bug Spray
- After Bite
- Baby Wipes
- Long sleeve shirt
- Long pants
- Light Jacket or Sweater
- Water Shoes
- Rain Gear
- Medicines / Prescriptions
- Wallet, cards, cash
- Beach Towels
- Wet bag for swimwear
- Sand-Free Mat
- Water Bottle
- Swim Goggles or Snorkel
- Life Jacket
- Beach Tote or Backpack
- Book or E-Reader
- Portable Charger
- Waterproof Electronics Case
- Charging Cords
- iPad / Computer
- Waterproof camera
- Indoor Activities: games, blank notebook & pencil crayons, crafts, kids books, journal
Here is a list of additional items you may want to add to your packing list for toddlers & babies:
- Extra diapers, bottles, snacks
- Baby / Toddler Beach Shoes
- Beach Tent or Umbrella
- Beach Wagon
- Baby Wrap / Carrier
- Fitted Sheet
- Wet Bag or Disposable Bags – for soiled diapers
- Mesh Bags & Baby Beach Toys
While this is a list of items we feel are essential for beach vacations, you don’t have to bring everything if it doesn’t work for your family.
Are there any other beach vacation essentials you won’t leave home without? Let us know in the comments below, or or social media. We would love to connect with you!
Related family vacation articles:
- Thailand: What you need to know to have a safe family vacation
- One Day Havana, Cuba Itinerary
- Easy ways to save for your next family vacation
- Cost for Family Vacation to the Bahamas
Beach Vacation Packing List: 30+ Essentials To Pack
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