17 Family Beach Vacation Tips (For Successful Beach Trips With Kids)

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Heading out on a beach trip with kids?

We’ve put together some tried and true, easy family beach vacation tips to make sure your holiday is as fun-filled and stress-free as possible.

Having spent thousands of beach hours (growing up & living on an island) and 20 years experience taking beach vacations with kids of all ages, we have lots of beach trip tips to share with you.

There is something so appealing about a beach vacation. The sand, sun, beach hair, and relaxation….. Well maybe not relaxation at the beach with young kids. There’s meltdowns, and nap times, sunburns and making sure to pack all the important not to miss beach items.

Even so, there is still so much to love about family beach vacations.

Sandcastles, jumping in the waves, beach volleyball, kite flying and beach combing. Not to mention, a family holiday needs a little more planning. Ok, maybe a lot more planning.

You’ll find everything from key items to pack in your beach bag, when & where to go, beach activities, planning tips and more.


Young girl leaning over smiling, standing on seaweed covered rocks at beach.


1. Pick A Child-Friendly Beach

Young girl holding up a strand of bull kelp at a sandy beach.
Pick a family friendly beach | Photo: Packed for Life

Choosing a child friendly beach is our top beach tip for families.

Big waves can be dangerous, and scary for toddlers or young children. Avoid popular areas that are known for strong undercurrents, and large waves.

Beaches that are sheltered bays or coves are better options. Like Ala Moana Beach Park or Hanuama Bay, on Oahu, Hawaii.

Also consider what beach activities you are looking to do as a family.

A rocky, pebbly beach is fun for searching for beach treasures, and learning about tide pool creatures. However, a sandy beach is easier for swimming and sandcastle building.

If you have teens, then a beach with waves, for learning how to surf may be more up your alley. Choose your type of beach carefully.

2. Pack The Right Beach Toys, & Gear

Beach toys on the sand near the ocean.
Pack some small beach toys | Photo: “sannie32 / depositphotos”

It is a pain to get to your favourite beach destination, only to realize you forgot the water bottles, beach toys or sunscreen.

Kids don’t need a lot of fancy toys to enjoy a day at the beach.

Some of my favorite childhood beach vacation memories are building forts out of driftwood, taking walks along the sand to collect shells and special rocks, and my parents taking us to the 36 hole mini golf each year.

But it is fun to pack a couple of fun beach themed activities or gifts everyone can try out over your vacation.

Packing a beach toy set, frisbee, or a blow up beach ball or inflatable water ring can be fun options that don’t take up a lot of luggage space.

PRO BEACH TRIP TIPS: You can often rent larger beach equipment at your destination such as stand up paddleboards, and surfboards onsite. Some resorts even provide free access to water sports.

It’s always a good idea to bring your own kids life jackets, as some places may not have the right sizes for them, like the Philippines.

3 young children holding hands running down the beach. Free beach vacation cheat sheet. Grab it here.

3. Bring a Kiddie Pool

Baby in a small kiddie pool at eh beach.

A small inflatable kiddie pool is the perfect beach hack.

Keep your littles cool ( you can even stick your feet in. This is especially great if you are road tripping to a beach house, and have extra room.

4. Make a Family Beach Vacation Packing List

Create beach packing list | Photo: “dasha11 / depositphotos”

Make sure you make a beach vacation packing list, and check it twice.

From pre-trip planning and booking accomodations & finding cheaper flights, to packing clothes for multiple people, and getting your pets & house all taken care of, there are a lot of little details to keep track of.

Life is easier with a list (It’s true…..I don’t make the rules), and a beach trip is no different.

This is one of the easiest and best beach travel tips.

We like to teach our kids to pack, by getting them involved in chosing their toys & clothes.

5. Apply Sunscreen (A lot!)

Mom applying sunscreen to her daughter's face at the beach.
Tips for the Beach: Apply sunscreen regularly | Photo: “ridofranz / depositphotos”

With the excitement of arriving at the beach, coupled with hands full of gear (because let’s face it, the adults carry the most), it can be easy to forget to apply sunscreen.

Not to mention it can be hard to get your kids to sit still long enough to put sunscreen on when there’s sandcastles to build, and water to swim in, and crabs to look for.

Remember to put sunscreen on everyone before you leave for the beach. That means you too mom and dad!

Then reapply over the day, especially after being in the pool or ocean. Nothing ruins a beach vacation faster than a bad lobster sun burn, and a trip to the ER for sun stroke!

PRO BEACH TIP: Long sleeved rash guards with SPF protection, sun hats and a beach tent for shade are also useful beach gear.

6. Use a Sharpie to Write Time Sunscreen Applied

Keep track of when you last applied the sunscreen with a sharpie and your sunscreen bottle.

7. Drink Lots Of Fluids & Stay Hydrated

Glass water bottle at the edge of the ocean on a sandy beach.
Bring water bottles for everybody on your family beach vacation | Photo: “Juan Mayano / canva.com”

When having fun in sunny climates or at the beach it can be easy to forget to drink lots of fluids and stay hydrated.

Pack reusable water bottles, and drinks with electrolytes, or coconut water. Get everyone to drink at regular intervals.

Sitting in the hot sun, or doing fun beach activities like swimming, volleyball or snorkeling can easily lead to dehydration.

We’ll often bring Nuun electrolyte tablets or kids rehydration powder in our first aid kit as back up.

PRO BEACH TIPS: Freeze a couple of water bottles the night before, and you’ll have cold water as they melt in the heat throughought the day. Use insulated water bottles to keep the water cooler longer.

8. Bring A Cooler

Small cooler, beach ball, flip flops and pineapple on a sandy beach.
Bring a cooler to the beach for snacks & cool drinks | Photo: “A.Solano / canva.com”

Avoid hangry kidlets and adults by packing a cooler full of hydrating snacks.

Call your family members over for snack time before the melt downs start.

Our favorites are frozen grapes, “fizzy water” as my daughter likes to call sparkling water, and watermelon.

PRO BEACH TIP: Freeze sponges soaked in a little water & place in a plastic bag. Use on the the back of the neck for cooling off or as extra ice in your cooler.

9. Pack Sand-proof Snacks

3 kids eating watermelon on a hammock,
Beach watermelon is the best! | Photo: ” martin-dm / canva.com”

Oh those small sandy fingers reaching in to grab some chips, or veggies can ruin a families carefully planned out snack time.

Pack some easy, no-mess kid friendly snack ideas like applesauce or yogurt squeeze pouches.

Or try whole fruit like apples, grapes or watermelon slices that are easy to hold and can be easily washed off if they get sandy.

10. Avoid Peak Sun Times & Nap Times

Mom and daughter napping in a hammock in the shade.
Go to the beach early or late & avoid nap times | Photo: “JupiterImages / canva.com”

Avoid visiting the beach and doing strenuous activities during the hottest times of day. Typically that’s 11 am — 2 pm, although this may change depending on your location.

You’ll also want to factor in nap times if your baby still needs to sleep during the day. Kids are another matter. It’s rare that ours actually had a nap on beach days.

Go to the beach early in the morning, or later in the afternoon / early evening to avoid peak heat of the day.

PRO BEACH TRIP TIP: Bring a lightweight travel hammock or two you can string up in the shade between trees or the porch of your rental. Perfect for reading a book or taking a nap.

11. Be Prepared To Play At The Beach

Young girl and dad flying a kite at the beach.
Family Kite Flying in Parksville, BC | Photo: Packed for Life

Be prepared to play with your kids at the beach.

I too remember those carefree childless days of reading a favorite novel on the beach, and even closing my eyes for a few minutes.

If you go in with the mindset you’re there to relax you will be in for a shock! Save that for a couples or girls get away.

Kids are active, and being mentally prepared to dig in the sand, swim in the water, or chase your smiling child down the sand will help you create positive family memories, that will last a lifetime.

12. Prep Your Beach Bag The Night Before

Beach bag packed with  a sun hat, snealers, sunglasses, towels.
Pack a bag with important beach items | Photo: “gioiak2 / depositphotos”

Prep your beach bag the night before.

Because trying to prepare your beach bags and snacks while your excited kids distract and drive you crazy, is a recipe for losing your parent cool. Do ya feel me?!?

Once your monkeys are tucked in for the night, pack all the beach essentials you need, cut up fruit, gather snacks and freeze waterbottles. Get things done in half the time.

13. Plan For Rainy Day Activities

Mom, girl and boy walking in the beach in the rain and boots.
Don’t let a little rain stop the beach fun! | Photo: “Lopolo / Depositphotos”

No one wants to have rainy days on their family beach trip. But bad weather happens.

Plan out a few non-beach activities like a movie night (or afternoon), visits to museums or local attractions.

We like to pack a few family travel games that are small and take up just a little space.

Or bring rain gear and go for a rainy day beach walk or scavenger hunt.

PRO BEACH TIP: Check the weather forecast the week leading up to your beach trip. Make sure to pack rain jackets / gear if the weather looks iffy.

14. Bring A Beach Towel For Everyone

Young girl in butterfly towel at a beach playground
Bring beach towels for everybody! | Photo: Packed for Life

While it may be tempting to pack fewer beach towels, nobody likes to share a soggy wet beach towel.

We’ve discovered the joys of Turkish Beach Towels. Small, absorbent cotton towels that take up way less space in your suitcase or beach bag.

PRO FAMILY BEACH HACK: It can get surprisingly cool at a windy beach. For young kids bring a hooded towel that can double as a blanket.

15. Use a Sand Free Mat & Mesh Beach Tote

I want to bring more sand home, said no parent ever.

Is sand in every nook, cranny, and bedroom floor getting you down? A sand-free mat and a mesh beach tote will be your new best friends to add to your list of what to take to the beach.

PRO BEACH TIP: When bringing your baby to the beach, use an old fitted sheet as a sand free area. Place a cooler, and bags in the corners to help it keep its shape.

16. Choose Beach Destinations With Extra Activities

Look for beach destinations that have kid friendly activities readily available. Like boogie board rentals, restaurants or food vendors close by or nature reserves and hikes.

Costa Rica is one of our favorite beach destinations for this.

Looking for more beach destination ideas? Try:

Mom and daughter walking on sunny beach toward turquoise ocean

17. Bring Waterproof Bag for Phones

Keeping your cell phone dry and sand free at the beach can be a challenge. Especially with kids kicking sand up, and stomping their sandy feet all over the towels, and you.

That is why it is essential to bring waterproof bags for your phones. It can be as simple as a ziploc bag, or a special waterproof cellphone case.

How Do You Carry Everything to the Beach?

Beach wagon filled with beach gear on the sand.
Easy way to bring your gear to the beach is a wagon | Photo: “Animaflora / canva.com”

Packing for a beach trip with kids can involve a lot of gear. The best way to carry everything to the beach is in an extra large mesh beach tote.

That way you can just shake out the sand, and leave it at the beach at the end of the day. Not bring it home with you to find everywhere! Or a small lightweight, foldable backpack that can easily fit in your suitcase.

If you are taking a beach trip by car, or locally, a collapsible beach wagon is a great option. You can fill it with your beach tote, toys, gear and cooler. Then easily stick in your trunk before you leave.

You may also like: How to avoid lost lugagge & tips for dealing with delays

What Should I Pack in My Beach Bag?

When heading out for a day of sun, sand and water, there are a few essentials you’ll want to pack in your beach bag for everyone:

  • Sunscreen & Bug Spray
  • Sun Hats
  • Beach Towels
  • Wet Bag
  • Rashguards and Swimsuits / Swim Trunks
  • Floatation Devices / Life Jackets
  • Sunglasses
  • Change of clothes & Underwear
  • Water & Snacks
  • Small First Aid Kit
  • Babies (Diapers, cream, change mat, swim diaper & 1 Piece rashguard, bottles, shade tent)

How Do You Keep Kids Busy At The Beach?

Kids can pretty much keep themselves busy at the beach. There’s sand, beach treasures, driftwood forts to build and the water.

But if you are looking for fun beach activities to keep up your sleeve for older kids, or to avoid the dreaded “I’m bored” here are a few beach vacation activities:

  • Sand castle building contest
  • Bury someone in the sand (with their permission)
  • Boogie Boarding
  • Kite Flying
  • Beach comb or beach scavenger hunts
  • Build sandcastles or driftwood forts
  • Toss a Frisbee around
  • Beach Volleyball or Football
  • Beach bocce, or beach bowling
  • Play tic tac toe in the sand
  • Write poems or messages in the sand
  • Search for crabs
  • Paint rocks
  • Learn about tidepool creatures
  • Play catch
  • Read books, or comics
  • Collect beach treasures to make art back home
  • Take lessons (surfing, SUP, Kayaking, Boating)

Final Thoughts: Beach Holiday Tips & Tricks

Dreaming of a family beach vaction?

A family beach holiday can be fun for everyone, with a little planning, and an openess to the adventure of it all.

Your kids aren’t going to remember that their snacks got sandy, or that they had a melt down because you got sunscreen on their favorite red swim trunks.

What they will remember are the time you spent with them, being with them where they are at. Digging moats around your sandcastles for the alligators, teaching them to swim, and seeing how far you can walk along driftwood down the beach.

I hope these Beach Trip Trips will help your family have an awesome beach vacation.

Related beach & family vacation tips & tricks:

15 Family Beach Vacation Tips For More Fun in the Sun!

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