Updated May 2020
I love the beach. I grew up being carted to one of Long Island’s many long stretches of beach once a week. And try to head there with my own child almost as often.
Beach getaways haven’t changed much since I was a kid, especially when it comes to what we carry along. My tote bag of beach essentials contains updated versions of my mom’s go-to items.
With all the stuff we have to carry for a day at the beach with kids, it’s nice to know what the best stuff is that’s actually worth carrying along in that giant tote.
Below, some of our favorite family travel writers I suggest our beach essentials, those things we never hit the sand without, even when we travel. Popping a few of these items in your bag really will you’re your beach days easier and more fun.
10 Items Every Mom Needs For The Beach
Table of contents
I always look for sunscreen with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. They’re mineral sun blocker rather than chemical sunscreens, which are safer for both people and the world’s endangered reefs..
They also seem to stay on longer and protect better than the chemical ones.
Babo Botanticals has become my new go-to brand. They have both SPF 50 sticks and lotion for faces. Regular for kids and tinted for moms. They’re sticks are less waxy and easier to apply than some other natural brands I’ve tried.
If you want to just spray yourself and your kids quickly, Babo and Garden Goddess both have reef safe, spf 30 sprays with with zinc oxide.
Sun-Protective Swim Suits
I swear by rash guards (those bathing suits that look like t-shirts) because they protect backs and shoulders—prime real estate for sunburns—without us having to reapply sunscreen all day.
Swim shorts or jammers help, too, for boys of course, and for girls as long as they’ll wear them.
We just discovered *Tuga swimwear a few summers ago. Tween Traveler likes their colorful prints and the draw-string swim shorts fit her skinny frame well. So she’s happy to cover up.
After a summer of watching her running around in them, I started buying them for myself as well. They keep their color and shape really well even with after plenty of salt water, chlorine and laundry detergent.
3. A Good Sun Hat
Sunhats are beach essentials for our fair-skinned clan. The challenge is finding a brim wide enough to protect your nose while not being so wide that your hat bumps into things.
My Answer is Wallaroo. Their soft, polka-dot *Scrunchie hats have just the right amount of brim, fold up for sticking in a tote bag or purse, and breathe well on even the stickiest summer day.
A discreet string in the back pulls tight to keep your hat stay on when sea breezes blow.
After borrowing mine for a few summers, tween traveler bought her own this year.
Becky Morales from Kid World Citizen swears by the *Shade Shack pop-up beach tent. “It’s a great sun shade.” It pops up so easily it pretty much sets itself up, she says, “And my 2YO takes naps in it.”
I can’t guarantee that your child will be so cooperative (mine never was), but it provides good shade for playing and eating, too.
You can continue to use it even as kids get older. For travel it packs up far more compactly than any umbrella.
5. Baby powder
Several moms says baby powder is one of their beach essentials. It’s brilliant for getting stand out of all those nooks and crannies where kids somehow get sand.
I love my refillable *Powder Pouch, which lets me de-sand hands before lunch and de-sand feet at the end of the day, without baby powder going all over.
And it’s small enough that you don’t mind one more thing in your tote bag.
6. Phone protection
Phones and small cameras are definitely new beach essentials, but salt and sand will quickly ruin pricey electronics.
So Ashley Nichols Jorgenson, who writes for Road Trips For Families, says, “I always make sure to put my phone in a waterproof and sand proof bag” like the *Yosh universal dry bag, which works with several phones.
“It allows me to take my phone down to the water with me so that I don’t risk someone stealing it.”
7. Sand Toys
Sometimes we just want pails and shovels that are cheap enough to leave behind when vacation is over.
But some sand toys, the ones that nest for easy packing or a few toys in one, are worth hanging on to. B. Toys has a Bazillion Buckets set of ten nesting cups. They have cool colors and designs.
Perfect for big families, serious sand-caste-building and for tots to stack and build with.
Pair them with Quut’s *Triplet digging tool, which is a shovel, rake and sieve all in one. And you’re set, with plenty of room in your tote for a book, snacks, water and sunscreen.
8. Speaking of a Tote Bag
My ideal beach bag is mesh, so that we’re more likely to leave water and sand behind. It’s sturdy, roomy, has lots of handy pockets, and folds up compactly in my suitcase.
It looks pretty much like this Dolphin bag from *Black Whale. It has seven pockets, a deep main opening and comes in easy to spot sea green and blue.
9. A Good Beach Blanket
On a trip to Hawaii with a toddler, “It took up a fair bit of room in my suitcase, but we used it everyday and it beat those sand mats that you can buy at all of the stores.”
It’s water resistant, easy to clean and folds up pretty compactly (for a blanket). Plus, the fun patterns will keep non-walkers entertained. The first time a friend pulled this blanket out at an outdoor concert I made a mental note that we had to get one.
I’m starting to see my readers using “sand-free” beach blanket. Some actually seem to let the sand fall through. Most just promise that the sand won’t cling and is easy to wipe or shake off.
They’re often made from parachute material so they’re light and durable and water-repellent. And they fold up very compactly inside compression sacks.
I haven’t tried them yet myself but I’ve been shopping around and might buy one for this summer.
10. Pop-Up Towels and Wipes
When we travel, we sometimes wind up at a beach (or lake or river) unexpectedly. And that’s where these *Lightload beach towels come in handy.
They’re not your fluffy beach towels from home. But these super compact towels unfold large enough to wrap up a cold child in. They’re absorbent enough for two of us to share one yet they dry super fast.
They’re inexpensive enough that they don’t have to make it home again, which makes them ideal for summer camp as well as vacations.
We saw these pop-out wipes from *Wysi and *Baby Bits at the NY Baby Show and wish we knew about them when we had a toddler.
They’re about the size of a quarter or a large sugar cube out of the box, but add water and you have a wipe that works well and is biodegradable.
For a mom who’s out and about a lot, they’re indispensible.
Bonus Item: Beach Chairs
I’m no longer chasing a toddler around the sand or spending most of my days in the sand building castles. I can actually sit and skim a magazine or read a book. So I’ve started bringing chairs to the beach again.
Readers like this Nice C Low Beach chair and I have to say I agree. Light, sturdy frame, cup holder, full back support and mesh to keep you cool. I’ll be picking up a couple to go with my new beach blanket!