10 Items To Pack for Family Beach Vacations

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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.

10 Essential Beach Items for Moms & Kids

beach essentials, sunscreen

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.

1. Sunscreen

Bare Republic is my new go-to brand. It’s titanium dioxide and Zinc Oxide, which means it’s a mineral sun blocker rather than chemical sunscreen. I believe this kind of sunscreen is safer and for me they seem to stay on and protect better. Bare has a *stick and *lotion for faces, a cream, which is ideal for little kids, and spray for older kids and adults who want a quick application. The spray goes on white, but rubs in; since you can see where it goes you use less than with clear sprays.

beach essentials: sun protection
2. Sun-protecting bathing 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. ‪Sara Wellensiek from MomEndeavors likes *UVSkinz because they have built-in UV protection. We just discovered *Tuga swimwear this summer. Tiny Traveler likes their colorful prints, so she’s happy to cover up.

3. A Good Sun Hat

beach essentials: a good 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.

beach essentials: packable shade
4. Shade

‪Becky Morales from Kid World Citizen swears by the *Shade Shack pop-up beach tent (top and right). “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.” We at FamiliesGo! can’t guarantee that your child will be so cooperative, but it provides good shade for playing and eating.  You can continue to use it even as kids get older. For travel it packs up far more compactly than any umbrella.

beach essentials: baby powder
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 you 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.

beach essentials: phone protection
 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.”

beach essentials: packable sand toys
beach essentials: sand toys
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. We love the *Alto soft buckets from Quut. Pair them with the *Triplet digging tool and you’re set, with plenty of room in your tote for a book, snacks and water.

beach essentials: a mesh tote
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 one from *Black Whale. It comes in this size and a *jumbo version, both in a variety of colors.

beach essentials: a good blanket
9. A Good Beach Blanket

Lindsay Nieminen of carpe diem our way loves the popular *JJ Cole outdoor blanket. “This blanket has been a great investment for us,” she writes on her blog. 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 a friend pulled this blanket out at an outdoor concert I made a mental note that we had to get one.

10. Pop-Up Towels and Wipes

beach essentials: travel wipes
beach essentials: travel wipes
beach essentials: travel towels

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 a cold child in. They’re absorbent enough for two of us to use one yet they dry super fast. And they’re inexpensive enough that they don’t have to make it home again (though they usually do).

We saw these pop-up wipes 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. Both the ones from *Wysi and *Baby Bits look appealing.

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The 10 items you most need for family day at the beach, with no sunburn and lots of fun.

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