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Summer is Here! Print My Ultimate Beach Vacation Planning & Packing list

Summer is Here! Print My Ultimate Beach Vacation Planning & Packing list

A beach-house vacation is perennially one of the most popular types of vacations for families. But they’re not as easy to plan as I first thought.

The right vacation rental can make the difference between an easy, relaxing vacation and a frustrating one. After I find the right property, I find it daunting to pack everything we need to cook, entertain kids and prep for beach days in an unfamiliar house.

beach vacation homes can provide the perfect family getaway...with a little planning

So I asked family travel writers who are moms and dads what they think is essential in a beach house rental and what is nice to have. I also asked them what they pack for their beac- house vacation.

Here is my curated pro tips for making sure a place has everything you need. Plus advice on what to bring to your vacation rental on the beach. Use it to have what you need without over-packing.

Print it Below!

I also have a printable beach vacation house packing list and check list you can download for easy reference. You’ll find it directly at the end of the post.

More Planning Tools:  
The Best Beach For Every Age Kid
My Road-Trip Safety Check list
VRBO is my go-to source reliable vacation home listings.

Beach Vacation House Must-Haves Check List

The Ideal Beach House Location

At the top of everyone’s list was a location on or near the beach.

My rule of thumb is that if the house isn’t beachfront I would prefer to not have to cross a road to get to and from the beach, especially if you have kids old enough to be coming and going on their own a bit.

Inside The Beach House

kitchen.ginsburgconstruction from pixabay

Inside the house, traveling mom ‪Lisa Nass Grabelle‪ likes a good kitchen stocked with everything she needs for cooking and eating: Pots, pans, dishware and cooking and eating utensils.

Use travel spice tins like these to take your family’s favorite flavors wherever you go.

Paige Conor ‪Totaro‪ likes to have a nice, big living room or family room where everyone can gather. “We often rent a house with friends and want space where we can congregate.”

But there can be too much togetherness even on vacation. So Kevin Wagar‪ likes to have enough space for the family to “crash out at the end of the day.” For both kids and adults “me” time is just as important on vacation as family time. 

‪Totaro‪ also does an inventory of bathrooms to make sure there are enough for all the adults and kids that will be there.

washing machine.steve buissinne from pixabay

Just about every mom said they like to see a washer/dryer to freshen up towels and bathing suits.

I like to have a place outside or at least where there is sunlight to hang bathing suits and towels to dry. Otherwise they can take forever to dry.

More: Read my best tips for doing laundry on vacation.

Wifi! It seems like a no-brainer these days but once in a while a house won’t have it, especially on more remote beaches. So be sure to ask!

Bring your Amazon Fire or Roku device for easy access to movies and your favorite shows. Even if the house has some streaming ability, bringing your own device means you don’t have to put your passwords in someone else’s device.

bring your own big fluffy beach towels when you rent a vacation house

Amy Butterfield‪ of Passsports & Pigtails appreciates it when the owners leave beach towels as well as linens for the house.

She also likes to find some basic cooking condiments are already in the cupboard when she arrives.

Julie Kullman Cohn‪ at A Cork, Fork & Passport favors a house where the owner leaves board games or even bicycles for guests.

Outside The House Check List

grilling crabs and eating them outside is the best beach house dinner.

Kevin Wagar‪ at the Wandering Wagars likes to have a place to grill outside, and a table for eating outside as well is even better.

If your place doesn’t have a grill, bring along this Coleman portable grill.

Short of that, ‪Butterfield‪ at Passports & Pigtails likes a deck or porch where she can enjoy morning coffee and an afternoon glass of wine (preferably with a sea view, of course).

If she is going to a place where mosquitos and other pests are a problem ‪Totaro‪ at All Over the Map likes a screened-in porch.

Several writers including ‪‪Jennifer St. Louis‪ like to see an outside shower so the family doesn’t drag sand in outdoors.

having a pool at your beach rental lets parents chill out while the kids play

Even near the beach some parents like to have a pool so the parents can hang out at the house while the kids can still swim and play in the water.

Karen Buffier‪ at Big Adventures for Little Feet likes a fenced in grassy yard where kids can run around unattended. “And play equipment is a bonus,” she says.

Several people said they don’t expect it but like it when a beach house owner supplies things like beach chairs, beach umbrellas, boogie boards and beach and pool toys.

Beach House Essentials Packing List

For Outside Beach Fun

When the owners don’t leave beach towels, pack these made-for travel Turkish towels. They absorb a lot of water and dry amazingly fast.

If your family likes really fluffy, oversized beach towels pack your own. Even if the owner provides towels chances are they’re not going to be top quality.

Shade is another thing owners might not provide. If they don’t, big vacation crews will like these Sun Ninja pop-up sun canopies, which stretch 7.5 feet in each direction. I like this bigger-than-the-average umbrella for its plentiful shade and quick set-up.

Readers with very little ones like the Monobeach Baby pop-up tent. It has UPF50 sun protection and a small pool area where you can pour water for kids to splash in safely.

Definitely bring your own beach blanket! I’m starting to see my readers using “sand-free” beach blankets like this one by CGear. Its fabric is woven with spaces that allow the sand to fall through. It’s rugged, has a bit of padding and comes in three sizes and nine colors. Plus it’s machine washable and folds up flat with a carry handle.

I also like this extra large RedCamp beach blanket. it’s water and sand resistant and folds up flat instead of crumbling into a compression sack, which seems easier to pack to me.

most people will bring their own beach chairs, beach toys and pool toys and boogies boards (unless they’re flying).

These nesting cups from B.Toys do a lot and are compact to pack. Sammart’s collapsible pails are handy for travel, too.

Parents with little kids pack swim vests or other swim aids.

it's smart to bring your own snorkel gear on your family beach vacation

A few parents including travel writer and consultant Chez Chesak‪ pack their own snorkel gear in sizes for kids and adults.

Kids can use snorkels in the pool and at the beach. If you go out on a snorkel excursion the tour companies don’t always have kid sizes. And in any event, do you really want to use a snorkel that other people have used?

jbl speaker

Many people bring a cooler to bring to the beach for the day even if the house is nearby. Cooler bags are lighter and easier to carry than hard-sided ones. And they often have outside straps or pockets where you can stick cups, bottle openers and snacks that don’t need to keep cool.

I like a waterproof bag for phone and money. It keeps things together and I can take it with me when I take a long beach walk. 

A bluetooth speaker is handy at the beach and in the house—some houses might have one but not all, so it’s handy to BYO. This JBL speaker is popular this summer because it’s small, clips onto bags, beach umbrellas or whatever you might want to hang it from. It’s water-resistant and has 10 hours of battery power.

Everyday Beach Items Packing List

I can’t live without these 5 everyday beach essentials. And they are so easy to forget to pack!

1. Reef-safe sunscreen with zinc-oxide and titanium dioxide: Blue Lizzard and Sun Bum both have reef safe, spf 50 sprays. They cover you and the kids in no time and don’t get clogged the way some zinc-based spray-ons do.

I like Babo Botanicals SPF-50 water-resistant stick for faces. Kids can put it on themselves from a young age. And Teen Traveler will at least cover her nose and cheeks. Also, there’s no worry about getting it in your eyes.

Australian Gold has a tinted mineral sunscreen with SPF 50 that I bought for the first time this spring and I like it a lot. Inexpensive, not chalky and easy to blend in.

2. A good sunhat: My go-to is Wallaroo‘s soft, polka-dot Scrunchie hat. It has just the right amount of brim, folds up for sticking in a tote bag or luggage, breathes on even the stickiest summer day and washes really well..

3. Sun-protective swimsuits: Rash guard and board shorts cover the parts that get sunburned most easily and save you having to reapply sunscreen all day long. A lot of moms like likes UVSkinz because they have built-in UV protection.

I swear by Tuga Swimwear for my teen and for me. Their Hawaiian prints are fun. And they keep their color and shape no matter how much salt water, chlorine and laundry detergent I throw at them.

4. A baby powder pouch: The best trick I learned from my beach-loving sister, A pouch of baby powder like Shakalo’s gets sand off of hands, feet and any other body parts amazingly quickly. Great for sand-free eating and cleaning up little ones who roll in the sand.

5. A clever tote bag: Oscaurt’s mesh beach bag holds all your stuff and leaves the sand behind. It’s sturdy, roomy, has lots of handy pockets and folds up compactly in my suitcase. Plus it comes in six colors.

For Inside The House:

a good knife and cutting board are essential in any kitchen, even a vacation home.

Travel-pro Crystal Anderson Phipps‪ at Gnomad Family has never found a good sharp kitchen knife in a rental home, so she brings her own.

She packs any spices she needs for meals she’s likely to cook, so she doesn’t need to by a whole jar for a dash of something.

She also suggests kids’ dishes and disposable sippy cups if you have little ones with you.

‪Cohn‪ says many places she has rented have had ants so she has learned to bring ant traps along.

I’m particular about pillows, so I bring my own. We also always pack allergy medicine like Zyrtec because Teen Traveler’s dust allergy bothers her more on vacation, where places don’t have all the dust-free bedding we use at home.

bring board games for adults as well as kids when you go on vacation.

Everyone suggested a few board games and card games. Most parents pack games the whole family can play but it makes sense to also bring one or two games the kids can play on their own.

If you’re part of a group it’s nice to pack a game just for the adults, too. Settlers or Catan or even Scrabble are a nice break from Exploding Kittens or Life. One of the many editions of Ticket to Ride and classic Uno are great all-ages games and easy to learn.

More: See my list of board games that travel (for all ages)

Your Downloadable Packing and checklist:

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