Spending a day at the beach with family is an incredibly fun and enjoyable outdoor activity. However, packing for a beach trip with kids is no easy feat. If you tend to get overwhelmed with how much one family needs for day at the beach, this post is for you! Today, we have Annie Hamilton, Daytona photographer and mom of four, here sharing her beach packing tips and what you really need to bring to have an enjoyable day at the beach!
It’s no secret, our family loves the beach! With all the trips we have taken, I would venture to say we are almost “beach pros.” Is that a job? I can’t think of a better way to spend the day with the family; our beach trips have led to so many great memories. I’m a firm believer that the more time you spend outside, the happier you are. However, sometimes just thinking about packing the kids up and heading to the beach is enough to give anyone anxiety. Beach trips require some planning and gear, but it doesn’t have to be stressful! Here are a few of our best packing tips and tricks for having a relaxing and stress-free beach day with your family!
Set the tone
For me, the beach is like Disney – it’s the happiest place on earth! Remember, as the parent, you set the tone for your family on each adventure you undertake. If you’re stressed and cranky, the whole family will be. And there’s nothing worse than bad attitudes in the sweltering sun. So, good attitudes are paramount! If you’re relaxed and having fun, your kids will be, too.
Lighten your load
We currently live only 14 minutes from the ocean, so our beach commute is much shorter than others. However, we didn’t always live so close to the beach. We used to have to drive much longer to get there. And with any family of 6, even packing for a short trip can be a ton of work. With so many people to think about and so much to pack, even short trips can feel like a big event.
Packing light will help with the stress-level and help you get out of the door quicker. This is especially true for a family of six, because no one ever wants to carry a million toys (dad usually turns into SuperDad; carrying it all). Our best advice is to only take the essentials (you might be surprised how little you really need) and load up the night before. This helps to make an easier trip out and avoids the initial bad attitudes and feelings of frustration and overwhelm.
Avoid peak hours
I’m a lover of light, as well as the ocean…so I usually plan our trips around the best times for lighting. This means you’ll hardly ever find us at the beach in the harsh sun in the middle of the day. Sunset is definitely our favorite time of day at the beach. We like to go a few hours before sunset to watch the kids play on their boogie boards into the evening while the sun goes down. This also means we avoid the crowds during the day and the hottest hours.
Don’t forget the sunscreen
The most important essential for a good day at the beach is sunscreen. No matter the weather, it’s always important to protect your skin from the intense rays and burn. It’s a common misconception that you can’t get sunburned when it’s overcast or cloudy. In fact, on those days you can get more sunburnt because up to 80% of the sun’s UV radiation reaches us. If you’re swimming in the ocean, I highly recommend you use a reef-safe sunscreen that protects both your kids and the environment. We’ve got a great list of the best reef-safe sunscreens for kids.
Next, let’s talk about sunscreen application. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand touching sunscreen! It usually leaves my hands feeling oily and gross. The sand sticks and it takes forever to get off. So, for a great beach hack, I like to bring along a makeup sponge and use that to apply the sunscreen to my kids. Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours before or after swimming.
Other beach essentials
Bring a beach towel for everyone and pack an extra. A bad setup could have your towels soaking up the surf!
Pack plenty of water and snacks. If we are going to spend the whole day at the beach, I like to make sure the kids have enough water bottles to stay hydrated. I pack a small cooler with ice for water, fruits and sandwiches. I like to pack individual snacks or even Lunchables. Grapes are great because you can freeze them and put them on the ice. Avoid sugary drinks when in the heat because it dehydrates them. Waters (and possibly Gatorade) is the best choice. We freeze bottles of water and place them in the cooler to keep the rest of the food cold and drink them as they melt.
Accidents happen, so pack a small First-Aid kit with bandages, Neosporin, and alcohol swabs. Baby wipes are also good to have handy, especially when sand or sunscreen gets in someone’s eyes or face. They make it much easier to help wipe it away.
Oh! and don’t forget a big blanket for everyone to lay on. We never really fussed with the pop-up tents ourselves, but some people do like them for added sun protection if you’re on the beach during peak sun hours or have really small kids that need breaks from the sun.
Sand toys for the win
Our kids are little fishies and spend the majority of their time in the water. They don’t need a lot of toys to keep them entertained or occupied. But when the sun starts going down, they always settle in the sand and start building sandcastles. Watching the sun go down as my kids make sandcastles will forever be my favorite memories. For us, sand/beach toys are essential. Luckily, they’re usually very inexpensive and light enough not to weigh us down when packing them.
Make sure to pack a shovel and pale with a few sand castle shapers. Shapers are fun if you have them, but the kids can do a lot with just a shovel and pale…trust me. A quick sand castle tip, if I’ve learned anything from my boys, it’s that to make a perfect sandcastle it requires a little water to the sand to help mold it. You’re welcome!
Boogie boards & beyond
My kids enjoy boogie boarding. They can spend hours floating in the ocean or riding the waves on their boards. If your kids are 3 and up, adventurous, and love the water, then I highly recommend getting one. They will go out there and ride the waves for hours! You can pick these up at any store and beach towns usually carry them as well.
Don’t forget a frisbee or a ball to toss around. A quick tip is to bring a mesh laundry bag to put the beach toys in. This helps to rinse them off, reducing the amount of sand that comes home.
What to wear to the beach?
We always head to the beach already dressed in our swimsuits. We find it much easier to get dressed before leaving the house so we’re ready to go when we get there. For my boys, they wear bathing suit shorts with rash guards. My girls, if it’s mid-day or a long day at the beach, tend to wear long-sleeve rash guard-type swimsuit. Rashguards give skin extra protection from the sun, which also means less area you have to cover with sunscreen. Even with a rashguard, make sure to reapply the sunscreen every few hours. I have noticed over the years that while my kids are busy building in the sand, their backs, back of neck and the back of their legs tend to get the most sun.
My kids would never keep a hat on but if your kids will it doesn’t hurt to bring one to protect from the sun. We used to spend money on swim shoes but after a while we learned they weren’t necessary unless you’re going to a beach with lots of rocks or sharp shells.
Optional non-essential beach items
Here are a few extra things I like to bring to the beach that help make the trip smoother.
- Net – If your kids are into seashells, bring a net. You can find these cheap in the beach toy section at most stores or in the fishing section. My youngest is a novelist seashell collector. While everyone else is in the water, you can find her on the shore shifting through seashells. She has found some pretty amazing and beautiful shells….and even fish!
- Vinyl bag – These are great to throw the wet bathing suits and towels into. They won’t get everything else in the car wet on the way home and keep the sand from getting everywhere.
- Tunes – We love music, so we bring along a little Sony Bluetooth speaker.
- Baby powder – Yes, baby powder works great to help you get all the sand off your skin. Once you’ve dried off, sprinkle it over your feet and legs. The sand just wipes right off and your skin is smooth. My kids absolutely love that trick!
Don’t forget a camera!
If you’re like me and you like to capture the memories, I highly suggest a GoPro. They are exceptional at capturing photos mid-day in bright sunlight. They also have so many accessories that make them safe to shoot near sand and water. I personally love the dome because were pretty much always around water and it allows me to take photos over and under the water at the same time. Plus, the GoPro is so small and super easy to pack along with you!
Beach day packing tips
So, there you have it! Everything you need to pack for a successful and stress-free day at the beach with kids! Do you feel more prepared now? We certainly hope that after reading this you’ve picked a new tip or two! Now, get your packing list ready and head to the beach! Enjoy the sun and make those memories with your family!
About the author
Annie is a wife to a USMC veteran and mother of 4 adventurous kids (2 boys then 2 girls) based in Daytona, Florida. Her family’s love for traveling and adventure comes from moving around in the military and they believe home is where the heart is. Annie’s Ecuadorian and I’m fluent in Spanish. Her love for photography comes from growing up in the movie industry, on the set of shows like Miami Vice and Bad Boys 2. Now she enjoys capturing her children making memories, exploring, and adventuring as a family. As a South Florida native, she’s a beach connoisseur and you can usually find her family at the beach. Annie and her husband are big fans of creating joy and magic with their kids. The oldest son loves to breakdance, the middle son is getting into surfing, the middle daughter takes horseback riding lessons, and the youngest is in ballet. The oldest three also play baseball. Needless to say, there’s never a dull moment in this family!