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Beach Day Packing List (and Why You Need One)

A day at the beach with young kids really needs to be strategically planned. So much can go wrong, and your littles are still learning to be patient and not to whine and cry when they’re uncomfortable or not getting their way.

I don’t know about you, but even though I have twin 3.5 year-olds, I have a pretty low tolerance for whining and crying. It wears me down so much that I easily let it turn my relaxing day trip to the beach into a day from hell.

That’s exactly what I experienced yesterday. And you know why? Because I didn’t have a plan. I naively thought that living 20 minutes from the beach meant not needing that much stuff. Boy was I wrong.

Even though our first trip to the beach this summer only lasted a few hours, it felt like days – and I was a hot mess by the time we got home.

And you know what I did when I finally got my grumpy kids to bed? I sat down and made a perfect beach day packing list as a reminder to myself and as a helpful guide to you.

1. A Big Family Beach Bag

Everybody loves those big mesh beach bags, but I don’t understand why.

  • Just because they’re made of mesh doesn’t mean sand won’t collect in there.
  • They don’t stand up on their own unless they’re completely full which makes packing them a pain in the butt.
  • They don’t have a zipper closure to keep out sand and water.
  • Some don’t even have a waterproof pocket to keep your phone and keys in.

So yes, they’re cheap, but I’d be better off just using an IKEA shopping bag or one of these large utility totes – and we all have those around the house, don’t we? (I use them for camping too.) I just put my keys and phone in a Ziploc bag.

If you’d like to see everything in pictures, click here to go to my personal Amazon shopping page.

RELATED: How to Make the Best of an Overseas Flight with Babies

2. Sunscreen

While researching this post I came across this sunscreen tip: liberally apply sunscreen-lotion to your naked child while still at home in the bath tub. Put so much on that you have to wait for it to sink in. Then once you’re at the beach, set a timer on your phone to remind you to periodically reapply sunscreen-spray.

3. Bug spray

You wouldn’t think the beach would be a place where bugs like to hang out, but unfortunately that’s not always the case.

4. Cold hard cash

You may have to pay for parking.

And some beaches have ice cream or food vendors (which can be a great incentive for good behavior 😉)

5. Beach towels

The prices for beach towels are insane. Sure, it would be fun to have one with nautical or tropical patterns on it, but you know what? My 5 year old IKEA bath sheets do the job too.

6. Hats & sunglasses

I am unable to keep hats on my children, but I love wearing mine. Don’t forget the sunglasses!

7. Cover ups

Since our towels are usually used for sitting on, I have these awesome bathing suit cover ups for kids. I got a pink one for my daughter and a blue one for my son. They’re way too pricey for what they are – at least we got 2 years use out of them.

Next year I’m getting some inexpensive hooded beach ponchos. Just pull them down over their heads and you don’t have to mess with a zipper all.day.long.

I love the chiffon tassel kaftan I got for myself on Amazon.

8. Extra Clothes

Sometimes it’s colder and windier at the beach than you expected when you left the house.

It may even be so cold that you have to change them out of their wet swimsuit and put them in dry clothes (or an extra suit if you have one!) Then they’ll splash and play in the waves again, getting at least their shorts wet, then they’ll want dry shorts, which they will again get wet again…yeah, you know the drill.

I decided to put 2 extra outfits for each kid on my perfect beach day packing list. If more is needed, then it’s time to go home!

I also like to have one more outfit in the car when we’re ready to head home (or go out for ice cream or dinner.)

9. Ziploc Bags

Don’t forget your ziploc bags to put all those wet and sandy clothes in.

( I’m a big fan of Ziploc bags, have you noticed? )

10. The potty

If your little one is beyond the age of swim diapers and the public restroom is a half-days hike away from your spot on the beach, you may want to consider having one of these inflatable potties.

It deflates into nothing so you just stuff it in your beach bag no problem. But 20 bucks for a tiny inflatable ring…really? Needless to say, I’m still on the fence about it (but I really wish I had one!)

11. Spray Bottle

A small spray bottle filled with tap water is a great way to wash the sand and salt off.

12. Beach Toys

We just throw all our beach toys in this big red bucket. When we get to the beach I fill it up with water and bring it up to our beach spot. The kids love to splash and make sand castles with it.

When we get back from the beach we just put it back on the shelf and let it air out for next time.

I’ve found that the average beach toys still do the trick for our kids – nothing fancy here. All we have are:

13. Puddle Jumpers vs. Arm Band Swim Trainers

As a mom, I think puddle jumpers are an awesome invention! But my kids hate them because they’re so bulky and confining.

They love to wear arm band swim trainers (we call them “swimmiesor “child floaties”), and the freedom of movement with them has even led my kids to almost be able to swim on their own – hence the name “swim trainers.”

We have both these from Speedo and these neon orange ones. While the blue ones aren’t as bulky, buoyant, or visible as the neon orange ones, I can only say good things about them – and my kids love ’em both.

14. Food and drinks to take to the beach in the cooler bag

Nothing fancy here. We prefer a cooler bag over a regular cooler because they’re lighter and more compact.

  • Drinks include water and juice boxes.
  • I like to make up a big fruit salad with grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and watermelon. I serve up small portions in plastic cups.
  • For lunch, I’ll bring salami, mayo, cheese and lettuce sandwiches (plus a peanut butter sandwich for my picky eater) and maybe small bags of chips. I cut the sandwiches in little triangles and hand them out one-by-one so that if one falls in the sand, the whole sandwich isn’t ruined.
  • Get freezer pops for a special treat. It’s no big deal if they melt a little in the cooler bag and they don’t make too much of a mess.

I also like to keep a few bottles of frozen water in the car so that we have some nice cold water for the drive home.

15. Beach Tent

I love this beach tent, and this is why:

  • Fast setup and breakdown even for 1 person (s. video below and yes, it REALLY is that easy) – no extra poles or ropes.
  • Stands up great to wind – use the stakes and fill the bags with sand for extra security. Also, bring gallon sized Ziploc bags and put the sand in those prior to putting in the pockets on the tent, it makes tear down so much easier!
  • There’s plenty of room for 2 adults and 3 kids to sit in comfortably.
  • You can use the extendable floor to close up the tent for nap time or changing clothes.
  • It has windows for cross ventilation.
  • It has an easy-to-access pocket for keys, phone or wallet.
  • The carrying bag is big enough so you can actually get the tent back in there after you’ve set it up for the first time.

It is a bit pricey just for just taking to the beach a few times a year. But you can also use it for picnics, sport events or any other time you want to protect yourself and your kids from the elements.

16. Beach Chairs – yes or no?

Have you looked at the prices of those heavy, bulky, uncomfortable, aluminum framed beach chairs these days? They’re crazy expensive and a pain to lug around!

I just don’t understand why you’d buy one if you can use a beach lounger or a camping chair instead.

Tip: to prevent your wet, sandy kids from rolling around in your chair, make sure you get them their own kid’s camping chair – they’re not as expensive as you’d think and it’ll help keep their snacks and drinks out of the sand.

17. beach transportation for all the stuff

Of course, it would be really awesome if you had a beach cart or beach wagon to transport your heavy beach chairs and all your other beach gear.

I just can’t make myself spend a hundred bucks on beach transportation (yet!). So we travel light and just sit on our beach towels on the floor of our beach tent – not so comfy for our old bones, but it keeps us young. 😉

Another alternative would be to just spread out an old bed sheet and anchor it down with stones, shoes, or Ziploc bags full of sand.

18. Solar Shower

Fill up your solar shower with warm tap water at home and leave it in the car where it will warm up even more.

Use it to wash off before getting in the car.

We used this one on our last 2-week camping trip and now it’s our new friend at the beach!

19. Beach Safety Tip for Families with Young Kids

My twins were expert escape artists until the age of 3, at which age they finally decided it might be a good idea to stay close to the one who brings the juice and sandwiches. 😉

It didn’t matter how hard I tried to focus on their whereabouts, I’d get distracted and then they’d make their disappearing act (in two different directions!)

I came across these waterproof safety tattoos in Amazon and thought they were an cute alternative to just taking a marker and writing it directly on their skin. 😉

Beach Day Packing List

Even though it may feel like you’re packing for a two-week camping trip, it’s better to be prepared for all the little things that come up during a day at the beach with young children. So just sit down and make your own perfect beach day packing list – it’ll save you time in the long run, and your nerves will thank you for it.

If you’d like to see everything in pictures, click here to go to my personal Amazon shopping page.

RELATED: How to Make the Best of an Overseas Flight with Babies

RELATED: What you Need to Pack for Your Trip to Europe

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A PERFECT BEACH DAY PACKING LIST - Planning is key to having a perfect day at the beach with young kids. Make sure you have everything you need by creating a beach day packing list. Here's a basic list of what you need to bring to the beach with small children. You don't want to pack to much, but you don't want to miss any toddler beach essentials. #beach #beachpackinglist #beachessentials #toddlerpackinglist #toddleratthebeach #perfectbeachday motherslittlehelpers.net