Fresh off of our recent family beach day, I decided to put together this guide on what to pack for the beach. These beach essentials are must-haves, whether your vacation is just a day trip like ours was or if you are going on an extended beach vacation. Read on to find out our top picks for beach essentials. Make sure to snag our free PDF checklist for a comprehensive packing list for your next family beach trip!
Our family has a wide mix of skin tones, some more resistant to sunburns than others, but we always make sure to bring tons of sunblock. We tend to stick with SPF 50 because it is easier to apply, especially in lotion form. We always pick up a mix of both sprays and creams.
Spray-on sunblock is much easier to apply but because it's clear, it can be harder to make sure that you are getting sufficient coverage, so be extra careful with that. Also, since we know we're going to be getting wet (both from the water and from just being sweaty on a hot day) we make sure to get the sport or water/wet skin versions.
We like have a baby/toddler sunblock on hand for Reeves. Lastly, because some of us have sensitive skin, we often pack special sunblock that's just for our faces.
2. Portable Beach Umbrella/Tent
While sunblock helps to protect our skin from too much sun exposure, nothing does that better than some actual shade. It can be a bit of a hassle to pack in a beach umbrella or tent but it is absolutely worth it.
After years of living nowhere near water (in Dallas, Texas), we didn't own any portable umbrellas and didn't think to bring one with us on our recent family day at the beach. We all suffered for it. Even though the temperature was a relatively mild 85 degrees, the few hours we spent in the sun really zapped our energy. I wish that we'd thought ahead and purchased a nice beach tent to provide a much-needed break from those sun rays.
When it comes to bringing your own shade to the beach, you have a couple of options. You can go with a traditional single pole umbrella, a pop-up tent, or a full-on cabana. The prior two are more portable than the latter but they also provide less shaded space.
I'm a huge fan of the pop-up tents especially because they are so versatile. You can use them on the beach, at a picnic in the park, or even camping, depending on the model that you choose. If you are staying at a hotel, you can also call ahead to see if they have umbrellas available to rent. Sometimes the extra cost is worth the convenience of not having to pack more things for your trip.
3. Beach Blankets
Even if you have a nice pop-up tent or cabana to give you some shade, you'll also want to bring a nice big beach blanket for your family to spread out and relax on. I don't know about you, but I'm not a fan of using my individual beach towel on the sand and then later trying to dry off with it when we're leaving the beach. Having a separate towel for that helps keep things a little less sandy.
4. Flip flops
For our Singapore trip last year, I invested in a gorgeous pair of Taos Truly sandals. I love them to death. Not only are they stylish and go with pretty much everything, but they were so comfortable that I was able to walk in them all day during our Singapore trip without any problems. So, of course, they were the first thing that I grabbed when we were heading to the beach. But they were actually pretty difficult to walk in on the sand.
I ended up switching to a pair of Keens that I brought along just in case. A pair of flip-flops would have done nicely as well. When it comes to beach shoes, simple and waterproof is the way to go. Leave the nicer sandals (like the Taos) in the car.
If you are going to be on the beach for any length of time, you are going to get thirsty. Some beaches have plenty of eateries right off the boardwalk that are willing to sell you a cool drink (for a premium of course). But it can be a bit of a pain having to walk back and forth when you can just carry a small cooler and keep your beverages with you right near the water.
I love the idea of pre-packing lunch in a picnic cooler for a relaxing meal right by the water. That way you can avoid the lunch rush at the boardwalk spots.
6. Sand toys
A family trip to the beach just isn't a trip to the beach without the obligatory sand castles. Building them never gets old. My kids can play in the sand for hours without ever even touching the ocean. Look for a set that has a carrying case for easy portability. Ours gets tons of use thanks to the adorable frog-shaped sandbox in our backyard.
7. Beach bag
Unless you are staying at a hotel or house right on the beach, chances are you are going to be hauling quite a bit of stuff with you out to your chose spot by the shore. You'll want to have a couple of nice big bags to carry everything in.
Now, I prefer a large mesh tote because it's a lot easier to get sand out of at the end of the day and it dries faster. Joseph prefers a backpacks style because it's much easier to carry–particularly if you have little ones that may want to ride in your arms.
8. Waterproof Wallet
When it comes to protecting valuables at the beach, the best thing to do is to not bring them with you at all. Leave them safely locked up in your hotel room or in your car. Not having to worry about your valuables means you can just relax and have fun.
But there are some things that you will have to keep on you no matter what–like the keys to your car or hotel room where your valuables are locked up. A waterproof wallet is a perfect solution for holding your smaller valuables so that you can spend your time enjoying the water without having to keep one eyeball on your things the entire time.
9. Insulated water bottles
I'm not going to lie, I love enjoying a good fruity blended beverage with an umbrella while lounging at the beach, but it's really important to make sure that you and your family stay properly hydrated. That means drinking lots of water throughout the day.
Even when we are traveling, we try not to purchase bottled water and opt to use reusable bottles instead. Insulated water bottles help keep the contents cooler longer than standard water bottles. We either load them up with water and freeze them the night before or fill them up with ice the day of if there is no freezer available.
10. Wet/Dry Bags
At the end of your family fun beach day, you'll be left with a pile of soggy, sandy laundry. Wet/dry bags are a perfect solution for keeping your used beach items separate from all of the rest of your things. Then when you get home, you can toss it in with the rest of the laundry!