Includes your own downloadable checklist for beach packing days!
We’re the type of family that love to enjoy the beach year-round. Even if it’s too cold for swimming there’s always good weather somewhere for hole digging, sandcastle building, and picnicking on the sand.
To make sure the excitement of a beach trip keeps all day, it’s essential that you are well prepared before heading to the beach with kids. Gone are the days when simply grabbing your towel, sunnies, and a good read had you sorted; a day at the beach with kids requires more preparation!
So what exactly do we take with us for a family day at the beach?
On this page, we will take you through everything that we pack for a family beach trip or a family beach vacation. We’ll assume most of you are heading there in the heat of summer, but we’ll also throw in some handy tips for winter beach exploration with kids, too.
Don’t miss our guide to the best family beach locations around the world
Keep scrolling and we’ll also give you access to our beach essentials checklist to help take the stress out of packing for the big day and forgetting any of those handy little extras.
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Important things to bring to the beach
Whilst you may not need every item for every trip to the beach, these are all the essentials to think about so your beach day with kids can run as smoothly as possible. Copy out our list here or grab the downloadable list subscribing to our community.
We also have all the items listed here ready for purchase on our Amazon Store – just check through the beach packing list for what you need!
Family Beach Bag
Once you start gathering all the gear on this list, you will be amazed at how much you need to pack! While we can all dream of everyone carrying their own stuff (or at least helping!) reality is that the grown-ups are likely to do most of the hard work.
You will want a family-sized beach bag with plenty of pockets to help carry everything, including a hiding spot for personal items, cell phones etc, to keep the family organized for the big beach day ahead.
You may have to give up a little style for practicality when it some to a family beach bag, but fear not! We have a great selection of ideas for you to help choose a suitable family beach bag.
Sunscreen & Lip Balm
We cannot reiterate enough with kids how important it is to keep a good supply of reef-safe UPF 50+ sunscreen with you ready for your day at the beach.
It is a good idea to get everyone coated up in their first layer before you leave for the beach and make sure you re-apply every few hours, even more if the kids are in the water a lot.
Sunscreen can come down a lot to personal preferences, but it’s worth researching exactly what you are buying. Do you prefer creams or spray? A separate sunscreen should be used for the face as it’s more sensitive. And if possible, reef safe, please!
Growing up as Aussie kids, we’re also big fans of additional zinc cream over the nose and cheeks as these areas are most sensitive to the sun.
And don’t forget an SPF lip balm too, this can be another very sensitive area of the body, even if not in the direct sun our lips can become cracked and dry.
It should go without saying if you’re going to get wet, you’ll want something to dry off with. We’ve tried scrimping in the past with shared towels; honestly, especially if the kids will be regularly in and out of the water, a beach towel each hugely helps if you can afford the space.
It’s a good idea to get every family member their own beach towel in a different color or pattern, so there are no arguments!
Beach Blanket / Sand-free Mat
Rather than just pulling up a towel on the beach for a full family day out, it’s essential to have a good “home base .”This will help keep items you don’t want full of sand off the beach
We love the latest designs of sand-free mats that are also waterproof and can fold up incredibly small into your beach bag. Alternatively, there are many fabulous lined blankets now that are also waterproof and include an inner lining that can be more comfortable for a full day at the beach. Make sure you include sand anchors to prevent your blanket from blowing away.
If space will allow, this is the best way to really up your game for a full day at the beach. With young children in your group, it’s absolutely essential to maximize sun protection.
There are several different designs these days from small pods just made for an infant sleeping through to full-size canopy tents and giant beach umbrellas.
We have found the family-sized beach tents to be best on a calm sunny day. Although they come with anchoring points, they are still quite susceptible to the wind.
Remember if you are using the beach umbrella route, you will need something to keep your umbrella secured in the sand, consider using some heavy-duty sand anchors.
Looking to extend your trip to the beach to an overnight stay? Click over here for all our best advice on family sand camping.
Protective Sun Clothing & Accessories
More than just bathers for a full day at the beach, you will want the kids’ skins protected with more than just sunscreen. You should also consider:
Pro Tip – we still apply sunscreen to the kid’s whole bodies, quite often they will rip their rashy shirts off during the day and this ensures they will still have some sun protection underneath.
Toddlers and babies: We know it can be challenging for them to keep this gear on for long. Try using elasticated sunglasses such as Baby Banz and sun hats with an adjustable head strap to better fit their heads
Babies will also need swim diapers – reusable swim diapers are best for the environment.
Swim Goggles, Masks & Flippers
If your kids love to swim at the beach then goggles are essential to protect their eyes in the salty water.
You can use the standard goggles they would normally use at the pool and for swim lessons, or we have found ours love the full-face googles at the beach, If you are going anywhere with interesting rock pools and sea life to explore, you may also want to consider a full kids snorkel set for the beach.
Pro tip – bring spares! Similar to the sock monster in your washing machine, goggles have a way of disappearing to the depth of your beach bag never to be found again.
If your kids normally wear glasses and do not have transition lenses or prescription goggles, remember their glasses case with a soft cleaning cloth.
This will really come down to personal preference of footwear style, our kids prefer flip flops, and others prefer crocs. Anything that can easily slip on and off for getting you from your accommodation or transport to the beach.
Pro-tip – keep shoes covered from the sun during the day, there’s nothing worse than trying to squeeze your feet back into scorching hot rubber!
If you are on a rocky, shelly or slippery beach, you may also want the kids to wear water shoes into the water. Rather than trainers, there are many good hybrid shoes now that are excellent for giving grip on all different surfaces and just made for getting wet!
Beach Balls, Sand Toys, and Surf Toys
So many choices! This will really depend on your kid’s ages and how much space you have to pack – the sky can be the limit when it comes to some beach toy sets! Just make sure your beach toys come with a carry bag, the mesh type is best.
Bucket and spade sets honestly never go out of fashion, but be realistic about just how much you need (at a minimum, we suggest a bucket per person though if space permits!).
At the very least when space is at a minimum, we do insist on at least a couple of good, highly durable beach shovels and a collapsible pail. An inflatable beach ball can help save on space.
Don’t forget toys for in the water too, our older kids love their bodyboards.
Floaties and Safety Floatation Devices
If your kids aren’t competent swimmers then a flotation device at the beach is a must.
Even if you don’t plan to go deep swimming in the ocean, a safety device will be needed near the water with young kids. How much flotation assistance they need will depend on their age, swimming ability, and propensity to run off! Ours were all cautious at first and happy to go into the water with us using a rubber ring or arm floats only with adults’ supervision.
However, we know with the best supervision in the world, little ones can try to make their escape. A great idea is to see if they will wear puddle jumpers or life jacket at all times when they’re near the water.
All floaties come with massive provisos and safety warnings, of course, you MUST supervise your kids in the water at all times, lifeguards, floaties or not!
If you are swimming with a smaller infant unable to support themselves in a floatation device, we highly recommend you try a waterproof sling or baby carrier so they can still join in the family fun safely attached to you.
Waterproof camera or phone case
I’m pretty sure you’ll want to capture some great memories from your day at the beach, whilst protecting your valuable gear!
You can start with a waterproof action camera (It doesn’t have to be a branded GoPro, there are much cheaper and more kid-friendly options). Failing which, if you’re only an occasional user you don’t need to invest in a waterproof camera, you can buy a waterproof casing for your smartphone which can hang around your neck.
Electronics Float Device
If you are taking any of your valuables near the water, make sure they have a float device! These are invaluable for cameras or phones anywhere near the water, With a built-in wrist strap, they will hopefully prevent your valuables from falling in the water in the first place, but if they do will make them much easier to retrieve.
Snacks, Water & a Family-sized Beach Cooler
No doubt about it, this one is a must for the beach! Chilled water is an absolute given for a beach trip to avoid dehydration, but don’t forget a healthy range of snacks too!
It’s best if you are planning a full day out at the beach to bring along a wheeled cooler box with ice or ice packs. It no doubt won’t take long for the ice to melt but will keep your drinks and snacks cooler for much longer. If space permits, we love these types of coolers for the beach.
For water bottles, if you are not using a family-sized chiller, make sure everyone’s water is in a well-sealed insulated bottle for cold drinks. Sand has a propensity to get in everywhere, so it’s a great idea to get the type of bottle where you can flip a cover over the lid.
If you are bringing along baby milk, we suggest a separate insulated cooler to keep the temperature regulated.
Pro tip: Freeze some fruit juice cartons of water with cordial/squash the night before. They will defrost during the day but make a wonderful slushie ice treat on the beach.
A nice-to-have rather than an essential is beach chairs. It depends really on how long you plan to be at the beach and what other gear you’ve already packed – they are by far one of the bulkiest pieces of beach kit so we personally avoid them, but they do have their purpose.
A kids’ beach chair can assist with keeping them off the ground whilst they eat their snacks, smaller children something like a Baby Delight Go With Me Chair with a built-in sun canopy is great for the beach or camping with babies, or for slightly older kids try the Rio Kids Beach Chair.
If the grandparents are along too, they may struggle to bend all the way down to the beach rug and prefer the comfort of a beach chair. We discuss in much more detail the different styles of kid’s beach chairs here.
A Small First Aid Kit
It goes without saying… anywhere you go with kids, there’s bound to be someone who gets hurt! Cuts and scrapes from sharp objects in the water are normally the most common offenders.
We keep a small first aid kit with us anywhere we travel, just make sure you check it’s fully supplied before throwing it into your beach bag, including waterproof bandaids.
Haircare; Ties and a Tangle-free Brush
For kids with long hair, this is a beach MUST! Wind and seawater don’t always play nicely, so having long hair tied back is really important. A detangler brush reduces the tears when it comes time to sort their matted hair out.
Another good suggestion for all of you, especially the ladies, is to use a leave-in conditioner before hitting the beach. This will help protect against the sun’s damaging rays by replenishing nutrients in your hair.
In all our rush to remember everything we need for the kids, don’t forget to pack in your personal items too!
Think about what you really need with you and what you can leave in your beach house or hotel room. Credit cards, change for beach concessions, cell phones. Definitely leave any of your expensive jewelry behind and have a safe spot to store everything in amongst your beach gear.
Water-resistant Speaker, Headphones (even a Book!)
OK, maybe not a total essential and may depend on your beach setup, but when we have a beach space to ourselves there’s nothing better than cranking out some family beach party tunes on a waterproof Bluetooth speaker.
Alternatively, on a crowded beach it’s polite to keep the music to yourselves, so look at waterproof headphones. We’ve become big fans of Bluetooth earbuds, but the kids haven’t quite been convinced yet!
Now we don’t want to jinx just how much “relaxing” time you’ll get, but don’t forget to back a good book for yourself too! A waterproof ebook may be best packed in your family beach bag rather than a paperback.
Baby Wipes & Beach Powder
When have we ever stopped singing the praises of baby wipes! Long after the days of tiny babies, they still come everywhere with us. You name it, runny noses, spilled snacks, small bleeds, post-ice-cream wipe up! Wet wipes are a travel essential wherever you go in the world!
And you’ve no doubt heard baby powder is good for keeping the sand off? Why not look at an alternative to ordinary baby powder, try Sandscreen – no talc and reef safe made for this purpose – we’ve had mixed success over the years!
Ziplock Bags & Trash Bags
Whilst you can invest in waterproof pouches to go with your beach bag, we’ve never seen the need for more than your standard ziplock bag.
Incredible useful for the beach from storing your valuables, to keeping your sunscreens from spilling through your bag or somewhere to collect the kids’ little finds from the beach.
Also boring but essential is a disposable trash bag. Once you through in a few snacks, and a trip to the ice cream stall, you’ll be amazed just how much trash your little family may create in one day at the beach. H
aving one designated spot in your beach set up for a medium-sized plastic bag is a great move to keep your area tidy and make sure all your litter leaves the beach with you (bonus points if you are able to take “3 for the sea” too!)
Whilst most kids will literally need dragging away, tired and exhausted at the end of the day, some will want to call it quits much earlier than you’re ready for! If you are not staying within walking distance away from your beach and need a cab or bus ride home, it pays to have a set of dry, sand-free clothing ready to go (remember your ziplock bags for accidents!)
Wet Clothing Bag
Inevitably, almost everything becomes soggy and sandy at the end of the day. Try as you might to keep the sand at bay; this is your likely end result after a big day at the beach – so you have two tactics of either keeping your wet stuff away from the dry or your dry stuff (most likely your valuables – keys, phone, wallets!) away from the wet.
We like to be all ready for the wash when we get home so keep a dry clothing bag, then once the change over has happened, we immediately fill it with our sandy wets so they can be sorted easily back at our accommodation.
Warm Blanket or Oversized Jumper
This will be season and location-dependent, but one thing we have learned from a lot of winter beach trips is once the kids are out of their cold, wet togs, they need to heat up fast.
An oversized beach blanket or slipping into one of mum or dad’s woolly jumpers has been our savior on many occasions for the kids to quickly warm themselves back up and feel snuggly whilst you pack up all your beach paraphernalia to head home.
Ultimate Family Beach Vacation Packing List
If you’d like to have this in a handy downloadable list ready for your next beach trip, head on over to our subscribers home page. We have checklists ranging from baby’s first trip to camping supplies and everything you need to pack for a big family vacation with kids.
We’ll ask you to subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletter too, but don’t worry we won’t bombard you. You can unsubscribe at any time if you just want to the checklists.
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