Beach Essentials: What To Bring For Kids

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What are the Beach Essentials for Kids?

A Family Beach Vacation with Kids can be fun if you plan ahead. Are you wondering what to bring to the beach? There are beach essentials that will make your family beach trip much smoother and simplify your time at the beach with kids. Follow these simple steps about what to take to the beach, plus Beach Packing List for Kids and Essential Beach Hacks to Simplify your Family Beach Vacation. Don’t leave home without these beach essentials for kids.

When my kids were little I sometimes wondered if all the effort it took to pull off a family vacation was really worth it. The stress, the exhaustion, the brain power it took to make sure we had everything we needed. I would return from a vacation with my kids and feel like I needed another vacation just to recover.

It doesn’t have to be that way!

In this post I will show you how to simplify your family beach vacation, so you can enjoy traveling with your kids without all the stress.

Use the Table of Contents below to quickly skip to any section of this post.

How to Prepare for a Family Beach Vacation

It is important to adjust your expectations. Realizing that a family vacation won’t be the same as when you were single or just married, will help you to mentally prepare for a different experience. You probably won’t be reading and napping all day on the beach like before you had kids. Most likely you’ll be packing up beach bags, rubbing in sunscreen and digging in the sand.

It requires a lot more effort to take your entire family on vacation and to make sure everyone has what they need. However, time together on family vacation is worth the extra effort. If you adjust your expectations then you won’t be disappointed.

Plan ahead and don’t leave everything to the last minute. There’s nothing worse that staying up packing all night before you leave on family vacation. It’s hard to remember what you need to pack when you’re tired, and traveling the next day will be miserable for you (and your family). If Mama ain’t happy then ain’t no one happy!

Do yourself a favor and start packing early. Start with the items you won’t need to use at home like the beach gear, swim wear and towels. Make a list of all the items you need to pack for your entire family and then check off as things are packed. Check out our Family Beach Vacation Packing List which will help you remember everything you need to pack to vacation with kids.

Don’t bring too much stuff. There’s a fine line between overpacking, and still making sure you have the necessary beach essentials for kids. I’ve learned over the years that over-packing is not necessary. Now I have my tried and tested family packing lists to simplify travel with kids and I want to share these with you.

Beach Essentials Packing List

BONUS: Download our FREE Beach Essentials Packing List for a day at the beach with kids.

beach essentials packing list with kids

What to bring to the Beach with Kids?

These essential beach items have tremendously helped make our family beach vacations more simple and enjoyable. Check out the details below to find out why you need these items for your next beach vacation with kids.

Beach Wagon

When you’re trying to juggle beach gear, a cooler and the kiddos two hands just isn’t enough! No one wants to carry all the beach gear to the beach in the baking hot sun! Now we have discovered the ease of using this beach wagon we’ll never go to the beach without it again! This is definitely our number one MUST HAVE beach item. And we also use our beach wagon to transport folding chairs and gear to soccer games. It has come in so handy and we love it.

Make sure to get a beach wagon with the big chunky all terrain wheels, which are much better for pulling the beach wagon through the sand. A beach buggy with smaller wheels will tend to sink and get stuck in the sand. Our beach wagon has a folding plastic tray with cup holders that are very handy on the beach. This collapsible compact beach cart is lightweight and easy to transport in our vehicle. This is our favorite beach wagon which is essential for making our family beach vacations so much easier.

Essential Beach Wagon


Create a shaded home base by using a Pop Up Canopy Tent (10’x10′ Easy-up), or a beach umbrella. It’s important, especially for children, to have a place to get out of the sun while at the beach. Remember to bring stakes or a beach umbrella sand anchor to stop the tent or umbrella from blowing away in the wind.

When our children were small we loved this Baby Beach Tent. We would line it with a blanket or beach towel, and it provided shade for little ones to play and nap.

It also gave us a sand-free area for diaper changes, and the shade was helpful as a place to keep the snacks and cooler bags out of the sun.

baby beach tent

Outdoor Blanket & Hooded Beach Towels

Bring an outdoor beach blanket to create a sand free zone, or at least attempt to! I find this is better than large beach towels. But we definitely bring hooded towels to dry off kids and keep them warm after they’ve been swimming, which also functions as a beach cover up for kids.

Freeze Water Bottles as Ice Packs

We like to use a cool bag or a portable picnic bag to carry snacks and drinks to the beach. Freeze water bottles and use them as ice packs. The water will thaw and you can drink it.

Also, make sure to bring a reusable water bottle which is easier for kids to open with sandy hands. We love the Thermos Funtainer for Kids, which is a 12 oz container available in MANY different colors and character designs. It is an insulated 12 hour cold drink stainless steel thermos, that will stay cool in the shade. And the BEST part… it does not sweat when filled with ice!

If you are spending all day at the beach, or you have a larger family and need more cooler space, then you may prefer a plastic cooler filled with ice.

Kids love to have Capri Sun Slushies at the beach. Freeze Capri Sun juice pouches overnight, then once they are half thawed cut off the top and use a spoon to eat the slush. Don’t forget to bring a pair of scissors and napkins!

Individual Snacks

Pack individual snacks which are easy to hand out to kids at the beach. They may be more expensive, but this prevents sand getting in to the family size bag of snacks! You can also divide a family size bag into individual servings using snack bags.

Avoid bringing chocolate to the beach because it will melt very quickly in the heat and create a mess!

Fill buckets with sea water for little ones to wash sandy hands before snack time. This will help prevent them eating so much sand with their snack!

Beach Bag for the Kids

When you walk down to the beach then kids can carry their own beach bags. It gives them some responsibility and is one less thing for you to manage. Last summer my almost 3 year old managed perfectly fine carrying her own beach bag essentials. I always make my kids carry their own beach towel, sun hat, sunglasses, and water bottle in their beach bag.

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Protective Sun Gear

We all know the importance of being protected from the sun. Children’s skin is especially sensitive to sunburn and should avoid too much exposure to the sun. Applying sunscreen to your family’s exposed skin will help prevent sun damage and the possibility of sunburn ruining your family beach vacation. Cover up as much as possible and spend time in the shade. Remember to pack the following protective sun gear which are beach essentials for a day at the beach with kids.

Water Shoes

The sand gets very hot and can burn the soles of feet. Water Shoes are a lifesaver to protect your little ones feet on the sand and in the water from shells, crabs etc.

Other Beach Essentials for Kids include:

Beach Essentials at Night

If your family likes to explore the beach at night then bring flashlights and glow sticks for a beach party! A net would be handy for catching crabs.

Printable Family Travel Packing Lists

Use these Printable Packing Lists for your next family road trip, beach vacation, or flight with children. Get the BE Family Travel Packing Lists to help you pack everything you need for a family vacation with a baby, toddler or kids.

family travel packing lists

Essential Beach Hacks to Simplify Family Beach Vacations

Once you have packed the beach essentials for kids, now you can consider other ways to simplify your family beach vacation. These beach hacks will save you time / money / stress. Every parent wants to reduce the effort it takes to get their kids to the beach, so that the whole family can actually relax and enjoy your family beach vacation.

Timing is everything

If your kids rarely sleep in, not even on vacation. Make the most of early risers and head to the beach in the morning. Get in a couple of hours on the beach first thing before it get’s too hot. We prefer to avoid being on the beach during the middle of the day (12:00 to 3:00 PM) and usually head back to the beach house / condo for lunch and nap time. We head back to the beach in the late afternoon (3:00 – 6:00 PM) when the sun isn’t so intense.

Beach Toys

Bring bath toys from home for your kiddos to use at the beach, rather than investing in a ton of beach toys that will only be used one a year. Plastic cups, bowls or bath toys that can be filled with water and poured are all fun activities on the beach.

A mesh laundry bag is handy to carry beach toys. You can rinse the entire bag with a water hose or outdoor shower and all the sand will be gone, then the toys can sit in the bag and air dry.

If you do want to purchase beach toys – such as tubes, sand buckets or body boards – then check your local dollar store before you leave home. These items are small to pack and travel well. They will likely be cheaper in your home town than at a tourist destination. Our children have enjoyed flying a kite on the beach, as it’s not something we tend to do at home.

A small inflatable pool can be handy for little ones. Set it up under your tent and fill it with sea water so they can play in the water, but also stay in the shade.

Safety at the Beach is Essential with Kids

Always verbally communicate with any other adults who are present to clarify who is in charge of watching the kids at any time. Do NOT assume someone else is watching the kids. If possible, take turns watching the kids and then relaxing. We love multi-generational travel with the grandparents because having extra adults on the beach helps everyone. They love spending time with the grandchildren, and it gives Mom and Dad a break from being on parent duty 24/7.

Also, bring a small first aid kit with band-aids, wipes and ointment in case of any minor injuries. Cuts and grazes can happen on the sand or in the ocean, and the salt will sting, so a handy Princess band-aid makes everything better for my girls!

Use a Ziploc Bag for Electronics

When headed to the beach with kids keep important items – such as a cell phone, cash or keys – safe and dry in a Ziploc bag. On a family beach vacation it’s always handy to keep a box of Ziploc bags in your car, because they will definitely come in handy!

Reusable Shopping Bags as Beach Bags

Use reusable shopping bags as beach bags. You can pick them up at stores like TJ Maxx or Trade Joes for $1. They are cheap, but well made, and you don’t have to worry about getting sand in them or messing up an expensive beach bag. They come in handy for beach toys, towels, snacks when you head to the beach with kids.

Baby Powder

Did you know that baby powder removes sand? Rub powder on your child’s arms and legs, and watch the sand fall off. I rarely used baby powder on my kids when they were babies, so this phenomenon is new to me. But I will definitely be trying this on our next family beach vacation this summer. I’d love to know if you’ve tried this beach hack and what you think?!

Family Beach Vacation with Kids

Beach Essentials Wrap-up

In current times many parents are concerned about how to travel with kids during a pandemic and want to know about strategies to stay healthy while traveling with children. If you are traveling by road to your beach destination then be sure to read our posts about how to simplify a road trip with kids, and make sure to bring some travel toys or toddlers or travel activities for kids. Our printable travel games will help entertain kids in the car and don’t forget the best road trip snacks for kids.

We hope the Beach Essentials Packing List will help you prepare for a beach day with kids. There’s something therapeutic about having the sun on your face, sand between your toes, feeling the sea breeze and listening to the ocean. Magic happens at the beach! Go forth with confidence because you know all the beach essentials to pack, so you can create special memories on your next family beach vacation.

And remember, let’s BE Family so you can enjoy the journey.

Until next time,
💕💖 Ruth

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Ruth Hutchins grew up in England and now lives in North Carolina with her husband, Doug, and their two young daughters. They always loved to travel, but once having children everything changed because family travel is more complicated. Traveling with a baby may feel overwhelming to new parents. Travel with a toddler can really test your patience, and traveling with kids can lead to utter chaos. However, travel with your little ones doesn’t have to be that stressful or exhausting. On the BE Family Travel blog Ruth shares her parenting wins, and even epic failures about traveling with kids. She provides resources to help you feel empowered to plan a family vacation and travel with your children.