visit the Cape Cod national Seashore during your trip

A Stress-Free Vacation: The Ultimate Beach Packing List for Families

Are you planning a beach vacation but need help with the decisions on what to pack? As a mom of three, I understand your frustration and am here to help!

Growing up in Georgia, I spent my childhood vacationing on Florida’s panhandle. As soon as I became a mom, I couldn’t wait to raise my kids in the same tradition! Our oldest’s first beach trip was with college friends to Ocean Isle, North Carolina when he was almost three months old!

Over the last decade, my husband and I have perfected the best items for our annual beach trip. We’ve made many mistakes along the way and have found our groove. I’m excited to share my expertise on the best beach packing list for your next family vacation. 

Beach packing list

Short on Time? Here’s a quick list of my favorites!
Beach Chairs
Beach Umbrella
Beach Canopy for Babies
Face Sunscreen for All ages
Kids Face Sunscreen
Packing Cubes
Beach Bag
Beach Towels
Sand Toys
Blanket
Cooler for Beach Days
Favorite Yeti Cooler
Adult water bottle
Kid water bottle
Baby Sun Hat
Toddler Swim Vest
Youth Life Jacket

Packing for the Beach

Embarking on a family beach adventure is an exciting but stressful time. Picture sandy toes, laughter echoing through the waves, and the warm sun kissing your skin. But we understand the challenges of orchestrating a seamless beach day for the entire family.

Let’s dive into the ultimate beach packing guide that will turn your family beach day into a seamless and joyful adventure! I’ve covered my beach essentials for the whole family.

enjoying activities on the water

Beach Necessities

Beach

If you are like me and enjoy a long day at the beach, you need a comfortable chair that is also easy to carry. My favorite chairs are like a book bag, which frees your hands for other beach supplies or even a baby!

Also, I suggest a chair you can sit on at the water’s edge. It is a great way to relax while your kids play in the sand. You want a fabric that will dry quickly. 

Tip: These Tommy Bahama chairs are our favorite, and we’ve been using this brand for years. Sometimes, Costco & Sam’s sells them at a discounted price in the spring.

packing list for families

Sun Protection

I’m vigilant about protecting my kids’ skin from too much sun, so we always have coverage on the beach, especially in spring, summer, and fall when you have intense heat. 

We own several sturdy and dependable beach umbrellas and use sand anchors to help us keep them in the sand. Some beach-goers prefer more considerable sun coverage, such as a beach tent or sunshade. During our Cape Cod summer vacation,I noticed many families with larger tents. If desire coverage for babies and little kids, this canopy is perfect for that age.

Pro-tip: Make sure your vacation destination allows these on the beach, as they are at a higher price point than umbrellas. Where we vacation on 30A, these are NOT allowed. However, we spent a summer vacation at Indian Pass, Florida, and there were no rules since the beaches were less crowded. 

Sunscreen

the best sunscreen for a beach trip

Most importantly, you must pack sunscreen, and I always bring extra as we go through it quickly since we reapply every few hours. I typically like to start the kids with a liquid base on their bodies with special face lotion since they all have sensitive skin. As the day goes on, we reapply with sprays as it is so much easier, especially with little kids.

Some of my kids and husband need lip balm, too. Elta MD is my personal preference for our face and is always one of the essential items in my beach bag. If you are traveling in some areas, you may need reef-safe sunscreen

Pro tip: It is a good idea to try out a new sunscreen before your beach trip in case there are any reactions, and don’t forget aloe vera!

Beach Bag

When you pack up for a beach day, you need the right bag to carry your snacks, sunscreen, and towels. You need something sturdy and easy to clean. Over the years, I have experimented with many bags and finally found my absolute favorite bag from Scout.

I also love packing my sunscreen and phone in a smaller Scout Bag. Many prefer Bogg Bags, but I find them too heavy once I load up all my necessities.

Scout makes the best bags for the beach

Beach Towels

We always throw a few towels in the bag for everyone to share. I’m a huge fan of Amazon Basics towels for the kids, and then I have a friend monogram them for me. Each kid has two personalized towels, so there’s never any fighting over them. I also prefer these towels for kids because adult beach towels are significantly large and thicker & take up more space in the beach bag.

Tip- I’ve had these towels for years, and they have survived numerous beach trips and summers at the lake & pool and are still in good shape.

Some prefer setting down a flat white sheet or using a beach blanket. This is a great option for toddlers and babies once they can sit up. Our mother-in-law gifted us the sand cloud blanket, which is so nice to use on the sand. 

Cooler

We spend most of our beach vacations in 30A, and the heat can be brutal. We love a bookbag cooler because it is easy for the kids to carry and frees up our hands. We throw in kid and adult water bottles and favorite beach snacks like oranges, meat sticks, applesauce, and goldfish. This is extremely affordable and has survived several beach trips. It is also very easy to clean!

We also bring larger coolers for the car trips. Since we are a family of five and travel fairly with grandparents, we prefer the large and mid-size Yeti for our groceries. We always rent a beautiful condo directly on the beach with a full size-kitchen so we eat many meals in the rental.

Owala is the best water bottle

Kid Activities

You’ll want a sand bucket and accessories to build sand castles with the kids. My youngest always spends hours playing with her sand toys, which is the highlight of her trip. My older boys enjoy other beach toys like bocce balls. 

I want to share our favorite beach activity taught to us by friends. Buy cheap gallon size bags as well as a food coloring (I suggest the dollar store). If you vacation on a beach with white sandy beaches, fill a gallon bag about ⅓ full with somewhat damp sand. 

Squeeze some drops of food coloring and then zip the bag. Use your hands to spread the food coloring, and viola, you have dyed sand! Pour it out on the white sand; your kids will love it!

dye sand with kids for a fun beach activity

Other Necessities

Age Specific Items

As a mom of three, I have lots of experience traveling to the beach with kids of all ages. Some of these items we’ve used for years while others are recent discoveries and must-haves for our travels at our favorite beach destination on 30A.

Favorite Kid Items

Infants & Toddlers

Swim Diapers

You’ll need swim diapers to take your kid into a pool or the ocean. Some parents prefer reusable swim diapers, but I didn’t care for them. You must be prepared for diaper changes on the sand, so bring your favorite supplies. I suggest packing some baby powder as well to help with rashes between the legs of toddlers.

Pro Tip: Keep your child’s regular diaper on until they are in the water. If you are holding your babe on the beach, swim diapers LEAK. Trust me!

Infant/Toddler Hat

I always tried to keep a hat on my kiddos when they were infants and toddlers. I preferred light sun hats that I could easily clean, and that would dry quickly. My favorite hat is very affordable and helps cover my baby’s upper back and shoulders.

Puddle Jumper or Life Jacket

Although I love the beach, the water still makes me nervous. I kept my kids in some life jackets for years, even when they learned to swim. I’ll still pack them in case of rough water. I loved puddle jumpers when they were toddlers and life jackets as they grew older. A swim vest is also a great idea for toddlers.

**I am not an expert so please research what is the best for your family.

puddle jumpers are great for toddlers

Little & Big Kids

As our kids moved into elementary and middle school, we’ve branched out into new beach necessities. I still try to protect their skin with hats and sunglasses. Our boys are great about wearing rash guards, too. 

One of the best things about older kids is they give feedback about what products work best for them. For instance, the boys must wear athletic underwear under their swim trunks to avoid rashes.

As for shoes, my kids are pickier today than they used to be. As toddlers and little kids, my boys loved Natives. I also loved them because of their durability and easy-to-clean features. Now, as the boys are older, they love Crocs. My youngest wore Natives for a bit and has moved into rubber slides. Regardless of the shoe, all these options are easy to clean and remove sand from, which is essential!

Native shoes are great summer shoes for kids

Advice for your Family Beach Trip Packing List

Family Photos

I’m obsessed with family photos, especially when we travel. In particular, I love to capture pictures of my kids at sunset. The images are iconic, and I always treasure them. Plan an outfit or two for family pictures as you pack. Solid prints do exceptionally well, or have your family members in complimentary colors.

Excursions

Some travelers prefer spending the entire day on the beach, while others enjoy day trips or excursions. Look into the available options in the area and pack what you may need, such as snorkel gear, boogie boards, bikes, etc. Many beach communities rent this gear, which helps in the planning process.

bring your own snorkel gear or rent it

Arrival Day

Many hotels and vacation homes start check-in in the late afternoon. If you arrive early, you should start enjoying the facilities, especially if it’s been a long day of travel. Pack a swimsuit for each family member to maximize your beach time!

Also, we always plan for an easy dinner the first night. We will pack something like BBQ or pick up subs for dinner if we drive. If we fly, then we aim for an easy dinner like pizza. This helps to take the stress out of the first night.

Beach Supplies

Once you’re able to secure your vacation property, please see what is provided. We planned a massive family trip to the US Virgin Islands with a toddler. The property came with a pack & play, a beach cooler, and chairs. If they hadn’t, we would have needed to rent those supplies.

In Conclusion: A Stress-Free Vacation: The Ultimate Beach Packing List for Families

My family beach packing list helps you prepare for your next great adventure. Packing for the beach can be overwhelming because you need more than just outfits, so I hope I have helped lower your stress.

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