Includes your own downloadable checklist of beach must-haves for families!
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 remains 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. Plus, our free ultimate beach packing list to download.
We’ll assume most of you are heading to the beach 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
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Beach Essentials For Family
Our beach essentials checklist helps take the stress out of packing for the big day and forgetting any of those handy little extras for your next trip.
Whilst you may not need every item for every trip to the beach, these are all the essential items to think about so your beach getaway with kids can run as smoothly as possible. Copy out our list here, or grab the downloadable list by 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
- Sunscreen & Lip Balm
- Beach Towels
- Beach Blanket / Sand-Free Mat
- Beach Canopy
- Protective Sun Clothing & Accessories
- Swim Goggles, Snorkel Gear, Masks & Flippers
- Beach Shoes
- Beach Balls, Sand Toys, and Surf Toys
- Floaties and Safety Floatation Devices
- Waterproof Camera or Phone Case
- Electronics Float Device
- Snacks, Water & A Family-Sized Beach Cooler
- Beach Chairs
- Beach Wagon
- A Small First Aid Kit
- Haircare; Ties and a Tangle-Free Brush
- Personal Items
- Water-Resistant Portable Speaker, Headphones (even a Book!)
- Baby Wipes & Beach Powder
- Ziplock Bags & Trash Bags
- Spare Clothing
- Wet Clothing Bag
- Warm Blanket or Oversized Jumper
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 phone etc, to keep the whole family organized for the big beach day ahead.
You may have to give up a little style for practicality when it comes to a family beach bag, but fear not! We have a great selection of ideas to help you choose a suitable mom bag for the beach!
Sunscreen & Lip Balm
We cannot reiterate enough with kids how important it is to keep a good supply of UPF 50+ reef-safe 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 so, 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
- You can see our full list of all the best waterproof, family-sized beach blankets here.
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 allows, 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 using a beach tent or canopy.
There are several different designs these days, from small pods or tents just made for an infant sleeping through to full-size canopy tents, giant beach umbrellas, and pop-up portable playpens with a sun cover.
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.
- You can check out our full selection of the best beach tents here.
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.
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 the following sun protection gear:
Pro Tip – we still apply sunscreen to the kid’s whole bodies regardless of their clothing; 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.
- We have plenty more tips for taking babies under 12 months to the beach here
Swim Goggles, Snorkel Gear, Masks & Flippers
If your kids love to swim at the beach, then goggles are essential to protect their eyes in the salty water.
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. Flippers aren’t an essential but can help.
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 for 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 are just made for getting wet!
Beach Balls, Sand Toys, and Surf Toys
So many choices! This will really depend on your kids’ 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 for carrying beach items.
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!).
Don’t forget toys for in the water, too; our older kids love their bodyboards.
- You can find our complete guide to the best beach toys for all age groups here.
- We’ve also collated this awesome list of toddler toys for the beach, ideal for your younger ones.
- Check out our guide to the best games to play at the beach – we have ideas perfect for babies and toddlers through to your tweens and teens.
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 sure you’ll want to capture some great memories from your day at the beach while 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 into 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 portable cooler box with ice or ice packs. It no doubt won’t take long for the ice to melt, but it 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 water bottle for cold drinks. Sand has the 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 for the beach are beach chairs. It depends really on how long you plan to be at the beach, luggage space, 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. For 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 Kelsyus Kids Outdoor Canopy Chair.
If the grandparents are coming 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.
Another bulky item that won’t always be on your family beach essentials list, but for those traveling with young children, may well be top of your list of beach necessities!
A good beach wagon can help with not only pulling along all these family beach essentials but can negate the need for any sort of stroller, as many models now come with seats for the kids, too.
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.
Haircare; Ties and a Tangle-Free Brush
For kids with long hair especially, this is one of those beach necessities you may forget! Wind and salt water don’t always play nicely, so having long hair tied back is a great way to reduce the tangle. A detangler brush reduces the tears when it comes time to sort their matted hair out.
Another great choice 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 Portable 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 our younger kids haven’t entirely 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, not just for diaper changes; runny noses, spilled snacks, small bleeds, post-ice-cream wipe up!
Wet wipes are a travel essential wherever you go in the world! A beach trip is no exception. You may also want to pack a portable wipes warmer if your bub is averse to cold wipes after a big day on the beach.
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.
Incredibly 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.
Having one designated spot in your beach set up for a medium-sized plastic bag for garbage 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 change of clothes 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 bathing suits and towels away from the dry clothes 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. 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 Printable
Whatever your beach destination, if you’d like to have this list of suggested beach essentials for family in a handy downloadable list ready for your next beach trip, head on over to our subscribers home page.
Family travel experts, 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.
To get our printable beach packing list in PDF format, we’ll ask you to subscribe to our newsletter too, but don’t worry; we won’t bombard you with emails! You can unsubscribe at any time if you just want the checklists.
Traveling with kids? You may also be interested in
- Baby Travel Essentials
- Toddler Travel Essentials
- The Best Travel Toys For All Age Groups
- Beach Gifts for Mom
- Perfect Beach Captions & Quotes – ideal for your Instagram or printing up your family vacation photo album
- Our Ultimate Guide to Beach Camping – yes, it’s possible to stay overnight at the beach!
Best Beach Destinations for Families
We also have a great collection – and growing! – of “best beach vacation” destination guides for our beach-lovers to check out for some further inspiration, check out:
- Best worldwide beaches for families – some off-the-beaten-path destinations for avid beach explorers to enjoy
- Best Beach Towns in Mexico For Families
- 25+ Beaches on the US East Coast to try
- Best Beaches for Camping on the East Coast
- Top Family Beaches in San Diego, CA
- Top Family Beaches in Nantucket, MA
- Top Family Beaches in Florida
- Top Family Beaches on the Gulf Coast
- Oregon Coastal Towns You Will Love
- Top Family Beaches in Albany, Western Australia
- Best Beaches in Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
- Best Worldwide Beaches to Learn Snorkelling
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