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 were simply grabbing your towel, sunnies and a good read had you sorted, a day at the beach with kids requires a lot more preparation!
So what exactly do we take with us for a family day at the beach?
On this page, we’re going to take you through everything that we pack for a big day out at the beach. 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.
A family beach bag
Once you start gathering all the gear on this list you will be amazed at how much you’re going to need to pack! Whilst we can all dream of everyone carrying their own stuff (or at least helping!) reality is 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, and 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.
We cannot reiterate enough with kids how important it is to keep a good supply of UPF 50+ sunscreen with you ready for your day at the beach.
It is best 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 well 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, as well as a chapstick for the lips. 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.
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 but honestly, especially if the kids will be regularly in and out of the water a towel each hugely helps, if you can afford the space. Make everyone’s towel a different colour or pattern so there are no arguments!
Outdoor blanket or beach mat
Rather than just pulling up a towel on the beach, for a full family day out its 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 that are both waterproof and sand-proof 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 which 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 youngsters in your group, it’s an absolute essential to maximise sun protection.
There are several different designs these days from small pods just made for infant sleeping through to full size canopy tents and giant 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.
- You can check out our full selection of the best beach tents here.
Remember if you are using the 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 consider:
- Long sleeve rash guard
- Polarized sunglasses
- Sun hats
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 to their heads
- Learn more about taking babies under 12 months to the beach here
Swim goggles (& 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 but our kids prefer flipflops, 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 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! perfect for your outdoor-loving kids.
Beach ball, sand 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 they 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 do suggest a bucket per person though if space will permit!). 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.
- You can find our complete guide to the best beach toys for all age groups here.
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 to the water with young kids. How much 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 adult supervision.
However, we know with the best supervision in the word, little ones can try make their escape, a great idea is to see if they will wear a puddle jumper or safety jacket at all times they’re near to 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.
Water proof 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, we have a great selection here of cheaper brands that may be suitable for kids, many are also waterproof)
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 valuable 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 cooler
Chilled water is an absolute given for a day at the beach to avoid dehydration, but don’t forget a healthy range of snacks too!
It’s best if you are planning a full day our 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. Sand has a propensity to get in everywhere, so preferable the type of bottle where you can flip a cover over the lid.
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 small first aid kit
It goes without saying… anywhere you go with kids there’s bound to be someone who gets hurt! Cuts and grazes from sharp objects in the water are normally the most common offenders.
Haircare – ties and a tangle-free brush
For kids with long hair, this is a bach MUST! Wind and seawater don’t always play nicely, so having long hair tied back is really important, and a detangler brush to reduce the tears when it comes time to sort their matted hair out.
Another good suggestion for all of you, though especially the ladies is using a leave-in conditioner before hitting the beach. This will help protect against the damaging rays of the sun by replenishing nutrients in your hair.
Water-resistant speaker and headphones
OK, maybe not a total essential and may depend on your beach set up, 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 ear buds, but the kids haven’t quite been convinced yet!
When have we ever stopped singing the prases of baby wipes! Long after the days of tiny babies, they still come everywhere with us. Runny noses, spilt snacks, small bleeds, post-ice-cream wipe up, you name it! They are really useful wherever you go in the world!
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 find from the beach.
A trash bag
Boring but essential. Once you through in a few snacks, a trip to the icre 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 trash 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 your ready for! If you are not staying 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 at the end of the day becomes soggy and sandy. 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, walls!) 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 savour 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.
There you have it! 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.
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You may also be interested in
- Baby travel essentials
- Toddler travel essentials
- The best travel toys for all age groups
- Our Ultimate Guide to Beach Camping – yes it’s possible to stay overnight at the beach!
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