During the warm and sunny months of summer and Spring Break, there’s simply nothing better than a relaxing family beach day.
Picture it now: the warm sun on your skin, the smell of salt water in the air, the hot sand on your feet, the crashing waves in the distance, children building sandcastles and exploring the tide pools, and a cold drink in your hand (preferably with an adorable little umbrella).
But for as much fun as a beach trip can bring, it can also bring very real dangers, big and small.
Long days at the beach can lead to a sunburn and dehydration, for example, and any kind of open water comes with its own concerns. It’s best to be prepared, especially when you’re with kids.
Here are some helpful items for your next family beach vacation or day trip to the beach. There are ideas for every family member!
And yes, there’s a printable Family Beach Vacation Packing List at the end!
We wish you warm weather and lots of sunshine.
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The quickest way to ruin a family beach vacation is someone getting a sunburn. The bottom line is that everyone needs sun protection.
The best way to avoid a burn and protect yourself from those UV rays on hot days is to pack SPF 30 sunscreen (or higher for extra protection) and lather it on 15-30 minutes before you head out. Don’t forget the hard to reach parts, and be sure to rub the sunscreen under the edges of your clothes, or you might be left with just a thin line or sunburn.
Remember to reapply after going in the water.
And, it’s just as important to wear sunscreen during a cloudy day as it is during a sunny day. Those rays will find their way through the clouds and burn your skin.
Kids Sunscreen: Our favorite sunscreen for kids is from Neutrogena. It’s SPF 70 and is water-resistant for 80 minutes. It has over 9,000 top-rated reviews on Amazon.
Sunscreen Stick: A sunscreen stick is a great choice for young children because it goes on smoothly and doesn’t get into their eyes like sun lotion. This option is oil-free and hypoallergenic:
Sunscreen for Adults: Our favorite sunscreen for adults is Banana Boat Sport Ultra. It’s SPF 50, lightweight, and is effective for 80 minutes.
Reef-safe sunscreen: Our favorite reef-safe sunscreen is Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch Lotion Sunscreen. It’s highly rated on Amazon, and its reef-safe rating means that it does not contain chemicals that cause coral bleaching in coral reefs:
Sunscreen for sensitive skin: The highest-rated and best-selling sunscreen for sensitive skin on Amazon is EltaMD. It’s formulated with Zinc Oxide, is paraben-free, and fragrance free. It’s pricier, but if you have truly sensitive skin then it is worth the additional cost.
People also love Sun Bum products because they are cruelty free, gluten free, and vegan.
2. Your Favorite Bathing Suits
Whether you opt for a bikini, a one piece, or a more protective rash guard is a matter of personal preference. But make sure you (and everyone in your family) has a bathing suit that is comfortable and fits properly.
Women: We love the bathing suits for women by Summersalt.
Girls: For girls, Target usually has a wide selection of great options.
Men & Boys: For men and boys, we recommend checking out the swim trunks by Maamgic on Amazon. They are durable, affordable, and come in many different patterns:
Rash Guard: The primary purpose of a rash guard is to provide extra sun protection, rash protection, and extra warmth in the water. Anyone can wear them, and they are a great options for those with very fair or sensitive skin.
If you’re looking for a rash guard for your child, Carter’s offers a variety of affordable options on Amazon:
3. A Cover Up
A beach cover-up serves a few useful purposes. First, it provides modesty if you don’t want to show your bare skin throughout the day.
A beach coverup is also key for the moments you are not in the water, like when you need to make a short trip to the concession stand (for some ice cream, perhaps?), run back up to the hotel room, or take a casual stroll on the beach.
This affordable cover-up comes in many different colors, and it’s rated highly on Amazon:
4. Beach Shoes
No matter where you’re headed, it’s always a good idea to have the right footwear.
But the right shoes become especially on a trip to the beach, where you’re dealing with elements like sand, rocks, shells, and perhaps even a stray jellyfish or two.
You may prefer the easy on and off of a great pair of flip flops, but beware that they don’t provide much support. The last thing you need on your beach day is a twisted ankle.
You’re better off opting for a sturdy pair of sandals or water shoes. The important thing is to be comfortable and safe.
Sandals: A good pair of beach sandals is light-weight, comfortable, and supportive. These are our favorites from Amazon, and they come in every color under the sun. They have a cult following of people who swear by them!
Water Shoes: If you’re concerned about you or your children stepping on sharp rocks or shells (or washed up jellyfish!), look for a durable pair of water shoes.
These aqua socks are made for being active at the beach, and they can double up as yoga socks:
5. Sun Hat
If you’re planning to spend a lot of time in the sun, it’s definitely wise to wear a sun hat.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and if you value its health, you know that you need to protect if from the sun’s harsh rays.
A sun hat adds an extra layer of protection to the sunscreen you’re hopefully already wearing.
We love this classic sun hat from Amazon, especially because it has a drawstring so that your hat doesn’t blow away on a windy day:
Kids Sun Hat: This sunhat from Jan & Jul has an adjustable head drawstring that grows with your child. There are waterproof or cotton versions and many prints to choose form.
6. Day Bag or Large Beach Bag
If you’re planning on spending more than an hour or so at the beach, you’ll need a large bag to carry your personal items and beach items. And there are plenty of high-quality options that are also attractive and fashionable.
This large, durable canvas bag from Lands End will get the job done right, and it can even be personalized. Getting one for each person in your family will help everyone keep track of their own items:
Here are some miscellaneous essential items you may want to consider packing in your bag:
-spf lip balm
-binoculars (for spotting marine life!)
-waterproof phone case
7. Large Beach Towel
A good towel is one of the most important beach essentials. And when it comes to beach towels, the larger and brighter, the better.
We recommend packing one per person so that everyone has something to sit on between themselves and the hot sand.
For families with multiple children, it’s helpful to have a different color beach towel for each person to help keep track of whose is whose. Here’s a four-pack for the whole family:
8. Beach Chairs
You’re going to want somewhere comfortable to sit, and you may not want to rely on chair rentals.
These Tommy Bahama beach chairs reeling to five different positions, have an adjustable pillow and shoulder straps, and each of them has an insulated drink holder:
9. Water Bottles / Cold Drinks
Of all the items on this essential beach packing list, don’t forget this one!
It’s extremely easy to become dehydrated when you’re out in the sun on the beach. And this can easily lead to headaches, dizziness, overall crankiness and a ruined beach day.
It’s absolutely essential to have well-insulated water bottles and cold drinks. Everyone needs their own insulated water bottle filled to the brim with cold water.
Pack a light cooler with your favorite sparkling water, seltzer, or soft drink.
Water Bottle for Adults: Nothing beats the Adventure Quencher Travel Tumbler from Stanley. It keeps drinks cold all day long, fits in a car drink holder, and is large enough to keep you hydrated all day long.
Kids Water Bottle: This stainless steel water bottle from Yeti is the perfect size for kids and is dishwasher safe. It has tons of highly-rated reviews on Amazon:
10. Good Book or Magazine
Your next beach vacation is the perfect opportunity to finally dive into that book you’ve been wanting to read.
Need an easy option? Check out Beach Read, by Emily Henry. It’s aptly named, of course, but it’s also an award winning novel published in 2020:
Another top pick from 2021 is “The Last Thing He Told Me”, which is a Reese’s Book Club pick, about a woman, her teen step-daughter, and a husband who goes missing.
11. Beach Umbrella / Beach Tent
On a hot sunny day, it helps to make some shade for yourself. This is especially important if you have children. A great way to ensure you have shade is to purchase a good beach umbrella or beach tent will help you enjoy your family beach day for a much longer period of time.
We love this one because it has windows for ventilation, plus stakes and built in sandbags so that it doesn’t blow away. (You don’t want to be the person who has a runaway tent or umbrella at the beach!)
12. Beach Blanket
One item that you may not often see on a Beach Vacation Essentials list is a large beach blanket. However, a good beach blanket can help you claim your spot, act as an additional barrier to the sand and elements, and give everyone a place to rest.
This one doubles as a picnic and beach blanket, and it rolls up with a handle to be easily carried:
13. Portable Speaker
Of all the beach accessories, a portable speaker is perhaps the most important. It’s an easy way to make sure your beach day has a festive vibe. You can even create your playlist ahead of time! You’ll want to opt for a waterproof speaker, for obvious reasons.
This portable bluetooth speaker is a great option because it checks all the boxes, has over 5000 five-star ratings on Amazon, and it has a clip so that you won’t lose track of it during your beach day:
It’s definitely worth your time to make a fun beach playlist. And if you’re in for a long road trip, don’t forget to make some fun playlists for the ride to and from the beach, as well!
14. Beach Toys
Building sandcastles is a childhood rite of passage, and it’s one of the most fun things to do at the beach. Plus, it can keep your little ones busy for hours.
But you need the sand toys to make the most of your beach experience. This complete sandcastle making set has 7 different molds, and two different sized shovels:
It might be fun to pack a beach ball or boogie board, as well!
Other fun beach games include corn hole, frisbee, and Bucket Ball.
15. Floaties or Flotation Device
If you have a little one who can’t swim yet, these Puddle Jumpers are an absolute must. It’s similar to a life jacket, but it straps in the back and fits as a life vest.
They come in all kinds of fun patterns, and have been tested and approved by the U.S. Coast Guard for use in the water.
If you or your kids plan to get in the water to swim, having goggles can help protect your eyes from the salt water and other elements. Plus, you’ll be able to see all the marine life and activity happening under the water’s surface.
These anti-fog goggles have an extra comfortable strap and adjust to fit ages 3-10:
17. Snorkel Gear
One of the best things about a day at the beach is the marine wildlife, but most people miss it because they don’t pack snorkel gear. Having this gear on hand will really level up your visit.
This Snorkel Mask from WSTOO is anti-leak, anti-fog, and even has a camera mount:
There’s a version for kids as well:
18. Mosquito Repellent / Bug Spray
Depending on your beach destination, you may want to pack bug spray so that flies and mosquitos don’t wind up ruining your perfect day.
19. Small First Aid Kit
Family beach vacations never go exactly as planned. It’s always a great idea to pack along a small first aid kit, especially if you have kids in tow. Someone is bound to get a cut or a scrape, and having some alcohol wipes, bandaids, and neosporin on hand makes you the hero of the day.
I also like to bring along a portable ice pack in case someone hits their head (my kids have had a few too many head bumps in their day), and ibuprofen in case someone has an awful headache or pain of some kind.
20. Dry Bag
After you’re done swimming, you’ll need a place to put your wet bathing suits and wet clothes. A dry bag is the perfect place to put these items, and it’s a more eco-friendly option than using plastic bags.
21. Change of Clothes
Don’t forget a change of clothes for the end of the day. After all the splashing, sweating, and sand that you’ve gotten into, it might feel great to throw on a pair of sweats and a light sweatshirt.
You may want to have some Aloe Vera on hand in case you spend too much time in the sun and get sunburned despite your best efforts.
What other specific items do you love to use at the beach? We love to hear about your product recommendations for our Beach Checklist. You can email us at email@example.com.
There you have it! Your ultimate beach vacation packing list for your next family vacation. And, as promised, we’ve got a free printable beach packing list for you. Download it here: