A day at the beach can be one of the best things in life. Sun, sand, and sea all in perfect proportions. The sun warms you and gives your skin a perfect sun-kissed look, and when it gets too warm, a splash in the water is not just cooling—it’s delightful fun. And on the beach you can play in the sand or just sink your toes down past the hot surface to the cool layer underneath.
But if you don’t pack right, your dream day at the beach can become a nightmare. Sunburns can be painful and dangerous, and it’s easy to get overheated if you don’t have the right supplies. A snack from a beach vendor can be a great treat, but if you find yourself hostage to them, you can quickly blow your budget. Or you may just find yourself, your friends, or your kids bored. And bored kids, especially, are a painfully unique form of torment. And speaking of torment, sand chafing can be terrible, and if it gets in all your food and drink, it can be almost impossible to enjoy anything.
But let’s avoid all that by making sure we’re prepared. Here’s our beach packing list along with a list of what to bring to the beach with kids.
What to Pack for a Beach Day with Friends
If you’re getting away for the day with some of your besties, you can pack a little less, but there are still a few things you don’t want to leave home without.
The Right Swimsuit
It’s easier to enjoy your time at the beach if you feel comfortable and confident in your swimsuit. And no matter what your body is like, there’s one that will flatter it to help you feel great. For example, if you have a smaller chest, a suit with frills or ruching on the top can add volume. A large bust, though, benefits from a top that keeps everything under control and concealed.
A shorter body or shorter legs can be lengthened by the cut of your swimsuit. Low-rise bottoms will make your torso look longer, while high cut legs or even a string bikini can make your legs look longer. One piece suits and two-piece suits with high wasted bottoms are both trendy looks to consider as well.
Starting your day with compliments on your swimsuit is a great kick-off to the perfect beach day.
You want to get a little suntan, but you don’t want to get burned. If you’re spending a full day at the beach, most people will get a tan no matter what sunscreen you use, so if you want to avoid a burn, skip the low-protection suntan oils and pick one with adequate SPF, 30 or more.
And don’t forget to reapply several times through the day, especially after spending time in the water. Even waterproof sunscreen will wash away.
A beach towel or even a beach blanket is essential to making lounging around on the beach comfortable, especially when the sand is hot. And it will help you keep from getting too much sand on you and everything you brought. Monogrammed beach towels make a great choice—they’re fun and stylish and you can always pick ‘em out from a crowd of other towels.
Beach towel pegs can also be handy to keep your towel from blowing away. Oh, and don’t forget towels to dry off with after swimming.
Some days the sun is just going to be too intense for you to sit back and relax. And it’s hard to read with the sun glaring on the pages of your book, magazine, or tablet. A beach umbrella lets you keep soaking up the sun with your legs and enjoying the cool shade at the same time.
Don’t want to haul around a beach umbrella? You can opt for personal shade in the form of the traditional, cute, large floppy beach hat. Bonus: it helps make sure you avoid raccoon eyes.
A pair of sunglasses is essential for protecting your eyes at the beach. Even if you’re under your umbrella or hat, you’re going to be looking out along the beach or at the sea, and the reflecting sun can hurt your eyes. And when you’re out in the water, they’re crucial for protecting your eyes from UV rays. And while we’re on the subject, bring two: a chic pair for lounging on your towel and a cheap pair you won’t miss if it gets lost in the waves.
Flip flops are the perfect beach shoes. Easy to take off and easy to put on, even if your feet are wet and sandy. They’re also easy to carry, so you can carry them along with all your other beach gear. You can even wear them in the water if the bottom is rocky.
And these cool monogrammed flip flops inject some extra fun and style into your beach gear.
Snacks and Drinks
At a minimum, you need to bring enough water to drink. With all the sun and salt water, it’s easy to get dehydrated.
But if you want a perfect beach day, pack a party! You can bring your favorite drinks in cans, sandwiches, and chilled grapes. Or you can go for wine and cheese, though it’ll have to be wine in a box since most beaches don’t allow glass bottles.
Cool tip: Sand spikers give you a great place to put food and drink so it doesn’t get all sandy, and koozies will help your drink stay cooler longer. Plus, customized sand spikers and koozies mean you always know which drink is yours.
Sure, you’ll spend a lot of time chatting with your friends, but it’s best to have something to help while away the day. A good read is the best way to pass the hours while lounging on your beach towel. You can pick your favorite magazine, an old paperback, or read right from your tablet. If you’re bringing a tablet or an e-reader, you can put it in a freezer bag to keep sand and water out.
Some days the sound of the waves is enough to put you in the right mood. Other days you really want your tunes. A set of waterproof speakers can help you enjoy your music on the beach. Get some with an AM/FM radio built in and a way to plug your smartphone in, too.
Beach Essentials to Pack for the Kids
Packing for the beach with kids requires a little more gear to make sure everyone has a great time. Make sure you bring all of the above, plus a few more things to make sure your kids are happy.
Change of Clothes
The beach is just sand and water, so there’s no way the kids can get their clothes that dirty, right? Kids will find a way, from potty accidents to messy eating, kids will always find a way to be filthy, so it’s best to pack an extra set of clothes for everyone—yeah, mom’s clothes are often collateral damage.
Diapers and Swim Diapers
If your little ones aren’t potty trained yet, you need to make sure you have enough diapers, including swim diapers. Regular diapers can disintegrate in the water—and nobody wants to deal with what comes after that.
The beach is no place to be caught without a changing pad. Even your beach towel has more sand on it than you want to get on your baby’s bum, and you don’t want your baby’s dirty bottom on your beach towel, either.
Even if your kids are all potty trained, wipes are still a great thing to have. Ice cream, PB&J, and chip residue all clean up easily with wipes, rather than trying to spit-clean your kids’ face or pour water onto napkins and hope they don’t break. We’ve all been there and none of us wants to go back—just bring the wipes.
The more toys you bring, the better. One shovel and bucket is sure to lead to fights, but with a few different tools things can run smoothly. Encourage them to bring small figures to play in the sand structures they build. Also, a small ball makes for a great alternative to sand castles and it’s a nice way to get everyone playing together.
You may not get much chance to read your own book when you’re at the beach with kids, but they’ll definitely be happy if you have a story or two to read to them when they need a little break from their furious activities.
It’s also a great way to transition littler ones to nap time so you don’t have to cut your beach day short. Just make sure they fall asleep and stay under the shade of the beach umbrella.
You can add this to your list for any beach outing, but it’s especially crucial with kids. When you get off the beach and still have a lot of sand clinging to your kids, especially in their diaper area, just spread talc on them. The talc dries off the sand and makes it easy to get off. That way, nobody gets all chafed on the way home, which can make for a very long and very unpleasant car ride.
Beach Packing List
Here’s a beach checklist version of the list so you can quickly look it over and make sure you’re not forgetting anything:
- Beach Towels
- Drying Towels
- Beach Umbrella
- Beach Hats
- Flip Flops
- Snacks and drinks
- Reading (incl. kids’ books)
- Waterproof speakers
- Change of Clothes
- Diapers and Swim Diapers
- Changing Pad
- Sand Toys
So, there you have it: a list of beach essentials so that you never forget anything crucial. Just go through this list before each visit to the beach, and everyone will have a great time, every time!