Heading to the beach usually means a day of fun in the sun. Living so close to the beach (we’re 15+ minutes away depending on traffic), we tend to spend a lot of time there in the off season. We do visit the beach in the summer but we use the tips I share below to make sure we still have a great time. You don’t need to bring a ton of things to the beach to have a great time. I’m sharing my list of must have beach items with you so you’re not spending more time schlepping everything to the beach only to realize you forgot something important and have to cut your time short.
You’ll find these must have beach items in my beach bag at all times. Again, since we live so close, I’ve usually got a beach bag in the car ready to go in case we decide to make a stop after running errands or something. Every beach and location is different, but these items will help make your time a little bit more enjoyable if you’re having an adults only day at the beach or spending the day with your family.
You can’t spend a day at the beach without sunscreen. My favorite is Neutrogena – both the spray and the face stick. They also make a great spray for the kids to use on wet skin. Because of the breeze, you might think it’s not that hot. Or you probably didn’t wear your watch and aren’t carrying your phone around so you might not realize how long you’ve been out in the sun. Reapply often, more than what you think you should. Usually every time the kids want to go grab a drink or snack, I have them reapply. Better safe than sorry. And don’t forget to reapply on yourself too! (That’s usually where I mess up – always worrying about the kids but forget myself.)
Having a dry towel to wipe hands and faces off during the day can be a life saver. I always aim to have a couple of extras on hand too. Keep them in your beach bag to make sure they don’t get covered in sand like the ones the kids are coming up and using to dry off with between swimming and playing in the sand. If you take a beach cart or chair, hang the towels to keep them out of the sand and help them to dry out between uses.
Use your blanket to not only save your spot in the sand but also as a meeting place. Let everyone know that if you get separated for whatever reason to meet back at the blanket or find a life guard. Consider something bright or a unique pattern to help it stand out on a busy beach. If you’re planning to spend a while at the beach, you might want to think about a beach tent. It will help keep the sun off of you but you’ll still be able to enjoy the cooling breezes. These are great when you’ve got little ones who need a break for a nap or lunch. Both of the ones we have collapse and fold up small so storage isn’t a problem. They could lay flat in the bottom of your suitcase if you had one to bring with you.
For long beach days, you will want a cooler with wheels. They get heavy quickly once you fill them with drinks and ice. If you’re just going with a small group or won’t be spending the whole day, a smaller cooler will work perfectly. Make sure to stick some nice, cool washcloths in your cooler. Prep them the night before by getting them wet, folding them into squares, then popping them into the freezer. Just remember to grab them out of the freezer before you head out the door. Having them to wipe your face at the end of the day is very refreshing. You can also use them on your neck to help you cool off. I also have to often remind my kids to make sure the cooler is fully closed between uses. It won’t stay cool nearly as long if it’s sitting open all the time.
Snack and Drinks
Pick snacks that are easy to eat with your hands. Go with prepackaged snacks or snacks that you’ve put into zip top bags at home. Putting sandy hands into a bag over and over again all day can leave you with yucky snacks by the end of the day. Make sandwiches the night before or in the morning before you leave. Put yogurt tubes in the freezer to help keep things cold in the cooler and enjoy like a popsicle at the beach. Drinks are great in cups with lids or resealable bottles. Smaller containers, like juice pouches, can also be frozen the night before so they can help keep the cooler cold and be refreshing when enjoyed at the beach. Over pack on the drinks – you want to keep everyone hydrated during your day in the sun.
Even if you’re not going far out into the water, life jackets are a great idea for the kids. It’s easy for the kids to lose their balance when a wave hits them and get knocked off their feet. Knowing they have their life jacket on makes it a little less scary. Adults and big kids might want to have a float with them. My boys love using a small boogie board to ride the waves.
As fun as the water can be, sometimes you need a little break. Bring a few shovels and pails with you to build sand castles. Store them in a mesh bag so the sand falls out once you’re finished playing. If they’re super sandy and you need to repack them to take them home or just want to clean them up, use the showers at the beach to rinse them off before you leave the beach.
Whatever you like, bring something with you to read. Even the kids can do their summer reading spread out on the sand when they need a little break from the waves. Tag team with your spouse or friends to watch the kids while you read a few chapters. When we plan for a full day at the beach, I make sure to have activity books or books to read for everyone. Taking a few breaks throughout the day is good for everyone.
Change of Clothes
After you’re done in the sun and surf, stop by the restroom or changing room to get out of your wet, sandy clothes. Pack of bag of dry clothes separate from all of your other beach items so they don’t get wet or sandy while you’re looking for something else. To make things even easier, pack everyone’s outfit in a separate zip top bag or for boys and girls so you’re not trying to sort them at the beach before you change. Reuse the packing bag to hold on to your wet clothes you’re changing out of.
Change for Parking
You may be asked to pay for parking at the beach. Be sure to have some quarters on hand. Spaces aren’t usually expensive but the machines may only take quarters. Prep before you leave home by putting them in a small zipper pouch or zip top bag so you’re ready when you arrive.
A few other things to remember
- When you’re picking your spot on the beach, take a minute to look around. Are you right in the middle of a walkway? Would you be blocking the path? Where is the high tide mark? Where’s the tide at now? Do you know if it’s going in or out? You don’t want to get everything set up only to have to relocate in a couple of hours because the tide is coming in and your stuff is getting wet.
- Low tide is lots of fun. That means you’ll have more beach to play on and explore as well as tide pools to check out. You might find crabs, small fish, and other little creatures in there. Sure they’re fun to watch and check out, but remember that you’re in their home. Don’t scare or harass the natural animals.
- Low tide also means you’ll find creatures stranded on the beach. Watch out for jellyfish, fish, crabs, seaweed or grass or other things that have washed ashore. Taking living things from the beach is a crime in most areas so if that sand dollar is still alive or that shell still has something living in it, it needs to stay at it’s home at the beach.
- Ok this one sounds obvious but trust me… the sand and boardwalks will be hot! Think about flip flops or water shoes to wear, especially to and from the beach itself. Here’s a pro tip for ya: when you’re not wearing your shoes, flip them over. The soles will heat up just like the ground so if you leave them right side up, your feet are going to be inside hot shoes. Flipping them over will keep the insides out of the sun.
Want to make sure you’ve got everything for your next beach visit? Below is a free printable so you can just print and pack before your next beach visit.
Print your copy here.
What’s your must have beach item?