This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure
Summer may be right around the corner, and there are so many things to do before your next beach trip! Whether your vacation destination is near or far or if you’re simply spending a day at a beach nearby, this beach packing list will help you get organised in a flash!
We have compiled a list of all of the essentials for a family beach trip, from clothing and protective gear to snacks that won’t spoil in the sun.
When packing for the beach with kids, you need a lot of gear. We are big fans of packing light for day trips and vacations, but the beach is one of those places where packing light often leads you to wish you’d brought along those things you left behind!
A large beach bag with multiple compartments and zipper pockets is going to help make carrying everything across the sand a whole lot easier! It will also help you know where to easily find your beach items in the different pockets.
This one is a pretty obvious one but the type of swimsuits you choose to wear or dress your kids in can help protect you from the sun! For kids, go for UV protection swimsuits with long sleeves and shorts, or full-length bottoms. This will reduce the risk of sunburn!
If you are going for a short trip, one swimsuit is fine but longer trips make it worthwhile to bring a second pair so one can be drying while you’re wearing the other.
Protective Vest / Rash Guard Vest
Here in Australia, a “Rashie” is an essential beach day trip or pool day clothing item! They are essentially UV protective shirts to wear over your swimsuit. The best type is one with long sleeves and a front zipper to make it easy to remove and to keep your arms completely protected from the sun when wearing it.
Sunscreen is a must for any beach or outdoor vacation! And if it’s cloudy outdoors, don’t think you won’t still get sunburnt!
The risk of sunburn is far worse at the beach with the sun reflecting off the sand and the water even if it isn’t a sunny day.
Apply your first application of sunscreen before you leave your house or hotel room. It needs time to start working before you’re in the sunshine.
Re-apply every few hours, although ideally take some time out of the sun before reapplying.
Go with a high UV protection sunscreen such as a 50+ option that is also water-resistant. If you are environmentally conscious, a reef-safe sunscreen is a great choice too!
Sunglasses and Sun Hats
You don’t want to forget these protective items. Keep the glare out of your eyes and stop the tops of your heads from getting sunburnt with a good sun hat and sunglasses.
Wide-brimmed hats are great for all ages, keeping your face protected and adding a little extra protection to your neck and shoulders too! For kids, hats designed for wearing in the water are a great option!
Absorbent beach towels are not only great for drying off between swims, but they also double as giving you and the kids somewhere to sit on the sand if you don’t have a picnic blanket or rug to take.
For the kids, we prefer hooded towels while they are young since it adds a little extra sun protection and keeps them warm too.
If you have sand getting stuck in all your belongings, sand-free towels are a cool idea and they come in some really pretty designs. I find they aren’t always as absorbent though.
If you prefer not to sit on a towel or blanket in the sand, beach chairs are essential for your beach trip!
Camping chairs work fine or you can get mini beach chairs that support your back instead if you are happy to sit low in the sand still. These fold down small and are light to carry.
Beach Tent Or Umbrella
Either a beach umbrella or beach tent are good options for providing the family with some shade while spending time at the beach. Especially if you are planning to spend a few hours or a full day at the beach!
A beach tent or shelter is our preference, although make sure it’s one you know how to pack down again when you’re finished. We’ve come close to divorce over trying to pack up a beach tent (I’m joking!).
Practice at home before you leave for the beach so you know how to operate it!
Cool Cabanas beach shelters are by far the most popular here in Australia. The beaches are always lined with them!
Swimming Accessories & Flotation Devices
If you are visiting the beach with small children or toddlers, having a flotation device such as a swimming vest or arm floaties can help give them a little extra confidence.
You will still need to stay within arms reach when they are in the water, however it can help them to feel a little safer as they explore the shallow waters near the shore.
Swim Goggles & Flippers
Many kids dislike water in their eyes and who can blame them. Especially when it’s salty seawater!
A pair of goggles or a swim mask with a snorkel can be a fun way of keeping their eyes protected from the stinging saltwater.
If you are heading out snorkelling during your beach trip, having flippers and proper snorkel gear are also essentials for your beach day if hiring is not an option or if you prefer to use your own gear.
Toys & Fun Stuff
Don’t forget to pack the bucket and shovel, the frisbee and the football or any other fun beach accessory you want to play with as a family.
We have done this so many times because we did not refer to a beach vacation packing list and managed to leave these things behind.
For other beach games, you might want to bring some yard games, volleyball, and other ball sports to play together.
If you are headed on a family beach vacation, make sure you don’t forget to bring your book for reading at the beach!
This is also a great option for long days when you need a break from the water. Reading a book on the beach is the ultimate indulgence!
Beach shoes, or water shoes as they are also known, can be useful for keeping little feet from burning on the hot sand. They are also good at protecting feet from sharp objects such as shells and rocks in the sand, or for exploring the tree-lined sandbank nearby without risk of injury.
A beach blanket is a great way to minimise the sand getting into absolutely everything while you’re at the beach. Create a place to sit and store your gear, instead of relying on your towels to double as a sitting area when you need them!
If you are taking a break from swimming for a while or need to duck to the bathroom or kiosk, having a beach cover might be a good option if you don’t fancy yourself walking around in just your swimmers!
They can also offer a little extra sun protection as well.
Wet Gear Bag
Have a plastic bag or a wet gear bag ready to collect all your wet bathing suits, vests, towels and hats at the end of your beach session. This makes them easier to carry and it means you aren’t getting all your non-wet gear soggy by putting them in the same bag.
Change of Clothes
Don’t forget to pack a change of clothing for after your swim. The last thing anyone wants to do is drive home or head back to the hotel wearing sticky, sandy, wet clothes.
Also, if you’ve been at the beach for a full day or if the afternoon sun is starting to lower, you may find yourself freezing so pack a long sleeve t-shirt or a light jacket for each family member just in case!
Flip flops or sandals are a beach day essential packing item! You can easily take them off for walking on the sand, or leave them on and know that the sand will fall out again. Unlike wearing closed-in shoes that end up filled with half the beach inside!
My favourites for beach days, travel and everyday wear are the Sanuk Yoga Sling sandals for women. They also make kids and men’s versions. They are just so comfortable since they are made from yoga mats!
First Aid Kit
Beach injuries do happen from time to time and if you are swimming somewhere popular, chances are there will be a lifeguard tower nearby with first aid supplies they can help you with.
For small injuries such as grazes or stepping on a sharp shell, take your own small first aid kit with essential supplies with you!
Don’t forget the lip balm! Those hot days dry out your lips quickly and the sunshine is harsh on your lips too. Choose one with SPF protection for extra sun safety!
You’re sure to get hungry with all that swimming and playing and time in the sun so go prepared with your own portable cooler so you can pack a few snacks or a full lunch for your day out.
Snack items like fruit, crackers, or granola bars are great options. You can pack each individual snack in a Ziploc bag to keep them separate in your cooler, or use small reusable containers.
With a cooler, it means you can pack snacks that may otherwise spoil sitting in the hot sun so this means you can bring sandwiches, wraps, rolls, cheese and dip and plenty of other yummy options!
Without a cooler, stick with dry snack items that won’t spoil or melt such as crackers, popcorn, nuts, apples etc.
Reusable Water Bottles
You will dehydrate quickly if you aren’t drinking enough water during your time at the beach.
You might think because you are in the water swimming that you don’t need to hydrate as often but this can be very misleading, especially when you’re in the direct sun for most of the day.
A reusable water bottle is a great option for refilling at public water fountains or by packing a large water dispenser in your cooler to refill each family members bottles throughout the day.
You might be wondering why on earth you need baby powder if you aren’t visiting the beach with a baby! Well, prepare to have your mind blown. Okay, maybe not but it’s a genius beach hack you need to try.
Baby powder removes moisture from the skin. If you rub a generous amount of baby powder over your feet, legs, hands and arms, it will help the sand fall right off your skin!
Because how hard is it to get sand off otherwise. I am not a fan at all so baby powder has become one of my absolute beach packing list essentials.
Do this with your hands before you eat too then wash them clean with a bit of hand sanitiser. It will work far quicker than soap and water, plus you don’t even need to leave the beach!
If you love to have music playing when you’re lazing at the beach, a waterproof speaker can be a good option. Just make sure you keep the music to a polite level if you are nearby other beachgoers.
Bluetooth speakers are a great option for travel. We have several UE Boom large speakers however the smaller ones are more compact for regular travel and make a great beach day speaker!
While the best part of a family beach trip is disconnecting and enjoying each others company, if you do need to ensure your cell phone and other devices are charged, a portable charger can be a useful extra item to pack. Ideally, a small, compact power bank is a good option.
Make sure you don’t forget your purse or wallet for your beach day in case you get the urge to grab yourselves an ice cream at the beach!
Credit cards are able to be used in most places these days, although having a little cash might be a good option too.
Just ensure you keep your valuable items stores safely in your beach gear or have someone stay with the bags when possible.
You’re sure to end up with a bit of rubbish throughout the day after meals, or changing nappies or using wet wipes to clean messes, so take a trash bag or a spare plastic bag with you to collect all your unwanted items so you can easily throw them in the garbage bin on your way back to your car or hotel.
Extra Beach Packing Items To Consider
Some of these items might be necessary for your family, while others are more dependent on your plans and the activities you are expecting to do during your time at the beach.
Depending on where you’re heading for your day at the beach, bug spray may or may not be an essential packing item to consider.
If you are heading somewhere tropical, such as a beach near the rainforest, there’s a possibility you might find yourself with some annoying mosquitos hanging about!
Beach camping will always require bringing insect repellant just in case as well!
If you are planning on spending some time on the water doing water sports such as kayaking or paddleboarding, you might need to consider taking a dry bag with you if you have important items you want to keep with you, such as a camera or phone.
Dry bags keep your items sealed and watertight.
Action Camera & Flotation Accessories
If you have a waterproof camera or a GoPro, don’t forget to bring your flotation accessories! We have several float arms for our GoPro and half the time I keep the float arm on the camera just in case since it will ensure the camera floats up to the surface if you accidentally drop it.
If you are spending time boating or doing water sports, a life jacket is essential for every member of the family!
Motion Sickness Tablets
Again, if you are spending the day on a boat, don’t forget the motion sickness medication. A ginger tablet or similar is essential for anyone who gets a bit of seasickness when out on the water.
I know all too well how this feels so it helps to be prepared for anything! Try keeping some in your first aid kit just in case.
Glasses Or Contact Lens Case
For family members who wear glasses and plan to take them out while at the beach, make sure you bring along your glasses or contact lenses case to keep them protected when they are not being worn.
The last thing you want is to lose such an expensive and very important thing during your fun day out!
A Book or Magazine
Swimming in the ocean isn’t my personal preference so while sometimes I do enjoy a bit of saltwater on the skin, mostly I love just the relaxing atmosphere of time at the beach.
So I always make sure to pack a good book or a magazine to read when I’m taking a break from the sea and letting Simon take over with the kid wrangling for a while!
Family Beach Vacation Clothing Packing List
If you are taking an extended family beach vacation beyond just a day trip to the beach, these are the items you won’t want to leave behind when packing your suitcase:
T-shirts / tank tops
Dressy outfits and shoes for restaurants/going out
Family Beach Vacation Toiletries Packing List
Don’t forget to pack your essential toiletries and personal care items for your family beach vacation as well:
Perfume / Cologne
Shampoo & Conditioner
Aloe vera gel (for sunburn)
Female hygiene products
If you are taking a beach vacation with a baby or toddler, you will also need to pack essential care items such as nappies, wet wipes, nappy rash cream, baby food, feeding accessories, bottles, formula, bibs, swaddles, and any other essential care items you need for the length of your beach vacation.
Having all the essential gear packed for a day at the beach will help you have a great family holiday or day out together.
These quick tips will also help you make the most of your time at the beach:
On really hot days, go early in the morning or later in the afternoon, rather than in the middle of the day so you can avoid the worst of the UV rays
Check the current information and beach conditions before you go
Always swim between the flags and don’t venture beyond where it is safe, especially when swimming with kids
Sun protection is essential even on cloudy, overcast days!
Packing a beach bag can be overwhelming with all the possibilities of what to bring. We’ve compiled an Ultimate Beach Packing List for Families that are sure to cover your bases and some fun extras to make it the best beach day (or week) you could possibly have! Now it’s time to start preparing!
We hope these essentials for the beach list with kids help you with what to pack for a beach vacation (or day trip).