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What’s better than a day at the beach? Building sand castles, jumping through waves, flying a kite or napping under an umbrella. It’s all good. Until it isn’t. If you don’t do some prep work in advance, your dream day at the shore can quickly turn into a nightmare.
Based on many years of sandy experiences, our SheBuysTravel contributors have compiled a list of the 50 items to consider packing for a day at the beach in a printable checklist. Some are no-brainers: sunscreen, beach towels and water bottles. Others are optional, based on what your perfect beach day looks like. For example, if the only sounds you want to hear are the crashing of waves and your kids’ laughter, leave the portable speaker at home.
Throughout, we’ve scattered practical tips to make your beach day better. If you’re heading out with toddlers, definitely check out the sandwich tip. Got an absent-minded partner? The car key suggestion might prevent a blow up when you’re ready to head home.
The Ultimate Beach Day Packing List
Packing for a day trip to the beach is VERY different than packing for a family beach vacation. You don’t need nearly as much, but you’ll want to have the essentials. This is a fairly comprehensive list, along with a printable checklist to help you avoid forgetting anything at home.
Download the printable checklist: Beach Day Packing List
7 Essential Items to Take to the Beach
1. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen
Since skin cancer is on the rise, we know to come home with seashells, not sunburns! Kids’ skin is delicate and should be protected regardless of complexion. I had to have skin cancer removed from my face, so I learned the hard way that sunscreen should be priority #1! Don’t forget lip balm with SPF as well. A few of our favorite sunscreens for kids are:
Need to wear a mask on your trip? Let someone else do the sewing for you with one of these super cute masks from Etsy.
2. First aid kit
Besides sunscreen, it’s good to be prepared for other small ailments and injuries. You should always keep a first aid kit in your car and take a small one along when you travel. Keep in mind that most first aid kits will need to be in checked baggage if they contain sharp items like scissors. Once, my son fell on a piece of glass and we were so lucky to have our kit to wrap him up until we could get to the emergency room.
3. Bug spray
Most beaches have bugs. Protect yourself and your kids from biting flies. sand fleas, mosquitoes, and ticks. Some products combine bug repellent and sunscreen in one.
4. Beach Towels
Bring more than you think you’ll need. We like to have a small towel just for drying off and not laying in the sand. A quick dry towel works well.
Did you know we have 133 more posts about beaches? Read them here!
SheBuysTravel Tip: One of our favorite things to do when taking a beach vacation is to hire a photographer for family photos. This is a special gift and souvenir that we cherish. We use Flytographer to book a local photographer located in the area that we're traveling to. Use this link and you will get $25 off your photo session.
SheBuysTravel Tip: If you decide to pack sandwiches, cut them into quarters. This way if one piece falls, there is still plenty left.
6. Water Bottles
Save money and keep the kids away from sugary snack bar drinks by bringing your own water bottles. Fill with mostly ice so as it melts, the water stays colder longer.
7. Daypack or beach bag
You’ll need something to carry it all. Lightweight daypacks work well. We like to have at least one with a built-in cooler section to keep fruit fresh and drinks cold.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Check out this list of the prettiest beach bags we have found!
These are so easy to pack and solve a lot of beach day challenges. Keep dry clothes dry and wet/sandy clothes away from everything else at the end of your day. They are useful or transporting swim diapers, snacks, sunscreen and much more.
Clothes for the Beach
What to wear to the beach may seem like a no-brainer, but having a checklist always comes in handy. We recommend these 10 key items.
- Flip flops/sandals
- A change of clothes (more than 1 for babies)
- Water Shoes
- Sunglasses – rated for full UVA/UVB protection
- Sun hats
- Swim diapers
- Lightweight jacket or sweatshirt
There’s nothing worse than an injured or sunburned foot. Water shoes protect feet from sharp rocks and seashells and provide added traction for walking on slippery rocks and moss. Our SheBuysTravel contributors like these:
Sun hats are a must, especially to protect babies’ fair skin. Hats with chin straps help them stay on. Here are some we like for the kids:
While this is a list of what many people bring to the beach, I think most electronics (except maybe a cell phone) should be left at home. There is no need to worry about electronics that could get sandy, broken or even stolen.
- Hand wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Feminine products
- Cell phone
- Books/Magazines – the paper kind that can get sandy, lost or tossed at the end of the day.
- Kindle, iPad or another e-book reader (if you must)
- Extra set of keys – have 2 people carry keys in case a set gets lost
- Reading glasses or prescription sunglasses
- Wallet – or essentials like license, insurance card, credit card and cash in a Ziploc bag.
- Medications – epi pens, inhalers, etc.
- Hairbrush and hair ties
- MP3/Music player
When you want a more “luxurious” day at the beach, these are the additional comfort items you’ll want to bring (depending on what can fit in your car, of course).
- Beach chairs
- Beach blanket
- Shade Tent
- Cooler/Insulated bag
- Beach umbrella
- Folding snack table
- Collapsible utility wagon – these are the absolute best way to get all of your stuff to the beach from your car without breaking your back.
- Beach tent – it’s even got screens to keep the bugs away!
Not all beach blankets are created equal. We recommend those called “sand proof.” These blankets easily shake off the sand and typically come with tent stakes and/or corner pockets so you can weigh them down. Nothing worse than a beach blanket that blows away.
- Snorkels and masks
- Swim fins
- Floatables – rafts, tubes, flamingos, whatever “floats your boat.”
- Coast Guard approved life jackets for little ones who can’t swim
- Waterproof camera
- Waterproof phone case
Just for Fun
- Sand toys
- football, soccer ball or volleyball
- Beach Bocce set
- Spike Ball
- Portable waterproof speaker
Extra SheBuysTravel Recommendations
Want to save space and money? Skip the toys and use what’s at the beach. Make sandcastles by hand, create seashell art, play wave tag, etc. Let your imagination come up with unique ways to play without all the extra stuff.
A mesh laundry bag is great for holding beach toys, water shoes, etc., The sand will fall out and less of it will end up in the trunk of your car.
Consider bringing a full-size bucket and shovel, not just kid-sized toys. This helps dig holes for umbrella stands and fire pits. Leftover sand can be used to keep beach tents and blankets in place.
My recommendation is to leave the electronics at home, or at least in the car, and keep the family “unplugged” for the day. After all, it’s meant to be a family day. This way, you don’t need to worry about getting tablets or cell phones sandy or broken.
Have a successful beach day!
This may seem like a lot of stuff to take with you, but you’ll be glad you came prepared. This list will not only serve you well at the beach but a day at the lake, park or anywhere there is dirt, sun and water.
Heading on a beach vacation? Check out this post: The Ultimate Family Beach Vacation Packing List.