Beach Vacation Must Haves

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I’m pretty reserved, and normally wouldn’t brag about being an expert in anything but one thing I can say I have down pat!

Beach Packing.

I am definitely an expert in getting a family ready for the beach and on to the sand!

Little man has a March birthday, and I started taking him to the beach his very first summer. When he was 5 months old, we spent a week at the Outer Banks with #thegirlfriends. We are so lucky to travel often to Atlantic City, NJ and Naples, FL; and to have spent last August in Hawaii. But we are even luckier that we live a 10-minute drive from an Atlantic Ocean beach!

We love hitting the beach as a family, and here are our Beach Vacation must haves for any family beach trip!

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Beach Vacation Must Haves. Everything your family needs for a beach vacation or day trip to the beach! ! Best Beach Packing Tips and Beach Vacation Packing List #Beach #family #travel #Beach #Summer #FamilyVacation #BeachVacation

Beach Vacation Must Haves

Beach Cart. Now six years ago, when I was pregnant with baby girl I was taking little man to the beach about once a week. I started schlepping all of our beach stuff in a rolling laundry cart. About a year after that, Tommy Bahama slapped some big wheels on  basically the same cart, added a cooler and BAM – the best beach invention ever.

Why can’t I think of these things?

Seriously, if you don’t buy anything else this summer, BUY A BEACH CART! It is singlehandedly the reason I can take both kids to the beach by myself.

The Tommy Bahama beach cart is the one we have. It comes with an attachable cooler, has a rack to hang your beach chairs, and a pocket to stick your beach umbrella. There is a large mesh bag where you can throw everything else, and not have to worry about sand collecting at the bottom. This cart is light and easy to fold. It’s truly a Godsend.

Good beach chairs. For grown ups, we have two of these Tommy Bahama backpack chairs. I always use the beach cart when going to the beach, but the backpack feature is great when I take these chairs to little man’s baseball games (or any other outdoor venue where you need seats). There are pouches in the back to hold your valuables, and one of the pockets is even insulated if you have food or drinks.

Our kids each have a Freeport chair from Pottery Barn Kids. I got them late one summer on clearance. Little man has an octopus design and baby girl has a princess chair. These are light, easy to fold and easy to clean. They come with a carrying sleeve and fit nicely in the beach cart.


Beach Umbrella. I love to bake in the sun, but hubby and the kids sometimes need shade. Last year I picked up this Tommy Bahama Beach Umbrella and we love it! It folds up and fits on the beach cart, and is easy to set up! Perfect for when you need a little cover.

Beach Table. This is actually a camping table, but I recently saw someone on the beach in Naples, Florida with this and I had to go order it!

Toys. Every year we get a new crop of sand toys. The pails, molds and sifters sort of accumulate. Our kids’ favorite beach toys are the long and wide shovels. I highly recommend THESE long shovels, and they come in a 3-pack so no fighting. My kids also LOVE THESE wide shovels. They are only $4 so buy one for each kid! We never hit the beach without these shovels!

As for other toys, we love these Velcro catch games, Kadima, Frisbee and football. A place like 5 Below is a good store to stock up on these items.

Beach Vacation Must Haves. Everything your family needs for a beach vacation or day trip to the beach! ! Best Beach Packing Tips and Beach Vacation Packing List #Beach #family #travel #Beach #Summer #FamilyVacation #BeachVacation


This summer I purchased THIS TOY and honestly, its the most popular beach toy I have ever seen. So simple but will entertain your kids FOR HOURS!

Boogey Board. Okay I will admit, I got these for the kids – and little man is pretty good on the board, but I have to say last year, I think I used the boogey boards more than the children! I love riding the waves! I also have been know to grab the board, paddle out and just float and relax on the board! We have two of these boogey boards and we love them!

Tervis Tumbler. If you read my Surviving Long Flights with Kids post, you know that our family never ventures out without a ton of food and snacks. Same is true when we hit the beach (I’ll get the specifics in a minute), but the one thing I always bring to the beach, no matter what, is some iced coffee in my Tervis tumbler (with straw attachment). I have a Tervis I got in Florida, with a golf course’s logo, but you can get all sort of cute ones on Amazon (like THIS and THIS) or Bed, Bath and Beyond always has a big selection. I don’t know, an iced coffee in my Tervis is something I always associate with a day at the beach.

PRO-TIP: Brew extra coffee in the morning, let it sit in the fridge, then pour into your Tervis over ice!


Beach Vacation Must Haves. Everything your family needs for a beach vacation or day trip to the beach! ! Best Beach Packing Tips and Beach Vacation Packing List #Beach #family #travel #Beach #Summer #FamilyVacation #BeachVacation
Summer 2010, Jones Beach, NY




Other items not to forget:

Water – We try to always use a Camelbak bottle, but in the summer do we keep a case of plastic water bottles in our extra refrigerator ready to be taken to the beach or other outdoor activity. One Camelbak of water is never enough for me, and sometimes there isn’t a convenient location to re-fill.

** Check out the price on this pink Camelbak! Super cheap!

PRO-TIP: Freeze a bottle or two to use as an ice pack, and to drink nice and cold late in the day.


Snacks & Lunch – To the beach, we usually bring bagels for the kids and sandwiches for the adults. THIS WRAP is one of my favorites to make ahead and bring to the beach. I’m also always down for an old school PB&J or a homemade pasta salad! We always have a ton of bagged snacks including chips, pretzels, pirate booty, apples, and cut up carrots/cucumbers. I love eating Cool Ranch Doritos at the beach.

PRO-TIP: Bring extra paper towels, and a small plastic bag for garbage.


Hats –we bring a hat (and sunglasses) for everyone. I am more of a baseball cap kinda girl, but I am thinking about getting one of these fun, fancy beach hats!


Sunscreen – Our family is super loyal to Neutrogena Beach Defense spray sunscreen and FACE STICK. Hey, we spent three weeks in the Hawaiian sun and no one got burned! And I just realized you can Subscribe & Save these products on AMAZON!  I always keep a ziplock bag of sunscreen in our garage, and our family rule is we have to apply sunscreen BEFORE we leave the house.


Towels – We have a random assortment of cute Pottery Barn Kids Beach towels and ones from the $2 rack at Target.

Beach Vacation Must Haves. Everything your family needs for a beach vacation or day trip to the beach! ! Best Beach Packing Tips and Beach Vacation Packing List #Beach #family #travel #Beach #Summer #FamilyVacation #BeachVacation



Our kids are out of this stage, but for those first years, we always had with us:

Pacific Play Lil Nursery Portable Pop-Up tent. This was my favorite gift to receive at our baby shower! This tent is so compact and easy to put up. Its a great place for the baby to lay down and nap, or just chill out when they need a sun break. Toddlers will love playing in this tent as well! One winter we even had it set up in our living room as a play fort.

Baby Bjorn or Soft Structure Carrier. Baby wearing is by far the best way to get your little one from the car to the beach. Don’t bring your stroller on the sand. Trust me, it doesn’t work!

Since we live close to the beach, we usually go and come home in our bathing suits. If I think we are going to be venturing out post-beach, I might pack a bag of dry clothes to leave in the car. We always pack our own food and drinks, but we will often splurge for an ice cream treat at the end of a long beach day!

A good sunhat – I always made my son wear this hat from iplay with the flaps that cover his ears and neck!

Needless to say, we CANNOT wait for summer to really get underway here on Long Island! What are your best beach essentials and beach-packing tips?

Beach Vacation Must Haves. Everything your family needs for a beach vacation or day trip to the beach! ! Best Beach Packing Tips and Beach Vacation Packing List #Beach #family #travel #Beach #Summer #FamilyVacation #BeachVacation



UPDATE: Many commenters have noted you also need a good beach tote! Totally, and I wrote about my favorite family beach tote HERE. Although when I am going to the beach solo (or just with girlfriends) I love this beach tote!





Travel Packing Tips

Wanderer’s Fashion Basics, Part I and Part II

Surviving Long Flights with Kids

Must Have Pool Gear


Read about our favorite beaches here:

Naples, Florida

Maui, Hawaii

Big Island, Hawaii

Atlantic City, New Jersey

Fire Island, New York

Kure Beach, North Carolina


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Beach Vacation Must Haves. Everything your family needs for a beach vacation or day trip to the beach! ! Best Beach Packing Tips and Beach Vacation Packing List #PackingTips #traveltips #Beach #family #travel #Beach #Summer #FamilyVacation #BeachVacation

Beach Vacation Must Haves. Everything your family needs for a beach vacation or day trip to the beach! ! Best Beach Packing Tips and Beach Vacation Packing List #Beach #family #travel #Beach #Summer #FamilyVacation #BeachVacation #TravelTips #PackingList



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82 Comments to “Beach Vacation Must Haves”

    1. harmskills Author

      WHen we went to Hawaii, we didnt bring our beach cart (obviously) and we were like baffons trying to carry all the crap. Kids are no help. They carry like one sand pail and are like “uggg its too heavy”

  1. Amy

    Great tips. I’ve never heard of a beach cart. We use a camping backpack instead because we’re usually taking the bus or train to the beach so pushing a carry wouldn’t work for us.

    Sharing this!

  2. This is a great list! I never thought of bringing an extra bag for trash, that is such a great tip. This will help a lot for our upcoming vacations. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Great list! We live about an hour from the coast but we still try to get to the beach once or so a month. We pack light but I never go anywhere without my camera, sunglasses, sunscreen and a cover-up. Even with sunscreen I tend to burn and need to get my skin out of the sun.

  4. What a helpful post! I’m heading to Amazon to check out the Camelback water bottle. My current one is about worn out. The paper tower suggestion is great — my family forgot kleenexes and paper towels on a road trip recently and that’s a problem!

  5. Whew, that is a LIST right there! This is the first year my munchkin and I will be beaching- it. Daddy is a firefighter and so it will be just baby and me for many of the beach days. This list is just what I needed to prepare! Thanks!

  6. Good read. Some of the things like the beach cart and beach chair, I never heard of before. My son has grown out of this stage of needing many of these items. But I think he will still like the shovel and the bottle 🙂

  7. Good beach chairs are a must!!!! I have struggled with the cheap ones you find at beach stores on the strip many a time and I am always mad at myself for not dragging my good ones along on the trip 😉

  8. Great recommendations! We live 10 minutes from the beach, which sounds great, but in reality, it means that when we go, we’re most likely underprepared, because we don’t think of it as a major outing–we can always head home soon if we don’t have something we need!

  9. One thing that we love to take to the beach with us is a tent for the whole family. We have one that’s open in the front to let in the breeze, but provides shade for everyone!

  10. This is my first summer as a beach “mommy” so I thank you! My husband just bought me a beach cart from Sams, it is absolutely essential!!! I really like those chairs, too!

  11. What a great list! I don’t have kids, but I still think it’s applicable to everyone. Wish I had that tote or knew that water bottle trick when I briefly lived in Florida. Cheers!

  12. As a beachbum and tropical weather lover (and oh, an expectant mom), these tips on beach essentials will be very useful to me! I already have some of these – like the towels, umbrellas, water bottles, but nothing for the kiddo yet when it comes out! 😀 I’m thinking of getting that baby björn carrier. Is it good for petite/short mommies? hehe

  13. Tracy

    Taking 6 of my kids, 3 adult kids abd three kid kids, to Mexico to the beach. We are packing in “personal items” not even carry ons! Any advice for light packing for a ten day trip? Bought sunscreen, bug spray, swimsuits!

    1. harmskills Author

      yes and yes! We always bring a ton of sunscreen. hats. might pick up some sand toys when we are there. sometimes a hotel or home rental will have them. sometimes you can grab some at like a dollar store. or make friends with some other kids on the beach!


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