No matter what time of year it is, a family beach vacation is always a good idea!
Relaxation for the parents. Easy entertainment for the kids. You really can’t go wrong.
Since we have a couple beachy trips coming up soon, I’m naturally already playing through my head just how we’ll fit everything in our suitcases!
Packing for a family beach vacation can be a little tricky. There are so many extra items to plan for compared to your average family trip. And while you need to be practical, you don’t want to sacrifice all the fun stuff either!
Streamline your planning and read on for our most essential packing list for the perfect family beach vacation:
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Clothes & Essentials
Let’s face it, as much as we all want to look cute on a sunny vacation, you’ll most likely be wearing the same things again and again as you lounge by the pool or beach. So keep things simple. Pack minimally on clothes and you’ll have plenty of room for all those fun extras.
Remember, even if it’s 100 degrees on your travel day, wear your heaviest item from each category to save the most space in your suitcase!
Here’s what we (roughly) pack for each person when visiting a beachy destination:
- 2-3 bottoms | Shorts, skirts, etc.
- 4-5 tanks or tops
- 1-2 dresses or rompers | Good for sightseeing in town or nice dinners out. Casual rompers can be repurposed as a swimsuit cover up (like this one I wore in Mexico).
- 1 light jacket or sweater | A must for those chilly beach nights
- 1-2 sets of PJs
- Undies | 1 for each day, 7 max
- Socks | 1-2 pairs, if bringing sneakers for outdoor activities
- 2-3 pairs of shoes | 2 sandals (1 dressy, 1 casual) and 1 pair of sneakers for outdoor activities
- Toiletry bag | Instead of packing one for everybody, I try to consolidate all of our stuff into one good-sized toiletry bag. Especially if it’s a short trip (<a week), you can easily share one set of toiletries for the whole family.
- Hair Styling Tools | Be sure to check if where you’re staying already has a hair dryer…it’s one less thing to pack! Otherwise I’m a fan of this travel-size one, plus this teeny-tiny travel flat iron.
- Accessories | I don’t bring a lot of jewelry when we travel, but I like to have a few pieces I can mix and match to dress things up. Keep earrings, necklaces, and little girls’ hair bows together in a small jewelry case.
If this doesn’t seem like much, you’re right, it’s not! 🙂 Instead of packing an outfit for every day, book accommodations with a washing machine so you can freshen up your wardrobe mid-trip.
Swim & Beach Gear
Now onto the fun stuff…
- Swimsuit | 1-2 per person. I love this one from RuffleButts with a long-sleeve rashguard for little girls (more skin protection and less surface area to struggle at covering with sunscreen!)
- Swimsuit cover up | For the sake of simplicity, try to limit yourself to one you really love, knowing you can swap a dress or romper as a cover up on other days.
- Sun Hat | Definitely a must-have for kids and adults. This sun hat is a great one for babies, while older kids will enjoy something a little more stylish and structured. 😉
- Water Shoes | If you have a kid like mine who hates the sand, these are definitely helpful!
- Swim Diapers | It never fails, I always manage to forget the disposable swim diapers. For a more eco-friendly option, try a reusable one.
- Beach Towels | Whether you’re staying in a hotel or an Airbnb, if you’re in a beach destination they’ll usually be included. But there are still a few traditional vacational rentals out there that will require you to bring your own, so be sure to check in advance. If you do need your own, these lightweight packable beach towels are a perfect solution.
- Beach Tote | Make sure you have a nice big bag to carry all of your stuff to and from the beach. You can either swap your typical carry on bag for a structured one like this, or bring something that folds up tiny like these Baggu bags.
- Wet Bag | You can buy a fancy one like this, otherwise gallon storage bags work just as well for transporting wet swimsuits in a pinch!
Health & Sun Care
- Medicine/first aid kit | You don’t have to bring the kitchen sink, but definitely bring the usual suspects like Tylenol, bandages, antibacterial ointment, etc.
- Sunscreen | This is one item you can buy after you arrive, but since I’m kind of picky about which kinds I like, I tend to bring my own from home. I’m a fan of a good sunscreen stick that can be tossed in the go bag, as well as this Aveeno Baby sunscreen that’s good for babies and adults alike, and just under the 3.2 ounce carry on limit.
- Lip Balm with SPF | For both kids and adults, this is a must.
- Bug Spray | If you’re heading to the tropics, don’t forget you’ll need something to keep the bugs and mosquitos away! I like this natural option: safe for kids and better yet, doesn’t make you smell like chemicals.
- Aloe Vera | Not matter how much sun care you pack, it’s always a good idea to bring somealoe vera, or better yet, after sun lotion in case of burns!
- Baby Powder | Sounds random, I know, but baby powder is the secret to getting all that beach sand off your feet. Just trust me on this one and throw a travel size bottle in your bag!
Just for Fun
- Mini Cooler Bag | If you plan to spend lots of time at the beach (or even poolside), having a little cooler bag to tote a picnic lunch and a few drinks in is a great idea. Don’t forget a few slim ice packs as well to keep in the freezer.
- Inflatables | Not 100% necessary, but 100% fun! Who doesn’t need an inflatable unicorn or donut for lounging in the pool?? Just make sure it folds down small and, of course, check with your hotel first to make sure outside inflatables are allowed.
- Puddle Jumper/Arm Floaties | Puddle jumpers are great, but super bulky to pack. If you can substitute a pair of inflatable arm bands, that’ll be your best bet.
- Beach Toys | You won’t need a ton of stuff, but having a few beach toys to keep the kids occupied is a good idea. This collapsible beach bucket and sand toys are perfect for packing light. Simple things like water rings or other dive toys are also great for pool days. As always, check with your hotel or Airbnb host, as they may already provide these kinds of things, meaning it’s less you have to bring with you.
- Beach Tent | For little ones at the beach, the KidCo peapod is a great option that’s also super compact (yes, it fits in a carry on)! If you’re making a road trip or checking a large bag, this bigger-sized beach tent is great for families needing all day shade.
- Beach Chairs | Obviously not feasible if you’re flying to your destination, but if you’ll be driving these compact beach chairs are a nice accessory to have.
- Bluetooth Speaker | I’m a firm believer that fun in the sun is more fun with some tunes!
- Passport | If you’re planning on leaving the country, you’ll need a passport for everyone in the family. Read our quick guide to baby’s first passport here.
- Camera & Charger
- Cell Phone Charger
- Underwater Camera | Go for a cheap disposable one like these, or if you’re looking to invest in something nicer, the GoPro Hero comes equipped with a waterproof case for amazing underwater shots and video. (this floating wristband is also a favorite GoPro accessory of ours!)
- Laundry detergent pods | We pack minimally, so we always end up doing plenty of laundry on our trips. Especially with sandy beach clothes, you’ll want to be able to do some washings during your stay. These pods make it super easy to bring your own detergent. (I simply double bag them in small plastic storage bags and have never had an issue with them bursting!)
- Travel Clothesline | A great way to dry wet towels and swimsuits, this travel clothesline can easily be rigged up to hang clothes in the shower.
- Sheets | It sure is a pain, but beware that it is customary for some beach vacation rentals to not provide sheets or towels, so be sure to check the fine print and bring your own if you must.
What do you always pack for a family beach vacation? Let me know in the comments below!
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