"The beauty of beach vacations is that it's possible for families to pack light," says family travel expert Sarah Fazendin, the creator of the family travel blog A Week on the Beach. Fazendin's family loves spending the day in a totally relaxed state. "When we're away from the chaos of our daily lives, we connect. A beach vacation is perfect for that," she says. It can be perfect for your family too -- just don't forget these must-bring items on your beach packing list.
"If you're going to the beach, bring a water-resistant, hypoallergenic sunscreen that provides trusted, broad-spectrum protection for your skin types," suggests dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey. Dr. Bailey's top pick is
. "It's economical, works well and is easy to apply," she says.
Pack 'n Play
An indispensable item for the under-two set but bulky to pack, see if your vacation spot has these on hand before you go. "The noise of the ocean makes for great napping conditions, and the pack 'n play is a nice, sand-free space," says Fazendin. Look for something lightweight and foldable, like Graco Playard on the Go, which comes with a bassinet and detachable toy bar.
Umbrella Stroller With Canopy
If you're heading to a boardwalk beach or need to do a long trek from car to shore, a lightweight umbrella stroller can come in handy, plus do double stowing duty.
Beach Chairs [Or Air Lounger for a lighter load]
Look for adult and child-size chairs with attached canopies or umbrellas. If beach chairs are provided at your destination but don't include shade cover, then a beach umbrella, like the easy-to-spot Tommy Bahama beach umbrella in bright red, can prolong your beach day in comfort. However, for a lighter load replace beach chair with Rapid Inflation WindCatcher Air Lounger. At ⅕ the weight of beach chair, Rapid Inflation WindCatcher Air Lounger is your perfect relaxation pal for the Beach.
Gear You Wear
Pack at least one back-up bathing suit per person, so no one has to squirm into a damp suit for that second day's swim, plus some easy-on cover-ups. You'll need disposable swim diapers, UVA-sunglasses, swimming goggles and plenty of towels. Little ones get out of the water easier if you scoop them into fun hooded towels, like the bright green Jumping Beans frog towel. You'll also need protective sun hats for little heads and visor caps.
"I never hit the beach without baby powder, which is the best way to get sand off little bodies! Simply sprinkle on and the sand falls right off. It also soaks in moisture, which is helpful if your kiddos get rashy or irritated skin in humid weather," says Fazendin.
Stuff to Read
Yes, there will be moments when your children are sleeping or playing blissfully in the sand. They don't call them beach reads for nothing! Grab the latest summer page-turner and enjoy your 20 minutes. Kids like reading on the beach, too. Look for waterproof books like Duck, which comes with a net bag for drip-dry storage.
Stuff to Play With
Toys are musts for your beach packing list, and you can't go wrong with Velcro toss and catch. Mini beach balls that deflate for packing and sand castle molds, pails and shovels can keep kids quietly occupied between wave-jumping sessions.
Stuff to Eat and Drink
Everybody gets hungry on the beach. Insulated bags keep snacks plus formula or breast milk fresh for two or three hours. You can also go for a Medela cooler bag and ice pack for all-day milk storage. Bottled water is a must-pack, and don't forget fruit, carrot sticks and everybody's favorite sandwiches, plus plenty of napkins and wet wipes.
Zip-Top Plastic Bags
Even the most glorious beach day has to end eventually. Confine the day's mess by dumping sandy, damp everything into air-tight bags to keep your car and hotel room sand-free. Ahhh, beach!