Before having kids, I would see families on the beach and dream of the day I'd be sharing the sun and sand with my little ones. Fast forward a few years, and there I was with two under three frolicking along the shores. Yet taking two kids to the beach (while fun once you're there) can take some planning. For me, carrying or pulling a lot of stuff plus a few kids took the pleasure out of the day.
I learned to narrow my beach bag items down to the most key items. But it's important to note that what you bring to the beach will depend on how old your kids are, how long you're staying, and how far the car is to the sand. So, here are some beach bag essentials from moms who know.
Matching Mommy & Me Beach Bags
Before we get into what to bring to the beach with kids, we need to pick the best beach bag. Choosing a beach bag comes down to a few key attributes — size, durability, and portability.
Brooks Tote Beach Bag
When traveling with young kids, you will bring more stuff than you usually would, so size is a consideration. Choose a bag not too large but large enough to carry all your beach bag essentials.
Jamie Genuine Leather Trim Beach Bag
Handwoven Caitlyn Tote
You also want a beach bag that's easy to carry. It needs to fit snug around your arm but not too snug or have straps that go over your chest. It's also helpful if the beach bag sits up when placed on the sand and doesn't collapse. This way, you can easily reach into the bag and grab what you need.
Camryn Jumbo Tassel Beach Bag
Durability is another factor for a great beach bag. Ones made of seagrass or straw are made for the beach and easily repel sand. When you invest in a beach bag, choosing one that will last makes a difference.
Garden Basket Beach Bag
One of the most important items in your beach bag is sunscreen. Going to the beach without it would pretty much ruin the day. Now, there are many sunscreens to choose from, but one thing is for sure, sunscreen is not cheap. So I tend to buy a bunch of sunscreen when it's on sale or at the end of the summer season for the following year.
When choosing a sunscreen, look for the following:
- Wide-spectrum coverage
- A minimum SPV of 30
- Kind of ingredients
- Easy to apply
One pro mom tip is to apply the sunscreen before hitting the sand. I like to do it at the house or in the beach parking lot. Nothing is worse than putting sunscreen on a squirmy child in a pile of sand. Plus, applying sunscreen ahead of time allows the skin to soak it up and provide complete protection before hitting the water.
Also, how easy sunscreen is to apply will determine your choice of sunscreen. It can take forever to apply if it's too thick and seems to run out faster. Too thin, and the coverage seems to be weaker. If you're going to hang out at the beach or pool a lot, buy a few different brands of sunscreen to find out which one you like best.
While sunscreen is super essential, so are snacks. If your children are like my children, the snacks will disappear in minutes. The problem with snacks is that they can take up a lot of room in your bag. So, choosing snacks that are easy to carry and last longer are two key considerations.
My go-to snacks are fresh fruit, fish crackers, applesauce, and yogurt. Also, how long you're going to stay will determine the kind of snacks. You may be planning on a beach picnic and need heartier items.
If I'm short on time and energy, I buy watermelon or pineapple already cut up in the grocery store. The fruit has a ton of water and is a joy to eat in the hot sun. Fish crackers are super light, and most kids adore them. Applesauce is always a hit, and little yogurts are refreshing. But don't forget something special for yourself. Going to the beach with kiddos is fun but a lot of work for mamas!
Bringing water is a must when toting children to the beach. I like to freeze the water the night before, so it stays cold the whole time. Then, I place the water bottle in a plastic bag to collect the condensation. You can also use the bag for trash or diapers at the beach.
Beach Mat & Towel
Drying off before coming home makes a beach towel essential. However, beach towels can also be bulky and take up some beach bag space. I like to bring quick-dry beach towels that fold up into small squares yet soak up a lot of water. I then bring a seagrass straw mat to sit on rather than a towel.
Straw mats can be big enough to hold the family and light enough to carry. I then keep regular towels in the car to further dry off and de-sand my children before going home. I've even seen a mom keep a water sand remover in the back of her car.
Bucket & Shovel
While you can get away without bringing beach toys, bringing along a bucket and shovel is always a good idea.
Some kids can dig for hours, and others like to carry water. Also, the Melissa and Doug beach toy sets last forever and aren't that heavy.
Along with sunscreen, hats are the other barrier against burning tender skin. Hats with a wide brim and securely stay on heads are ideal. Also, if your kid can walk, she can carry a backpack or kid's bag with her beach essentials.
She can transport her hat, shovel, and snacks to make more room in mommy's beach bag.
Beach Coverup Dress
While going to the beach with kids usually means it's all about them, mommy deserves something special too. The Sunday Dress is an everyday dress that's also a stylish beach coverup
It has roomy pockets to hold stuff and feels nice and light on the skin. The beach dress comes in loose fitting style that looks good on all body types.
Honestly, changing a diaper at the beach is no bueno. You have the sand and the elements to battle. But if you're there long enough, you'll have to brave a diaper change. So bring along a wet bag for soiled diapers. And if you change a diaper, you'll need to bring an extra swim diaper or two in your beach bag.
Portable Beach Tent
Another beach bag essential is a beach tent or cabana. They are pretty lightweight and easy to carry. If your baby needs a nap or, better yet, mama needs a nap, you can snuggle in to catch some shut-eye. Also, it's a private spot for a diaper change and to keep snacks out of the sun.
Sometimes your beach bag becomes too packed with all your goodies, and toting it from the car to the beach isn't ideal. When this happens, a beach wagon can be a lifesaver.
A beach wagon can hold your beach bag and the kiddos. Also, you may have bulkier items like a cooler or beach toys. Choosing a wagon with bigger wheels will be easier to pull on slippery sand.
Now that you have a list of beach bag essentials from moms who know, you're ready to head to the beach. Try to remember to only bring what you absolutely need and whatever you forget you can probably do without. Plus, all the beach photos after always make the adventure worth it.
Amber Roshay is a content manager who helps brands connect and grow. She's been featured on Business Insider, Motherly, The Write Life, and more. When she's not writing content, she's enjoying the beach with her family in San Diego.