Image of two children playing at the beach on a sunny day.

Your Must-have Family Beach Day Essentials

Updated December 3, 2016 . AmFam Team

Getting properly packed for a family beach day doesn’t have to be difficult. We’ve made it easy with our must-have family beach day essentials list. Take a look at our family travel ideas to make your holiday on the water fun and memorable!

There’s nothing like heading to the beach for a day of sun, waves and laughs with your family. But when you’re traveling with little ones, there’s a lot to get right. So to be sure you’re getting the most out of your family trip to the beach and take a look at our packing list.

Start With the Safety Essentials for Your Family

Every trip to the water should start and end safely. Take a look at these essential beach safety items to keep your kids safe:

Sunscreen. It’s important to protect yourself and your little ones from the sun’s rays. So pack sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30 (SPF 50+ is safer) and reapply often to get the coverage you need. The American Pediatric Association recommends products that have few health concerns associated with the ingredients and balance protection across both the ultraviolet A and B (UVA and UVB) spectrums.

Sun-proof outerwear. Protective outerwear is just as important as sunscreen. Be sure you’re outfitting the kiddos in clothes specifically designed to shield the sun’s harmful rays. Because sunscreen wears off, keep a sun-proof shirt on them for added protection.

NTSB-certified life jackets. If your kids are surf-ready, you’ll want to pack the swim-time essentials. An NTSB-certified child life jacket is the key to keeping the kids safe when they’re playing in the waves. Because rip currents are unpredictable, outfitting your youngsters with these life jackets or qualifying puddle jumpers can help them stay safe in the surf.

Snorkels, masks and fins. Suit the kids up in their life jackets and stay with them in the water as they explore all the undersea magic with their snorkels, masks and fins.

Pick up a kit that comes equipped with a one-way purge breathing valve that can help to keep the water out of the snorkel while they’re looking around. Select inexpensive kits that are silicon-based and be sure the foot pocket for the fins comes equipped with an adjustable buckle. They’ll fall in love with the ocean in no time! Don’t forget to rinse it all out with fresh water after each use. Transport them in a mesh laundry bag.

First-aid kit. This may be the last item on the safety list, but it’s one you should definitely pack first. Don’t let a little scrape or bump sidetrack your whole day. Be prepared with a first-aid kit with all the basics. Bug bite sticks are a good additions.

Do a little homework and research the types of jellyfish expected to be in the water before you head out. Picking up Sting No More anti jellyfish lotion can really save the day, and it’s available at most drug stores. Benadryl may be necessary — when used as directed — for jellyfish stings.

Your Beach Packing List Creature Comfort Essentials

A day at the beach should be comfortable and fun. With a bit of planning you can bring what you need without breaking the bank. Take a look at these ideas to keep the kids cozy so you can unwind and enjoy the sun and surf.

Sand-free mats. These semi-expensive, beach-friendly mats allow sand to fall straight through the top. When the kids are snacking and not chomping down on sand with each bite, you’ll be glad you brought this along. Better than a beach blanket and lighter too, they’re a new staple for family travel.

A well-designed beach umbrella. Find a lightweight, sturdy beach umbrella to relax under. One that’s rated for high winds and contains wind escape vents is well worth the extra cost.

Lightweight beach chairs. Getting the gear right may require a bit of shopping and sourcing, but look for quality chairs that can work for everyone. Some collapsible beach chairs come equipped with their own adjustable umbrellas which can help save you and the kids from getting too much sun.

A great pop-up beach tent. These important shelters are key for a few reasons. First, they’ll help protect the family if the weather should shift and rain sprinkles down for a few moments.

Next, they’re an important landmark for the family — the kids are better able to find you after they’re done wandering on a crowded beach. Last, they provide protection from the wind and sun. Good tents come equipped with sealable, mesh windows that zipper shut when you need them to.

Your cell phone and a charged back-up USB battery. Nobody wants their kids to be glued to the phone when the surf is calling. When the kids are craving pizza and you can order it from the comfort of folding chair, you’ll be glad you brought it along.

Extra towels. Of course you’ll all need a beach towel to dry off with, but it’s smart to also bring a spare for everyone — don’t forget, they get soaked faster than you think!

Cover ups and clothes. Remember, most beach-side restaurants won’t serve your family if you’re all just sporting your swimsuits. And if the clouds roll in, you’ll have a warmer option so the kids can stay active and warm.

Bring on the Snacking Beach Essentials!

Invest a few minutes the evening before you plan on heading to the water and prep a few yummy treats. Take a look at these go-to beach snacks:


A stocked cooler. The sun and all that exercise can take a lot out of you and your kiddos. So you’ll want to be stocked with ice, water bottles, and plenty of munchies to make your day on the beach with kids great. Keep their energy up and those little tummies full!

Fruit salad. Selecting in-season produce, chop up melons, strawberries, kiwi, watermelon and whatever else your kids crave. For a real kid bonus, pick up a can of whipped cream to top-off your magical creation right there on the beach!

Sandwich wraps. Start with large flour tortilla wrappers, then spread mayo across them. Next, place sliced cheese, lunchmeat, lettuce and tomato down neatly. Roll ‘em up like a burrito, and slice them into kid-sized sections. Wrap them in wax paper to keep the sand away when the youngsters are eating.

Pasta salad. Indulge in a chicken pesto pasta salad at your favorite local deli, and don’t forget plastic wear. You deserve to eat well too!

Juice boxes, and plenty of them. Kids will get thirsty running and funning in the waves. Keep them hydrated with low-sugar options that are made from real fruit juice.

Baby wipes. Simple as these sound, you’ll likely need to wipe the sand off those little hands before the kids eat lunch.

Baby powder. Sand and water don’t mix too well with swim diapers. Pack up the baby powder and keep your baby’s bottom dry when they’re not in the surf.

Beach Day Items You Can’t Do Without

Last but not least on the list, don’t forget to pack the sand toys and things the kids need to bring home great memories:

Beach toys. Can you say sand castles? No family beach vacation is complete without professional grade five gallon buckets and a strong shovel. Make your time in the sand even more memorable by bringing some pails and shovels and have a friendly water-side competition!

Zip-lock baggies. Stock your beach bag with some smaller bags you can use for collecting shells or protecting your electronics. And one must have: bring along a garbage bag to toss your wet clothes in at the end of the day.

Mesh laundry bags. Let the kids carry their sand toys and other gear in these bags. They’ll shed the sand and help keep it out of your ride. Bring a few spares along that you can use for the trip back, because you never pack out as neatly as you pack in!

A few disposable waterproof cameras. Rather than sacrifice your phone to the salt and the surf, pick up a couple disposable waterproof digital cameras for your day away. Available at local tech stores, these inexpensive options can keep your kids busy snapping shots of one another. And you won’t have to worry that your expensive camera or phone will get wet or stolen.

Now that you’ve got your packing list, load up the car and get on your way! Days like these are what it’s all about. And if you’ll be renting a vacation home while you’re away, you’ll want to pick up protection to cover your belongings. As you’re making preparations for your holiday, check in with your American Family Insurance (Opens in a new tab) agent and learn about our travel insurance options. Safeguard that spirit of adventure so that if something unexpected happens, your travel plans can be rescheduled and your finances can be protected.

Want an easy way to access your insurance information while on the go? Sign up for My Account (Opens in a new tab) and download the MyAmFam app where you can call Emergency Roadside Assistance, view insurance cards, file a claim, pay your bill and more!


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