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Fun in the Sun: Everything You Need for a Family Beach Day

Two kids playing with sand castle accessories on a beach, a woman reading under a sun umbrella, and a little girl on a raft in ocean waves.
Click N Play/Blissun/GoPlus

From protecting sensitive skin to ensuring you have all the right sandcastle-building equipment, lugging your kids to the beach can be a lot of work. That’s why we’ve thrown together this handy list of family beach day essentials, so you can get on the road to the coast that much sooner!

You might already have many of these items, but we’ve included everything to (hopefully) prevent you from forgetting something. Of course, if you’re normally landlocked and enjoying a beach vacation, this list of essentials will ensure you get the most out of your days by the sea.

Tips for a Fun Beach Day

Before we jump into our all-inclusive list of beach gear and gadgets, be sure to take a look at our parent-approved tips for having a fun day under the sun:

  • Choose the right beach for your family: If it’s your first time enjoying a beach day with your kids, make sure that the setting will be safe and fun. What types of extra amenities does your beach location offer? Is there a fun boardwalk for shopping or a small amusement park? Are there restaurants within walking distance?
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: If this means that you have to make a pit stop on the way, it’s worth it. Staying hydrated is beyond essential for a long day under the scorching sun. Reusable water bottles are great, so be sure to pack one or two water jugs so that you can refill them all day.
  • Apply sunscreen before you get there: There will be lots of excitement for your little ones when they hit the sand, so lather them up prior to arriving. Also, be sure to reapply sunscreen throughout the day.
  • Explain safety rules before you arrive: For example, explain that there will be no running to the water while you’re setting up your lounge area. Show the kids your umbrella so that they can easily spot it if they lose you, and explain the role of a lifeguard so that they can find help fast if they need it.
  • Pack the right toys with lots of extra sand shovels: This saves you from having to buy a bunch of new ones every time you go. It also encourages the kids to stay close by and have a blast building castles.
  • Give your kids something to look forward to afterward: This will prevent a meltdown when it’s time to leave. Pick a location nearby where you can stop for ice cream or a kid-themed restaurant that you can hit for dinner.

Now that you’re all prepped, let’s go down that list of all the things you need for your beach day with the kids. From our favorite coolers and dry bags to colorful umbrellas and beach towels, we’ve found it all!

Sun Protection

Two images of women enjoying a warm day on the beach, catching shade with the Blissun beach umbrella.

Even on the haziest days of summer, those rays still beat down on you. The last thing you need is a sunburn (or a child with one).

So, keep that skin safe and protected with these essentials:

Sunscreen: It’s an absolute must-have for a long day at the beach. Thinksport sunscreen is a safe and natural product with a clean mineral formula. Learn more about clean sunscreen with this in-depth list of eight other clean and green sunblocks.

An umbrella: These really come in handy when you need an extra layer of protection from that hot sun. We love the Blissun beach umbrella because it features a heavy-duty sand anchor, which secures it against even the strongest wind gusts.

A beach tent: These are a fantastic alternative to umbrellas because they offer greater privacy for napping, reading, nursing, or eating lunch. They’re also fantastic for preventing babies from snacking on sand.

A beach canopy: If you have more than a few kids to watch, a canopy is a fantastic upgrade. You just secure the four poles into the sand, or you can just use two poles to create more of a “lean-to” setup. The bright colors also make these easy to find on the crowded sand. The straightforward installation is a bonus, too.

Lip balm: Shield those lips from tragic chapped dryness with some classic Coppertone sport sunscreen lip balm. Between the salt water and the hot sun, you’ll appreciate the extra hydration and SPF.

A hat: This is a must for two reasons. First, they’re adorable, and second, they protect your head from the scorching heat. We love the sporty appeal of this Rosoz summer mesh hat because it features a ponytail hole but gives you the option to leave your hair loose as well. It’s cute and practical for mamas.

Beach Gear

Two images displaying an F-Color mesh beach tote.

Now, let’s move on to some other essentials. These are items that you especially need when lugging the whole family to the beach:

A wagon: These are handy for more than just beach day and even if you don’t have kids. From camping and picnics to days at the park, you’ll love having an all-in-one Timber Ridge wagon to carry all your belongings. The all-terrain wheels and material mean that you can take it just about anywhere. It also folds up neatly for quick, convenient storage.

A tote bag: A mesh beach bag, like this one from F-color, is a great way to keep all of your essentials (big and small) in one secure location. Keys, sunscreen, sunglasses, and towels will all fit nicely inside. It’s also perfect for carrying beach pails and toys.

Beach chairs: Whenever you have a moment of peace to relax, you’ll appreciate a comfortable beach chair. This set from Nice C offers more comfort than classic folding chairs. They also have cup holders and carry bags for easy transport.

A blanket: This oversized Wekapo beach mat is just what you need to secure a spot on that crowded beach. It’ll also make your territory easy for the kids to find. It’s quick-drying and lightweight and comes with six stakes to keep it from flying off on even the windiest days.

Beach towels: If you don’t live near a beach, you might not have any jumbo-sized beach towels. This pack is great for a family of four, and everyone can choose their favorite color.

A dry bag for essentials: They help keep important devices and gadgets safe and away from sand and water. They’re also easy to take with you whenever you leave your spot on the beach, so your wallet, phones, keys, and more will always be safely with you.

A waterproof phone pouch: If you don’t need an entire dry bag, then a waterproof pouch for your phone might be a better option for you. This Joto universal waterproof case is perfect for kayaking and fishing, and for pool and beach days.

A first aid kit: There’s nothing worse than one of your little ones getting a booboo you can’t fix. That’s why it’s always a good idea to take one of these with you on all of your trips—or you can just keep one in the car.

In addition to these items, you might also want to take along an extra set of clothes for the kids to avoid any sand rashes on the way home. Flip-flops, water shoes, diapers, floaties, and rash guards might also be necessary, depending on your child’s age.

Beach Toys & Entertainment

Click N Play

From sandcastle building tools to boogie boards, you’ll want to take along some of these items to keep things light and fun:

Sand toys: The Click N Play sand toy set is the perfect way to make sure that you have all the shovels, buckets, and moldable tools your kids will need.

Boogie boards: These are the ultimate fun beach activity for everyone, so grab a few from Goplus for your next trip. The durable material won’t snap and will last for years!

A football: If tossing the old pigskin is more your style, then be sure to bring one along. This Wave Runner football is waterproof and brightly colored for easy spotting.

Disc toss: If you plan on spending more than a day at the beach, a fun game, like this disc toss set is a must. It’s also perfect for barbecues or summer parties.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget to bring along a book or a few crosswords for yourself.

Food and Drink

Two images: The left image features a women unpacking the back of her van with a Lifewit cooler in the trunk end, and the right image features two adults enjoying the warmth of summer at the beach with a gray Lifewit cooler alongside of them.

Of course, you’ll also need the right gear to keep your food and drinks safe and cool for the day:

A coolerThis one from Lifewit is collapsible, with a leakproof lining and insulation meant to keep food and drinks cold for up to 12 hours. It’s just the cooler you need to keep lunches, snacks, and beverages cold and protected from the hot sun.

Ice packs: These will keep your cooler chilled all day. We love these Healthy Packers because they’re slim and fit snugly into the nooks and crannies of a cooler.

Reusable water bottles: You should always have these with you at the beach. These Simple Modern bottles are stainless-steel and vacuum-insulated, so your drinks are sure to stay cold. You can choose from among five different sizes and several designs so that you’ll have just the right one for every family member.

You might also want to pack some paper towels, a trash bag, and a few ziplock bags, as well.

Family beach days are fun, but preparing and packing for them can be exhausting. A quick scan of this list should help you make sure you have everything you need for a ton of fun in the sun.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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