Packing for the Beach: Family Beach Bag Essentials

As a native Floridian heading to the beach is a necessary part of life at any time of the year! My kiddos have always loved going to the beach even when the water is way too cold for grown-ups. However, the Gulf has finally reached an acceptable temperature, so family beach trips are in the works. That means that I’ve got to start packing for the beach.

My first piece of advice, when headed to the beach, is to keep things simple. My first beach trip as a mom was exhausting. I brought so much stuff that by the time we got out there and I was ready to head home. Now almost eight years later, I have honed a simple system to make beach excursions fun and easy.

My second piece of advice is to plan on going for just a couple of hours. Part of the secret to my success with beach trips is leaving the kids always wanting more. We leave before anyone gets way overtired or way over hungry.

Finally, my third piece of advice is to pack a thoughtful beach bag not too loaded with unnecessary items, but just the basics of what you may need. Below are my essentials when packing for the beach.

Beach Bag Essentials

1. Sunscreen

I always sunscreen the kids before leaving the house. That way the lotion can dry before you arrive and the heat won’t melt it off instantaneously causing sunscreen drips to go into their kids’ eyes. In addition, there is no sand at home, so sunscreen caking cannot occur which eliminates the fear that the child is not actually well protected from the sun. Also, I recommend a lotion sunscreen as the first layer, since several close friends have used the spray and gotten terrible sunburns because of the wind not permitting even application. I use the spray as a second coat after being in the sun for a while.

2. Snacks

Sometimes I throw in whatever I first find, boxes of Cheez-its or bags of goldfish. It turns out they will eat what you got. We always have fruit in storage containers in the fridge for easy snacking, so I just grab those. I don’t overthink it.

3. Drinks

This is a huge one! We have the kids’ metal thermoses which do a pretty good job at keeping liquids cold. I pack those up with ice and water. I also grab some juice boxes or Capri Suns. The “fun” drinks usually go first, but I will be ready with the cold water and encouraging them to say as hydrated as possible.

4. Sunglasses and towels

It’s bright out there! I grab a pair of sunglasses and a towel for each person and throw them all in the beach bag!

5. Blanket

I have a nice beach blanket that folds up with a handle and it’s awesome. However, what has worked the best was grabbing an old bed sheet from our king size bed. It is huge and gives us a little more real estate when we get to the beach. If it is a breezier day sometimes the lightweight sheet requires some shoes on each corner to hold it down. It can be a little cumbersome to set up, but the crisp nature of the sheet feels nice even on the beach.

6. Sand toys

This is likely the most important item on the entire list. Somewhere along the way, I picked up a collapsible net laundry basket. It is super-duper lightweight and I put all the beach toys in there. Since it is a net the sand and water do not really accumulate in there. The bag with beach toys lives in our garage so when we get home, I just put it back on the shelf out there with little worry since they are all aired out.

girls at beach
vivian beach
laundry basket

This is it! I promise it is all I take. No, I take that back, sometimes I grab a floppy hat for myself!

What are your essentials for packing for the beach?

Born on a frigid February morning in Florida, Christine Ortega Gaurkee entered the world. Her parents built their loving home in St. Petersburg which was supported by lifelong friends. This inspired her to become an educator and writer. Christy has been teaching for over 15 years, shaping and influences teenaged minds to think more about justice and inclusion. She enjoys jet-setting to new places whenever possible with her kind-hearted husband and sweet little girls, Lydia 7 and Vivian 5. In a beautifully busy life, Christy enjoys going to the movies, reading a good book and writing about it all.