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Remember when going to the beach was as simple as tossing a towel, sunscreen and your favorite book or magazine into a small bag and heading out for the day? Well those days are long gone now that you have kids but it doesn’t have to mean the end of beach vacations! We live by the beach and Milana grew up with the beach as her backyard, so we are well versed in all things kids and beach. Family beach vacations are probably the most popular vacations there are for families with young kids. The kids are kept busy digging sand castles and splashing in the water and parents get to (somewhat!) relax. If you’re planning a beach vacation, keep reading for some tips and family beach essentials.
BEACH MUST HAVES FOR BABIES, TODDLERS AND KIDS
This is obvious but there are so many options! Check out EWG’s list of safest sunscreens for babies and kids. Our family personally uses Blue Lizard because it’s easy to spread unlike many of the thick natural sunscreens and the ingredients are safe for even babies. Whichever you choose, make sure it’s free of chemicals and includes zinc oxide/titanium dioxide as the main ingredients. Our other favorite is the Coola Organic spray sunscreen which is super easy to apply.
Want the secret to getting sand off quickly? Baby powder! Just sprinkle where the sand is sticking and brush right off.
Swimsuits and Swim Diapers
Nothing will ruin a beach vacation with baby like a soggy diaper! You can go with disposable brands like these Pampers swim pants however when Milana was younger, we used these reusable swim diapers which worked really well and didn’t contribute to landfill waste. They come in many different designs and are so cute, you won’t even need a swimsuit to cover it up! Whatever you choose, keep in mind that swim diapers are intended to catch solid waste and not pee, which is why you should wait to put them on just before going in the water or risk leakage everywhere! If you’re like us and forget your dedicated swim diaper, you can always use a reusable diaper cover without the insert for the beach or pool.
For babies and toddlers, we like these iPlay ones that tie under the chin so that they have a harder time pulling it off. It has a neck cover and a wide brim, making it the perfect sun hat. For older kids, this Sunday Afternoons hat is great.
I know it’s not often you see babies or even young kids in sunglasses, but their eyes are very sensitive to the sun and should have protection! When Milana was younger, we used these baby sunglasses that had a band around the head so she couldn’t pull them off. Not only are they super cute, they’re functional as well. As she got older and actually enjoyed wearing glasses, we got her a pair of these polarized aviator kids glasses that she loves to wear, mostly because she got to pick her favorite color!
Our favorite shoes ever are the Plae Mimo water shoes. If your beach vacation includes trips to SoCal or Hawaii, you are bound to find some tide pools and rocky shores so a good pair of water shoes are a must! These have been awesome for us and Milana loves wearing them, saying they are the most comfortable water shoes she’s ever had. If your kids will be playing on rocks, Milana uses these Merrell water sneakers, which don’t slip on rocks and are great for tougher terrain. They also dry quickly and are great for adventurous trips.
If you have a tiny one under 2, then you have to get these water shoes! Not only are they super cute, they are comfortable and like being barefoot. Perfect for little ones for the beach!
If you cloth diaper, you probably already have these. But they are also great for wet swimsuits! Just throw your swimsuits into the bags, zip up and then throw it all into your washing machine at home. We always travel with wet bags!
If you’re going kayaking or spending time near the water, dry bags are great to keep your things dry. We put our phones in there, money, etc. and bring it on kayaking trips.
Bed/Tent for the little ones
If you have an infant or toddler that naps, I highly recommend the Joovy Gloo travel bed! It can be used on the beach for playtime or naps.
This is a must have for any parent! Not just for the beach, but when you are picnicking at the park, camping, etc. It’s super portable and has compartments for a bottle/sippy cup and snacks.
Now I’m a photographer and lug my DSLR all over the world. However, a beach isn’t the place for that! Get a camera that is waterproof for those beach trips. The Olympus Tough is a popular choice, but another option is the Nikon Coolpix waterproof camera. If you want an action cam without the price tag of a GoPro, I highly recommend this cheap little action cam. Don’t let the price tag fool you, it’s a really great camera, you really can’t beat it for the price!
For kids, get this waterproof camera which Milana used all over Australia. You can use this camera underwater, though we haven’t tried yet.
Waterproof baby carrier
Now this is something many people don’t think of, but if you have an infant or toddler, a waterproof baby carrier is the best thing ever and a must for pool and beach trips! I absolutely loved mine when Milana was little and used it all the time while near the pool or ocean. I had a ring sling that was mesh and it dried really quickly. My favorite brand of these is made by Comfy Joey Pick your favorite color and head to the beach, you will love it!
Mesh Baby Carrier
One of the best investments you can make is buying a quality baby carrier! Tula recently released a baby carrier with mesh to keep baby and you cool and it comes in several beautiful prints! This is the perfect carrier for those beach getaways or for hot summer days at home.
We live in SoCal, which means that even in the summer, our ocean is freezing! Milana has owned a wetsuit since she was a toddler and still has one now that she’s 7. We love the O’Neill brand and highly recommend it!
Big Kid Wetsuit
Once Milana outgrew the O’Neill toddler wetsuit, I found a cheap no brand wetsuit for older kids on Amazon. It’s seriously the best thing ever! If you’re heading to a place with chilly water, get one! These are super cute and affordable, unlike many of the brand names.
Long Sleeve Rash Guards
Again, living in SoCal where it’s sunny most of the time, we opt for the long-sleeved rash guards for Milana. Our favorite brands are Roxy and O’Neill, which has both girl and boy ones to choose from.
Whenever we travel to a beach destination, we bring our own life jacket. I cannot tell you how often in other countries boats were not equipped with proper life jackets for babies and kids. Many didn’t even have infant life vests! We like the Hyperlite brand and only use these while on a boat. If you have a Costco membership, they are $29.99 in store but only when they sell swim stuff. Another popular one is the puddle jumper, though we personally aren’t fans. Of course, be sure you are always aware and within arms reach for your kids whenever they are in the water as drowning is one of the leading causes of deaths of kids under 5! For infants you are going to want something like this, it’s for kids up to 30 lbs. (like the one pictured below). And if you’re bringing a dog along, make sure they have a doggie life jacket as well! Both our English Bulldog and Pug used this brand for many years and it’s one of the best dog life jackets on the market.
Umbrellas are cumbersome to drag on vacation, but this beach tent is quite portable and you can bring it with you. We used this at home for beach trips, but it would be super easy to travel with. I like that it doesn’t have a floor like most because the kids will drag a ton of sand inside and it’s super difficult to get it out of one that has an attached floor. They can also play in the sand under the shade, a huge plus! Another option for non-mobile little ones is this beach tent with built in splash pool. Just fill it up with some water and your little one can splash away! And for those napping newborns, this new Joovy Gloo tent is perfect! It’s not only great as a bed in hotel rooms (much more compact than a pack and play!), but also great for the beach. It’s bug proof and has UPF 50 sun protection. The Gloo comes in 2 sizes, so even the bigger babies and toddlers can have a place to lounge.
Clip On Fan
There are many to choose from but we personally have had this one for a few years and it works great! Clip it to your tent, stroller, etc. to keep baby cool.
While many resorts do provide beach towels, we prefer to bring our own. We love the Bay Laurel Turkish Towels for home and travel. They are super lightweight, fold up tiny into the sack they come with and dry super fast. These have been our go to for several years now and we highly recommend them!
We bring this blanket on all of our travels. It folds into a small pouch and takes up very little room. You can use the included stakes to hold it place or if you’re on the beach, fill the 4 pockets with sand. While there really is no such thing as sand free when it comes to kids, the sand really does wipe right off of this blanket, much easier than others we’ve tried!
This was one of our favorite items when Milana was a baby! The calm waters in the Caribbean meant she can relax in her SwimWays Float and we didn’t have to hold her the entire time. This folds up super small and springs to open, making it a great item to travel with.
Adult/Big Kid Float
Naturally, Milana always wants to rent a float when we go on a beach trip. Instead of that, we bring this pop up float that is super easy to use and folds up flat and compact for travel. We have a pool at home too, so it does double duty!
Now I have personally used this phone cover under water with my iPhone and highly recommend it! I got some great shots of Milana underwater and my phone stayed dry. The quality isn’t going to be the best, but if it’s just candid shots you want, it does the trick without ruining your expensive phone. It’s also great to have when kayaking or paddleboarding with kids.
While many resorts will have toys for your kids to use, we like to bring our own. We chose ones that are portable and made of quality materials, which means that 7 year later, Milana is still using the same ones! A collapsible bucket is a must for beach vacations. This foldable travel friendly beach toy set is another we have and it’s great as well. I know it’s popular to buy cheap, plastic toys at your destination and then leave them behind but why create so much plastic waste?
If your kids don’t like getting water in their eyes, I highly recommend the Finis Kids Goggles. Milana has been swimming since she was a few months old and independently swimming by the time she was 2. She’s been on a competitive swim team since the age of 5. These are by far the best kids goggles out there and ones we have used since she was an infant and she still uses now. They are comfortable, leakproof and will last you for years! Here they are in action:
Snorkel Set and Fins
If you have kids who like snorkeling, then this kids set is a must! It fits kids faces really well and they will love looking at all the sealife. Practice in the bathtub or pool if you have one til they get the hang of breathing! Milana also uses these fins along with the snorkel, we have a backyard pool so she has lots of time to practice before using it in the ocean.
If you opt not to get the tent with the built in pool, then this portable beach pool is perfect for travel. Milana still loves having a little pool filled with water to play with her toys in the sand. Intex also makes this tiny little pool that is perfect to bring to the beach for little ones to play in.
We’ve had this water frisbee for years and Milana loves it! It’s one of our favorite beach travel items and it barely takes up any space.
This ball toss game is another family favorite. It’s like the old school velcro catching game but with a cute twist!
Since you are bound to spend some time at the pool, bring some pool toys as well! Milana really likes these diving toys and we always have them in our bag since most hotels have pools.
Of course, lugging toys to the beach means there is bound to be lots of sand everywhere! We love these mesh bags to store sandy toys while they dry out. Just shake and the sand comes right out!
As you can see, there are many ways to entertain your family on the beach and have a successful family beach vacation. While it may be years before you read a book or magazine in piece while soaking up the sun, these are some of the best days of your life with tiny little humans laughing and enjoying the beauty around them. Cherish these moments, they won’t be this little forever!
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