Sun, seashore and sand—three ingredients for a perfect day at the beach. But as parents all know, the ideal beach day requires a few more essentials. Planning might seem overwhelming when you consider everything kids need (sand toys, sunscreen, hand sanitizer and snacks—so many snacks!), but really, all it takes is a little preparation. Follow our beach packing list so you can enjoy a stress-free, relaxing family day at the beach.
Your Complete Beach Packing List
Shop beach clothing and accessories
Shop swimming essentials
Shop beach gear
Food and beverages
Shop food and beverages
Toiletries and first aid
- Sport sunscreen
- Lip balm (preferably with SPF)
- Antibacterial wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Bug spray
- After sun care (like aloe vera gel)
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Leave-in conditioner (look for one that detangles)
- Hair brush
- Hair ties
- Travel-size stain remover
- Feminine products
- First aid kit
- Allergy medicine
- Pain medication
Shop toiletries and first aid
Shop personal items
Infants and toddlers
Shop infant and toddler essentials
Tips for packing for a family beach day
Read on for pro tips to help you pack all your beach essentials.
Clothing and accessories
- Clothing: Wear and bring light and breezy clothing that’s comfortable and easy to throw on (read: no denim). Cotton and linen are lightweight and breathable fabrics. Plus, linen dries fast if you do get it wet.
- Beach hat: A wide brim sun hat is a must for sunny beach days. Kids do well with adjustable hats that can be secured with a chinstrap and some styles have a brim that extends down the back of the neck for additional coverage.
- Sandals: While it’s tempting to kick off your shoes as soon as you hit the beach, you’ll definitely want to wear sandals on the hot sand. Flip flops are ideal since they are easy to rinse off and don’t have too many crevices for sand to hide in. When not worn, keep these under a blanket or in the shade or the rubber will get hot under the sun.
- Water shoes: These multipurpose shoes protect feet from pebble beaches or rocky lake floors. They also provide grip on slippery surfaces like underwater rocks or ramps.
- Beach tent: Very few beaches will have shade so a beach umbrella or beach tent will offer respite from the sun, especially if you plan to stay during peak hours when the sun’s UV rays are strongest, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Whichever one you choose, make sure to secure it into the sand so it doesn’t blow away with the first gust of wind.
- Beach bag: A bright and colourful beach bag can serve as a good landmark on a busy beach. Buy one with lined and waterproof pockets to store valuables and small electronics like your cell phone.
- Beach wagon: Need some help carrying everything? A beach wagon has heavy-duty, wide wheels designed to move through sand for a convenient way to cart all your beach essentials together.
- Beach blanket: Rather than laying out beach towels, a large blanket serves as a great home base for lounging and snacking and keeps towels free for their true purpose—drying off with. Look for one that’s waterproof and rolls or folds up for easy transportation to and from the beach.
- Sand brush: Getting home from a day at the beach, it can sometimes feel as though you brough half the beach home with you. A sand brush (a paint brush works just as well!) helps dust things off, leaving sand at the beach—and not in your car, beach bag and home.
Food and beverage
- Cooler: A soft-sided insulated cooler bag might be all you need to hold drinks and snacks for an afternoon, while full days will require something roomier. A cooler with a top-handle will be easier to carry on your own, whereas a larger cooler with side handles may require two people to tote it to your beach spot. Some models have wheels, but keep in mind these won’t be the easiest to roll through sand. If you pack with frozen items like freezies (or frozen juice boxes) you may be able to forgo an ice pack, freeing up some room in the cooler.
- Snacks: Bring snacks packed with protein and fibre for afternoons by the ocean or lake. Trail mix, jerky, protein bars, and cheese strings are great options to keep everyone sustained but not sluggish. Individual packs of tuna pair well with crackers for a satisfying snack.
- Fruit: Water-rich fruits will help everyone stay hydrated on particularly hot days. Watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches and oranges all have a high water content. Slice them up and store in a container in the cooler to ensure they stay cool. Frozen grapes are also fun for a bite-size beach snack. They’ll help keep other items in your cooler cold and still taste delicious as they defrost.
- Veggies: Pre-cut veggies like celery, carrots, cucumber and broccoli are easy to pick at throughout the day with a dip like hummus. Opt for these types of denser veggies over tomatoes, zucchini and spinach, which tend to get soggy or wilt in the heat.
- Water bottle: An insulated water bottle will keep liquids cool for up to 24 hours and won’t need to be stored in a cooler—leaving more room for snacks!
Toiletries and first aid
- Waterproof sunscreen: Buy sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Apply at least 15 minutes before you head out into the sun, and reapply at least every two hours. Look for a “water resistant” or “sport” formula which stays on better if you’re in the water or sweating.
- Hand sanitizer: Bathrooms and soap aren’t always accessible at the beach, so don’t forget to bring plenty of antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer for cleaning up both before and after eating.
- Hair brush and hair ties: Wind and water (whether it’s salt or fresh) are a recipe for tangles. Keep long hair tied back in a ponytail or braid. Bring a brush and leave-in conditioner in case you need to work out any extra tough tangles at the beach. It might also be a good idea to use a leave-in conditioner before you head to the beach, especially if hair is curly or on the drier side.
- Power charger: There’s nothing worse than a cell phone with a short battery life, especially if you’re also using your phone to play music and take photos. Bring a portable charger just in case!
- Credit cards and cash: Keep valuables like your driver’s license, credit cards and any cash in a safe and waterproof place.
Infants and toddlers
- Sun protection: Babies and young children are especially susceptible to sunburn and extreme heat. Keep little ones in the shade or under an umbrella or beach tent and make sure they stay hydrated with plenty of cool liquids. Babies six months and older can wear a Health Canada approved sunscreen. If your baby is under six months, ask your health care provider before you use sunscreen.
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