Here in South Texas, we get some serious sun, and when the heat descends upon us we descend … to the southern coast!
Typically, most folks don’t think of surf and sandy beaches when they think of the Lone Star State; but, in fact, we have hundreds of miles of coastline that are perfect for a family beach vacation.
- First Aid and Safety
- Organization and Gear Transport
- Beach Base Camp
- Beach Kitchen
- Food, Snacks, and Drinks
- Beach Clothing and Towels
- Beachin’ Games and Toys
- Essential Swimming Gear
- Music and Alternative Entertainment
- Post-Beachin’ Clean-Up
- Shell Yeah! It’s Beachin’ Time!
For the last 20+ years, Heather and I have looked to the Texas Gulf Coast to escape the heat, both as newlyweds and now with a full-house-compliment of a nuclear-powered 6-year-old, a dauntless 13-year-old, and a Boston Terrier with a mastiff complex.
By now, you can bet that we’ve got the family beach packing list honed down to a science.
So, if you’re looking for a comprehensive list of essential items to pack for a family beach vacation, look no further.
There’s even a free printable beach packing checklist to take around the house with you while you scrounge everything together.
- Includes an itemized list of all essential items featured in the post!
- Extra spaces for adding your own beachin' ideas!
- Absolutely free and no email address required!
- Makes life a little bit easier. Sweet.
Let’s get packin’!
First Aid and Safety
At the top of your beach packing list, family safety should be your top priority.
The sun is serious business and the extreme UV index of coastal beaches means you’ll want to make sure everyone is covered up before stepping outside.
While we’ll cover hats, sunglasses, and UPF shirts in the Beach Clothing section, here we’ll focus on the other items that will help keep you safe from the sun’s UV rays as well as other beach mishaps.
First Aid Kit … Beachified
The beach presents a number of possible mishaps that most typical First Aid Kits won’t always address, like, getting sand or salt in your eye, stepping on a sharp piece of shell, jellyfish stings, sunburn, etc.
Although most beaches are relatively clear of dangerous wildlife and hazards, you’ll still want to make sure that you have what I like to call a Beachified First Aid Kit to be prepared.
Begin with a standard First Aid Kit, and ensure to add the following items if their not included:
- Waterproof Container
- Waterproof bandages (Band-Aids)
- Antiseptic (hydrogen peroxide)
- Gauze Pads and Medical Tape
- Ibuprofen and/or Aspirin
- Hydrocortisone Cream or Spray (Sting Relief)
- Antihistamine (Benadryl – topical and oral – to control reactions to stings)
- Tweezers (good metal ones with a fine tip)
- Surgical gloves
- Eye Drops
- Vinegar (neutralizes jelly fish venom)
- Hand Sanitizer
- Aloe Vera (for soothing sun burns)
- Other needed prescription medications
Jellyfish Sting Treatment
Jellyfish are frequent visitors to the southern coasts of the U.S., and in Texas, we are fortunate enough to play host to 4-5 varieties depending on the season (most frequent in the summer).
Everyone in my family has been stung … yet, the vacation must go on!
Be prepared for a brush with a jellyfish with hydrocortisone cream and an oral antihistamine or corticosteroid in your First Aid kit.
The best way to treat a jellyfish sting is as follows:
- Neutralize the venom by rinsing the area with vinegar
- Use the tweezers from your First Aid Kit to remove any visible stingers.
- Soak the skin in hot water if possible (110°-113°F) until pain eases (20-45 minutes).
- Rub in hydrocortisone cream twice per 24 hour period until the irritation is gone.
Visit the Mayo Clinic for what to do in case of a severe reaction and also what NEVER to do.
Oh, and if a family member happens to get stung by a jellyfish, please don’t pee on them.
First, NEVER let your kids venture off into the surf without you or another adult strong swimmer.
Still, if you have young children or family members who are not strong swimmers, lashing an emergency whistle to there life vest is always a good idea.
If they get separated from you and you can’t spot their head popping up among the waves, the shrill blast from their Emergency Whistle can help you find them quickly.
- 120 db burst can be heard over a mile away
- Easy to blow saving precious breaths compared to yelling for help
- Adjustable lanyard can be lashed to life vest or worn around neck
- Floats and is highly visible making it ideal for water
Teach them how and when to use it responsibly and effectively beforehand!
One of our family’s beach non-negotiables is that nobody sticks their hands into the snacks without first using sanitizer.
I’m not a germ-a-phobe by a long stretch; however …
… the combination of sand, bacteria, and coastal seawater (and any ex-lifeforms that your kids may have discovered while beach combing) means that a good hand sanitizer is essential for keeping everyone healthy during your beach trip.
Be sure to bring enough for the entire family and keep it handy throughout your vacation. This 2-pack from Purell looks like it’s perfect for a beach bag!
Sunscreen and After Sun Care
Even if the forecast is cloudy, be sure to include several bottles of a broad-spectrum reef-safe sunscreen in the beach bag — at least SPF 30 for everyone in the family.
- Broad spectrum UVA / UVB SPF 50 mineral sunscreen.
- 100% Ocean friendly reef safe sunscreen formula
- No harmful chemicals, parabens, silicone or dioxins, just all natural sun protection
- Non oily, all natural sun cream that won't separate, does not require shaking before use and won't leave your skin feeling sticky or greasy.
- Completely transparent when applied correctly.
- Up to 80 minutes of waterproof sun protection.
You’ll also want to include some aloe vera gel to help soothe skin after a day in the sun.
For those with sensitive facial skin, a sunscreen face stick and sunscreen lip balm are advised to prevent irritation or clogged pores.
Bug repellant is a must-have for any trip to the beach!
In Texas, we have sand flies and mosquitoes that can be quite persistent … and big enough to carry off a stocky chihuahua.
So does, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, the San Fransisco Bay Area, …
If you’re worried about chemical repellents, there are a variety of natural bug sprays available.
Be sure to include enough for everyone in the family! Take more than you think you’ll need!
Organization and Gear Transport
Before we dive further into the minutia of what to include in a family beach packing list, it’s important to make sure that you have the right equipment to organize and transport your items from the car to your beach base camp.
Beach Wagon (or Two)
Sure, you can spend half the day making multiple trips back and forth from the car.
But, when does that get fun?
Why not invest in a beach wagon (or two!) to help you haul all your loads at once?
- Large Capacity – 31" x 17.5" x 10.5"
- Adjustable, Retractable Handle – can be extended to 37.4 inches
- Built for Sand – 360° swiveling wheels "float"on top of the sand making it easier to pull
- Strong steel frame with 600-denier shell can hold up to 300 lbs.
- Collapses to a flat profile for easy storage on the road or at home
The KnowLife Collapsible Beach Wagon is built with a heavy-duty frame and fat wheels to keep it rolling on top of the sand. It also folds down to a low profile so you can pop it in the trunk of your car.
Large All-Day Cooler
There’s no piece of beach gear more disappointing than a cooler that can’t keep stuff cold … except maybe a cooler that can’t keep stuff cold AND is too small to hold everything you need.
For our family of 4 very thirsty humanoids (plus one canine), we elected the RTIC 45-Quart Hard Cooler.
- The Perfect Size: The 45 is small enough to carry alone but big enough to store drinks for the whole group.
- Temperature Retentive: The 3-inch foam insulated walls plus the cool-lift design feature will make worrying about your ice melting a thing of the past.
- Mobile And Multifaceted: Use the heavy-duty rope handles to take the 45 anywhere and when you need an extra hand—this cooler doubles as a step stool, tabletop, or cutting board.
- Heavy-Duty Protection: The combination of durable rubber T-latches and molded tie-down slots will keep your food and beverages secure.
This thing is built like a Sherman Tank, keeps icy cold (ice or ice packs) all day (and longer) even in hot Texas sun, is big enough to hold all of our cold drinks and snacks for a day, and fits perfectly inside one of our beach wagons. Boom.
Beach Bags and Totes
Beach vacations are best enjoyed when you’re organized … ’cause no one likes giving up chill time to look for stuff.
Having a set of beach bags or totes for the different categories of things you need to pack can significantly simplify the packing process as well as setting up and tearing down your beach base camp.
- 18"L x 15"H x 9"W
- Extra Large Main Compartment – The XXL compartment easily fits six beach towels
- 7 Deep Pockets – The 9 inch pockets are deeper than most beach bag pockets to ensure your water bottle, sunscreen, and book don’t fall out
- 2 Waterproof Zipper Pockets inside the bags to keep your phone, wallet, and keys safely tucked away
- Breathable Mesh that dries quickly and keeps the bag sand free
- Soft Padded Velcro Straps are the perfect size making the bag easy to carry and comfortable on your shoulder
- Lightweight and Foldable, but extremely durable with the premium stitching and mesh
We take along a beach tote for each of the following groups of items:
- the kids’ shower towels and clean changes of clothes (stays in the car)
- the parent’s shower towels and clean changes of clothes (stays in the car)
- beach toys (diggin’ tools, frisbee, football, etc.)
- swimming gear (snorkels, floaties, etc.)
- snacks that don’t need to be kept cool
- wet, sandy clothes and towels at the end of the day (stays in the car)
In addition to the totes, I carry one backpack for storing all our valuable personal items for safe keeping such as:
- Bluetooth speaker
- credit cards and cash
- car keys
This gets lashed securely to our beach canopy where it can’t be lifted easily and where I can keep an eye on it.
Beach Base Camp
If you do it right, it’s like having your own private beach bungalow!
God willing, at some point, the kids will be so overcome by the beach’s mystical influence that they will suddenly become self-sufficient little beach explorers.
It is in this wondrous moment that you’ll finally get to indulge yourself in some “Me Time” and, to do so properly and effectively, you’ll need some key ingredients.
Allow me to expound:
Beach Tent or Sun Shelter
This is as much a safety device as it is a comfort item (especially with young children and pets).
A canopy or sun shelter will provide you with much-needed respite from the sun’s rays and also protect you (and your stuff) from any unexpected rain showers.
Be sure to buy one that is large enough for the whole family and easy to set up, take down, and store.
We’ve got some spectacular recommendations in our post on The 10 Best Tents and Gear for Beach Camping.
However, if you need a recommendation über-quick, we’re big fans of the Sun Ninja Beach Sun Canopy and the Neso Sunshade and have recommended it in the past.
- 1-year warranty
- Available in 4-person (7W' x 7.5L' x 5.5' H) and 8-person (10'W x 10'L x 6.5'H)
- Lightweight at 7.2 lbs.
- Super-simple and relatively fast setup
- It looks weird in a cool way
- Pricey; but, it is a truly unique, quality product
- No shade is provided on the sides
Beachin’ Tip: So, you’re thinking about opting for the cheap jab-in-the-sand beach umbrella for your next beach trip?
M-kay. Have fun re-adjusting it every 20 minutes to keep the sun off you and good luck chasing it down when a stiff breeze hits.
Just a thought.
Trash and Recycle Receptacles (for Ethical Beachers Only)
Put nicely: you’re an unethical clod if you leave your trash on the beach or are careless enough to let it blow away. Please don’t be one of those people.
Ah, that felt good.
If you’re bringing snacks, drinks, and even new beach toys still in the packaging, you’re going to generate trash. And even if you intend to throw it away eventually, one good gust off the ocean will carry it off when you’re least suspecting …
… and – BAM! – you’re officially one of those people.
At the very least, take a few garbage bags to tie (firmly) to the legs of your beach canopy and secure your trash immediately.
Even better, eliminate the one-use plastic bag and get yourself one (or two) reusable trash bags, like this great option from Deluxe Recycles.
- 600-Denier Oxford cloth is durable and washable
- Leakproof material keeps liquids in (or out)
- Large-mouth opening makes storing trash an emptying a breeze
- Folds up for easy storage
- Eliminates the waste of single use plastic garbage bags
Fill it. Empty it when needed into a local dumpster. Repeat.
Foldable Beach Chairs
It is your royal throne as you (temporarily) rule over your (semi) private (spit of) land.
Foldable beach chairs come in many sizes and styles, so you’re sure to find one (or more) that suit both your needs and the look of your beach base camp.
Look for ones that are lightweight and easy to carry (anything made of mesh is ideal).
They should also be comfortable — after all, you’ll be spending many hours in them.
AND, be sure to get one with a cup holder — because an icy cold one (or two, or three …) is essential for the perfect day at the beach!
We’ve got some great recommendations in our post on the 13 Best Camping Rocking Chairs; however …
… a brand new option for 2022-2023 is the Tommy Bahama Backpack Beach Chair. It’s locked, stocked, and loaded with beachy features.
- Lightweight, rustproof aluminum frame, durable 600-denier polyester fabric
- Weight capacity 300 lb
- Adjustable pillow and padded shoulder straps with rubber carry handle
- Insulated beverage or storage pouch, cell phone holder and cup holder, and folding towel bar
- Adjusts to 5 reclining positions including lay flat
Foldable Beach Table
Drinks. Smartphones. Sunglasses. Camera. Bluetooth Speaker.
Your gonna want a grit-free surface to keep all your beachy accouterments safe and sound (you know, so sand doesn’t get in the USB port).
A foldable beach table is a great option — just make sure it’s big enough to fit everything you want to bring and light enough to easily transport.
The Neso Beach Table sports two cup holders, two sunglass/smartphone slots, and plenty of surface area for other items.
- Portable, lightweight and compact design
- Features cup holders, easy-access cellphone pockets and a book stash pocket underneath
- Water-resistant and stable for use in the sand
- Folds completely flat and features a carrying strap for easy transport
- Easy to set up
And it’s simple and light enough for your 5-year-old to handle!
Beach Blanket or Camping Mat
Fact: Regardless of how many times you tell your kids NOT to walk on the beach blanket with sandy feet, guess what … THEY WILL!
So, it’s important to have one that can stand up to the test of time, sand, and — well kids.
Do yourself a favor and leave the picnic blanket at home. Instead, opt for a camping mat or beach blanket made of quick-drying and sand-resistant fabric.
It should also be lightweight, easy to fold up, and compact enough to fit in your bag without taking up too much room.
Our top pick is the CGear Original Sand-Free Outdoor Camping Mat. The mat’s PVC threads don’t absorb water (so, technically, it’s always dry) and the weave allows sand grains to fall through the mat rather than accumulate on top.
- The Original – This mat started the sand-free revolution and remains the ultimate sand-free beach blanket
- Patented System – High-density weave allows sand, dirt, and dust to fall through the fabric without coming back up.
- Made to ensure ultra – durability, quick drying time, and resistance to water, and UV damage.
- Heavy Duty D Rings – double-reinforced heavy-duty corner D Rings, perfect for staking down in extreme conditions.
- Numerous Size Options – Comes in 2 colors and 4 size options: SMALL (for 3 persons), MEDIUM (for 6 persons), LARGE (for 10 persons) and XLARGE (for 14 persons).
So much better than your run-of-the-mill picnic blanket or towels!
Oh, and it has D-rings sewn into the corners so you can stake it down on breezy days!
Solar-Powered Tiki Torches
If your family’s beach day outlasts the sun and becomes a beach night, you’ll want some way to light up your seaside space.
But, who wants to lug around a bunch of heavy and bulky lanterns and messy, smelly fuel? Not us!
Plus, an accidental igniting of your beach canopy is never fun.
A great alternative is the TomCare Solar Tiki-Torch Lights — just stick ’em in the sand at the four corners of your claim and enjoy the ambiance of the flickering LED flames!
- HIGHER & LARGER FLAMES TIKI TORCHES: These solar outdoor lights provides a stunning alternative to the real “flames”
- SOLAR POWERED OUTDOOR LIGHTING: Never needs batteries, completely runs on solar power
- LONG WORKING TIME: Runs for 12 hours after charging in direct sun for 8 hours.
- IP65 WATERPROOF: Weather resistance and durable
The weather-resistant solar lights don’t require any batteries, they just absorb energy from the sun during the day and then light up (for 12 hours!) when darkness falls. It’s easy, eco-friendly, and makes you look cooler than the land-lubbers next to you!
Keep this simple. Unless you’re going all out for a beach barbeque, you only need a few things:
Knife and Cutting Board
Especially if you have young children, you’ll need the knife and cutting board to cut up food (like fruit and veggies) into smaller, easier-to-eat pieces.
Check out our most popular post on the Best 17 Camping Knives or …
… if you want a fully-contained mini beach kitchen, check out this 9-in-1 Collapsible Cutting Board from Gintan. Pretty clever!
- Equipped with 5 replaceable blades for shredding, slicing, and mashing fruits, veggies, and meats
- Also includes 2 knives, chopping board/lid, and foldable basket
- BPA-free food grade materials
- Collapsible and self-contained - ideal for travel and camping
Reusable Food Storage Bags
Kids NEVER finish eating everything, especially when they’re dying to get back to beach-frolicking.
Reusable food bags are a great way to save leftovers for snacks later in the day or dinner tomorrow. Plus, they’re much better for the environment than disposable plastic bags.
We recommend these BPA-Free Reusable Food Storage Bags in various sizes — their resealable system keeps the freshness in and the sandiness out!
- Food-grade PEVA material and is non-toxic
- Leak-proof easy-seal
- Locks out freezer burn
- Includes 2 x gallon bags, 4 x sandwich bags, and 4 snack bags
- Hand-wash only
Paper Towels or Wet Wipes
Very few inventions on this earth have eased life’s difficulties like the almighty wipe!
Parents, say it with me: “Long live the WIPE!”
There, that wasn’t too awkward now was it?
Food, Snacks, and Drinks
This is my favorite section.
Bright sun + soft sand + ocean waves + good food and drinks = happiness.
While the snacks and drinks you bring are left to personal preference, be sure to prioritize LOTS of water and healthy foods before packing junk foods like sodas, chips, and candy.
All that fun in the sun and waves can dehydrate and overheat a person (especially little persons) quickly.
That being said, here’s a starting point for your Snacks and Drinks Checklist:
For the cooler:
- Water (32 oz. (2 standard water bottles) per person per hour on the beach)
- No-Sugar-Added Fruit Juices
- Turkey and Cheese Sandwiches, Wraps, or Roll-Ups
- Carrots, Celery, and Hummus Dip
- Celery and peanut butter (with some raisins)
- Hard-boiled eggs
In another beach tote or tub:
- Apples (chill in cooler if desired)
- Oranges (chill in cooler if desired)
- Grapes (chill in cooler if desired)
- Dried Fruit
- Beef jerky or dried sausage
- Low-sugar granola bars
- Low-sugar trail mix
For us, we apply the same rule at the beach as at home: First, eat and drink something healthy; then, treat yourself.
Beach Clothing and Towels
I once saw a guy come to the beach in the summer in jeans and penny loafers. I don’t think I need to explain why that was a bad choice.
No ultimate beach trip packing list is complete without the appropriate beachwear.
Comfortable. Lightweight. Light in color. Breathable. UV protection. Stylish.
These are all key features to look for in your beachwear — from swimwear and rashguards to board shorts, sandals, hats, and cover-ups.
Your goal is to stay cool and comfortable while keeping yourself protected from the sun’s harsh rays.
I know: obvious. But, you’d be surprised how many times I’ve almost forgotten to pack them because my brain was too full of preparatory-beachy thoughts.
Also, be sure to bring enough swimsuits so you can rinse and repeat, especially if you’re planning on spending more than one day at the beach.
Nothing’s worse than trying to slip into a swimsuit that’s wet and cold from the day before!
Beach Footwear and Water Shoes
Socks and sneakers and sand don’t jive! But, you don’t want to go barefoot on hot sand either — ouch!
Your best bet is a pair of sandals or flip-flops that are comfortable, lightweight, and easy to clean.
If the beach is relatively free of debris and sharp shells and rocks, chances are you’ll only wear your sandals if you need to make a trip back to the car or a nearby store.
However, if, for whatever reason, you prefer to keep your feet covered most of the time, you’ll want footwear that minimizes the irritating chafing of sand grains between the sandal straps and your feet.
I recommend the Aqua Cloud Sandals by Xero Shoes for men and women. Known as “Flip-Flop Killers,” these sandals float, have a rugged yet flexible 3mm sole that provides excellent stability in thick, soft sand, and are ultra-lightweight.
- Grippier 6.5mm FeelTrue sole, and created barefoot sandals for men with extra traction. Take them paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, running, or strolling
- Weighs just 5.2oz (for men’s 9), Aqua Clouds float on water!
- Embedded, textured 3mm BareFoam layer now spans the entire footbed, while a shaped heel cup helps keep out debris
- Pressure point-eliminating huarache-style lacing system.
- Proudly vegan, which means no animal products are used in construction. We’re also making more of our shoes with fast-growing, sustainable materials and transitioning to using recycled products
- Patented FeelTrue sole that lets feet bend and flex naturally, a low-to-the-ground design that allows you to connect to the world, and a wide toe box that gives toes room to spread.
- Backed by our 5,000-mile sole warranty
For the kids (toddler and up), we recommend footwear that is both all-encompassing and difficult for sand to get into … like scuba socks.
Check out the Jiasuqi Aqua Socks as a more-comfortable alternative to regular flip-flops … that is unless you just happen to enjoy searching for that rogue sandal they must have kicked off while running around!
- 92% Polyester, 8% Spandex with rubber sole
- Wicking, stretchy material is durable and comfortable like a good pair of socks
- Rugged rubber sole protects the soles of the feet like a minimalist shoe
- Easy for kids to put on and take off
Rash Guard, Protective Sun Shirts, and Cover-Ups
Keeping an effective layer of sunscreen on little kids is like trying to herd cats in a bathtub.
Rashguards, sun shirts, and beach cover-ups are lightweight and comfortable enough for your youngest family members to wear all day … which not only helps them stay cool in the hot sun but also protects their delicate skin from harsh UV rays.
These items are typically made from quick-drying materials like nylon or spandex, and are just as stylish as they are functional.
We’ve recommended O’Neill’s Basic Skins (for men, women, and kids) before and still stand behind them as an excellent balance between quality and price.
These are designed to fit close to the body without being too tight, dry quickly, and provide UV protection of UPF 50+.
It seems superfluous, I know; but, have you ever had to deal with a 3-year-old with a sun-burned scalp?
It’s not a fun time for anyone involved. So, I strongly urge you to pack at least one broad-rimmed sun hat with each of your littles as well as yourself.
Flexible and lightweight, the Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat is perfect (can be found in sizes from infant to adult) — and it comes with a chin cord to keep it secure in the wind.
Additionally, this hat has a 5-inch neck flap to provide added shade and protection for your child’s delicate skin.
As for you grown-ups, I prefer to crown myself with the cringiest-looking straw hat from the nearest tchotcke beach store.
It embarrasses my whole family. It’s great!
Again, a no-brainer and, if you’re like me, there already waiting on the dash in your car.
But, like swimsuits, the no-brainers sometimes get left when you’re thinking about everything (and everyone) else.
Just a reminder!
The everyday bath towels you probably have at home are NOT the best for beachin’. Those thick, fluffy towels trap sand and moisture by the bucket full and all of that grit gets transferred to your washing machine when you get home.
These beach towels from Dock and Bay are super absorbent, quick drying, and easy to shake the sand granules out of.
- Large (63" x 35") and Extra Large (78" x 35") available
- Multiple prints available
- Made of 100% recycled materials
- Extremely soft blend of polymide and polyester
- The weave is quick-drying and won't trap sand granules
- Carry bag included
Beachin’ Games and Toys
Hopefully, your time at the beach will be defined by ample elbow room (over-crowded beaches are the pits) and space to run around.
If the crowds are thick, you may be limited to building sandcastles and digging tunnels to China around your base camp; however …
… if there’s plenty of beach to go around, you may want to bring along some games and toys that get the whole family running around and having a blast together.
Here are a few of our favorites that go to the beach with us every time.
Sand Toys (Castle Mold and Digging Set)
One simply does not out-grow building sandcastles. I enjoy it at 42 as much as I did when I was 8.
Don’t judge me.
A good set comes with a few buckets, at least 1 shovel and rake, a few sand molds, and a mesh carry bag, like the Click ‘N’ Play Sand Toy Set.
- Great for kids 3 and up ... and 42 year old fathers.
- Non-toxic, durable BPA-free plastic
- Includes 1 bucket, 1 shovel, 1 rake, 5 sand castle molds, 4 sea creature molds, and 1 watering pot
- Mesh carry bag included
Add some Hot Wheels Monster Trucks to the mix and let your imagination run wild!
Last summer, we took a family beach trip in Galveston, TX when I saw this for the first time.
And I was jealous. So, I bought one.
If your family has a competitive spirit, Spikeball is possibly the most perfect beach sport next to sand volleyball.
- IF VOLLEYBALL AND FOURSQUARE HAD A BABY - Fun, active, easy-to-learn game that can be played anywhere by anyone
- PLAY ANYWHERE - Spikeball is perfect for the backyard, the beach, the park, the gym, and even your living room (if you're careful enough).
RC Monster Truck
Take my word for it: when it comes to water and sand, cheap RC cars just can’t handle the beach. The sand and moisture wreak havoc on the internal components and they’ll be out of commission within an hour.
You get what you pay for.
My son, Luke and I spent hours on our last trip building a massive 4X4 track in the sand around our base camp complete with jumps, bogs, climbing obstacles … you name it.
Then, we put his Altair Bravo 4X4 RC Truck through its paces. It was a blast!
- Includes two 7.4V 1000 mAH rechargeable batteries that can be paired together with the included expansion adapter for up to 40 minutes of play time
- Includes a beginner-friendly transmitter that will have newbie rock-crawlers learning quickly!
- Independent wheel suspension system and all-weather, rubber wheels
- Plow through snow, jump into puddles, burnout on the pavement! The Altair Bravo is IPX4 Water Resistant but cannot go underwater.
- Powerful brushed motor that can push speeds up to almost 25 mph!
Beachin’ Tip: The Altair 4X4 is a powerful RC and capable of speeds over 25 mph. For younger children, we recommend getting something much easier to control. Just make sure it’s sand and waterproof!
Football and Frisbee
Sometimes you don’t need anything more than a football or Frisbee to keep the whole family entertained.
Especially if your kids love to run around, these two beach classics are must-haves. For our last trip, we brought both and had some epic catch sessions in and out of the waves.
Our projectiles of choice are the NERF Pro Grip Football and the Discraft Ultra Star Sport Frisbee. Both are heavy enough to fly through a fair breeze but light enough for our six-year-old to join in.
- The world standard for the sport of Ultimate
- Official and exclusive disc of the USA Ultimate Championship Series since 1991.
- Foil color on the disc will vary
That covers our personal favorite games and toys for the beach; however, there is an endless list of other beach classics that may suit your family and situation better, such as kites, kayaks, wakeboards, stand-up paddle boards … the list goes on and on!
The best advice I can give is to think about the type of activities and games that your kids love most then bring along whatever you need for those activities.
Essential Swimming Gear
Swimming in the surf is a blast!
However, if your kids are new to the water or not strong swimmers, they may need some extra gear.
At a minimum, I recommend bringing along:
Life Jackets or Floaties
I cannot overstate it: you MUST know your child’s swimming ability before allowing them to play in the surf at any beach.
NEVER leave them unsupervised and, if there is any doubt about their ability to fight the pull of the current or touch the ground while in the water, fit them with a US Coast Guard-approved life vest.
The O-Neill Superlite USCG Life Vest is a good option in infant, children, and youth sizes.
- U.S. Coast Guard Approved Personal Flotation Device (Type II)
- Designed to fit snug for safety
- Minimal bulk design allows full mobility and easy on and off.
- Anatomically cut lightweight polyethylene foam flotation with durable coated polyester outer shell makes the vest strong yet soft and comfortable.
- Heavy-duty 1 inch wide webbing belts with quick release buckles allow for an adjustable fit and easy fastening
- US Coast Guard rated 30 - 50 pounds. Recommended for approximate chest size up to 24 inches.
Life Vests are must-haves for the inexperienced swimmers in your family to keep them safe and build confidence as they develop into strong swimmers.
Mask, Snorkel, and Fin Sets
I’ve spent a LOT of time researching the best snorkeling sets and gear available for kids. Check out my post on The Best Snorkeling Sets and Snorkeling Gear for Kids if you need some great suggestions.
Music and Alternative Entertainment
Personally, the sound of the surf, the breeze, and the seagulls is enough for me.
But, the fact is, after the early morning passes and more and more people set up camp around you, someone is inevitably going to start blasting their own tunes.
Perhaps you’ll get lucky and they’ll play something you’ll like …
… perhaps not.
Bumpin’ Beachin’ Playlist
If where you’re going gets cell service, you’ll have the luxury of streaming your personal beachin’ playlist.
If not, you’ll want to pre-load some tunes on your phone or tablet before you leave home.
Bluetooth Outdoor Speaker
I am über-picky about the sound of my music. A tinny-sounding tune-butchering noise maker is worse than nails on a chalkboard.
Do yourself a favor and grab something made by BOSE, SONOS, JBL, or my new favorite, the Ultimate Ears MEGABOOM.
Beachin’ Tip: Again, don’t be one of those people. Bump your beachin’ tunes at a respectful volume, please!
Books, eBooks, or Magazines
There comes that magical moment in every family beach vacation when the kids are finally doing something that doesn’t require YOU!
What better time to get lost in a great book? Whether you bring physical books or opt for the convenience of an eBook reader, make sure there’s something available should the mood hit you.
Whether you retrofit your smartphone with a waterproof case or you buy a separate water-proof camera, just make double-sure that it’s lashed to your wrist.
I wonder just how many cell phones are lying on the ocean floor … hmmm.
Back-Up Power Bank
If you do it right, your phone battery will be drained from taking tons of vid’s and pic’s, your speaker battery will start to dwindle, and you’re gonna need some juice.
Check out our post on the Best Portable Power Banks if you don’t already have one.
If you’re camping, glamping, or staying at a beach house nearby, the need to get cleaned up may not be as urgent.
But, if you’re coming and going in a day-trip situation, be sure to bring your own towel, soap, shampoo, and other toiletries so that the ride home isn’t too … gritty!
Stocked Toiletry Bag(s)
Even if the beach only provides outdoor showers, a thorough fresh-water rinsing will have you feeling fresh enough to justify a fresh smattering of deodorant and whatever else you wish to apply before the drive home.
Most developed beaches provide public showers to rinse off the sand and saltwater. If not, fret not … you were insightful enough to pack your own portable solar shower.
- Can heat 5 gallons of water to 113°F after 3 hours in direct sunlight
- Complete with hose, shower head with on/off switch, and water tap
- Lightweight and foldable for easy storage and packing
- Multiple layers of PVC provides leakproof durability
- Integrated temperature indicator
Now, you’re a hero because everyone’s nooks, cracks, and crannies are grit-free for the ride home.
Change of Clothes
After the shower and before piling into the family wagon for the trip home, it’s a good idea to have an extra change of clothes for everyone — especially if you plan on hitting any restaurants or shops along the way home.
This will also limit the amount of sand tracked into your car to the floorboards.
Shell Yeah! It’s Beachin’ Time!
Well, that about sums it up! I sincerely wish you the best on your next family vacation and find every excuse to stay longer than you plan!
Oh, and one last thing, if you’re bringing a pet, don’t forget their food/water bowls, leash, collar, …
… maybe the next post will be about Essential Pet Beach Checklist!