We love going to the beach (we just got back, after all). There’s something healing about the wind and the waves… that is, until reality sets in. With an almost-two-year-old, going to the beach can be anything but relaxing. We’ve spent those almost-two-years honing the art of traveling with littles, learning how to make it to as efficient, easy, and fun as possible, so we have all the essentials you need to make your next beach trip as stress free as possible.
- Beach Tent: Let’s face it: beach umbrellas are a pain. You have to keep moving them, it’s a workout trying to get them into ground, and just one good puff of wind and they’re rolling down the beach like colorful tumbleweeds. Not to mention they’re almost impossible to pack in your luggage if you’re flying to your beach destination, which leaves you either renting an umbrella every day or buying one and leaving it behind a the end of the vacation — neither of which are great options. Needless to say, we gave up hassling with umbrellas a few years ago and switched to an easy-up beach tent. Ours fits in our luggage, is super lightweight, and has lasted us through several year’s worth of beach vacations. It provides more shade than an umbrella and is a great place for littles to nap. We bought our tent at a local shop here in Freising, but this one is similar and offers SPF 50+ protection.
- Beach Blanket: Again, since our girly prefers to keep her toes pristine while she plays in the sand, we always bring along our picnic blanket to spread out in front of our tent. It gives her more room to play and us more room to stretch out. We’ve had our blanket for a couple of years now and take it with us on almost every trip we go on. It’s seen picnics in front of the Eifel Tower, beach days in Majorca, fireworks at Disneyworld, and lakesides here in Germany. We love it because it has a waterproof backing and folds up nice and small. We bought ours over here on Amazon.de, but this one on Amazon.com is basically exactly the same.
- Floaties: Isla hates floaties. Those little boats for babies? Screamed like we’d chopped off an arm. A life jacket? We must have chopped off the other arm. And maybe a leg. But for some reason she loves the Stearns Puddle Jumper we bought her. By the end of the trip she was floating next to us in the pool without us holding onto her and kicking her feet and “wimmin.” No idea what makes this floatie different to her, but we loved that it keeps her upright and that it’s approved by the US Coast Guard as a child life jacket.
- Beach Toys: Even though Isla doesn’t like to actually get in the sand, she still loves to play in it, so beach toys are a must. Because we usually fly to our beach destinations (Florida to visit Grandma and Grandpa, Majorca, etc.), we tend to take more compact sets with us that will pack well. The set we took with us to Majorca this year we purchased at the local toy store here in Freising and we love it because it has a lid that fits tight to the pail that doubles as a sifter. A shovel, rake, and a couple sand forms fit inside, like this beach bucket set which has a lid that doubles as a watering can (Isla would love that).
- Travel Sized Baby Powders: By now I’m sure you’ve heard of (if not experienced) the magic that is baby powder for getting sand off skin. It’s amazing. I was skeptical at first, but now we never go to the beach without a travel sized bottle of baby powder. We prefer travel sized just for convenience and packing – and we always seem to get gift sets that have travel sized baby powder in them that we never use for anything else, so they’re always floating around in a drawer somewhere.
- Dry Box: With a toddler at the beach, you never know when a watering can of seawater or a pail of sand are going to be dumped… anywhere. To keep our electronics dry and sand free, we use a diving dry box. Yes, you could throw everything in a baggie and it would probably be sand and waterproof, but baggies get holes in them and the dry box makes them safe from drops and crushing, too. Ours fits both our Kindles, Isla’s Kindle fire, both cell phones, and a battery bank for a quick charge (don’t forget one of those!). Kevin won it at a diving raffle, but you can find ones like this pretty cheaply on Amazon.
- Clothes Pins: When said toddler pours said watering can all over our towel/dry clothes/beach hat/etc. we always have a few clothes pins on hand to clip the wet things to our beach tent. The sun dries them in a jiffy and they stay put thanks to the clips. Plus, since we use just regular old clothes pins, if a few get lost, break, or otherwise don’t make it home, we’re not out much.
- First Aid Kit: I have a little Altoids Tin first aid kit I always keep in our diaper bag for unexpected ouchies with a few Band-Aids and antiseptic. When we head to the beach, I throw it in our beach bag. It really came in handy on this last trip to Majorca when I fell and scraped my knee! You can easily put together our own kit, or you can buy something similar here.
- Cooler Bag: Here in Europe, we can’t just grab a styrofoam cooler at the grocery store near the beach. The simply don’t have them (or much of anything styrofoam, for that matter). Instead, we use a cooler tote. It packs flat for the flight and then can be carried to the beach like a tote bag on the shoulder, meaning you have both hands free for easier toddler wrangling. We got ours as a freebie from a company Kevin works with, but this one on Amazon is really similar.
- Stroller Hooks: So how is one supposed to get all these things from the car to the beach all while wrangling a cooler bag and a toddler or two? For us, we use our giant D clip stroller hooks like these from Amazon. Instead of a beach bag, we use a large backpack, then clip all our accessories (tent, floaties, beach buckets, you name it) to the backpack. One of us carries the kiddo and/or cooler, the other carries the backpack with everything clipped to it. Inevitably you look like a hobo walking down the beach with everything clipped to you, but especially for more remote beaches like the ones we visited in Majorca, it’s much easier than dragging a heavy cart through the sand.
Of course, we also always pack the regular beach essentials like hats, sunscreen, waters and snacks, battery banks, and the like. We also usually beg a few extra trash bags from our hotel’s housekeeping staff to have on hand for diapers and the like to save from having to hunt out trash cans.