Traveling anywhere with kids takes a little extra planning and packing, especially when your children are young.
Beach vacations with toddlers and babies can be a lot of fun. Little ones have an endless sandbox, water to play in, and a new environment to explore. What is not to love about the beach?
But if you’re planning a trip to the beach, or any tropical destination, there are a few beach essentials for toddlers and babies that you will want to make sure to pack.
This list of baby and toddler beach essentials will help ensure your family’s beach day is both fun and safe.
Complete packing list of beach essentials for toddlers and babies
While there are a lot of items that can make the beach more enjoyable, there are a few items that should be considered beach essentials for toddlers and babies. To make your beach travel and packing easier, we have also included a convenient, printable beach packing list of all our baby and toddler beach essentials at the end of this post.
Sunscreen should be a no-brainer. If you’re going to the beach or any sunny place, you need to pack sunscreen or buy some when you get there. This is especially important for a baby or toddler’s sensitive skin. Little ones burn much easier than adults. When we are at the beach, we lather sunscreen on our daughter at least once every one to two hour using an SPF of at least 50. We reapply every time our little one gets out of the water, as well. It is a good idea to set an alarm on your phone every hour to remind you to reapply sunscreen to your kids and to yourself.
There are several great sunscreens that are safe for kids. Look for one specially formulated for a baby or toddler’s delicate skin, and preferrably one that is reef-friendly.
Apply sunscreen on your children’s entire bodies before you get them dressed in swimsuits. This includes their chests, tummies, back, and tush. Even though those areas might be covered by a swimsuit, their sensitive skin could still burn through their suits if in the sun too long. Also, don’t forget the ears, bottoms of the feet, palms of the hands, and the scalp.
A sun hat is also all about sun protection. Even if your baby toddler has a full head of hair, to protect your little one’s delicate scalp, a sun hat is still an essential beach item for babies and toddlers. A sun hat will help keep kids cool and protect them from getting a sunburn on their scalp (especially where their hair parts).
Plus come on, how cute are babies and toddlers in sun hats?!
Don’t forget about your little ones’ eyes! Particularly during the first year of life, a baby’s eyes are extremely sensitive to the sun. Even into the toddler years, it’s a good idea to protect your child’s eyes if you are going to be in the sun for a prolonged amount of time. Our daughter hated the sunglasses with the strap around the back but loved traditional sunglasses.
Choose a pair with a bendable or rubber frame and one that offers both UVA and UVB protection.
Most swimming pools require a swim diaper, and if you are planning a beach vacation with a baby or toddler who is not potty trained yet, a swim diaper is a beach necessity. You can buy disposable ones or do as we did and get a reusable one. It is better for the environment, they’re easy to clean, and come in cute patterns.
Swim diapers are a beach basic that can be worn under a swim suit or alone. They do not absorb urine, but do catch any solids, in the event that your little one has an accident at the beach.
No baby or toddler beach packing list would be complete without a swimsuit. For young children, both boys and girls, two piece swimsuits with a rashguard are a great choice. They not only help prevent sunburns by covering more of the ski, like the shoulders, which tend to burn first, but they are also more convenient for diaper changes or bathroom trips with toddlers.
You can find rashguard sets for girls or for boys that are cute and functional for a day at the beach.
If your little one is already toddling around, you may want to buy a pair of water shoes for the beach. Water shoes will protect your toddler’s feet from the hot sand or from rocks and anything else that might not feel so good if stepped on.
Choose a pair that are breathable, quick-drying and have a durable, anti-slip sole that will help them maintain their balance on slippery surfaces.
Water and warm weather are breeding grounds for mosquitoes, so you will want to bring a spray to protect your little one from getting bitten. Doctors do not recommend using DEET on children under six months old, so for babies, I would recommend California Baby bug repellent. The spray is also great for toddlers.
Any parent of a toddler knows how quickly a little one can get into mischief if you look away for even half a second. While nothing replaces actively watching your child around water, a life jacket or flotation vest will add an extra layer of protection. This should be on every parent’s beach essentials for toddlers, especially.
Life Jacket tip:
Look for a toddler life jacket that is Coast Guard approved and designed to turn children into a face-up position.
A water wrap will come in so handy if you want to go into the swimming pool or even in the ocean with a baby or toddler. (Shallow area only, of course). This water wrap is made out of jersey material, so it’s thin and breathable. It is intended to be worn into water and will dry quickly. If you’ve ever worn your baby in a wrap, you put this one on the exact same way as a Moby, Boba, or Tula Wrap.
Beach towels serve multiple purposes on a beach trip with kids. They not only are used to dry off, but also to sit on in the car to keep sand from getting everywhere.
Opt for a quick drying, microfiber towel so you can use it more than once in the same day. This gives you the option of playing in the water in the morning and afternoon. For little girls you can also invest in a terry cloth bathing suit cover up that they can wear to lunch at a beachfront restaurant.
If the beach you are visiting does not have adequate shade in the form of beach umbrellas or trees to lounge under, you may want to invest in a beach tent before your trip. Beach tents are easy and quick to set up and offer protection from the sun. They are great for the whole family, but are particularly necessary for babies and toddlers. A beach tent can provide a place for your little ones to nap if they get tired or a place to store your belongings while you are out enjoying the water.
A beach umbrella is an alternative to provide shade, however, it doesn't offer the same security for your belongings as a tent that zips up.
Toys may not necessarily be beach essentials for toddlers and babies, at least not in terms of safety. But a few sand toys do make the trip more fun for little ones. An inexpensive set of sand molds, digging tools and a bucket can keep kids entertained for hours on the beach. It’s a fun way to engage with your child and enjoy the beach without actually getting in the water.
When it comes to a beach vacation with the family, an insulated water bottle is an important item to pack. When out in the sun, kids can become dehydrated quickly, especially babies and toddlers. Select a water bottle that keeps fluids cool for at least 8 hours. So, even if you are out at the beach all day, your water will stay refreshingly cool! You can also bring premixed or liquid formula in an insulated bottle to keep it fresh for babies.
Whether bringing water for a toddler or formula for a baby, an insulated water bottle is definitely a beach essential for young children!
Parents know you can’t really go anywhere with babies and toddlers, or even older kids for that matter, without bringing along plenty of snacks. We like to have a mix of fresh and pre-packaged snacks and keep them in separate containers within an insulated cooler. Choose a cooler with multiple compartments for ease of access. And make sure you get one that is large enough to hold a good variety of beach snacks.
Pack items like grapes or fresh cut fruit, goldfish crackers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, raisins or dried fruit, as well as a few of your child’s personal favorites.
A water resistant beach tote is a must-have to carry all the things to pack for a beach trip with kids. A simple trip to the beach when you have kids requires a lot of stuff, and you will want an easy way to transport it. Look for a beach tote with a padded strap so it isn’t digging into your shoulder as you trek across the sand to find a good spot to set up for the day.
Don’t feel like being a pack mule for your kids? A beach wagon is a good alternative to haul all the baby and toddler beach essentials from the car to the beach. You might even have room in the wagon for a tired baby or toddler at the end of the day!
If you’re visiting a beach resort in a destination like St. Maarten, Cancun or Playa del Carmen, you can likely leave your folding chairs at home. Most resorts provide ample seating for their guests. However, if you are visiting a public beach in the United States, you’ll likely want to bring something to sit on. While you could get by with just bringing a beach blanket, if you plan to spend a few hours or a day at the beach, you will want something more comfortable to sit on than the ground.
Look for folding chairs that come with a carrying bag to make it easier to store and bring from the car.
Don’t forget these overlooked beach essentials for toddlers and babies, too!
Besides the items mentioned above, don’t forget these other baby and toddler beach essentials when you are out in the sun. Other things you’ll want to bring with you include an extra pair of dry clothing to change into afterward, wet wipes to help rid yourself and your little ones of sand, a hair brush, cash for those ice cream carts that always come by, and extra fluids. If your baby or toddler is still nursing or using formula, it’s a good idea to bring extra in a cooler.
Final thoughts on beach trips with babies and toddlers
Regardless of how prepared you are and how well you packed, keep in mind that when traveling with kids rarely does everything goes as planned. We’ve had some very memorable family beach trips and some sketchy ones, but the good always outweighs the challenges.
Our best advice, in life and in travel, is to simply roll with it. Take the pros with the cons, and try to enjoy the salty air, cool water, and warm sand with your kids.
Printable packing list of beach essentials for toddlers and babies
Want to print this beach packing list for toddlers and babies? We’ve made a handy checklist you can download, print out, and use as you pack. Gotta love a good check list! Take the stress out of packing and subscribe to our email list below to get access to our beach packing list and other printable family travel resources.
Have a question or comment about these beach essentials for toddlers and babies? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or let us know what items you pack for a beach trip with your baby or toddler.
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This post on beach essentials for toddlers and babies was originally published in April 2016 but was updated in July 2021 for accuracy and current product information.