The Ultimate Beach Packing List For Families {Free Printable!}

Updated: Apr 30

Your beach essentials checklist for 2021 is here.

It's hard to believe that Spring Break has already come and gone, and summer 2021 is right around the corner. During the warm and sunny months of summer, there's simply nothing better than a relaxing family beach day.

Picture it now: the warm sun on your skin, the smell of salt water in the air, the hot sand on your feet, the crashing waves in the distance, children building sandcastles, and a cold drink in your hand (preferably with an adorable little umbrella).

But for as much fun as a beach trip can bring, it can also bring very real dangers, big and small.

Long days at the beach can lead to a sunburn and dehydration, for examples, and any kind of open water comes with its own concerns. It's best to be prepared, especially when you're with kids.

Here are some helpful items for your next family beach vacation. And yes, there's a printable Family Beach Vacation Packing List at the end!

We wish you warm weather and lots of sunshine.

For your convenience, we've included some affiliate links for which we make a small commission.

1. Sunscreen.

The quickest way to ruin a family beach vacation is someone getting a sunburn. The bottom line is that everyone needs sun protection.

The best way to avoid a burn and protect yourself from those UV rays is to pack SPF 30 sunscreen (or higher for extra protection) and lather it on 15-30 minutes before you head out. Don't forget the hard to reach parts, and be sure to rub the sunscreen under the edges of your clothes, or you might be left with just a thin line or sunburn.

Remember to reapply after going in the water.

And, it's just as important to wear sunscreen during a cloudy day as it is during a sunny day. Those rays will find their way through the clouds and burn your skin.

Our favorite sunscreen for kids is from Coppertone. It's SPF 70 and is water-resistant for 80 minutes:

Our favorite sunscreen for adults is Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch Lotion Sunscreen. It's highly rated on Amazon, and it's a reef safe sunscreen, which means it does not contain chemicals that cause coral bleaching:

2. Your Favorite Bathing Suit

Whether you opt for a bikini, a one piece, or a more protective rash guard, make sure you (and everyone in your family) has a bathing suit that is comfortable and fits properly.

Women: We love the bathing suits for women by Summersalt.

Girls: For girls, Target usually has a wide selections of great options.

Men & Boys: For men and boys, we recommend checking out the swim trunks by Maamgic on Amazon. They are durable, affordable, and come in many different patterns:

Rash Guard: The primary purpose of a rash guard is to provide extra sun protection, rash protection, and extra warmth in the water. Anyone can wear them, and they are a great options for those with very fair or sensitive skin. If you're looking for a rash guard for your child, Carter's offers a variety of affordable options on Amazon:

3. A Cover Up

A cover up serves a few useful purposes. First, it provides modesty if you don't want to show your bare skin throughout the day.

A cover up is also key for the moments you are not in the water, like when you need to make a quick concession purchase, run back up to the hotel room, or take a casual stroll on the beach.

This affordable cover-up comes in many different colors, and it's rated highly on Amazon:

4. Beach Shoes

No matter where you're headed, it's always a good idea to have the right footwear. But the right shoes become especially on a trip to the beach, where you're dealing with elements like sand, rocks, shells, and perhaps even a stray jellyfish or two.

Flip Flops: You may prefer the easy on and off of a great pair of flip flops, but beware that they don't provide much support. The last thing you need on your beach day is a twisted ankle.

Sandals: A good pair of beach sandals is light-weight, comfortable, and supportive. These are our favorites from Amazon, and they come in every color under the sun.

Water Shoes: If you're concerned about you or your children stepping on sharp rocks or shells (or washed up jellyfish!), look for a durable pair of water shoes.

5. Sun Hat

Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and if you value its health, you know that you need to protect if from the sun's harsh rays.

A sun hat adds an extra layer of protection to the sunscreen you're hopefully already wearing.

We love this basic sun hat from Amazon, especially because it has a drawstring so that your hat doesn't blow away on a windy day:

6. Day Bag / Large Beach Bag

If you're planning on spending more than an hour or so at the beach, you'll need a large bag to carry your personal items and beach items. And there are plenty of high-quality options that are also attractive and fashionable.

This large, durable canvas bag from Lands End will do the trick, and it can even be personalized. Getting one for each person in your family will help everyone keep track of their own items:

Here are some personal items you may want to consider packing in your bag:

-cell phone


-spf lip balm

-credit cards

-hair ties

-binoculars (for spotting marine life!)

7. Large Beach towel

When it comes to beach towels, the larger and brighter, the better.

We recommend packing one per person so that everyone has something to sit on between themselves and the hot sand.

For families with multiple children, it's helpful to have a different color beach towel for each person to help keep track of whose is whose. Here's a four-pack for the whole family:

8. Water Bottles / Cold Drinks

It's extremely easy to become dehydrated when you're out in the sun on the beach. And this can easily lead to headaches, dizziness, overall crankiness and a ruined beach day.

It's absolutely essential to have well-insulated water bottles and cold drinks. Everyone needs their own water bottle.

Pack a light cooler with your favorite sparkling water, seltzer, or soft drink.

9. Good Book or Magazine

Your beach day is the perfect opportunity to finally dive into that book you've been wanting to read.

Need an easy option? Check out Beach Read, by Emily Henry. It's aptly named, of course, but it's also an award winning novel published in 2020:

10. Beach Umbrella / Beach Tent

On a hot sunny day, it helps to make some shade for yourself. This is especially important if you have children. Having a good beach umbrella or beach tent will help you enjoy your family beach day for a much longer period of time.

We love this one because it has windows for ventilation, plus stakes and built in sandbags so that it doesn't blow away. (You do NOT want to be the person who has a runaway tent or umbrella at the beach!)

11. Beach Blanket

Claim your spot on the beach with a large beach blanket that's big enough to fit your whole party.

This one doubles as a picnic and beach blanket, and it rolls up with a handle to be easily carried:

12. Portable Speaker

One easy way to make sure your beach day has a festive vibe is to pack a portable speaker. You can even create your playlist ahead of time! You'll want to opt for a waterproof speaker, for obvious reasons.

This portable bluetooth speaker is a great option because it checks all the boxes:

13. Beach Toys

Building sandcastles is a childhood rite of passage, and it's one of the most fun things to do at the beach. Plus, it can keep your little ones busy for hours.

But you need the right tools. This complete set has 7 different molds, and two different sized shovels:

It might be fun to pack a beach ball or boogie board, as well!

14. Floaties

If you have a little one who can't swim yet, these Puddle Jumpers are an absolute must. They come in all kinds of fun patterns, and have been tested and approved by the U.S. Coast Guard for use in the water.

15. Goggles

If you or your kids plan to get in the water to swim, having goggles can help protect your eyes from the salt water and other elements. Plus, you'll be able to see all the marine life and activity happening under the water's surface.

16. Snorkel Gear

One of the best things about a day at the beach is the marine wildlife, but most people miss it because they don't pack snorkel gear. Having this gear on hand will really level up your visit.

17. Mosquito Repellent / Bug Spray

Depending on your beach destination, you may want to pack bug spray so that flies and mosquitos don't wind up ruining your perfect day.

18. Small First Aid Kit

Family beach vacations never go exactly as planned. It's always a great idea to pack along a small first aid kit, especially if you have kids in tow. Someone is bound to get a cut or a scrape, and having some alcohol wipes, bandaids, and neosporin on hand makes you the hero of the day.

I also like to bring along a portable ice pack in case someone hits their head (my kids have had a few too many head bumps in their day), and ibuprofen in case someone has an awful headache or pain of some kind.

19. Dry Bag

After you're done swimming, you'll need a place to put your wet swimsuits and clothing. A dry bag is the perfect place to put these items, and it's a more eco-friendly option than a plastic bag.

20. Change of Clothes

Don't forget a change of clothes for the end of the day. After all the splashing, sweating, and sand that you've gotten into, it might feel great to throw on a pair of sweats and a light sweatshirt.


You may want to have some Aloe Vera on hand in case you spend too much time in the sun and get sunburned despite your best efforts.

There you have it! Your ultimate beach vacation packing list. And, as promised, we've got a free printable for you. Download it here:

Ultimate Family Beach Packing List
PDF • 810KB

Whether it's a brief, local day trip, or an epic spring break, we hope your beach getaway is everything you hope for.

Happy travels!

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