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Dreaming of a family beach vacation?

I know I am! Our family is counting down the days until our summer vacation when we head off on our annual cross-country road trip and hit up some of our favorite beaches.

From days spent boating around my in-law’s little lake to our time spent scavenging for shells on the big water, there is nothing our family loves more than a vacation on the beach. But, before we head out, I always make sure to create a detailed list of everything we need to stay safe and have fun.

Here’s a list of all the essential beach items you’ll want before heading on your getaway, along with some ideas for fun beach activities your family can enjoy together.

family beach activity ideas

What to Pack for a Family Beach Vacation

What you bring to the beach will depend on what you plan to do (lounge on the beach and build sandcastles vs boogie boarding or surfing), the age of your kids, and the forecasted weather (is there a risk of rain?). Regardless of your situation, here’s a list of essentials:

  • Sun protection – including sunscreen, sunscreen lip balm, sunhats, cover-ups, and a beach umbrella  
  • Something to sit on – blanket, mat, or beach chairs
  • Safety items – life jackets, water wings, pool floaties, first aid kit
  • Bug spray – depending on where you go and the time of year, the bugs might be bad 
  • Sand toys – buckets and shovels for building sandcastles
  • Water toys – boogie board, surfboard, snorkel, fins, beach ball
  • Entertainment – books, magazines, or something to listen to 
  • Camera – for capturing family beach vacation memories
  • Cooler – for meals, snacks, and cold drinks 
  • Beach attire – swimsuit, beach shoes, wet suit, and a swim diaper if you have a baby or toddler 
  • Beach towel – make sure you bring something to dry off with 
  • Shelter – an easy-to-assemble beach tent to protect you from the sun or rain
  • Clean-up stuff – don’t forget a plastic bag for any garbage and some baby wipes to clean dirty little faces and hands
  • Beach bag – you’re going to want to bring some kind of beach bag or backpack so you can carry all of your stuff to and from the beach. Also, consider bringing a dry bag to put all of your wet swimsuits in. 

Beach Activity Ideas for the Whole Family 

Everyone has a different idea of what they want to do at the beach. I would love to sit on a beach chair, with a book in one hand and a cold drink in the other but … I have two small children — it’s not going to happen. Luckily, there are tons of other activities we can do at the beach with our young kids, including:

  • Swimming  
  • Building holes and sand castles
  • Looking for seashells
  • Look for the best swimming spots 
  • Watching the boats on the water
  • Playing “I spy”
  • Flying a kite
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Going for beach walks
  • Playing kickball
  • Enjoying a beach picnic
  • Fishing 
  • Doing a scavenger hunt
  • Playing miniature golf 
  • Watching the sunset 

If you have older kids, you can add some additional activities to the list:

  • Surfing 
  • Boogie boarding
  • Beach volleyball 
  • Taking photographs 
  • Playing ultimate frisbee
  • Bocce ball
  • Building a beach fire
  • Bird watching
  • Paddleboarding 
  • Kayaking 

Safety Tips for a Family Beach Vacation 

To ensure you have a fun and safe beach trip, consider teaching your kids these safety measures before starting your vacation

Water safety 

First, whether or not your children know how to swim, it’s important to talk to them about water safety. You can teach older kids about the dangers of a rip current and tides and the importance of respecting the water. You can talk to your younger children about never venturing into the water without you and having their life jackets securely on their bodies. Also, discuss what they should do if there is a problem and point out where the lifeguard stands are if there are any lifeguards on duty. 

Sun safety 

Remind your kiddos about the sun and how important it is to lather up with sunscreen and wear sun-protective clothing. Make sure everyone is reapplying after time spent in the water. Also, teach your kids to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration and to take breaks from the sun when they are feeling too hot. 

Storm safety

Talk to your kids about what they should do in the event that a storm rolls in. Make sure you check the weather before heading to the beach for the day so you know what to expect. 

No shallow diving 

If your children are old enough that they are diving, teach them that you never dive into the water until they know how deep it really is. Diving into shallow water can result in a serious neck injury. It’s best to jump into the water feet first until you know what you are dealing with. 

Watch out for jellyfish

Make your children aware of the type of aquatic life they may encounter in the water. You can teach them about what to do if they are stung by something like a jellyfish. 

Watch for debris in the sand

Depending on how clean the beach is, you might want to have your kids wear beach sandals or water shoes to avoid stepping on glass or other debris that could be hiding in the sand. 

Are you ready to hit the beach?

Before checking out your favorite prime beach spots, be sure to make a beach vacation list with all of the must-haves for your family beach vacation. Creating a list and checking it twice will help to prevent any missed items or packing mistakes. No matter what, don’t forget your camera, you are going to want to capture some of the fun in the sun moments you share with your family. 

And while a beach vacation is all about having fun and making memories, it’s also important that your entire family is well versed on beach safety, especially if you aren’t used to being on the water. Taking a few minutes to discuss water safety and remind everyone to apply sunscreen and drink lots of water can help to avoid any minor or major beach safety issues.


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