Stop Schlepping: The Pared-Down Packing Guide for a Family Beach Trip

School is out, summer is in and the shore is calling. We'll walk you through what you need for a beach trip with kids with the goal being to keep meltdowns (kids and grown-ups alike) to a minimum.

Keep in mind: Price and stock could change after publish date, and we may make money from these links.
May 26, 2021

Even though it's been a minute, I do remember the days of walking to the beach with only a chair, a towel, a great book and a drink. Once kids entered the picture, I had to seriously rethink my beach strategy. I was suddenly a pack mule lugging all the essentials for a successful day in the sunshine.

It took a little trial and error, but nowadays, I have a streamlined packing list and know exactly what we need to hang out by the shore. I start with a cooler full of ALL the snacks and drinks. (Do not skimp on the food. Food is essential for a great beach day. Cranky kid? Hand them a pack of gummies. Cranky teen? Hand them trail mix. Cranky adult? Hand them a drink.) And then, I cover us all in sunscreen (Supergoop and Beauty Counter are my faves), gather all my must-haves for the beach — keep scrolling to see — and head to the sand and water.

$126.60

I fought the wagon for a while. It seemed too bulky and over the top for a light and breezy day by the sea that I envisioned. Once I gave it a try, though, I realized it minimized my pack mule status a bit, and I was able to walk to the beach with ease instead of juggling multiple bags, chairs and umbrellas. Make sure to look for a wagon with wide, chunky wheels, like this all-terrain one, so that it'll easily roll over the sand.

Buy It

A great bag is essential to corralling all the towels, snacks and toys. I have two bags that I love, and this is one of them. It's ultra-sturdy and stands upright on its own so that it doesn't tip over in the sand. Two clear bags clip into the side for storing your phone, sunscreen and other smaller items.

Buy It
$10

This is my other go-to bag. It's super affordable at only $10 and is made entirely of mesh so sand and water don't get trapped at the bottom. It airs out easily, making it ideal for throwing wet items in at the end of the day. I love all the outside pockets for keeping lip balm, phone and sunscreen handy.

Buy It
$23.95

As much as we may appreciate sitting and enjoying the waves, kids need a little entertainment to make it through the day. This adorable beach toy set has a rake, shovel, watering can, sand molds and a foldable bucket that lays flat for storing. Pro-parent tip: If you have more than one kid, get enough buckets, rakes and shovels to go around. That way, arguing only takes place over who gets the last grape popsicle.

Buy It
$39.99

For older kids and adults, have a beach game on hand. My family has always had fun playing Bocce ball. It's compact, easy to carry and has no setup time.

Buy It
SHOP NOW

The Best Lawn Games to Amp Up the Fun This Summer

Whether you're playing on grass, sand or water, stock up for summer with these 10 guaranteed-to-entertain outdoor games.

See More
$59.99

We've used these chairs for four years now and continue to love them. They have backpack straps, making it easier to tote them down to the shore. Plus, they're outfitted with a bevy of must-haves: an insulated cooler pouch for drinks and snacks, a mesh pocket on the back for wet and sandy items, a zippered pocket on the side for extra storage and a drink holder that even my big YETI rambler will balance in.

Buy It
From $45.99

If you want to maximize your time in the sun, having a shady spot to take a break is a necessity. Grab a sand anchor to stabilize your umbrella and keep it from flying away in the wind. Whether little ones need to take a nap, eat a snack or let their next round of sunscreen soak in, you won't regret having an umbrella up and ready.

Buy It
From $14.99

To make the most of the storage space in your beach bag, opt for these microfiber towels. They fold down compact, are ultra-lightweight, quick-drying and sand doesn't stick to them. I still love a big fluffy or Turkish towel when the kids and I are poolside, but it's hard to beat the practicality of a sand-resistant towel on the beach.

Buy It
SHOP NOW

The Best Picnic Blankets and Beach Mats

Gear up for fun in the sun with these top-rated buys.

See More
From $22.21

We've been through a handful of sun hats and landed on these as our favorites. They're breathable, so kids' heads don't get too hot, and the wide brim keeps the sun off their faces and necks. Packable without losing their shape, the hats also float so you won't lose them playing in the waves. And don't forget a pair of sunglasses to protect those peepers. I'm going to try these unbreakable ones this summer.

Buy It
$6.94

This may seem strange to keep in my bag, but I never go to the beach without it. Vinegar helps take the sting and burning out of a jellyfish sting and potentially keeps you from having a truly miserable kid (or grown-up).

Buy It

Shop More Summer Must-Haves

Weird But Useful Beach Items 01:43

Learn how to use weird items to make trips to the beach more enjoyable.

Next Up

12 Family Car Camping Essentials You Can Get on Amazon

Here's the car camping gear you need to get ready for seasons of camping fun.

The 12 Best Kits + Tools to Get Kids Hooked on Gardening

Foster an interest in both indoor and outdoor gardening with these educational hands-on kits and kid-sized tools.

30 Must-Have Beach Essentials

Take an already great day at the beach to a whole new level. From staying sand-free to capturing incredible underwater pictures, the perfect beach day is possible with these must-bring products.

The Best Bug Repellents for Kids

HGTV editors and a pediatrician share recommendations on how to keep kids bite-free this summer.

15 Must-Have Items for a Family Road Trip With Kids

Keep kids of all ages happy and entertained while on the road with these gadgets, games and more.

10 Inflatable Sprinklers Kids Will Love This Summer

Beat the heat and bring on the summer fun with these sprinklers shaped like giant unicorns, dinosaurs, sharks, rainbow blobs and more.

The Best Bags for Traveling With Kids

Whether the sunshine season has you hitting the road or exploring your city, the right bag might mean the difference between a successful trip or a downright disastrous one — especially when you're toting everything your kids need on a minute-by-minute basis.

Jillian Harris Just Had the Cutest Vacation at Disneyland And You Can Copy Her Trip

Check out all of the magical details from the Love It or List It, Too star's family vacation and how to book your own Disneyland getaway.

10 Best Road Trip Games for Kids

Put an end to backseat boredom with these road-tested travel games.

Go Shopping

Refresh your home with stylish products handpicked by HGTV editors.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.

Related Pages