We have hit the beach almost every weekend this summer and I’ve learned how to be organized and prepared so that we can make the most of our time in the sand. I used to look at families at the beach and ask myself why the parents needed so much stuff. But now I get it. Forget the tent and your kids get sunburned. Forget the toys and they meltdown. Forget the diapers and everyone is screwed! I’ve spent the last two months figuring out what to pack for the beach with a toddler and creating a system that is organized and stress-free.
How to organize your beach stuff
Foldable Beach Wagon: When Anel told me he was buying this, I thought it was a huge waste of money but it has saved us on every beach trip. Instead of lugging our heavy bags, a tent, chairs, and a toddler, we can put it all in one wagon and pull it to wherever we’re sitting. This one is slightly pricier but has some cool features like being able to attach a large cooler.
Beach Bag: I have two classic LL Bean Boat & Tote bags for the beach. One is the family beach bag that I had monogrammed with “BEACH BAG” and the other is for all of Amalia’s extra things that I had monogrammed with her name on it. They’re easy, they’re structured. They’re washable. And they’re a perfect size. We use the large bags with zippers and the long handle option so you can easily carry them on your shoulders. My rule is no more than two bags for the whole family.
I keep both bags fully packed and organized at all times so that when we want to get out the door to the beach, it’s not a mad rush to pack them up. As soon as we get home, I was our towels, extra suits (if we use them) and wet bags and place them right back in the bag. The only things I add last-minute are snacks and waters.
Organizer for Kids: This goes into Amalia’s beach bag. My friend Stef is a professional organizer and she had this toiletry bag on a trip we took to the beach recently. I totally copied her and bought one for our beach bag. She actually has an entire blog post on her website about how to organize a beach bag and it’s super helpful. I put Amalia’s sunscreen, bandaids, bug spray, swim diapers, regular diapers, wipes, and baby powder in it. Everything fits well and is organized so I know where things are when I need to pull them out in a flash.
Clear Pouches: I like to use a clear pouch for adult sunscreens (spray, lotion, and face) so I can easily pull out what I want. I found this one on Etsy and it comes with a smaller pouch for your phone, keys, and money. It closes with velcro and is just easy.
Cooler Bag: We fill this with our water bottles, fresh fruit, pouches, sandwiches, chips, and whatever snacks we want for the beach. I use this water bottle for Amalia because it keeps her water cold all day but doesn’t get hot to the touch on the outside. I like this bag because it fits in our totes, it’s only $14, and can be squished down when it’s empty.
What to Pack for the Beach with a Toddler
Beach Tent: Anel bought this Pacific Breeze beach tent on Amazon last summer and we’ve had great success with it. It’s easy to put up and take down once you learn the tricks, and it’s a great size for multiple kids. It has pockets on the inside to store things like water and snacks and you can open up the tarp for more ventilation. But it is huge. If you want something smaller, I suggest this version.
Hooded Beach Towel: We use a towel with a hood for Amalia because she will play in the water for a long time and want to warm up and get wrapped up nice and cozy. She has this one which is on sale, but there are a lot of other great towels on sale at PB Kids right now too.
Beach Sheet: In addition to towels for the whole family, we always bring a sheet that people can lay their towels on, we can eat on, or the kids can play on.
Chairs: We have a smattering of beach chairs that we’ve collected over the years and none of them are all that special so I don’t have links, but I do recommend bringing a kid-sized one if you have room because Amalia wants to sit on chairs when she sees us doing it and ends up stealing one of ours if we don’t have hers. I bought hers for $10 at Home Goods but it’s similar to this one with an umbrella.
Changing Pad: I wanted something small that could fit into her organizer (mentioned above) and this one does the trick! It folds up smaller than any other changing pad I’ve found out there.
Wet Bags: Instead of bringing a plastic bag wet bathing suits, we bring washable wet bags that we can throw in the laundry as soon as we get home. I bought this pair on Amazon because I thought they were super cute and only $10. They also have an outside zipper so you can use it for something else if you want.
Beach Toys: I copied Stef again on this because it’s a great set of beach toys that Amalia can carry herself like a backpack. It makes her feel like she’s helping and I love giving her responsibilities when we go somewhere.
Diapers: I always bring at least 2 swim diapers and 2 regular diapers because you never know where the day will take you or what kind of poop situation you might come across. The Huggies Little Swimmers diapers are my favorite because you can open them on the sides. And don’t forget baby powder! It helps with cleaning sandy bottoms.
Extra Bathing Suit: You just never know what you’re going to get into with a toddler… Let’s just say I’ll never go to the beach without an extra suit again.
Hat & Rash Guard: Cute bathing suits are cute at first but there is nothing cute about a sunburned baby. So don’t forget a rashguard and beach hat. We like this hat because it has a wide brim, long strings that stay tied, and an adjustable top so it actually stays on her head.
Books: My daughter is a book worm so we pack board books for the beach so she can take a break from sandcastles and waterplay and have an introverted moment.
What else do you bring for your toddlers at the beach?
We do a lot of lake swimming and the kids love floating around in puddle jumpers so we always snag those too!
We just started our one year old with swim lessons and our instructor recommended we get these reusable swim bottoms – they have a lot of cute patterns: https://iplaybaby.com/iplay/swimwear/swim-diaper
I keep an eye on our daughter’s “timing” and so far haven’t had any #2 in it, but if there was you can wash it. Still not sure how I feel about that since it hasn’t occurred, but I really like these more than the disposable swim diapers – we were going through so many. I pair with a rash guard and it’s been working out well.
They sell them in 3 packs for about 25.00 so it’s easy to keep extra on hand if the worst happens and the one they are wearing is unusable. I didn’t think I would like these but if you’re in the water a lot, it beats disposables in my opinion.
Wow, that is a lot more than we bring. I have twins and a younger child (who is now 4 so I guess we are (almost) past the toddler stage?) and we live near the beach in the summer so maybe because we spend a lot of time there (almost daily), we travel a little lighter? I focused more on the necessities (change of clothes, sunscreen, diapers, etc) and figure “extras” (something like books) are just that and, if needed to occupy my kids, then probably time for us to head home or leave the beach. My kids are also incredibly comfortable at the beach given all the time we spend there so are very busy in the water, sand, and beach combing/searching.
I am so jealous that you live near the beach! Life goal of mine 🙂 I think if we were able to come and go easily it would be a different story, but when we head to the beach it’s usually for a long period of time. Also, Amalia isn’t totally comfortable there yet and doesn’t have siblings to play with but hopefully that will change one day! But glad to know that will help with our giant load of stuff.
Great post. Very useful for the first time mom. Thank you!