Complete family beach vacation packing list to make getting ready for your sea and sun holiday with kids easy and quick. Updated Feb. 2021.
Time at the beach features in all our summer family vacations.
Whether the plan is a stop at the beach while sightseeing in Italy, a family stay in Mallorca or long weeks in Southern California, we always make sure the sea and the beach are part of our travel and over the course of the years we have perfected our beach vacation packing list so that now we get our bags ready for it in no time.
If you are about to go on a sea and sun holidays and are wondering what to pack for the beach, this master beach vacation packing list is for you.
I have included all the things that I think you may want to carry with you on a beach holiday so you can pick and choose what you will actually need without the fear of leaving anything behind.
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Beach packing list for families: clothing essentials
I am going to start with the everyday clothing essentials, those things you will need on the beach no matter where in the world you happen to be
The most essential of all beach essentials pretty much anywhere, your swimsuit will work hard on a beach vacation and because of this, I usually like to pack a selection.
While I do not own nor need many, I like to mix bikinis with one piece swimsuits, so I am ready for sunbathing but also water sports or more active water days.
For men, all the boys in my family love long-ish swimming trunks.
While we are not surfers by any stretch of the imagination (although we put a fair effort into trying!) we do find surf wear usually the best quality.
My son loves swimming trunks, especially if they have super heroes on them and my daughter is fond of one piece swimsuits, although a two piece bathing suit with frills is starting to make its appearance as a favorite too!
They usually do not use sun vests however, if your kids have very delicate or fair skin, a rash guard for kids can be a great piece of beach gear for kids to have.
Rash guard / swim vest
Rash guards and swim vests can be really handy for kids. Lose fitting swim vests are great to keep children safe from the sun and more tight fitting ones are perfect for waterspouts.
Goos rash guards for kids protect from the sun and abrasion from sand and bodyboards and are easy to pack. You can find our selection of favorite rash guards/swim vests for kids here.
Sundresses come in all colors, shapes and sizes and they are usually my favorite item as it really gives that holiday look.
My favorites for me are in solid colors with some embellishment such as crochet detailing or tribal print, while for my daughter I find the best ones are colorful but most importantly with smooth material: anything embroidered or decorated may cause discomfort so especially if buying online, I find plain is better!
Whatever you choose, make sure it is made of a beach appropriate material that will not make you overheat or sweat excessively.
Also, consider how much you want it to protect you from the sun when choosing its length, sleeves etc.
For me, I love large straw hats that protect my head and shade my eyes. I find them super handy and really stylish!
These are usually great for the beach as they are reasonably breathable and prevent you from overheating.
For the children, we usually opt for baseball caps of brimmed beach hats, as they tend to be more comfortable on little foreheads and are better suited to last when they inevitably get wet.
Sunglasses for parents and kids
Both a fashion statement and a must have anywhere with strong sun or even a glare, sunglasses are one of those items that are better if of good quality.
When choosing, avoid really flimsy ones and make sure they are suitable for the job: strong sun can damage your eyes if they are not protected by good quality lenses.
If wearing prescription sunglasses, consider bringing a second pair should you rely on them for driving.
When picking sunglasses for kids, we also look at good quality lenses and also, if possible, we try and have scratch resistant ones.
When our kids were toddlers, we went for sunglasses that secured behind their heads however now that they are a little older, they prefer standard ones.
Flip Flops / bech sandals
In all my Italy packing lists I always scream ‘don’t wear flip flops, leave them for the beach!’ And this is where they come into their own.
On a sea and sun holiday, flip flops may well be your main footwear and as such, can be worth a little investment.
I personally like those by Hawaianas as I find them resistant and with a reasonably comfortable sole (something I cannot say about many other cheaper rubbish ones I bought on the go and ended up in the bin in no time).
For kids, I prefer to avoid flip-flops as they tend to come off and don’t allow kids to run in them. Instead, I prefer water sandals for the beach like those by Teva, which are perfect for sand, rocks, water and even as a standard daywear!
When traveling, our family lives in shorts. We wear them on the beach, on road trips and they feature in pretty much all our travel photos!
For a beach vacation we usually like to mix denim shorts (for sightseeing and active days) and cotton or linen ones for the beach
Skirts and dresses
Summer skirts and dresses are a great, versatile piece of clothing that I highly recommend adding to your family beach vacation packing list.
I am small and usually short skirts work best on me (I tend to drown in maxi skirts and dresses) but, if you can, add a long one too, for those times when you want to be more covered up for style or because you need to keep your legs away from the sun for a while.
I find summer dressed fun and comfortable for girls and a wonderfully easy way for us moms to feel comfortable, together and even stylish with tour effort or compromising on practicalities!
An item of clothing I use extensively in hot weather are linen trousers.
They are perfect for evenings out or expeditions to religious sites and temples if you are in a sightseeing area and they can look very stylish in the evening if you pair them up with cute top, sandals and necklaces.
I find them an excellent alternative to long skirts for smaller frames.
Tank tops and t-shirts
I always carry several of them for each of us as they don’t take up much space in your luggage and are an easy way to change up your look.
I prefer those is stretchy material as they do not crease and dry quickly but don’t get them too synthetic or will make you sweat too much.
I don’t know about you but I always forget some of the most obvious and essential things such as my pajama!
Make sure you don’t forget your basics: underwear (cotton is best especially in hot weather), sock, bras and pajama/ nightgown etc.
Cardigan/ wrap for the evening
My family always make fun of me for being cold but a light jacket or cardigan can be a godsend in the evening if you are in a place with a strong breeze or strong drops in temperature once the sun goes down.
Depending where you go, you can probably get away with a very light one or even just a shawl too but don’t take for granted you can do without.
Necklaces, Bangles, Accessories
One of my favorite ways to dress up any outfit is with accessories and a beach vacation is often a great opportunity to have fun with them.
Since I tend to travel with a capsule wardrobe of essentials (yes, even with kids), I like to load up on accessories and in particular:
- Big, colorful necklaces
- Earrings (small and big ones depending on the mood and look I am going for)
- Hair pieces (these are also super handy on the beach when you want to get your hair out of your face or if you need to tame it before you get to a shower and styling time!)
Family beach vacation packing list: day on the beach essentials
How much you carry to the beach each depends on many variables, however, this is what I am usually glad to have on me when heading for the sand
- Beach bag – you can find my favorite beach bags for moms here
- Sand resistant beach towel
- Sun cream (if you can, choose an eco friendly, reef safe one)
- Sun hat
- Water bottle
- Hair ties
- Food container with snacks
- Beach ready snacks and meals for the whole family
- Small purse for money and phone
- Water-resistant camera
- Headphones (and a cool playlist on your phone)
- Snorkeling gear – Check out the best snorkeling gear to bring on vacation so you know you know what to get
- Beach shelter: go for a top quality beach tent for the best protection and privacy
- Kids beach toys
- Sun tent for baby
- Summer baby carrier for hot weather and water to be safe if going into the water with your baby
Family beach vacation essential toiletries
My essential list of beach vacation toiletries includes:
- Sun cream – make sure you get a kid-friendly one or get different brands for the kids should you have different skin needs
- After sun – as above
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Repair mask for your hair
- Body and face wash
- Body and face moisturizer (your after sun lotion can do the trick too)
- Shaving essentials
- Makeup and makeup remover
- Nail clipper
- Female hygiene products
Family beach vacation packing list: luggage and bags for family sun holidays
The one tiring thing about the beach is that you are constantly fighting with stuff that is wet, humid, sandy and needs drying.
Because of this, I find it is easy to have some extra bags with you, to keep have your things organised and wet stuff segregated from crisp, clean, dry stuff.
I usually carry:
- Main bag (checked or carry on), I personally love my Osprey Farpoint
- Cross-body bag for everyday (these are some I love for travel)
- Beach bag
- Wet bag for your wet swimsuit
- Dry bag for any sport activity
- Toiletry bag
- Packing cubes
- No leak containers
- A simple tote, easy to carry with you at all times and excellent if you need extra space or you want to go shopping without having to get disposable plastic bags
Tech and reading materials
I am not the most tech-oriented person but this is what I find most useful on the beach
- Phone charger
- Waterproof phone pouch
- Underwater camera / water-resistant camera
- Headphones for both adults and kids
- Power bank portable charger
- Kindle for you
- Kindle /e-reader or tablet for kids
- make sure you get a good case for your e-readers and tablets to protect them from the sand!
Great shoes for your beach vacation
For a sea and sun vacation I usually pack:
- Flip Flops
- Sandals (flat or wedges for style, Teva sandals for walking)
- Travel shoes for the kids
- Water shoes for the kids
- Ballerina shoes or wedges for the evening I recently fell in love with Butterfly Twist foldable shoes which take up very little space and look great (they are also reasonably comfortable albeit very flat)
- Runners for any location that involves sightseeing or if you have access to a gym or sports area you intend to use
Family beach vacation packing list: additional items for kids
There is no denying it: a family beach vacation packing list is simply longer than one for adult travelers.
For a beach vacation with kids, I would add to the above at least some of the following:
- Sand toys (bucket, spade, cups, beach ball etc)
- Swimming nappies
- Floating aid
- Kids wetsuit if the water temperature requires it
- Beach shelter – find good popup tents for the beach here
- Extra water bottle
- Cooling bag with snacks
- Kids toiletries
- Sun protection hat and tops
- Goggles/snorkel gear
- Sunglasses with head strap
- Gopro for kids or similar action camera for kids
- Summer baby carrier to keep you and baby cool and safe in water
Good to know! if you are going on a first beach trip with your baby you a find our tips to keep your baby happy and safe on the beach here.
Travel documents and medications
In terms of travel documents, my travel checklist includes:
- Visa (if needed)
- Children birth cert (if applicable)
- Travel insurance
- Prescription medications
- Copy of prescription (translated if needed) and of relevant medical records / allergies etc
- A lock (because you never know!)
- Medications including sun remedies, motion sickness tablets, insect repellent, after bite etc
- Complete first aid kit
- Money (cash and cards, make sure you inform your bank so they don’t block your card if used in an unexpected location)
- Car seat / booster seat for kids
- Stroller / baby carrier for toddlers
I hope you found this beach vacation packing list useful and it helps you getting reach for your sea and sun holiday faster and with less stress.
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