Born and raised in South Florida (what up Broward County) I was only a short 15 minute drive – with traffic- to the beach. I loved making a day of the beach every chance I got, even skipping school a day or two to soak up the sun. Now that I live smack dab in the middle of the state I find that we have an hour drive (at least) just one way to and from the beach.

Norah and Dad on the boardwalk to the beach

With that being said, it is important for me and my family to have EXACTLY what we need to have a successful beach day. After all, beach days are a cheap way to have some great family fun and create new memories. Here are the Family Beach Day Essentials as I know them.

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First start with a Durable and Sturdy tote bag

I prefer to use a large tote bag made out of a durable water-resistant material. I also love a bag that has some form and firmness to it that keeps a rectangular shape so that the bag doesn’t become bulgy and lose its shape when I pack it. They also have a “burst proof” aspect to them which is great when you try to repack it at the end of the day and things don’t fit so nicely back into your bag.

Once you have the right bag for the trip make sure to pack these 5 items:

#1 Towels

I find that my towels fit best when Roll them up and stand them upright. Not necessarily essential to pack them this way, just something I found that helps me pack them easier. Often times the towels are being used or worn on your way off the beach, so there is no real fuss in fitting them back into the bag on the way home.

EXTRA MOM TIP: Don’t forget a wet bag! I usually put our wallet, phone and dry items in the wet bag while at the beach then change it out for our wet bathing suites at the end of the day. Don’t forget to pack a change of clothes for the ride home, no one likes a soggy butt on the way home. I provided a cute wet bag option below.

#2 Small Cooler

We usually use an over sized lunch bag. I prefer the lunch bag over the lunch box because it is easily compacted at the end of the day when most items are recycled or compacted (ie empty frozen water bottles).

Make sure to pack at least 2 drinks per person if not more (Nurse Val reminding you to stay hydrated in the hot sun). I usually pack one or 2 frozen waters (to replace the need for ice) to use to help keep the bag cool, they tend to melt as the day wears on and make for a refreshing cool drink.

Pack easy to eat fresh snacks like grapes and pre-cut fruit that will also have high water content and help you stay hydrated. My daughter loves snacking on pickles at the beach as well. We also bring a fair share of dry snacks like popcorn, pretzels, and chips.

Often times we will end up treating ourselves to a late lunch at a fun beach restaurant towards the end of our beach stay.

#3. Sun Block

This one is for sure an essential. No one enjoys a crispy sun burn which increases your risk for skin damage and even worse, skin cancer, not to mention unsightly wrinkles (Sorry Nurse Val again). Make sure you pack a sun block that has at least 15 SPF or more. I also make sure to have chap stick with SPF in it to avoid sunburnt lips. Although the sunburnt lips have a luscious color, most people don’t know that lips are more prone to getting skin cancer with repeated sun damage and sun burn (seriously nurse Val on rant right now).

I prefer to use a sun lotion over the sprayable sun block just to ensure that I have the full coverage to avoid an awkward tan line or splotchy sunburn in those places that the spray sun block did not reach- my husband has done this an impressive amount of times.

#4. Beach Toys

Now if you would have asked Norah – my two year old- this item would have been top priority. Norah loves to take the beach toy container and dump all the toys the second we stake out our spot for the day.

I found it easiest to use a flexible plastic laundry hamper to store and carry beach toys in. The one that I have has handles at the top that slide into each other to provide a “closed” hamper situation. When its time to head home we just pack the toys back up and shower them down inside the hamper at the beach showers.

#5. Alternative Shade Measures

If you plan to spend the day – or most of it- at the beach like we do, you’ll want to make sure you bring some shade with you. I have brought anything from a wide brim traditional Sombrero to a moon shape tent to the beach with me to escape from the heat of the sun to cool off.

Nowa days we bring an easy popup small moon shape tent. It folds just as small as a camping fold up chair and requires no assembly. The pieces fold up into the tent and its easily rolled back up and returned to its carrying case. I usually even stuff it in the large beach tote bag with everything else!

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