In the perfect a world, a trip to the beach with kids would include little ones who carry their own stuff, don’t argue-fight-cry, don't get sunburnt or lost, and doesn't result in a car that looks like it drove through a sandstorm in the Saharan desert when you were done. Luckily, we've put together this handy list of 7 proven parenting hacks for a stress-free beach vacation day with your kids.
1. Plan Ahead
When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. A beach trip, especially a beach trip with kids, is not something you can successfully pull together at the last minute. Make a list of what you need the day before and start packing early. There’s nothing more stressful than trying to pack for a beach day while on vacation with a bunch of little feet running under you and asking “Can we go to the beach NOW?!” If you want to be really proactive, rent some beach equipment in advance so it’s ready for your adventure and you don’t realize last minute that your beach chairs are broken, or your beach umbrella has become home to a family of mice while hanging out in the garage.
2. Get There Early
If you’re packed and ready to go the night before, you can wake up the morning of your beach trip, slap on some sunscreen and get an early start to your day. The earlier you get to the beach, the better your chances of avoiding traffic and crowds, which is always a plus when traveling with kids. If your kids are still in the napping stages, getting to the beach early allows you to get a good chunk of beach time before nap time. Getting to the beach early also means being able to get a few really good hours in at the beach and then have the rest of the day to pack your vacation full of fun.
3. Make Naps Possible
Speaking of nap times, bring a sun shelter or tent to provide a shady spot for the littles to get some much-needed sleep. Well rested kids make your vacation easier for everyone. A beach umbrella can also serve as a reprieve from the sun, and if you’ve never tried the fitted sheet trick, check it out for a comfortable and much less sandy alternative to a beach blanket.
4. Smart Cooler & Ice Hacks
Snacks are a vital part of a successful beach trip with kids, and knowing how to pack your cooler like a pro is a game changer. Saving space, smart layering skills and a few easy organizational tricks will make packing and enjoying your beach cooler a breeze. And to make getting your expertly packed cooler to the perfect beach spot, a beach wagon can make transporting your cooler and all of your stuff much easier.
5. Don’t Slack on the Sunscreen
The only thing worse than tired, sandy kids who don’t want to leave the beach? Tired, sandy sunburnt kids who are in pain for the duration of your vacation. Do sunscreen before you get to the beach so you can cover them really good without sand getting involved. Use a cream based sunscreen before you leave the house, and then use the spray kind to avoid the scratchy combination of sand and sunscreen while you’re there. Use sunscreen sticks to make application to the face a little easier and reapply after your kids have been in the sun.
6. Bags Upon Bags
Plastic shopping bags may not be the most eco-friendly thing to bring to the beach, but as long as they all come home with you, and don't get left behind, they can be helpful in reducing all of the sand that inevitably ends up in your diaper bag, purse, car and vacation rental home. Putting sandy towels and suits in a plastic bag before you leave will help keep the mess contained until you get somewhere where you can clean and shake it all out properly. Of course, you can go green and bring reusable bags for the same purpose - plastic bags are just easier to shove in the depths of your diaper bag or backpack without taking up much space.
7. Safety First
Before the sandcastle building, wave riding, and fun in the sun, talk about expectations on safety rules with your kids. Safety first, especially on vacation! Designate a spot to meet in the event someone gets lost, and reiterate the importance of staying together, not talking to strangers and being aware of the ocean current. Have these important talks before they get excited and distracted by the beach so you have their full attention and you can be sure they know what is expected. After all, as long as everyone is safe, you can handle everything else that a beach day may throw at you.
So there you have it. With a little advance planning and packing, plus a lot of patience, you can create a beach vacation experience that your kids will remember forever. They won’t remember how perfectly the cooler was packed, or how you looked in your swimsuit, or how you kept your cool as you hauled everything from the car with the soles of your feet burning off... What they will remember is the time you spent teaching them to build a sand castle, or how safe they felt in your arms as you jumped over the waves.
A trip to the beach with kids may not always be stress-free, but it will always be worth it.