Our first child was about 2.5 months old the first time we took him to the beach in Maryland. At that age, the first beach trip is more about trying to get at least one cute picture by the water (while simultaneously worrying about baby getting too much sun) than anything else. Beach vacations are a great way to ease into traveling with a baby, though. And it can actually be relaxing if you’re prepared. After some trail and error, we’ve put together this list of tips and beach essentials for baby to make your family vacation with a baby go smoothly.
Keep reading below for our tips for taking a baby to the beach.
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More coverage is better when it comes to baby beachwear
Swimwear is always at the top of our list of beach essentials for baby. This probably seems like common sense, but some people have a tendency to think babies will get hot versus covering them up to block the sun. My favorite products are those that are breathable but still limit their exposure to the sun. (This is especially important when they are under 6 months old, given that little to no sunscreen is recommended at that age.) Some of our favorite baby swimwear is below.
- A one piece swimsuit with UPF 50+ is ideal for younger babies. We also love these long sleeve swimsuits for baby girls.
- These water shoes for babies are a great purchase when your baby starts walking or pulling himself up.
- This hat that ties is the best sun hat for baby. We loved it so much that we bought it in two colors in the next size up. The best part is that it actually stays on baby’s head to protect him from the sun without having to put sunscreen on his head.
- I’m also a huge fan of baby sunglasses, which may just be because our little guy actually likes wearing them. These baby sunglasses with the sunglass strap in the back are great to help keep them on. (And it doesn’t hurt that they come with a 1 year warranty!)
Use sunscreen specifically made for babies
Full disclosure, I’m not one of those moms that buys everything organic and carefully reads every ingredient. (Although sometimes I wish I was. And I was definitely more cognizant of this with a newborn.) Sunscreen is one of those things we don’t mess with though. We try to stick to mineral based sunscreen or at a minimum look for something without oxybenzone.
If you’re looking for the best natural sunscreen for babies, our favorites are Babyganics and Goddess Garden. Keep in mind that sunscreen isn’t usually recommended before 6 months except in limited quantities. That’s why it’s especially important to cover babies up at the beach and keep them out of the sun as much as you can. Be sure to also wash any sunscreen off soon after sun exposure so it’s not on their sensitive skin longer than it needs to be. This article is super helpful for guidelines on sunscreen.
A beach tent for baby is a necessity
With my fair skin and need to stay away from the sun, I’m not sure why it took me having a baby to discover pop up beach tents. A pop up tent like this one is one of the best baby tent for beach trips for a number of reasons. It’s super light and takes seconds to set up and take down. We love that it’s big enough to provide adequate coverage from the sun for a few people.
If you want a baby beach tent that also serves as a playpen for the beach, the California Beach Company pop up playpen is a great option. It has a removable sun shade and is completely contained to keep little ones safe at the beach, home or anywhere on the go. You can also add a mattress to it for extra comfort for those outdoor naps. (P.S. Use code TODDLINGTRAVELER for an extra 10% off discount code for California Beach Company.) We’ll be taking this one to the beach this summer and can’t wait to use it.
If you do decide to bring a tent to the beach, be sure to check the local beach regulations first. On our family vacation in North Myrtle Beach, we ran into an issue with using a beach tent. We found similar beach tent regulations at other beaches, including Rehoboth, DE.
Tip: Pop up tents can be a little tricky to put away, so try to test it out at home first. Speaking from experience, you don’t want to be stuck at the beach struggling to fold it while also holding a baby at the same time!
Bring a beach caddy or a good stroller for the beach
Babies don’t travel light, and that applies to the beach as well. For that reason, I recommend bringing either a stroller or beach caddy with large wheels. Our favorite running stroller is also the best stroller for the beach. The large tires are great in the sand. And it’s durable enough to handle any potential wear and tear. We also love this double stroller for the beach, which has adequate storage all your beach things as well.
If you don’t want to drag a stroller to the beach, this beach caddy is great as well. It’s large enough to fit everything you need for the beach with a baby. Plus, it can handle larger items like beach chairs and umbrellas as well. That way, one person can carry the baby and one person can carry everything else. Many local beach rental places also offer beach wagons or caddies to rent.
Flying to the beach and want to limit the amount of stuff? We’ve also used BabyQuip for stroller and beach rentals and high recommend them. (Use the code TODDLINGTRAVELER for an extra 10% off!)
Take toys to keep your baby entertained at the beach
Bringing forms of entertainment pretty much goes with all facets of parenting as your baby gets older. The beach is no different. While your little one probably isn’t going to be building sandcastles any time soon, traditional plastic sand toys are the best baby and toddler beach toys at any age. If you saw our post on baby and toddler travel toys, you also know that we bring these stacking cups with us everywhere. When you’re done at the beach, just was them off and you’re good to go!
Beach toys are also something that can easily be bought at your destination. Or you can order through Amazon Prime if you don’t want to drag the extra stuff. Let’s be honest though, you could probably bring a few plastic drinking cups and your baby would be perfectly content!
Pack a cooler with extra water
In addition any bottles, drinks and food you may need for yourself and the baby, be sure to bring extra water in your beach cooler. Not only will your little ones need to stay hydrated (if they’re old enough to drink water) but the water also comes in handy for rinsing all that sand off. I’ve found this to be especially useful if there isn’t a shower facility available at the beach you’re visiting. If you’re not staying somewhere right next to the beach, be sure to also pack more than enough snacks and drinks. You never know when you’ll be there longer than planned!
A large blanket, towel or mat is a must for any beach trip with a baby
Like many families, we always brought a large blanket to the beach on any beach trip when I was growing up. It’s always great for taking turns sitting together (or napping) so you can keep your towels for drying off. If your little one is starting to crawl or walk, this is especially helpful if you want to give them a clean space to roam or do tummy time.
This compact beach blanket is is the best beach blanket for sand. It’s lightweight, folds up small and is easy to clean off without. We also love monkey mats for a similar reason. This newer, quilted version is thicker, waterproof and washable, making it perfect for the beach.
If you don’t want to purchase anything new or are flying to the beach, a large sheet or thin blanket always works too!
Don’t forget swim diapers & diaper bag essentials
With all the stuff that comes along with taking a baby to the beach, it’s easy to forget the obvious. Swim diapers are a must in terms of beach essentials for baby if you’re getting in or near the water. Just keep in mind that swim diapers don’t typically absorb pee. So if your baby will not actually be getting wet, sometimes regular diapers will suffice. If you’re looking for disposable swim diapers, these diapers are our favorite.
Looking for reusable swim diapers? These diapers are the best reusable swim diapers for toddlers and babies. (In fact, many swim schools only allow this brand of diaper.)
Additional items to pack for beach with the baby include:
- Extra wipes for wiping off sand and cleaning hands before eating snacks. (I’m told that baby powder is a great hack for getting sand off hands but haven’t tried it yet.)
- A trash bag or large ziplock bag for holding used diapers and wipes until you can dispose of them.
- Small toys or pacifiers or anything else your baby typically uses on-the-go.
Bring a baby swim float if you’re planning to spend time at the pool
Most family beach vacations also involve the pool at some point. Don’t forget about a pool float for baby so you don’t have to hold them the whole time! We went through several different kids of baby pool floats depending on our son’s age. Below are a few baby pool floats we recommend:
- Go here for the best baby float for infants that keeps them out of the water.
- Go here for the best baby pool flat for babies around 9+ months who want to get in the water and kick.
- Go here for a baby water float for older babies and young toddlers who want to start swimming more freely.
- Go here for “puddle jumpers” or a swimming vest for toddlers weighing 30+ pounds.
Be realistic about the beach experience
I hate to break it to you, but if you’re someone who used to spend hours laying outside in the sun all day, it’s very unlikely you’re going to have that same experience with a baby in tow. There are times when we brought enough stuff to be prepared for hours at the beach and ended up barely making it an hour because our little guy just wasn’t feeling it. (This is when it’s great to stay somewhere on or near the beach for a quick exit!)
It doesn’t mean they won’t have fun, but the reality is that some kids hate the sand or the water or the sun or all of the above. The great thing about babies is that they learn, grow and change every day. So one day they may not like the beach and the next day or the next year they may absolutely love it. Either way, it’s so worth it!
Do you have more ideas for what to take to the beach with a baby? Please share in the comments if you have anything to add!
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