Our son was about 2.5 months old the first time we took him to the beach when we were visiting family in West Ocean City, Maryland. At that age, the first beach trip was more about trying to get at least one cute picture of him by the water more than anything else. (While simultaneously worrying about him getting too much sun.) We also quickly learned that sometimes it can take more time to get ready to go to the beach with a baby than the amount of time you’re actually there.
Beach vacations are a great way to ease into traveling with a baby, though. It’s something the whole family can enjoy, and it can actually be relaxing if you do it right. At least, as relaxing as vacation with a baby can be! All that effort put packing for a baby at the beach is totally worth it when you see your little ones wrinkle their nose the first time they feel sand. Or squeal with excitement when their toes splash in the waves. Or suddenly become aware of all those cute little birdies around them.
Read below for the tips and products we swear by after packing for multiple family beach trips- often through trial and error!
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More coverage is better when it comes to baby beachwear
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.) Our favorite baby beachwear items are below.
- A one piece swimsuit with UPF 50+ is a must for younger babies. Yes, one piece swimsuits can be a total pain for diaper changing, but they’re a huge help in preventing their stomachs and backs from being exposed to the sun. Once our son was about 12 months old we started easing up and doing more 2 piece swimsuits with bottoms and a top.
- 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 our son’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 babiators 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. We think this tent is the best baby beach tent for a number of reasons. It’s super light and takes seconds to set up and take down. Plus it’s big enough to provide adequate coverage from the sun and wind for a few people. Beach tents are also great for your little ones to take naps, and they’re easy enough to set up that you can really use on any outing.
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. Myrtle Beach laws prevent you from using a beach tent larger than 36 x 36 x 36.” Plus, tents can only be used for children under 18 months. It was the first time we cam across this, but it’s definitely something to be mindful of! After a quick Google search, we found similar regulations in 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 good stroller for the beach or a beach caddy to carry everything
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.
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.
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, these traditional plastic sand toys are the best for the beach with kids of 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. A large blanket or mat is 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 one of the best beach blankets 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.
Don’t forget the 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 if your baby is getting in or near the water. (Which at this age would probably be sitting with your baby by water’s edge or dipping his toes in.) Regular diapers can’t handle the water and expand to a huge, uncomfortable size. We love these disposable swim diapers or have also used these reusable swim diapers.
Extra wipes are also great for wiping off that sand and cleaning hands before eating snacks. Pro Tip: Bring a few trash bags with as well. This will limit trips to the trash can so you can throw diapers and other trash away at once!
Bring a Floatie for a baby 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 floats we recommend:
- This infant spring float for younger babies to lay in without getting into the water.
- This baby pool float is great for babies 9+ months who want to get in the water and start kicking.
- This baby float ring for older babies and young toddlers who want to start swimming more freely.
- This coast guard approved 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 hate the beach and the next day or the next year they may absolutely love it. Either way, it’s so worth it!
What items and tips help you prepare for a beach trip with a baby? Please share in the comments if you have anything to add!
- Kid-Friendly Guide to West Ocean City, Maryland
- Family Vacation in North Myrtle Beach
- Park Royal Golden: A Family-Friendly Resort in Mexico
- How to Survive Long Car Rides with a Baby
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