Everyone knows that packing is the worst part of any vacation — second only to the vacation being over. And packing for the whole family? That’s its own special kind of torture. Well, fear not, fellow mamas, because we’ve got a cheat sheet to make packing for your trip as smooth as possible, especially if that trip is a beach vacation to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama.
For starters, if you’re craving a beach vacation — who isn’t? — there are few places more perfect than Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. If you aren’t convinced by the 32 miles of sugar-white sand beaches and the Gulf of Mexico’s turquoise waters, there are plenty more fun and affordable reasons it’s the ideal family beach vacation.
Don’t forget, this is your vacation too, Mom, and you deserve to enjoy it. That means making sure you have everything you (and everyone else) needs. Here are eight things you’ll want to pack so everyone’s vacation — especially yours — is pretty much perfect.
1. An Extra Swimsuit
You read the part about 32 miles of beaches, right? Between soaking in the sun, paddle boarding, swimming, and snorkeling, you’ll all need at least two suits unless you’ve got a kid who enjoys wriggling into a still-damp suit. (Yeah, didn’t think so.) Also, throw a couple of garbage bags into your suitcase to use as wet bags for dirty swimsuits when you head home. Future You will thank you.
2. Floaties and Beach Toys
If you’re traveling with little ones, you know that keeping them entertained is priority #1. Make hanging out at the beach fun for everyone by bringing along buckets, sand castle molds, and floaties in your beach bag. Don’t want to think about packing yet another bulky bag? No problem! Engage the services of a beach rental company so you can pack a little lighter.
3. Sunscreen and Sunglasses
Nothing is worse than getting a sunburn on day one of your vacation. Load up on the SPF so you can partake in a Dolphin Cruise and enjoy a day at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo without looking like a lobster. And pack some aloe vera just in case.
4. Non-Beach Clothes
Between flip flops and sun hats, it can be surprisingly easy to forget to pack clothes that don’t need to withstand the sand. Gulf Shores has lots of other activities for when you’re feeling beach-ed out or want to cool off indoors for a bit, like mini golf, escape rooms, museums, and historical sites.
5. Comfy Shoes
Consider having a designated suitcase for all your clunky stuff like beach toys, swim supplies, and shoes. Especially since you’ll want to make sure everyone’s got a pair of sneakers for biking along the trails or hiking in a national wildlife refuge. Bonus points if you can manage to keep these mostly sand-free so you don’t have to hear a chorus of kids singing their favorite beach vacation song: “MOM, THERE’S SAND IN MY SHOES!”
6. Water Bottles and Snacks
When exploring things like the Ferris Wheel at the Wharf, those couple of reusable water bottles you packed will save you from constantly hunting for something to quench your kid’s thirst. And your stash of emergency snacks will keep everyone’s hunger at bay between meals.
7. Spare Chargers
There is no pain like a dead iPad on a long car ride or your phone going dark in the middle of snapping shots at The Photo Op Shop. Pack enough chargers for each phone/tablet and then pack one more. Also, download a photo storage app like Google Photos so you don’t have to worry about maxing out your phone’s memory.
8. An Empty Backpack
Having a little wiggle room for packing to head home will be a life- and time-saver. It’ll give you a designated spot to store your beach finds from shelling or souvenirs you snagged while shopping, and it’ll save you from panicking about having to leave a shoe or sand castle mold behind to make space.
Don’t worry if you forget something — it’s inevitable when you’re trying to keep track of a car full of children, multiple suitcases, and a few dozen pairs of underwear. Not only does Alabama’s Gulf Coast have plenty of grocery stores and retailers readily accessible, they’ve also got The Beach Moms, a delivery service that can take care of everything from grabbing groceries to picking up extra bug spray to planning an excursion for the whole fam. If only they could do the packing for you, too.
With its mild coastal temperatures, inviting Southern hospitality, and endless family-friendly attractions, the Alabama Gulf Coast is the perfect year-round destination for creating family vacation memories that will last a lifetime.
This article was originally published on