Traveling to the beach with a baby or toddler (or maybe both) in tow can feel a little overwhelming because of the sheer volume of stuff to schlep. A bathing suit is really just the beginning of the journey of a day at the beach; there’s a long list of essentials to keep track of, like sunscreen, pop-up tents, toys for the sandcastle competition and reusable swim diapers. (We haven’t even gotten to snack time yet.)
Tackle it like a trip-within-a-trip and focus on beach essentials that will keep kids shaded and SPF’d, entertained and hydrated, and comfortable enough to chill out for an afternoon nap, exhausted by all of the activities. (There may even be enough precious downtime to listen to a podcast or crack open a frothy beach read.)
Sun’s out, bun’s out? Maybe when they’re 19 and on spring break. Until then, a shaded baby is a happy baby and this pop-up tent, which requires no assembly, is made specifically for ease of travel. It’s super-lightweight and doesn’t have any extra pieces to fiddle with (two pegs are included to secure it on the sand on a windy day, but not required for setup). The nylon fabric is waterproof (just in case!) and has SPF50; the top and sides are made from netted material (to protect from assorted insects) with the option to cover those areas with zip-able panels. There is mesh paneling around the bottom for air circulation and a light, comfortable breeze. It gets high points from reviewers for its intuitive design and is recommended for children up to about 18 months.
This N Newkoin Dry Bag has a minimalist design for maximum effect. There’s a wet compartment to keep swimsuits and swim diapers away from the dry stuff, as well as a mini “dry bag” perfect for storing phones away from water, sunscreen and sand. There are side pockets for sippy cups and water bottles and it folds up super tiny for easy transport. Best of all, it’s made from a flexible nylon so unlike a cute (but impractical) wicker shoulder bag, this one can be stuffed to the brim and if it gets knocked over (it will), the buckled top enclosure ensures nothing gets buried in the sand.
A reusable swim diaper is an eco-friendly, one-time purchase. This ALVABABY option is for children 0-2 (or go up to the large for 0-3) and is designed to keep the solids in, and the water out (pretty important for swimming). There are three snaps to adjust the size and the inside is lined with mesh for easy cleanup. Patterns are so cute (whales with a mustache, citrus prints, and more!) that the kids won’t even know they are wearing a “diaper”.
If beach day involves a toddler, toys that can withstand some rough and tumble play are essential. This set comes with everything they’ll need to build an epic sandcastle, from a bucket with a pouring spout to decorative molds to a bird-deterring pinwheel (no promises the seagulls will steer clear when they see all the kiddie snacks). It conveniently comes in its own bag, which makes packing up at the end of a long day mercifully easy.
COOLA products have earned a devoted following thanks to its “farm-to-face” philosophy: vegan, cruelty-free and made from bees wax and raspberry butter, this balm keeps lips moisturized and offers some sun protection, too. Burnt lips are a very specific kind of torture, so don’t skimp on this pucker protector.
This non-aerosol sunscreen gets high marks amongst mamas. Supergoop’s non-aerosol formula (not marketed for kids, but safe for 5+) sprays on like a mist to ensure no spot goes unprotected. Nothing to rub in. No white spots. It has 35% less alcohol than comparable sprays and contains three free-radical fighting elements (Vitamin C, green tea extract and acai extract). Apply it 15 minutes before heading out, and reapply as needed, even on wet skin.
Hats are a baby battleground: some kids will spend the afternoon blissfully unconcerned with what’s on their head, while others will shriek at the mere sight of a chapeaux. A hat in the sun is essential for protecting delicate heads and fresh little ears, and this one, which comes with a brim and neck protection, as well as adjustable ties, will hopefully stay put for more than 10 seconds. It comes in multiple colors, for bribery options.
Sometimes a head-to-toe spray down isn’t gonna happen, but for quick touchups on the face (particularly under the eyes and on the nose), hands and feet, consider a convenient sunscreen stick. This Green Goddess version is SPF50 and is vegan, cruelty-free and reef-safe. Also features organic shea butter and cocoa butter for extra soft skin.
The best sun protection is to keep skin covered, and these Nozone swimsuits do just that with SPF 50+ built-in. Made from a polyester weave that can withstand chlorinated and salt water, these high-quality suits are like mini wetsuits (but with much lighter fabric) and keep their shape remarkably well, even with multiple trips to the beach. They cover arms and legs (around mid-calf) and zip-up in the front, with 14 different color combos in sizes 0-36 months.
The higher the temperature hits, the more essential this stainless steel water bottle becomes. It keeps water cold, with a straw to ensure that sand won’t make its way into the drink. Cap can’t get separated, either, and the colors will stand out in the sand. Cheers.
This big on-the-go blanket has room for the whole family and will save backsides from hot sand. It measures 80 x 60 inches when spread out, is made from an easy-to-wipe material and comes in an Instagram-friendly pineapple print. (It also comes with its own carrying case and folds down to about the size of an iPad.)
For the little one who wants to chill on the beach but still have a place to snack and sit, this mini beach chair has a removable tray and its own carrying case. Pop it open anywhere for Goldfish crackers al fresco.
You’ve got the reef-safe SPF, the protective hat, the reusable swim diaper, the napping tent, the BPA-free snack tray and everything one might need under the sun…beach days have certainly changed since the ’80s. If all of the packingand planning doesn’t feel very relaxing, check out this guide on how to survive the beach day with kids and accept that the outing might not be perfect, but it will be all yours. (And if all else fails, these rose margaritas are fit for a grown-up sippy cup.)
Now that you’ve got your beach day baby essentials all packed up, be sure to check out other baby gear stories.