I actually had a different article planned instead of this one, but we’re about to travel to a beach and I’m making a packing list. So, a family beach vacation packing list article it is!
When we went to Croatia this June (2021), we drove our car. Which means, we had lots and lots of space for everything that I could think of.
We packed Emma’s scooter, huge plastic airplane toys, a whole bunch of beach toys, a beach tent, huge beach blankets… you know, everything.
But this time we’re flying, so there’s very limited space!
That means – only essentials, and only those essentials that are not bulky, are coming with us. SCARY!
This means that in this article I’ll first state the stuff that is coming with us (and update it after the trip if I don’t use something or need to buy something additionally) and at the end, you’ll get some additional items that we took to Croatia and would have taken if we had the space this time.
Now, let’s dive in!
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Things you should always take with you – essentials packing list for every type of trip
I have a whole article on essential items you should always have with you when travelling. Check it out if you haven’t yet because it lists everything that you should have on a family beach trip as well.
I considered just leaving out all of the things that are on the essentials packing list from this beach vacation packing list, but then I came to the conclusion that it would just be very confusing. You’d have to jump from one list to the other to compare and see if anything’s missing.
So, if you already have seen the other list, don’t be surprised to see that this family beach packing list contains some of the same items. It’s just for ease of use!
Documents and similar to have with you
- IDs and copies of IDs
- Kid’s passport + notarized copy of the birth certificate
- Covid certificate (vaccine, test, or other) + masks
- Driver’s licence
- Tickets, hotel, car and other reservations – printed
- Electronics’ chargers
- Wallet + cash
So, let me explain why these things are on the family beach trip packing list.
I guess no need to explain the phone, keys, chargers, wallet, and IDs.
As for why to have copies of IDs – in case the originals go missing, copies would make things a bit easier for you. It doesn’t have to be physical copies, it’s ok to have a picture on the phone or on a cloud somewhere.
When travelling with your kid, in Europe at least, it’s almost always necessary to have proof with you that the kid is, you know, yours. Almost none of the passports say it, so what’s like the only reasonable option? Of course, the kid’s birth certificate. It’s not a good idea to have the original with you, so a notarized copy it is. And – don’t forget the passport!
If you’re renting a car, don’t forget your driver’s licence! And check if the country you’re going to accepts yours – maybe you need to get an international one.
The new normal – when going somewhere, check out what kind of a Green Pass (vaccine passport, Covid certificate etc) the country accepts. I’m pretty sure that any of the European countries’ QR codes are enough but better safe than sorry. We’re using the Slovak GreenPass, my parents – a Latvian one. And, of course, don’t forget to take masks with you!
Printed reservations and tickets – unfortunately, more than once we’ve had trouble in places because we hadn’t had the reservations printed. Once, like 30 minutes before I arrived at the airport, my phone – where the plane ticket was – died. Like, died-died. So for the time until then, I was under such incredible stress! The rates for printing the tickets are ridiculous. Luckily, my phone started working, so I didn’t have to pay, but since then I always have had the tickets printed.
As for the reservations, one of the times when a printed reservation would have been a good idea was in a hotel in the Canaries. We booked the room at a time when they had a “bottle of wine and dinner included” for the same rate as just a room and breakfast on hotels.com. We had to fight the receptionists to not charge us the dinner fee – 20 euros for a person – on 3 separate occasions because they couldn’t see it in the system and couldn’t print the reservation (broken printer).
I hate the idea of printing everything, but sometimes it’s better to save the possible headache.
As for the itinerary, no need to make a complete plan of the trip, but at least write down some places to see and things to do. As in, do a little bit of research before going – usually, when travelling as a family, there are way too many things to do in the morning, no need to add “what will we do today?” to that list.
Basic list of clothes for your beach vacation
- Warm weather clothes – shorts, t-shirts, dresses
- Cool weather clothes – jeans, jacket
- Socks, underwear
- Flip flops
- Closed toe shoes
- Pyjamas for kids
A short list, huh?
Well, I guess you don’t need an explanation for most of the items, haha!
As for why I’m putting cool weather clothes on a family beach vacation packing list – easy. When you spend the whole day in hot weather, even the smallest temperature drop feels like winter.
Plus, it’s better to put “warm” stuff on you on the plane – first, it’s usually airconditioned to quite a cold temperature there. Second, that way you save on the space in your suitcase! Win-win, right?
If you’re wondering how much of the stuff to take…
For underwear – I usually take one extra pair just in case.
Warm weather clothes – just the ones that I have on is enough. Socks, though, I take for half the days that we’ll be away.
T-shirts – five for a week of travelling.
And shorts/dresses – a couple at most. Those don’t get so dirty and sweaty, so no need to take more.
As for the shorts, I just got some Kuhl shorts gifted to me and Michal, and let me tell you, they are quite amazing. They’re light, durable, good quality, and the wrinkles from the suitcase go away quickly and on their own. Just… be careful with the sizing. If you’re ordering from Europe, just use a size that you see on shorts that you already own.
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Toiletries to have on your packing list for a family beach vacation
- At least SPF30 sunscreen
- Moisturizing cream for after tanning
- Kid’s friendly shower gel/shampoo
- Diaper rash cream
- Clothes washing liquid
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Hand cream
- Lip balm
- Hairbrush + ties
- Period products, if necessary
There are many kids’ friendly sunscreens, and those are usually much more suitable for kids than the “grownup” versions. Although we use Madara SPF30 plant stem cell antioxidant cream ourselves – Emma seems to be ok with it, even though her skin is very sensitive. I was researching different creams, and this seemed to be the best option for us, so we always have it on our family beach trip packing list.
If you’re wondering why 30, not 50 – we talked to our paediatrician, and she said that unless the kid spends the whole day in the sun on the beach, there’s no need for 50. Obviously, talk to your doctor if you’re not sure about it.
Don’t forget an after-tanning lotion as well. It doesn’t have to be specifically an after-tanning lotion – we take a moisturizing cream that Emma can use with us.
If your kid is still quite young, it’s a good idea to take a kids’ friendly shampoo with you. I’m like 99% sure that none of the hotels would have such a thing, haha. And you can’t go for a whole trip without your child having a normal shower. At least I think so.
Even if your kid is fully potty trained, as is Emma, it’s a good idea to have a diaper cream with you. They still tend to get diaper rashes if there’s a bit of moisture for a bit longer.
For the last few years, I’ve been taking clothes washing liquid with me when travelling. It’s especially useful when you go somewhere with really young children who tend to change like 10 outfits a day because they get everything extremely dirty. I put it in one of the tiny containers that can go in the cabin bag. If we stay in an apartment and there’s a washing machine – perfect. If there’s no washing machine, a sink is good enough to quickly rinse out the clothes.
I don’t think toothpaste/toothbrush, deodorant, makeup, hairbrush and ties need explanation, right? For period products – it’s better to have a bit of an emergency stash with you, even if you’re not supposed to get one.
As for lip balm and hand cream – if you have to spend some time in dry air, whether it be an airplane or your destination, it’s a good idea to have these items with you. Once, after a long flight, I ended up with skin coming off my lips (hydrate properly, my friends!). It was so painful! I had to buy a special lip skin-renewing lip balm in a pharmacy. The same goes for hands.
Beach items for kids to take on the family beach vacation
- Beach toys
- Burp cloths
- Wet napkins
- Ikea ziplock bags
- Sun hat
- Swimsuit or swimming diaper
- Swimming safety
Sun hats and sunglasses are really important to protect the little ones from the sun. If your kid agrees with it (Emma doesn’t), it’s even better to have an SPF50 swimming suit with long sleeves! I don’t even want to think about what problems could arise from too much sun exposure, ugh.
Since Emma is potty trained already, we’re just packing her swimsuit. But, if your family beach vacation includes a pool and your kid is not potty trained, don’t forget the swimming diaper or the special swimsuit! It’s just good form, really. I don’t care too much about kids going, emm, potty on the beach (just pick up after them), but poop in a pool is not a good thing….
Beach toys are not the easiest thing to pack for a beach vacation that you need to fly to… I actually ordered a silicone bucket. It turned out to be tinyyyyyy, but still, Emma really enjoyed it! And we do have an inflatable beach ball on our family beach vacation packing list. It’s always fun to throw a ball around!
But we still take as many of the usual cheap plastic toys as we can. It’s just easier than buying new things at the destination – or buying a bunch of expensive silicone toys just for travelling.
Uff, wet napkins. One of the most useful kids’ things that I’m gonna use for many years to come, I think. I use Aquaint Happy Planet wet wipes, which contain only water and are biodegradable. They are nice and soft and don’t leave that nasty sticky feeling that other wet napkins leave – I love them! We clean Emma’s mouth and hands with them. Plus, whatever needs cleaning at home or on the road, as well. Really love them.
Similar goes with burp cloths. Emma was an MSPI baby (milk protein allergy), so we were going through reallllly many burp cloths in a short time, which made us buy a bunch of them. When the allergy stopped, I was wondering – where will I put all these burp cloths now? Well, turns out, they’re really useful for trips instead of paper napkins or towels. They dry quickly and absorb things better. Useful!
Ikea ziplock bags, especially the bigger ones, are really great for collecting trash that you create. If there’s no bigger trash can nearby, you don’t need to worry about the dirty things falling all around your bag – just close the ziplock! Of course, they don’t need to be specifically Ikea, but I’ve found that these have many useful sizes, and they tend to survive for long (we wash them until they pretty much fall apart).
Don’t forget your kid’s swimming safety! If they don’t know how to swim, take a swim vest, inflatable armbands or something to help keep them safe in the water.
Beach stuff for the grown ups of the family to pack for the vacation
- Swimming goggles
- Snorkel (if necessary)
- A beach bag (or at least a backpack that can be used as one)
- Action camera
I’ve been on some trips where I’ve had to carry things that I need for the beach in my arms. It’s just so inconvenient – and I didn’t have a kid then! So it’s better to either take a beach bag with you or pack your hand luggage in a backpack that can be used as a day pack if you don’t feel like taking a specific bag for that.
I usually forget to take my swimming goggles with me when we go to a beach, and it’s so disappointing when Michal can just put his head underwater to check out the cute little fish and I have to try and see them through the waves (he has dioptric goggles, so a no go for me)… and if there are corals, DEFINITELY take the snorkel gear if you can fit it. It’s just so worth it!
Swimsuit and sunglasses – obviously, right? As for the hat – I don’t usually take one for myself, but it’s probably a better idea to have it on your family beach vacation packing list.
I couldn’t use my GoPro for quite some time because a latch for the cable holes broke, so it was all exposed. Made me quite sad when I thought of all the memories in water that I could have saved with a waterproof action camera! So for this vacation I actually ordered the latch – I’m excited!
Medicine and the first aid kit
- Medicine against fever
- Medicine for stomach
- Pain medicine
- Cream against itchiness
- Sanitizer for hands
- Antiseptic for wounds
- Any medicine you need to take regularly
This is not just for kids, obviously.
The last time we travelled, Emma got a high fever. I was lucky to have her thermometer with us as otherwise, I’d have known that she’s sick, but it would be a real struggle to find a suitable thermometer (we use the one that goes in the booty, as that’s the most precise). Scarily, we ran out of the fever medicine, but at least we had enough for a few times so that we could just go to the pharmacy and get more. But better to add these to your packing list for a family beach vacation – wouldn’t want to add any additional stress when you’re at the destination, right?
As for band-aids – children, especially toddlers, tend to fall and scrape their knees… a lot. If you’re going on a beach vacation, it’s better to have something to cover them so that sand doesn’t get in the wound.
The fever medicine, though, is useful for grown-ups as well, as are the stomach upset pills and regular pain medicine. You wouldn’t want to wake up in the middle of the night with a crazy headache and think of where to get something to relieve it, right?
Surprised about the cream against itchiness? It is an unusual item to take with you on a beach vacation, but it’s oh so useful! If there’s a mosquito somewhere and it bites you, uff, it’s so much better to have something to relieve that stupid itch. Lately, we’ve been using Bepanthen Sensiderm – although it’s mostly against eczema itchiness for kids, it helps against mosquito bites as well! And it’s kid-friendly, obviously!
Antiseptic for wounds and sanitizer for hands is quite self-explanatory, as is any medicine that you need to take regularly.
Additionally – toddler and younger kids’ stuff
- Diapers + wipes
- Favourite soft toy
- Formula or pumping stuff for mom
- Sippy cup
- Travel crib
- Changing pads
If you’re travelling with really young children, this is for you.
I can’t imagine the tantrum if you forgot the pacifier or the favourite stuffed animal! I think I always triple checked the paci before leaving home.
For the non-potty trained kids, take enough diapers for at least a couple of days, as it might not be as easy to find the proper ones when you’re abroad.
If your kid is still not eating by himself, make sure to take enough formula with you and some filtered water for making it. Or, if breastfeeding, the breast pump (even if you don’t generally use it). One of the first times when we travelled with Emma, I didn’t take it with me and almost ended up with a blocked milk duct because, turns out, she eats much less when travelling. That was… ouch. Luckily, I managed to squeeze the blockage out with my hands, but since then I always took the pump – just in case.
Sippy cup – a good thing to have at least when in the car or in the plane, otherwise a huge mess can happen, right?
You might be surprised to see a blanket on the list, but it’s a helpful thing to have. If a nap happens when flying, it’s nice to cover the kid up. Remember, most airlines don’t provide blankets and pillows anymore.
Before taking a travel crib, check if your accommodation maybe provides it. Even if it’s not stated on the website where you book, contact the place and ask – sometimes, they have completely everything for kids. Once, we even got a baby bathtub! That was really convenient!
If I have space for it, I take changing pads to use as mattress protectors as well. It just seems like a good idea to not be charged extra for cleaning when staying in an apartment. And, well, to make sure the mattress doesn’t get wet in general, as that’s just very inconvenient.
Additional items for your family beach vacation packing list – when you have the space
So, actually, not too many things are left for my extended packing list family beach vacation. But boy do these take up space.
A beach popup shade/tent is one of the best things that I’ve had for beach trips. You know, usually, we have to look for some shade so that we’re not exposed all the time, right? Well, this creates the shade in 2 seconds! And it takes only 20 seconds to put the tent together. If it wasn’t 60cm in diameter, which means it doesn’t fit in our suitcase (it would probably get broken anyways), I’d definitely take it with me. I shudder at the thought of – how will I get some shade for Emma?
A waterproof beach blanket is much nicer to sit on than a towel. It has a waterproof bottom and a soft top. And those sun loungers for rent are just wayyy too expensive. Anyways, we’ll probably have to rent an umbrella to get shade, so que sera sera.
Toys for the beach – agh, I’d take so many things for Emma to play with if only we had the space. Well, not like sooo many, but still, more. She loves playing with her watering can, bucket, spades, shovel etc. We’ll see what I manage, but still. And she has a little basket for the toys – there’s no way I’ll be able to take that with us, that’s for sure.
About potty – it can be either a travel potty or just the normal one. It’s much more convenient to have a potty with you when travelling with children, but this time we’re gonna try without it. Fingers crossed we don’t have to buy one for our family beach vacation!
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Update after our own beach vacations
So, as promised, here comes an update to this packing list after the beach vacations that we went on this autumn. On the first trip, I used just the items in this packing list, and on the second one a month later, I tried taking some things that I felt like we missed on the first trip.
A travel towel. Before travelling with Emma, we always used towels provided by the hotel. Well, as it turns out, it’s much more convenient to have our own towels with us now. So I ordered a travel towel from Amazon to try out, and now I have more of them in the shopping cart. Travel towels take barely any space in the suitcase and dry really fast. So much more convenient than just a regular one!
Luggage scales. Honestly, I’m just tired of trying to figure out if our suitcase is still within the weight limits or not and trying to find scales in the airport where I can weigh it. So I got the luggage scales for my peace of mind.
A travel coffee machine with an extra water tank for making a large coffee, not espresso. I just love my coffee that I have at home. The ones that we bought these times in Sardinia somehow tasted really bad, so I bit the bullet and bought a portable little coffee machine. Haven’t used it yet, but reviews from people I know that use them (one is actually an Italian, haha) are really good. So fingers crossed!
And another thing I got for our last vacation is silicone beach toys. The normal buckets and spades take up a lot of space in the suitcase. And since we’re usually renting a really small car, our bigger suitcases wouldn’t even fit in the baggage compartment. But we did take an inflatable beach ball – it’s always fun to throw a ball around.
Pyjamas, especially if you’re travelling in autumn. Honestly, it was so cold in our apartment during our second trip that we needed to put jackets and shoes on. I was lucky that I packed long-sleeved pyjamas just in case because otherwise, it wouldn’t have been so nice.
And that’s it for now! Isn’t actually so much new stuff, but still, something to consider before your next family beach trip.
Last thoughts on the packing list for a family beach vacation
It seems like it’s quite a long list, right?
I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like kids need much more stuff than adults do. I hope it changes quite soon, though, as the checked-in luggage prices are quite ridiculous!
Family travel altogether proved to be more complicated than I thought it will be. My friend warned me before we had Emma, but I refused to believe her. Ha, naïve me 😀
Is there something you wouldn’t be taking ever for a trip?
Or maybe I’ve missed something?