If you are taking a beach family vacation with kids, this ultimate packing list for toddlers include all the beach essentials you will need for your trip. From must haves to extras that add comfort for a day by the sea.
Every since my son was born, we’ve taken family vacations to the beach. At 6 months we took him to Brazil, at 1.5 years old we traveled with him to Kauai and we celebrated his 2nd birthday in Florida.
Most recently we traveled to Oahu, New Zealand and Australia and again to Florida with our 3.5 year old.
Along the way, I’ve learned a thing or two about what to pack to the beach at each age – from baby to preschooler.
That is why today I would like to share with you my ultimate beach packing list for babies, toddlers and kids. I also included tips on how to save money on essentials when traveling by air and beach must haves if you are traveling by car.
Toddler Beach Essentials (1 – 2yrs old)
This toddler beach essentials list helps you plan and pack for your beach vacation and decrease some of the pre-vacation stress.
Most of these products are self-explanatory, so I will just add my notes below why I love them vs. the alternatives.
 Swimming wear
I prefer two-piece swimwear because it’s easier to change diapers and makes things easier when kids are potty trained. It is so hard to get a wet suit on or off a squirmy toddler.
The two pieces also accommodate for growth better. You can pair different sizes for tops and bottoms to fit your child just right.
I also prefer long sleeve rashgards with SPF. This protects toddlers’ skin from the sun, keeps them warm in the water and reduces the areas I need to apply sunscreen. It also protects from rashes from any board sports.
 Swim diapers
If your child loves the water, these swim diapers are awesome. They don’t soak up as much water than regular diapers, but provide protection against accidents.
One trick that I like to share with new parents is to rip the sides of the diaper when changing it, much easier than trying to pull them out.
Essential for any type of activity outdoors. I like mineral based for babies over 6 months old.
However, it’s really thick, so at some point, you might want to switch to a more spreadable formula or spray to make putting sunscreen on a little easier.
 Dry clothes
Obviously if you are stopping in town or at a restaurant after the beach, you will want dry clothes to change the kids into.
It is also good to change them before entering the car to keep the car seat fairly clean.
 Wet/Dry bag
You need a dedicated bag for wet suits or to keep documents/electronics dry and sand free.
 Hat and sunglasses
These hats are not the most stylish articles of clothing, but they are the best hats to keep toddlers’ necks, ears and face safe from the sun.
The sunglasses will also be great for full sun days.
 Beach shoes
We’ve tried different types of beach shoes, but the crocs are my son’s favorites.
He can put them on and take them off himself and it’s super easy to clean.
 Beach mat
Provides a sand-free place for all to sit, lay, play and take naps.
Even if your child is already eating solids, I recommend taking some food pouches and snacks with you.
My son had a dairy/soy intolerance until he was about 2.5 years old so I couldn’t rely on restaurants to have food for him.
Food pouches and dry snacks for the beach are easy to transport, require no refrigeration and toddlers can eat it without a mess.
In between meals, these veggie packed purees are awesome and filling.
 Water thermal cup
Great for keeping water or milk chilled.
 Beach pop-up tent
This item is great if you are going to a beach with no shade or chair service. We bought ours in Kauai and just shipped it home at the end of our vacation.
It is also great for picnics or for a play area for kids when camping.
Some beaches have protected lagoons that kids can play in. The float can also be used in regular hotel pools.
We’ve also tried inflatable ones which work great if you can find a place to fill them up.
This float works best for babies and young toddlers. If your child is older, see our favorite float in the section for 2-5 year old kids below.
I only take a couple of toys on our trips, so multipurpose toys are my picks. The beach toys can be used in the bath as well and the multi-sensory toy can attach to most restaurant and airplane tables to keep babies and toddlers busy.
 Cornstarch baby powder
Cornstarch is great for rashes and to remove sand from tiny feet. Simply sprinkle it on the feet and rub off the sand. Works a lot better than water.
Beach Packing List for Toddlers and Kids (2-5 years old)
Older toddlers and kids will have fun with bigger toys and more active games.
You will probably stay longer at the beach and will also need more food and drinks, so here are some products to add to your beach packing list for a family vacation with toddlers.
Tips for Saving Money While on Essentials for a Beach Vacation
If you are traveling by air, you won’t want to pack some items like towels or a beach tent. These items take too much space in the luggage.
If your accommodation doesn’t provide chairs, umbrellas and towels, you can find stores that rent them in most destinations.
However, the rental fees can be quite pricey (U$40/day for 2 chairs and an umbrella). So if you are traveling within the United States, the other option is to head to a wholesaler store and purchase these items locally.
It will pay for itself in a couple days and you can move them from beach to beach.
If you want to save even more money, you can also head to second hand store.
You will find products that were used for only one week and donated by previous vacationers. In these stores, you will also be able to find products such as bodyboards, snorkeling masks and fins, and beach toys.
If you are not traveling by air, then I recommend including the following products to your beach packing list for the family.
I hope this toddler beach essentials list is helpful to you when planning your next beach vacation!
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Post originally written in 2018. Last updated July 2020.