Updated June 13, 2021
Are you planning a beach vacation with your toddler?
We are sharing our 11 best time-tested tips to survive a beach vacation with toddlers.
We really believe in keeping life as simple as possible.
I am a work-at-home mom and vacation time is sacred.
These are my best time-tested tips after years of living at the beach and learning how to enjoy a beach vacation with toddlers.
Parenting toddlers can be challenging. We made a lot of mistakes, but we learned so many sanity-saving lessons.
So let’s jump right into my strategies for taking a toddler to the beach.
My survival tips focus on sun and fun at the beach with your toddler. Playing in the sand or in just enough water to get your ankles wet.
As I will talk about in my 11 tips, using a Waterproof Safety Tattoo is a really good idea when you go on a beach vacation with toddlers.
If you don’t use waterproof tattoos I would use these wristbands. Toddlers move fast. And on a crowded sunny beach, it is so easy to lose sight of a swift-moving toddler determined to go exploring.
When we lived at the beach, we used the wristbands on our kids all the time.
The 11 Best Ways To Survive A Beach Vacation with Toddlers:
1. Rent a beach house or an RV with an outdoor shower.
If you are renting a beach house or an RV, rent one with an outdoor shower.
You will be so grateful that you did!
If you are staying in a beach resort, they very likely have outdoor showers by the pool or beach where you could rinse everybody off before heading to the room.
You can scoop everyone up from the beach and bring them back to the house or resort and straight into a nice warm shower.
Imagine, no sand in the house! Without an outdoor shower, you will be constantly vacuuming and sweeping up sand in the house.
Make it a rule that everyone must have a shower before entering the house.
Not only will the shower rinse all the sand off, but it will also help your little one calm down after a day at the beach.
You can rinse all the beach toys off at the same time. It is a win-win for mom!
When using an outdoor shower, don’t forget to have your kids use flip-flops or water shoes.
Make sure you have lots of extra beach towels and all the must-have bath products.
These beach towels are the ones we use for the beach and the pool. They are the #1 best seller in Beach Towels on Amazon. I never thought about how important having the right beach towels was until I bought these. They changed our vacations to the beach forever![
Imagine sand-free towels that dry three times faster than a regular towel.
The sand doesn’t stick to them (that was reason enough for me to buy them!) and they fold up compact and are very lightweight.
No more huge bulky towels taking up ALL the room in your beach bag
You can check out the reviews and current prices for these towels here.
You will also always want to have sunburn lotion on hand. Aloe vera and Solarcaine spray make a great combination.
I would never go on a beach vacation with toddlers without these items!
Yet, it never fails, someone will get a sunburn, even with sunblock, rashguards, and tents there is always someone with a sunburn.
This is the BEST forehead thermometer for babies and toddlers! You want bring an easy to use thermometer with you in case your little one gets sick.
2. Bring a new after-beach activity.
Beach Sensory Bin
Other toddler beach essentials for us are DIY toddler activities and a few new toys for after the beach play and rainy days.
Bring a new quiet toy or activity that you can bring out for that after the beach period when everyone needs some “chill” time before dinner.
Toddlers can expend a tremendous amount of energy and after a day at the beach, they need time to wind down.
They may even take a nap! One of the things we have done is to bring something new and special for that quiet after beach time that encourages rest.
We love the sleeping bags we purchased, they were not very expensive and often go on sale on Amazon.
They are perfect for after the beach rest time and movie nights.
For young children some ideas may be a sensory bin (check out our ocean sensory bin ideas post for some great suggestions), a coloring book and crayons, reading books about the beach and ocean, or maybe a favorite movie.
This downtime is a must for us after spending all day at the beach.
Toddlers have to wind down much like when they are getting ready for bed.
One of the biggest mistakes we made on our first vacation with our toddler was not planning for rainy days.
Crazy right? I guess I thought it would be beautiful every day. I was wrong.
My toddler was bored, over-tired, and didn’t understand why we couldn’t go to the beach.
A car ride and ice cream bought us a little quiet time. Once we were back at the beach house boredom ensued again, as did the whining and tears.
I never let that happen again.
Now I make a plan.
I bring toddler activities for rainy days at the beach. I keep it simple. I bring an activity (like playdough) that I make at home before we leave. I buy a new toy or a new activity and pull it out if it rains.
One of our toddler’s favorite activities is playdough. Easy-peasy to make homemade playdough before you leave for your vacation.
The 10 minutes or less it takes to make the playdough is so worth it!
This is a playdough beach invitation to play.
What makes this activity perfect for a rainy day at the beach?
The playdough is made with beach sand (or play sand)!
I made the playdough before we left for vacation, it is made with play sand. The blue playdough below is made using my favorite homemade playdough recipe.
Store in Ziploc bags and you have a ready-made rainy day at the beach toddler activity.
(Image: Maternity Comfort solutions)
(Image: Maternity Comfort Solutions)
(Image Maternity Comfort Solutions)
Here is another easy DIY toddler activity you can make before your trip to the beach and pull out on a rainy day or for quiet play after a day at the beach: Colored Pasta is a great sensory bin filler.
Simple toddler beach sensory bin made with colored pasta.
We collected the shells on the beach during the day.
Here are toddler toys for rainy days that you don’t have to make:
3. Use Sunscreen.
This might seem obvious, but “obvious” can also mean easy-to-forget-at-home. I may have done that a time or two.
Maybe that’s why I have so many half-empty tubes of sunscreen mixed in with our beach supplies…hmm!
If you forget the sunscreen and you are already at the beach, it’s not like you can go without it!
Sunscreen is essential for adults and children for many reasons:
- To protect against the long-term effects of sun damage
- To prevent the immediate and potentially severe effect of sunburns
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15 that protects ultraviolet rays, both UVA and UVB rays.
A water-based lotion with at least an SPF of 30 is the best sunscreen by far.
So what are ultraviolet rays?
We may not be able to see them but the effects they have on our bodies are very real!
There are actually three types of ultraviolet rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC.
- UVA rays make up the majority of sun exposure.
- UVB rays are more intense and are the UV rays that are damaging
- Fortunately, we do not have to be concerned about UVC rays (at least for now) as these rays are blocked by the ozone layer in our atmosphere. I say “at least for now” as we all have heard of the dangers associated with a loss of the ozone layer.
What are the risks and benefits of sun exposure?
Risks of sun exposure for toddlers:
- The cumulative effect of ultraviolet rays on your child’s eyes is a concern parents need to be aware of.
Having your toddler wear sunglasses is a very good idea.
- Skin cancers result from cumulative sun exposure.
Though we do not typically see skin cancers in young children the damage to the skin cells DNA is a life-long process.
- Sun damage can cause increased stress on your child’s immune system.
Though you cannot see this effect, keep it in mind this does exist.
Burns require the body’s immune system to go into “repair mode”.
A child’s immune system is constantly developing as it is exposed to the environment.
It is always important to minimize your child’s physical and emotional stress whenever possible.
- Sunburns are caused by unprotected and prolonged exposure to the sun.
Both the intensity of the sun and the duration of exposure will determine the severity of a sunburn.
Third-degree sunburns cause intense pain and blistering and if not properly treated can become infected.
Sunburns can also cause permanent scarring.
Benefits of sun exposure:
Exposing skin to the sun’s ultraviolet rays is important to produce Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential for the development of strong bones.
A deficiency in Vitamin D results in bone loss. In children, Vitamin D deficiency can lead to Rickets.
]The key to getting the benefits of sun exposure without the risk is moderation and use good sunscreen!
As with so many things in life, exposure to the sun is about moderation and avoiding too much of a good thing!
We use sunscreen with an SPF of 50 or above on our kids and apply it about every 2 hours.
You may need to apply sunscreen more frequently if your children spend a lot of time in the water.
We are using the Neutrogena brand of sunscreens this year. It is a spray, but it is not runny at all.
You will need to reapply it. Especially if the kids get too sandy or are constantly going in the water.
4. Rashguards/UV clothing.
We spent several years living on the beach in Southern CA.
This was the first place I ever saw rash guards.
They made so much sense for protection from the sun. We have used them ever since.
They are especially good for kids who fight with you when trying to apply sunscreen.
Here are the best deals we have found on rash guard and swim trunk combos:
They are SPF 50 and the swim trunks have a drawstring and I think the price is right for the two-piece sets.
Make sure your little one is wearing a hat too!
We pick up several beach hats when planning a beach vacation with toddlers. We love this beach hat we found on Etsy!
Bring at least one change of clothing when packing for a beach vacation with toddlers.
Remembering to bring extra clothing can be a total game-changer.
Your little one will be dry and comfortable, instead of wet and miserable.
I have always found that getting a wet suit off and putting on some cool comfy clothing can help my little one settle down quickly and in many cases take a nap.
When this happens, you will get a well-deserved break after a long day at the beach.
I love to read when I’m at the beach. But reading a book and watching a fast-moving toddler at the same time isn’t going to happen. That’s why an audible membership is the ideal beach companion!
5. Swim Diapers/Little Swimmers.
Make sure you bring more diapers than you think you will need and don’t forget the wipes!
We want to avoid waste and be eco-friendly. But we have found that you can use A LOT of diapers and wipes at the beach.
Remember to bring little swimmers
There were a couple of times that I forgot these. Nothing worse than a 30-pound soggy diaper at the beach.
6. Cornstarch/Powder for removing sand.
This is a brilliant one! Just rub it on the sandy areas and brush it off.
This is especially good if you have to drive back to your beach house.
This is something you simply have to try to see how effective it is.
The sand comes off so much easier and your child will not find this uncomfortable.
It can be a long car ride with a sandy, sun-baked, and uncomfortable little one.
Better to get the sand taken care of quickly so your child does not get skin irritation.
It is great for getting sand off of your feet too!
7. Puddle Jumper
I love the Puddle Jumper! They feel secure on your toddler when properly fitted and are much safer than water wings.
In fact, water wings are NOT approved as a personal flotation device by the Coast Guard.
There is an added feeling of safety, having a Coast-Guard-approved personal flotation device on our kids at all times.
Parents know that water accidents can happen in a split second!
Though a puddle jumper can offer a parent peace of mind, nothing can ever replace having your eyes on your child at all times.
Don’t get a “false sense of security” even if your child can swim and is wearing an approved personal flotation device (PFD).
What is the difference between puddle jumpers, life vests, and life jackets:
All three are “approved” by the Coast Guard. They are approved based on what they are being used for and very specific specifications.
It is a good idea to know about the 5 categories of personal flotation devices (PFD’s) that are recognized by the Coast Guard:
- Offshore Life Jackets
- Near-shore Life Jackets
- Flotation Aids (Puddle Jumpers)
- Throwable Devices
- Specific use Devices
Puddle Jumpers>are approved by the Coast Guard when worn properly and sized correctly based on your toddler’s weight, they are classified as a Type III Personal Flotation Device. (Source)
Apply most often to flotation devices when your child is able to go on a boat.
In general, they are designed to allow for a longer time until rescue and are designed to turn unconscious swimmers to the face-up position.
In general, they are designed to help swimmers who are likely to be involved in quick rescues.
The Type III Life Vests are designed to be less cumbersome and allow more mobility.
Since toddlers should always be under adult supervision, a puddle jumper should only be seen as an adjunct to close supervision.
Since they do not limit mobility as much as life jackets, life vests are helpful to help your children how to swim.
We are sharing 10 toddler parenting tips. We learned these tips while raising our toddlers. As a former early childhood educator, I know and understand that managing toddler behavior can be very frustrating for many parents.
8. Beach Tent.
In addition to having an outdoor shower at a beach house, my only other requirement is to have a beach tent.
Beach umbrellas can work well. However, they may not create enough shade for your little ones.
If it is windy umbrellas can be quite dangerous if not securely tied down.
Many of us can relate to the beach umbrella flying down the beach out of control with posing a significant hazard to anyone in the way.
A beach tent also gives your toddler an enclosed area where they feel more secure and can chill when they need time to wind down.
A beach tent can be the perfect solution. This will get your toddler out of the direct sunlight.
Being in a tent enclosure gives your child a secure place to have lunch and take a nap.
Amagoing 3-4 Person Instant Pop Up Beach Tent Sun Shelter Family Beach Umbrella for Outdoor Hiking Fishing Camping Picnic
- Extra large. 98.4(L)*45.3(W)*49.2(H) open size, provide a spacious interior shelter that comfortably fits 3-4 people or 2 regular beach chair. This super cool beach shade is suitable for all ages who are trying to have a great time at beaches, camp sites, parks, even as a playhouse for your children in your backyard, patio.
- Pop up in seconds. Easy up hub structures makes it possible to set up this Amagoing beach cabana in seconds. Just fold down the fabric and poles toward the hub to close the shade shelter.
- Light and portability. This sun tent is lightweight and compact, weighing just at 4.4lb and folding down to a travel size of 31.1'' L x 3.93'' W x 3.93'' H; Comes in a handy travel bag to store it with your on-the-go.
- Premium quality. Durable and lightweight fiberglass frame poles, water resistant PE floor, water-resistant polyester fabric , 5 extra large sand pockets and 4 tent stakes make this beach shade more stable and reliable when needed.
- Desired use. UV protection and regulate air flow. It offers UPF 50+ protection which protects your family from UV radiations. Having 2 “windows” so the air can flow inside and out and you won’t feel hot.
9. Water Proof Safety Tattoos.
If you have ever had that panicked moment on a jam-packed beach trying to see your kid in the sea of kids playing, you’ll appreciate these waterproof safety tattoos!
Put your cell phone number on it and add an extra layer of protection just in case they are thicker than the typical temporary tattoo so some children may not like them.
I think they are a must these days. They are also great for amusement parks like Disney or Six Flags.
These tattoos can be life-saving and are not only for a beach vacation with toddlers.
Any place where it is very crowded and the possibility of getting separated is even remotely possible, the use of a safety tattoo can prevent a lot of grey hairs.
This list of places where a safety tattoo can be life-saving is endless.
Here are just a few places where your child can get lost in the blink of an eye:
- Convention Centers
- Department Stores
- Amusement Parks
- Large school gatherings
- Sporting Events
- Movie Theatre
Literally anywhere where there is a large gathering of people.
A toddler’s curiosity and lack of limitations mean you are on patrol 24/7!
10. Drinks/Snacks/First Aid Stuff
Even if you plan to go back to the place you staying for lunch, you’ll want to have plenty of cold water and snacks available.
Pack the cooler with drinks and snack-size portions of your kid’s favorite snacks or lunch.
It is best to pack snacks into individual portions so you don’t have a truckload of sand in your normal size bags of chips or cookies.
Healthy snack ideas for your toddlers day at the beach:
- Whole-grain crackers with nut butter or peanut butter
- Dry whole-grain cereal
- Bagel and cream cheese
- Pretzels with nut butter or cheese
- Hummus and carrot sticks
- Granola bars
- Apple chips
- Orange slices
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- Ham and cheese or turkey and cheese roll-ups
- Greek yogurt and cut up strawberries
- Homemade Dried Fruit
Here is an example of a snack/lunch I made for one of our days at the beach with our toddler:
Remember to bring first aid stuff: Band-aids and Children’s Tylenol are always in my beach bag.
You can never be too prepared when going on a beach vacation with a toddler!
11. Beach Wagon
We spent more years than I care to admit hauling stuff without a beach wagon from the house to the beach.
Then one day, I saw this family pulling this wagon full of all their beach gear. Genius!
I had to have one. It may seem like a luxury, but I don’t consider things that save me either my time or my sanity as a mom a luxury and neither should you!
Using a beach wagon can make a beach vacation with toddlers far less stressful. Keeping an eye on the little ones is hard enough.
This is the beach wagon our readers love and buy the most!
You can read the Amazon reviews here.
The CDC offers some fundamental information about water safety that every parent should know.
Toddler Beach Safety – CDC tips to prevent drowning:
- Supervise children closely around water as they will not necessarily show signs of distress when drowning.
- Teach your child to swim. There have been some reports indicating that this can lead parents to feel a false sense of security.
- Parents should take a CPR course.
- Swimming pools need to have fencing on all four sides.
- Parents need to be sure life jackets fit properly (Source)
These are my 11 mom must-haves for surviving a beach vacation with a toddler.
I hope you find these ideas helpful!