From the rocky coastline of Maine to the tidepools in the Pacific Northwest to the white sands of Florida, it will soon be time for families everywhere to pack up their gear and head to the beach. Beach-goers usually fall toward one of two extremes: the ones who take just a tube of sunscreen and a towel, and the ones who take everything but the proverbial kitchen sink. It seems sensible that most parents fall toward the middle or overprepared end of the spectrum, but no matter where you fall, here are the five needs you must cover to ensure your family has the best beach day ever. We’ve added a selection of helpful items that address each need to spark your own ideas.
1. Sun Barriers
– Let’s just start with the obvious: Sunscreen. You can’t have too much, so plan on one for every bag and the skin type of the one using it (your teen likely isn’t interested in using the same SPF as the baby, for instance). Don’t forget your lips, ears and tops of the feet!
– Additional protective items: sun hats with brims, lightweight but protective clothing like rashguards and long pants, and sunglasses that block UV rays, even baby sunglasses.
– Water bottles for everyone: Pack extra water and even a squeeze bottle in case you need to rinse sand out of eyes, for instance.
– Nonperishable snacks: Try to keep the packaging to a minimum, or pack empty bags to haul out your own trash. Extra bags also come in handy for stowing wet and sandy swimsuits, etc.
– Beach toys: Start with the basic shovel and pail, but then, depending on your family’s interests, add sifters and molds, Frisbees, metal detectors, beach balls, butterfly/fishing nets, squirt toys, goggles, masks – the list goes on and on. When it comes to floatation devices – or any of these other items, for that matter — check the rules at your destination beach before you leave.
– One must-have for families who collect is a shallow, compartmentalized plastic bin with lid for safely storing shells, rocks, bits of driftwood, and whatever other small treasures they find. Another option is resealable plastic bags.
– Blankets and towels: A good rule of thumb is to pack a couple more towels than you have people. If space is a concern, get a few compressed beach towels; each is small enough to fit in a pocket, but you’ll be glad you have them when you need them.
– Cash, cash, cash: Because there will be a strolling vendor you’ll just have to check out, not to mention the amazing kite shop or that item someone forgot to pack that just has to be replaced.
– Waterproof or disposable camera
– Charging “brick” for electronic devices, preferably large enough to charge every device you take, and the related charging cords.
Everything that’s great about the beach also becomes annoying at the flip of a switch, and suddenly it’s too loud, too hot, too sandy and itchy; at some point everyone gets tired and wants to crash in comfort. So consider taking…
– A portable, pop-up sunshade
– Pain-relief medicine
– An extra change of clothes for everyone, including you; the second you don’t have a backup, someone is throwing up on you or pouring seawater on you.
– Swim shoes
Here’s a real pro tip: A few sprinkles of baby powder will not only lessen moisture but help remove those tiny grains of sand that just won’t brush off.
Like anywhere else you go, it’s important for parents to follow the Boy Scout motto and Be Prepared. So don’t forget…
– Antibacterial wipes – enough to clean up anything and everything.
– A first-aid kit that includes, at minimum, antibacterial ointment, band-aids, and cooling post-sun moisturizer.
– A plan for if you get separated: As soon as you arrive, make sure everyone notes an unmovable landmark near “camp” (not that red beach umbrella, because that family is going to leave at some point), and check regularly to make sure your family members aren’t following the surf’s natural inclination to drift either up or down the shoreline.
BONUS TIP: The kit that carries the kit
If you get tired just looking at the pile of stuff you’re packing in and out, beach wagons are often collapsible and feature big, wide tires that roll easily across sand. It can haul not only your tired little ones at the end of your day, but all their gear as well.
Justin Laxton is the Chief Operating Officer of Weiner’s Ltd. Since 1991, Weiner’s has offered a one-stop shopping experience for brand-name and specialty travel related products with quick turnarounds and competitive wholesale prices.