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How To Pack For Your Family Beach Vacation

How To Pack For Your Family Beach Vacation

Is your family looking to escape the cold by traveling to a tropical climate for your winter vacation? If so, I’m sure you’re already daydreaming about the fresh breeze, your bare feet and the sand between your toes, and the warm sunshine on your skin. My family is headed down to Mexico for a vaycay soon, and I absolutely cannot wait to get there. The part I’m NOT looking forward to? The packing. How to pack for a family beach vacation is a challenge for all of us.

Because we live in North Carolina (technically “The South,” but still a place with four seasons and a cold winter), our summer clothes are packed away in the attic at the moment, so getting ready for our trip is going to require a little effort. Plus, since we’re flying to Mexico, there are limitations (such as how much luggage we can bring) to consider with that as well.

Here are a few tips for how to pack must-haves for your family beach vacation and make it as painless as possible – and a packing list to print and check off – so you can minimize the stress and get back to dreaming about how amazing the trip itself is going to be.


Just the act of making a list makes us feel calmer and more in control of a situation, so that’s a huge plus right there. We’ve started a basic one below, but you’ll want to personalize it for your needs.

Also, making a list at least a couple weeks before the trip will help you identify items you don’t have. Did you run out of sunscreen over the summer? You’ve got lots of time to stock up on it for your trip

Make the listwriting process a gradual one. Write some items (it helps me to section out the list by family member), then leave the list alone for a day or two. Come back to it and see if you can identify any holes. You can also assign timeframes for action on some items. For example, travel snacks can be something on the list that you write yourself a note to buy a week before your trip. 

2. Determine What You can Borrow for Free at Your Destination

My nine-month-old will need to sleep in a pack ‘n play, but that item will be available at our resort, so we don’t need to pack our own. There will likely also be things like towels and maybe even floaties and pool toys for the kids (especially if you are going to a resort, not just a hotel) that you’ll be able to use there. You’ll be able to avoid packing them, saving you both space and sanity, and you should also note those things on your list. 


Depending on what destination you’re headed to, you might be able to buy items there (in the hotel or resort, or neighboring town) so you don’t have to pack them. Things like:

  • Diapers
  • Food
  • Batteries
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen (especially if you’re carrying on and need the family size that won’t pass TSA’s carry-on rules). 

4. don’t forget these helpful extras

To make your trip a little easier, it can be helpful to bring along a few things in your purse or carry on:

  • Baby wipes, for your baby (if you have one) or really for anyone for wiping hands, cleaning up small spills, etc. Make sure to have the wipes readily accessible in an easy to reach pocket of your bag.
  • Ziploc/waterproof bags can also really come in handy for beach trips
  • Larger plastic bag for dirty clothes: our family always makes sure to have this along as well – especially helpful when you leave in afternoon with wet swimsuits still in tow. 
  • Sweatshirt or packable jacket: Whatever the weather might be where you’re headed, you should prepare for a sudden cold spell and bring a comfy sweatshirt or jacket for everyone as well. 
  • Snacks! Of course, when traveling with children, you really can never have too many things to nibble on. 
Clarins SPF Sunscreen
Suitcase with straw beach hat and tote

How to Keep Sand from coming home in your suitcase

One souvenir you don’t want to bring back from your beach vacation is sand, all over your clothes and personal items. Here are a few tips for leaving that sticky, grainy stuff at the beach where it belongs, and not in your suitcase. 

Nip it in the bud right at the beach: The best place to get rid of the sand is right when you get off the beach. Shake shoes, clothing, towels and blankets vigorously, and thoroughly wipe skin, toys and sports gear. Use showers and foot faucets if provided by the hotel or public beach.  

Baby powder and baby wipes: Baby powder is very effective at removing sand. First brush the sand off, dry the skin, and then apply the baby powder and any remaining sand will fall off. Baby wipes are excellent at getting sand off suntan lotion bottles, toys and sports gear.  

Mesh expandable laundry bag: These bags are a great place to stash your kids’ toys at the beach, and they are easy to shake out and clean.  

One last check in hotel room: Before packing up, do last one “sand check” of your skin and hair, and all your clothing and personal articles.  


The Ultimate Family Beach Vacation Packing List

Every family has different needs, but you can use this list as a starting point to build your own. Don’t forget the suitcases!

What To Pack In Your Carry-On BAG:

  • Baby wipes
  • Ziploc bags
  • Large plastic bag for any wet or soiled clothes (trash bags can work well!)
  • Sweater/light jacket
  • Healthy snacks
  • Headphones for everyone
  • Earplugs
  • Neck pillows
  • Family members’ medicines (in pill case in carry-on bag)
  • Books and magazines
  • Tickets
  • Cash
  • Passport and driver’s license/IDs
  • Journal
  • Cameras and video camera (or your smartphone can serve this purpose)
  • Charging cords and adapters

    What To Pack For Your Beach Baby:

  • Sleepwear
  • Diapers and swim diapers
  • Wipes
  • Pacifiers
  • Diaper Bag/changing pad
  • Formula/some food/pumping equipment
  • Blankets, including one for floor time
  • Clothes
  • Shoes, including water shoes
  • Sunhat
  • Swimsuit
  • Baby sunscreen
  • Baby powder (also effective at removing sand from skin)
  • Spray bottle (also effective at getting sand off)
  • Travel stroller
  • Portable fan
  • Carseat (and a bag to put it in on the plane if you’re flying and plan on checking it)
  • Favorite packable toys (nothing noisy for the plane)

What To Pack For Kids:

  • Sleepwear
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Shorts
  • Jeans
  • Khakis or other “dressy” pant
  • Shirts (including one “dressy” shirt)
  • Beachwear and swimsuit (preferably two suits)
  • Sneakers
  • Flip-flops or crocs for beach
  • Sun hat or ball cap
  • Toiletry bag
  • Backpack
  • Books, iPad/tablet (and charger!), game player, earbuds (all in carry-on bag)

What to Pack For Teens:

Same as kids’ list, plus:

  • Cell phone/Mp3 player/iPad and chargers
  • Camera
  • Compass
  • Map

And What To Pack For Yourself:

  • Sleepwear
  • Underwear
  • Socks (both dark and athletic)
  • Bras
  • Swimsuit (preferably two suits)
  • Rash guard with SPF protection
  • Swimsuit cover-up
  • Packable sun hat or ball cap
  • Shorts, including a “dressy” pair
  • Jeans
  • “Dressy” pants (capri pants are a good look for beach destinations)
  • Sundresses and skirts
  • Workout and sports clothes
  • Athletic footwear
  • Sandals
  • Flip-flops or Crocs for beach
  • Water shoes (good for oceans with rocky or sharp bottoms)
  • Toiletries
  • First aid kit
  • A good book or two
  • Electronics and chargers
  • Mesh bags for laundry

Check if You Can Borrow at the Destination:

  • Pack and Play
  • Water shoes
  • Pool toys
  • Life vests or floaties


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About The Author

Anna Keller

Anna Keller, creator of, blogs about parenting, pregnancy, health & wellness, fashion, and more. Anna’s priority in all that she does – whether it’s with her family and friends, through her writing for brands such as Beyond Yoga or for the blog Triad Moms on Main, during her work as a Pure Barre teacher, or as a Beauty counter consultant – is connection. After all, from connection comes understanding, purpose, and joy. She lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with her husband, Kevin, their 5-year-old daughter, Maggie, and their 18-month-old son, Vance.

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