When it comes to hitting the beach with kids, it can sometimes feel like you have to take the whole house with you. Before you know it, every inch of the car is jam-packed, with barely enough room left to fit in their beloved fidget spinners.
I’ve been guilty of schlepping tons of useless junk to the beach for years. Each time, I swear to myself that everything I packed will definitely make our trip easier. But once we arrive, I always come to the same realization: There’s actually NOTHING easy about carrying 157 sand toys (that no one ever plays with), five beach chairs, a giant umbrella, a family-sized cooler, and insanely whiney toddlers to the beach. In fact, it’s enough to make me wish I’d just stayed home and sprayed the kids with the garden hose instead.
Turns out, unnecessary beach toys and dozens of other oversized items are not the answer to a happy, stress-free family vacation. (Who knew?) But finding truly genius beach gear that will prevent you from losing your damn mind? Now that most certainly is.
I’m happy to say my days of packing the whole house in the back of my car are long gone. I’ve since narrowed down the “essentials” to a limited few, and it’s made all the difference. Here are some tried-and-true beach finds you actually shouldn’t leave home without.
Rio Gear Backpack Chair with Built-In Cooler
A great beach chair is an absolute must. But what’s better than a great beach chair? One that goes on your back and comes with a mini cooler. When you’re heading out to the beach with kids in tow, you need all the arms you can get. You might not be able to fit absolutely everything in these chairs, but they’ll spare your two arms for all the rest.
Melissa and Doug Beach Tote
We have a rule for the kids in our family when it comes to beach-gear. You want to bring it, you carry it. But with this adorable kid-sized tote the rule doesn’t seem so mean. Kids can fit all their beach toys and gear in this super cute crab bag. It comes with mesh panels so sand shakes out and stays on the beach.
Cove Sun Shelter Tent
One of the hardest parts about heading to the beach with babies or toddlers is worrying that too much wind or sun will cause your little beach-goers discomfort. But with this portable, pop-up tent, the elements won’t bother little ones. The cove sun shelter tent is the perfect place to play, have a snack, or take a beach nap — for big kids, little kids, or even grown-ups. It’s easy to put fold up and slide in your beach bag, too.
Hengda Easy Flyer Kite
You can’t head to the beach without an octopus! Okay, maybe you can, but once you’ve laid eyes on this super adorable, easy-flyer octopus kite, why would you? Kids love how easy (and fun) it is to fly, and grown-ups love that it’s easy to pack up and put back in its pouch for safe-keeping and easy transport.
Sand-Escape Compact Beach Blanket.
Enough with the gigantic stack of beach towels and blankets and sheets — all you really need is one great big beach blanket for the kids to rest their rumps on. The best thing about this blanket is that its nylon material helps wick away sand so you won’t be shaking it out every six minutes (while your neighbors wipe the sand from their eyes and shoot you angry stares). It also comes with a compact carrying case and has built-in sand anchors, as well as a pocket for any valuables.
Picnic Time Avalanche Rolling Cooler
If you plan on bumming it at the beach for more than a couple of hours, you’ll need a cooler full of snacks to keep everyone’s tummies from rumbling. With this rollable beach cooler, you’ll have plenty of room to pack an epic beach picnic without actually having to carry it there. While it’s spacious and totally insulated, its easy-glide feature also makes it super beach-friendly.
Saltwater Canvas Family Mesh Whale Bag
Tote-sized beach bags honestly make me laugh. As if they could ever possibly fit everything I need to bring to the beach! Perhaps when I only needed a book, a beach towel, and a water bottle or a margarita. But times have changed, and I need a beach bag that can fulfill all my needs. This huge mesh bag, with its waterproof bottom and tons of roomy compartments inside, is a true life saver. It has plenty of room for towels, snacks, sunscreen, and more, plus zipper pockets for your phone, keys, or anything else you want to keep secure.
SunnyLife Portable Beach Radio
You can’t go to the beach without some good tunes, and let’s be honest, your phone isn’t going to do the trick. Between the sounds of the wind and the waves (and your screaming kids), you need music you can actually hear. Enter, the SunnyLife Portable Beach Radio, which is both waterproof and durable. It opens up to hook up to your smartphone and keep it protected at the same time. Or you can use your beach radio to actually … ya know, listen to the radio!
Gymboree Rash Guards
Worry less about the kids getting too much sun and more about them having too much fun with these adorable rash guards by Gymboree. Not only will they save you from having to reapply sunscreen ALL DAY LONG, but you won’t have to worry about treating itchy burns, either. Plus, these suits come in multiple colors and patterns for boys and girls to pick their faves, so they’ll love them, too.