Are you thinking of spending a day of your adventurous vacation with your baby at the beach? If the thought of this sounds overwhelming, take a breath and keep reading. Just follow our simple hacks for a successful day in the sun.
Humblebrag, we’ve been to a lot of beaches with the kids. Humble confession, we’ve learned a few things the hard way. We’ve taken an infant to the beach in Abu Dhabi, Belize, Costa Rica, Thailand and up and down the east coast of the US from New York to South Carolina to Florida. Know that nearly all of the pain points are just getting to your destination. Once you’re there, you’ve got this! There’s nothing more adorable than enjoying the feel of the sand and the sound of the ocean with your baby.
Essentials for your beach vacation with baby
The most important things to pay attention to with your baby at the beach are sun exposure, overheating, and dehydration.
When traveling, we will rent a beach umbrella or sit under some natural shade, but we always bring a dedicated smaller umbrella to hang on the pack and play. We use the Versa Sport-Brella because it is very multi-purpose. In addition to a great beach option, we also use the umbrella on our wagon or attached to a chair back home.
Protective swim gear, umbrellas, and hats are your first and best defense for keeping your babies skin safe from the sun. But if you have a long day at the beach, you may also need to dive into applying some sunscreen to prevent burns. The American Academy of Dermatology has a good overview of how to keep your baby safe in the sun. According to AAD, “parents and caretakers may apply a minimal amount of broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to their children’s skin. Sunscreens containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are less likely to irritate a baby’s sensitive skin. Remember to reapply your child’s sunscreen every two hours.” We try to lean clean on the ingredients in sunscreen and only use it on long desert hikes and long beach days when lots of direct sunlight is just unavoidable. Our current favorite for ease of application, coverage, and ingredients is the Thinkbaby Lotion and Thinkbaby Stick.
Bring plenty of fluids for your child and have them available whenever your child signals he or she is thirsty. Talk to your pediatrician about the appropriate amount of actual water to supplement your baby’s diet in your specific situation though. Typically babies do not need a lot of extra water, if at all. Zeke was 8 months old at our last beach trip and was drinking 4-6oz of water per day in addition to his regular diet. He also finds it fun to play with the same water bottles he sees his brothers drinking. When we were in Costa Rica when he was 4 months old, it was 2oz though so it’s best to check to be sure.
Gear for your beach vacation with baby
Swim Wear and Hats
Our goal is usually to keep baby out of the sun, but if you will have any time with fresh baby skin exposed to the hot sun, a rashguard or full-body suit is recommended. And next comes a hat. They make some really great hats that tie under the chin and even have a neck protecting flap. None of our three boys have been big fans of hats and while not ideal for coverage, baseball hats seem to be the best tolerated so we bring them and offer them throughout the day. The older they get, the more willing they are to keep their hats on so start the habit early!
Pack and Play
We’ve already mentioned the play yard. We use the Guava Lotus because it is compact and can be carried as a backpack. We also love it for camping or basically anything we do outdoors with our baby. Being able to strap the pack and play on your back is so clutch and then being able to unzip the sides and lay next to him/her is just really nice and saves the backaches.
We grabbed a collapsible cooler on our honeymoon 12 years ago in haste to a beach picnic and still use it to this day. It’s easy to pack and either allows you to get more adventurous with where you set up camp or saves you from overspending on beach concessions.
The funny thing about living in New York City is we have embraced camping gear for basically everything we do. The goals are similar: lightweight and compact. This philosophy extends to vacations, especially vacations on the beach. If you’re at a hotel go ahead and use the giant beach towel, but if you have to walk anywhere at all, we use and love the matador nano dry towels from REI. It’s amazing how much water they soak up and they come in these little rubber travel cases with a carabiner so they won’t get your other stuff wet when you pack up and walk home. There are many other similar options as well.
Here we go again with camping. Again, when you’re at the beach with your baby, you already will have a ton of stuff, so minimize everywhere you can. Rather than produce plastic and paper waste, we use camping silverware and plates. Specifically, we use the Sea to Summit sporks and the Sea to Summit bowls. The bowls have the added bonus that you can use them as a cutting board. There are plenty of options out there, but we like Sea to Summit because they are durable and wash up easily. Pro tip: REI has annual sales in mid-March and July 4th. You can also ask your local store when they are having an REI garage sale for used or returned goods.
If you feel like you need a chair on the beach and can’t rent one nearby, consider a camp chair. I love the Helinox swivel chair, but Brittany thinks it’s uncomfortable and would rather sit on the ground. Either way, it’s fun to go to your local REI or Cabelas and just lounge around in the chairs to find one that you like.
If you need to warm a bottle, if you have a really good thermos at home, bring it and fill it with piping hot water. A good thermos will have a cup as a lid that you can let your bottle sit in to warm.
You can’t go to the beach without a blanket. We’ve been talking about buying a beach blanket for years because we usually pack a grandma-approved (and developed) quilt, but they’re a little too heavy for travel and they don’t dry quickly. Another option is an old bedsheet, although sheets tend to blow around in the wind and seem to get loaded with sand more quickly. If you have a park or beach blanket you love, we would welcome your recommendation!
Pro Tips for a beach vacation with baby
This isn’t our first rodeo. Follow the tips below for the best time on your beach vacation.
Leave the stroller
Don’t bring a stroller. Don’t do it. Strollers seem convenient because you have a lot of gear and it’s easy to just clip that extra bag or tuck it underneath, but strollers have tiny wheels that get stuck in the sand. Occasionally we’ll bring the running stroller to a local beach, but never on vacation. Just strap that baby up in your favorite carrier!
Show up early
In addition to avoiding potential crowds, you also want to avoid the high noon sun as much as possible. Remember UV protection is key for that baby beach vacation.
Don’t bring your actual diaper bag. Just pack the essentials. If you have a mesh bag to drop in the wipes, diaper, and extra dry outfit, you’ll be thanking yourself in 6 months when you’re not brushing out random sand from your everyday bag back home.
A few frozen bottles of water make for great ice packs for other snacks/food and a cold drink after some time in the sun.
Above SPF 30, the difference between SPF 30 and 60 is nearly negligible compared to the importance of reapplying sunscreen. If you can’t keep your baby completely shaded on the beach vacation, be sure to set a timer to reapply.
|Bathing Suit- full body suit or rashguard with bottoms|
|Pack and Play|
|Baby needs (diapers, wipes, toys, etc)|