Are you thinking of spending a day of your adventurous vacation with your baby at the beach?  If the thought of this sounds overwhelming, don’t let it. Follow our simple hacks for a successful day in the sun.

Humble brag, we’ve been to a lot of beaches with the kids.  Humble confession, we’ve learned a few things the hard way. We’ve had an infant on the beach in Abu Dhabi, Belize, Costa Rica, Thailand and of course 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.  

beach vacation with baby
Follow our easy hacks for the ultimate guide to a beach vacation 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, over heating, and dehydration.  

Shade

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.

Beach vacation with baby
The boys didn’t last very long on this beach in Phuket, Thailand. Without an umbrella, we were limited to early morning and late afternoon beach time for about 45 minutes at a time.

Sunscreen

The American Academy of Dermetology 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.”  Of our three kids, our youngest, Zeke, has by far the most sensitive skin.  He has a contact allergy to a lot of things that require us to carry an epi pen so we use the Babyganics Sunscreen for kids and so far it has worked really well. 

Hydration

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 babies diet in your specific situation though. Typically babies do not need a lot of extra water, if at all.  Zeke is about 8 months old now and can take 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 a few months ago, it was 2oz though so it’s best to check to be sure.

Gear for your beach vacation with baby

Ultimate setup for beach vacation with baby
This is my setup for a trip to Rockaway beach by myself with the boys. Brittany stayed home and I took the subway.

Pack and Play

We’ve already mentioned the pack and play. 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 back aches.

Pack and play at the beach with baby
Srsly, the pack and play is so great. And thanks, Mom, for the quilt!

Collapsible Cooler

Brittany and I bought a collapsible cooler on our honeymoon 12 years ago in haste 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.

Camp Towels

The funny thing about living in New York City is we have embraced camping gear for basically everything we do.  The goals are similar: light weight and small space. 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 nanodry 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.

Camp Kitchen

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 we use them a lot. 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.

Camp kitchen at the beach
We use collapsible bowls, which are great for the kids at the beach along with a lot of snackable fresh finger foods.

Camp Chair

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.

Thermos

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.

Blanket

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 to heavy for travel and they don’t dry quickly. Another option is an old bed sheet, although sheets tend to blow around in the wind and seem to get loaded with sand more quickly. Our first edit to this post will likely be right after we buy that beach blanket.

Pro Tips for 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.

Beach to ourselves in Costa Rica
We had this beach to ourselves for a solid 3 hours in Costa Rica. No need to rent an umbrella here (not that one was available), although we did notice a beehive hanging next to one of the coconuts and ended up moving to another tree.

Pack Light

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 every day bag back home.

Hydrate Yourself!

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.

Sunscreen Timer

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 time to reapply.


Summary Checklist

item
Baby Carrier
Sunscreen
Hat
Bathing Suit
Umbrella
Pack and Play
Blanket
Camp Chair
Cooler
Sporks
Bowls
Bottles
Water Bottles
Camp Towels
Baby needs (diapers, wipes, toys, etc)
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