What to Pack In a Summer Beach Bag

What To Put In A Summer Beach BagIf you read my post outlining my Summer Bucket List, you know that the first item on my list was more beach days. We live 15-30 minutes from the ocean, depending on which beach we go to and the traffic. But at the end of last summer, I realized that we’d only really spend maybe 4-5 days at the beach. Granted, we go up to visit our family in Maine, we go to the mountains, we do a lot of stuff. BUT – this summer, I want more beach time.

I realized that one of the barriers to getting our toes in the sand more often was the way I was framing it – a “beach day”. In my head, that means packing a bag, packing a lunch, packing up toys, finding swimsuits, sunscreen, flip flops, sunglasses, and on and on and on. It seemed like a huge undertaking. But what if I eliminated the packing a lunch part by deciding to do mini beach jaunts whenever we have a few hours free, instead of feeling like it needs to be a full day? And what if I eliminated the finding and packing part by keeping a bag in the car loaded with all of the stuff I need to make a few hours at the beach fun and safe?What To Pack In A Summer Beach Bag

Thus, the pop up beach bag was born. Today, I’m sharing exactly what I keep in the bag, so that you can pack up your own bag, and enjoy more spur of the moment beach, lake or pool adventures, too.

The Kid Essentials:

What To Put In A Summer Beach Bag(Our daughter is three and a half, so while this is all appropriate for her age, pack according to your own child’s age.)

  • I found this long sleeved top and adorable sailor bottoms at a Gap Outlet. The top will keep the sun at bay, and the bottoms give her a little more coverage than regular bikini-type bottoms. Yes, I’m a prude when it comes to my kid.
  • The hat keeps the sun off of her face, and also makes her easier to spot.
  • The sunglasses keep her “duper cool” while protecting her eyes.
  • Sunscreen – absolutely essential. We use Babyganics sunscreen on her and love it – none of the scary chemical ingredients and it comes in super convenient single use tubes. I love the Babyganics sunscreen stick, too – a quick swipe makes it easy to get squirmy kiddos covered.
  • Tangled toddler hair is a drag. We’ve banished tearful battles with The Honest Company’s detangling spray. Lifesaver, people. I also keep a few extra hairbands in the kiddo bag, too.

The Mommy Essentials:What To Put In A Summer Beach Bag

  • Think you can’t look cute in a full coverage swimsuit? I can prove you wrong. Bikinis and grabby toddler hands don’t mix, so I searched high and low for a well constructed, no-swimsuit-malfunction-potential, still-looks-cute full piece swimsuit, and found exactly what I was looking for in this suit from Boden. (Find a similar one here.) 
  • Adult sunscreen. Wear it, people. A close call recently renewed my almost religious fervor for sunscreen application. Don’t scrimp, don’t forget it, don’t think you’re protected because you have a base tan. Just find one you like and wear it. ALL. THE. TIME. My current picks are Kate Somerville (woot, woot for travel samples!) for face, and Aveeno or The Honest Company for body.
  • A cheap-o pair of sunglasses from Target and a pair of bargain flip flops round out my essential equipment.

The Safety Essentials:What To Put In A Summer Beach Bag

  • First aid kit – cuts, scrapes, burns, bites, you name it. Make sure you’ve got what you need to fix a boo boo fast on the beach. 
  • Wipes – clean up without making a run to the bathroom with these.
  • SPF lip balm – Am I the only one who travels three deep in chapstick?
  • Tissues – for some reason, both the kiddo and I seem to get sneezy on the beach.
  • Baby powder  - OK, if you don’t know this trip, I’m about to change you life. Do you hate sand sticking to you as much as I do when it’s time to pack it up and head home? Grab some baby powder and sprinkle on your skin – then clap with glee as you wipe off the baby powder AND sticky sand.

The Beach Blanket:What To Pack In A Summer Beach Bag

  • This fold-up blanket lives in our car and is one of our most used pieces of “baby equipment” we’ve ever purchased. It has a water-resistant outer layer, an insert that helps neatly fold it, and velcro that keeps it perfectly rolled up, plus an attached carrying strap. It’s genius and it’s PERFECT on the beach. 

The Beach Towels: What To Pack In A Summer Beach Bag

  • I used to grab whatever towels were clean and dry, but I became a beach towel convert last year after one too many beach days spent drying off with a sopping, sandy, wet towel that never recovered. I like my beach towels big, and I pack extras. I just found these Nate Berkus beach towels on sale at Target, but I’m eyeballing these as a summer splurge. A beach towel that can double as a sarong? Yes, please. 

The Things That Don’t Fit in The Bag: What To Pack In A Summer Beach Bag

  • Toys! We keep ours in a bucket with plenty of drainage so the water and sand stay at the beach. 
  • Floatation device – my eyes stay glued to my kiddo and I’m never more than three steps behind her, but this gives me added peace of mind.
  • Water! Don’t forget to keep a large bottle of water stocked in the car. Even a few hours at the beach can be dehydrating, so keep everyone healthy and happy with plenty of water.

Now that my bag is packed and ready for action in the car, I feel much more optimistic about being able to check “Beach Time” off of my Summer Bucket List. What do you keep in your summer beach bag?

2 Responses

  1. Shopping for the right clothes for your beach vacation is one of the most important tasks. But I strongly disagree that bikinis can't be worn by moms. Bikinis can be worn and teamed up with beach cover ups to give a more modest yet cute look.

  2. m. kukowski says:

    SNACKS! the smell of water makes my kids hungry! Tuck in a few granola bars to tide them over.


About Ellen Foord 


A tight budget has never stopped Ellen Foord from creating a beautiful, modern, creative home and treating every day as one of life's smaller celebrations. A freelance writer and ...

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