How to Pack the Perfect Beach Bag!

Today’s post comes from regular Momof6 contributor, Crystal Sabalaske…

It’s almost summer, and beach season is right around the corner. For many, Memorial Day weekend marks the first official “beach weekend”. A day at the beach is supposed to be relaxing – a time to lounge, splash in the waves, and collect shells. Once you get there, chances are you won’t want to leave, so take the time to organize and pack your beach essentials. Once your feet hit the sand, you won’t feel like turning around because you forgot something- so here’s how to pack the perfect beach bag!

packed bag closed

Find the Perfect Beach Bag

A “perfect” beach bag should meet all of these requirements: lightweight, water-resistant or machine washable, and roomy enough to fit multiple beach towels. My beach bag is the extra large Boat & Tote Bag from L.L. Bean.

packed bag

For Every Beach Bag

Pack one towel per person. You might need 1-2 extra towels if you expect the first set to get really wet. Roll them and stand them upright or fold them flat and put them on the bottom of your beach bag.

Stock up on water resistant sunscreen and lip balm with sun protection. As a child, I was allergic to sunscreen, and then there was a very brief time during my teen years when I thought being “pink” was better than having milky white skin. Coming from a Norwegian/Irish/German background, “tan” was never an option for me. Now that I know malignant melanoma runs on both sides of my family, I never take any chances. Always bring enough sunscreen to account for several reapplications throughout the day for each person in your family.

I also pack a small travel size container of baby powder. It can be used on DRY skin to remove sand. It’s great to use on your feet before you get back in your car or try to slide on a pair of shoes. Please note: It is not safe for babies to use powder because it can easily be ingested into their lungs.


Don’t forget the beach hats and sunglasses. I bought beach hats for my kids from Sunday Afternoons 4 years ago, and they’re still wearing them. They have built-in sun protection, can get wet, and they’re machine washable. I’m a floppy hat girl. For me, the bigger the hat, the better. Unless prescription glasses are required, I recommend buying the cheapest sunglasses with 100% UV protection for your kids. Sunglasses are necessary to protect their eyes, but if they get really sandy or float away in the water, you won’t get upset over losing an expensive pair of glasses.

Always pack water and snacks. It’s important to stay hydrated at the beach. Pack plenty of water. Watermelon, oranges, pretzels, and Goldfish are easy to grab snacks. Stay away from fried foods, items that can spoil in the heat, or anything that can melt (like chocolate). If you plan to stay for more than a few hours, it’s always a good idea to bring a cooler to keep your foods at a safe temperature.

Pack a cover-up or long sleeve shirt. The wind and water combination can cause chills at the beach. It’s better to have a long sleeve shirt available to put on a shivering child than it is to have to cut your beach trip short because someone gets a case of the “crankies”.

Waterproof your valuables. Use Ziploc bags or plastic food storage containers to store valuables like keys, money, cameras, photo ID and cell phones. If your beach bag has a small zippered section or a separate pocket, store these items in there.

sunscreen etc.

Activity Time

What you toss in your beach bag after you pack the essentials is dictated by how you plan to spend your time at the beach. What makes the beach fun for you and your family?

Books and Magazines – I prefer to bring magazines or paperback books because I don’t really care if they get wet or sandy.

Frisbees, Balls and Other Athletic Equipment – If I had it my way, I’d sit on the beach and read all day. Since I’ve had children (now 8 & 9 years old), that is rarely an option, so we always pack a small ball and a Frisbee.

Sand Toys – I carry our sand toys in a separate mesh bag. When we are finished for the day, I put all the toys in the bag, dunk it in the water, shake it out, and carry it home. I then spread the toys outside to air dry.

Goggles and Water Toys – My kids won’t swim without goggles, so if I forget goggles, we might as well turn around and head home. Don’t forget your family’s must-have items like boogie boards, tubes, and floatation devices.

Treasure Jar -Are you a shell collector? Bring a small jar or plastic container to protect your treasures.

Just Sitting and Relaxing

Blanket or chairs? We bring a lightweight blanket to the beach. Some people prefer chairs. Perhaps you bring both. If you bring a blanket, try to find one that is machine washable and does not absorb a lot of water.

Umbrella – If there is an umbrella on the beach, you will find me under it. We bring THREE to the beach. I realized some time ago, after several cheap ones broke or blew away, that it makes more sense to invest in sturdy beach umbrellas. I like the Tommy Bahama umbrellas. I purchased ours for about $40 at Costco a few seasons ago, and I expect them to last for several more summers.


What If Scenarios

First Aid Necessities – I like to be prepared. In my beach bag, you will find a small Ziploc bag full of Band-Aids (in case someone steps on a broken shell), eye drops (my husband wears contacts to the beach), Benadryl/Epi-pens/Inhalers (for allergies and asthma), and wet wipes.

You Might Need It

Diapers, Swim Diapers & Wipes – Imagine a cranky baby in a wet diaper. Now imagine that wet diaper full of sand. Remember to bring extra supplies for diaper changes, including a small trash bag.

Baby Pool – When my kids were younger, I bought them a tiny inflatable baby pool to bring to the beach. People always asked why I would bring a pool to the beach. Trust me, it’s much easier to fill a few buckets of water for the pool than it is to chase your kid back and forth to and from the water….again and again and again. The pool was only about 3 feet wide and maybe 12″ deep. If I had one child that wanted to go in the water and another who wanted to play in the sand, it was much easier to pay attention to both kids if they were sitting right in front of me.

The more organized you are before your trip to the beach, the more you will be able to relax once you get there. If your trip to the beach isn’t just a day trip, check out these extensive packing lists from Smarter Travel and Traveling Mom.

How to Pack the Perfect Beach bag

Is there an item on your beach packing list that you can’t live without? We’d love to hear about it!

Crystal Sabalskee Head Shot 150 pxCrystal Sabalaske, owner of Cluttershrink, has appeared as an organizing expert on HGTV. Her organizing tips have also appeared in national publications such as Family Fun, Men’s Health and Parents magazines. For more organizing tips, please follow Crystal on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter!

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  1. says

    I want to visit the beach after reading this post! I miss the ocean. 🙂 I never thought about bringing a little first aid kit to the beach. That is a great idea and also water proofing valuables. The only other thing I always bring to the beach is my camera. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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