A beach vacation offers some of the simplest pleasures in life. Building sandcastles, splashing in the waves, playing games and trying new activities are all fun ways to bond as a family. The slower pace of a beach vacation allows you to unwind, unplug (technology, heat and water do not mix well anyway) and be present for your kids. Follow our frogtastic tips for a great beach vacation with kids to make your beach vacation with kids a stress-free, beachin' time.
Frogtastic Tips for a Great Beach Vacation with Kids
As a parent, it’s hard to relax around water with kids. You do not want to spend your beach vacation with kids worrying about safety hazards. Here’s all you need to know to plan for your trip, as well as some safety tips so that you can spend less time worrying and more time in the moment with your tadpoles.
Look for a Family-Oriented Beach Hotel
A great family beach hotel offers fun activities and a lot of the basics so that you can have fun with little effort. Look for family-friendly beach hotels that cater to kids with awesome pools, gentle waves (or none at all), soft sand, plenty of toys, fun water activities and comfy, shaded chaises with tropical drinks for mom and dad.
We hop for beach resorts that offer a kids club, sand toys, kid menus, kid-friendly pools and family activities. It’s simply more fun when we have body boards, toys and bikes to borrow or rent. Even if we do not use all of the amenities, play all of the games or take all of the tours, these aspects tell us kids are welcome and that the resort cares about our family having a good time. Also, the more the resort offers, the less we need to pack and bring from home. We like simple. It’s important to have shady options on the beach and around the pool to help minimize the effects of the sun. If you are not staying at a beachfront resort, look for beaches that have some extras like rentals, umbrellas or palapas, food vendors and restrooms.
Plan Fun Beach and Water Activities
How adventurous are you when you vacation? One of our top tips for a great beach vacation with kids is to play with them and try new activities together. Your kids might enjoy bodyboarding at the water’s edge, and older kids may jump for surf lessons. If you are in a place with colorful sea life and clear water, be sure to take a snorkel tour. Go parasailing, sailing, fishing, or out for a kayak, outrigger canoe or stand-up paddle board ride. Try racing each other on personal watercraft (WaveRunners or jet skis), water skiing or even SCUBA diving with older children. Go tide pooling to hunt for small creatures at low tide if tide pools exist in your vacation area. If there is a lighthouse nearby, see if you can climb to the top of it.
There are so many fun water activities you can do as a family depending on your tadpoles' ages and what your beach vacation destination offers. Some areas have dolphin and whale-watching tours. There are a variety of boat tours, from sightseeing boat rides to wildlife tours and sunset cruises. Plan a different activity each day, but be sure to leave room for unstructured beach time.
Bring Just the Right Amount of Toys
You do not need a ton of toys at the beach. A few buckets and shovels and a small water ball or Nerf football for a game of catch are perfect. You may have fun with a smash ball set, a bocce ball set, frisbee or kite. You do not need all of these things at once. The sand, water, rocks and shells all create a natural play space that open up creativity. Bodyboards and skim boards can provide hours of entertainment. Enlist the kids’ help in carrying the toys — that can help them to shrink the must-have list. Avoid heavy or bulky items, as well as items that can blow away.
Pack the Essentials
Packing for a beach vacation with kids doesn’t have to be hard. You need to make sure you have sun protection items. If you are staying at a beach resort that provides a lot of amenities, you can bring fewer items than if you are going out to explore beaches on your own. No matter where you stay, here are the essential beach and sun protection items you need to have with you on your beach vacation:
- Hats (wide brimmed, with a chin strap if boating or swimming)
- Sunscreen (reef-safe mineral options such as zinc and titanium dioxide)
- Lip protection with SPF
- UV protective swim wear and clothing
- Water shoes, sandals or flip flops
- Bug spray (if bugs are an issue in the area)
- Plastic or other waterproof bags for phones
Are you going out on excursions or is there a walking path along the beach? You might want to bring that stroller. If you are not staying at a beach hotel, be sure to bring towels to the beach.
Take Steps to Minimize Sun Exposure
We love the feel of warm sunshine and gentle breezes, but everyone is hoppiest if they don’t get a sunburn and can prevent sun damage. Enjoy the sunshine, but be sure to utilize umbrellas, tents, shade canopies or even shade from trees (but beware of falling coconuts), as well as protective clothing to help minimize sun exposure on the beach or at the pool.
It’s best to avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (and up to 4 p.m. in summer), so we do our best to hit the beach in the morning. We play hard and then plan an indoor or shady lunch and activity (naptime for toddler Lily — we wear her out in the morning so she takes a good nap in the afternoon) during the sun’s strongest period. Then we make our way back to the beach in the afternoon. In the meantime, we play card games or see if the hotel has any shady family activities happening. We may visit an aquarium or museum, or do some shopping during peak sun hours. Sunset is our favorite time of the day at the beach.
Do not let a cloudy day fool you! Those rays are still coming through the clouds. If the clouds make you feel as if you can forget about the sunscreen, you won’t realize you are fried until it’s too late.
Have a Safety Plan
When mixing little ones and water, you have to be vigilant. Always have a parent who is officially on duty and watching the tadpoles. Sit near the lifeguard stand if you can.
Use life jackets as an extra layer of precaution when swimming with kids who aren’t experienced, but do not let that be in place of a watchful eye. Know the signs of drowning, which is usually quiet. Carry a first-aid kit to beach destinations for small cuts and scrapes, splinters, burns or bites. Having the first-aid kit makes minor irritations and injuries more comfortable and forgettable so we can bounce back and get back to having fun. Add antihistamines and pain relievers in doses for adults and kids.
Another safety issue to be aware of is theft. Avoid bringing valuables to the beach. Leave jewelry, watches and wallets behind in the hotel safe. Avoid bringing money and credit cards if you can. Charge food and drink to your hotel room or bring just a small amount of cash to pay for odds and ends.
Educate Yourself on Safety Issues for Your Beach Area
Each beach area has different natural hazards and safety issues. Do some research before your visit so you know what to expect and can avoid injury or illness. A little knowledge goes a long way! Check the surf report that day, and be aware of the tides and seasonal issues. Here are a few questions to ask when researching your beach areas.
- Are there dangerous creatures? Do you need to be aware of sea urchins or poisonous fish?
- Are jellyfish or stingrays plentiful at certain times of the year?
- Is the surf known for surge or riptides (rip currents)?
- Is the surf gentle or rough that time of year?
- Are there any red tide or algae blooms to avoid?
- What is the average weather for that month, and did you check the weather forecast for your trip?
- What is the average water temperature? Do you need a wetsuit?
- Is a lifeguard stationed year-round?
- Are there tide pools or submerged rocks?
- Are water shoes advised?
- When is the high tide and low tide, and how many tides are there in a day? It’s important to know which direction the tide is moving and how high the tide is so your belongings and children do not get swept out to sea or trapped behind rocks when the tide suddenly moves in.
- What are the rules on collecting shells, rocks and other items from the beach?
- Can you read the lifeguard warning flags? If you aren’t sure, ask questions.
- Are you swimming in a designated area?
- Are there marine animals you are not allowed to touch? You certainly do not want to get a heavy fine for petting a protected animal.
- Are there insects or insect-borne diseases in the area (such as malaria or West Nile virus)?
It’s important to know what to expect and how to behave so you can have a great time and keep your family safe. If there happen to be stingrays in the area, shuffle your feet as you walk in the water. Know how to identify and avoid riptides, as well as how to get out of them. If you do find yourself being swept out to sea, swim parallel to the shore to get out of the current.
Show your children how to identify your location on the beach. A current in the water, even at the shoreline, can slowly shift them down the beach and it’s easy to lose perspective.
Bring Snacks and Drinks
It’s important to stay hydrated at the beach. Bring insulated, reusable water bottles of cold water and snacks or meal items to the beach. Bringing your own food helps to save money. Choose hydrating foods such as fruit. You can fill a bucket with water to rinse sand off of hands for eating.
Take Bathroom Breaks
Take the tadpoles for frequent potty breaks. It’s really hard for them to stop having fun to go use the bathroom. You do not want to have a last-minute emergency, especially since the bathroom might be a long walk across the sand, so encourage frequent breaks. Put babies and newly potty-trained toddlers in swim diapers. Call them “beach pants” if you have to — kids newly out of diapers might balk at a diaper. The reusable ones with elastic around the legs and waist keep solid waste from escaping.
Control the Sand
We love sand when it’s on the beach, but not so much once we have left the beach or when it gets in our eyes, mouths or car seats. Here are a few tips for leaving the beach where it belongs — on the beach.
- Bring a sand-repellant beach blanket or sheet. There are materials that do not attract sand. A flat bedsheet works, too.
- Be conscientious when shaking things out so you do not spray sand on others.
- Teach your children not to throw sand or toss it up with a shovel to keep it from getting in eyes or annoying others. If someone does get sand in their eyes, have them lie down and flush the sand out with water by pouring water in the eye. Do not rub the eyes.
- Dry off on the beach and brush off the sand before leaving. Use baby powder or cornstarch to get any stuck-on sand to come off. If you leave while wet or rinse off in the ocean just before leaving the beach, you’ll just pick up more sand that sticks to your wet skin. Look for a rinse station after you exit the beach to rinse feet, shoes and toys.
- Put little flippers in water shoes to protect toes from hot sand or rocks.
Consider Traveling or Playing with Others
It’s fun to visit a beach destination with family or friends. Cousins can bond while splashing together in the waves, and friends can mean more playmates (and helpers) for both adults and kids. For instance, Grandma might enjoy sharing naptime with the baby while the rest of the family keeps playing. You want to play with your own kids for sure, but having some others around can take the pressure off of you and allow you to relax in your beach chair for a bit with an eye on the kids.
Even if you travel with just your own family, it can be easy to make new friends on the beach, sharing sand toys and enlisting the help of others to make a giant sandcastle or dig a big hole. It’s nice having extra eyes on the kids, but don’t froget to make sure there are designated parents on duty to keep everyone safe.
Have Back-Up Plans for Bad Weather
Sometimes it rains on your beach vacation. You can avoid disappointment by having alternate fun entertainment plans in place. Research indoor activities in the area such as museums, tours, aquariums, historical sites, arcades, shopping centers and even movie theaters. A submarine ride may be a fun alternative to being on the surface. Bring a deck of cards and small rainy day craft items with you on your trip. Always check the weather report so you can predict the best beach days.
Sounds like you are ready to take that great beach vacation with kids and create many hoppy memories! Just remember to be present and have fun. That’s the most important part of a great vacation. Your kids will froget the sand being everywhere and maybe even the sunburn, but they will always remember the wonderful experiences and memories shared with you.
Did we miss any tips for a beach vacation with kids? Be sure to share them in the comments section below!
Related: Packing for a Beach Vacation with Kids