Surviving the Beach- Tips for taking a Toddler to the Beach

Last weekend we decided to take a trip to the beach and had a blast….but not without some major preparations first!  Going to the beach as DINKs (double income no kids) is COMPLETELY different than going to the beach the first time with a toddler!

Today I’m sharing how you can survive a trip to the beach with a toddler too- 12 tips for taking a toddler to the beach!

taking toddler to beach

So, what you need to know when preparing to take a toddler to the beach….

1.  Don’t wait til the last minute to pack!

Sounds simple but remember- when you have a child everything takes at least twice as long. Use your list (see #2) and stick to it- make sure you have everything ready to go at least 1 day before (trust me- you’re going to keep thinking of things you need)!

2. Make your list and check it twice (just like Santa)!

I keep a pad and paper next to the bed and every time I think of something to add to the list I just add it right away.  I’ll also take note of certain items I want to take several weeks ahead of time and jot those down too– I get my best ideas while doing laundry and right before bed.  This list will save your sanity!

3.  Pack your child’s clothes in gallon size ziploc bags.

There’s 2 reasons for this…. 1.  You’ll have outfits already picked out and ready to go- no wasting time deciding what to wear.  2.  You avoid the dreaded sand in EVERYTHING issue.  No one want to wear sandy pants….especially a cranky toddler who is over stimulated, hot, and tired!

4.  Schedule down time.

YOU and your toddler will NEED it!  Realistically speaking your toddler will not last more than 1.5 hours at a time in the ocean, on the beach, or in the pool.  They need time to relax, take in all the new experiences, and unwind.

beach with toddler

5.  Schedule down time!

Oh, did I already cover this one?  Well, do it!  If  you don’t schedule it into your day then you’re not going to do everything you want to do…. those dinner reservations you’re really looking forward to will be derailed by a screaming toddler. Wanna watch the sunset while enjoying an ice cream on the Boardwalk?  Don’t schedule in some nap time and you’ll be wishing it were bedtime!

6.  Protection from the Sun!

Sounds easy right? WRONG!  It takes some work but you need to do more than just apply sunscreen when at the beach.  Remember the sun is like 10x more powerful along the coast even on overcast days.  I highly suggest either bringing or going to one of the billions of surf/souvenir shops along the way and pick up a cheap beach umbrella (they had them for less than $10 when we were there).  Now I know- you’re toddler is not going to stay under the umbrella- but they will seek it out once they start getting hot.  That’s why it’s also important to try to get them to wear a hat, put a surf shirt on them to protect their arms and shoulders (those always seem to be the first to burn…my legs will be white as snow but oh my shoulders—they’ll be burnt to a crisp!)- and try not to stay right on the beach for more than 45 minutes at a time.

7. Take Water and Snacks!

Even if you’re taking just a 45 minute stroll down to the beach the last thing you want is to have a hungry baby throwing a fit and trying to eat sand.  Now, the beach is not someplace you want to take a banana- seems like a good idea- healthy, easy to transport, etc…..but take my word for it—DON’T DO IT!  I speak from experience- once the tiny toddler hand reaches for that peeled banana it becomes a very messy/sandy/yucky banana- and the heat doesn’t help much either.  Take something simple- like a single pack of crackers—you know the 6 pack style ones.  And don’t forget the sippy cup- and make sure your little one sips on it every few minutes—they can quickly become dehydrated and that’s really no fun!

8.  Pack Lightly but don’t forget…

You don’t want to load yourself down with a ton of stuff to go out to the beach….trust me…corralling a toddler and carrying armloads of stuff is going to be a pain (oh and don’t try to take the stroller- even if you have a jogger with big wheels- it will get stuck or topple over)!

Here’s what I pack in my beach bag- tablecloth (instead of a blanket or towel- it’s large, compact, and doesn’t collect sand), water bottles, 2-3 small snack packs, sippy cup, sunscreen, sand toys, baby powder, and camera).

The baby powder works wonders for getting the sand off—just sprinkle some on the skin and rub it in—all the sand falls right off!  I don’t bother with towels because the heat will just dry you and they collect sand anyway…if you’re staying at a beach front hotel just leave your towels at the pool so you can dry off before going inside—otherwise leave them at the car.

Don’t bother taking your phone or any other electronic device unless you REALLY need it.  Your dreams of reading the latest e-book while your toddler plays are not going to work out so well—if your toddler is anything like mine.  I saved the e-reading for the balcony at night after Little Man went to bed.  Your toddler is going to want to play with you- so unless you want a bucket of sand or water dropped on your electronic device it’s best to just leave it in the room.  Plus, you may want to walk down the beach and it wouldn’t be fun to come back and realize it’s been stolen…unless you really want to lug all of your stuff around with you.

9.  Take care of yourself!

Don’t forget to add sunscreen on to yourself—a burnt Mommy is definitely not a fun Mommy (I speak from experience on this too!)  If you only apply sunscreen before heading out for the day you won’t notice while you’re out playing but come the next morning you will be in a world of pain!  Make sure that you reapply your sunscreen EVERY TIME you reapply your little one’s sunscreen—even if you think you don’t need it because you want to get a tan.  Trust me- you WILL get a tan even with sunscreen- the object is not to burn! :)

9.  Schedule Quiet Time before Dinner

I know- I told you to schedule down time twice already….but what I mean about quiet time is a bit different.  About an hour before you want to go for dinner go back to your room- shut the curtains- turn off the tv and all lights—and just RELAX in bed with your little one.  They don’t have to nap—the time can be spent making faces at each other or exchanging hugs and kisses.  But spend at least 30 minutes just relaxing with your little one.  Not only will it help you experience the meaning of life (I’m getting deep here I know! :)) but it will help recharge your toddler so they can make it through dinner without a melt down.  This is actually my favorite part of the whole day because you really do connect with your little one and it’s a very peaceful time.

10.  Don’t force your toddler toward the ocean

I know, you came here for the beach and ocean but actually a lot of toddlers are scared of the ocean—it can be quite a scary place with it’s unpredictability.  Babies are usually fine but once they hit toddlerhood and are exploring they like to be in situations they can control—the ocean is not one of these.  With it’s forceful waves—you never know where to expect the water next.  It’s loud crashing water sounds, numerous people, dazzling array of birds….all of it is so new—don’t be surprised if your toddler is not as eager to go to the beach as you are.

11. Embrace the hotel pool!

Most beachside hotel pools have kiddie pools with them so enjoy them.  We spent a majority of our time at the pool on this trip because it was an area that Little Man could control and had the most fun.  Rinse the sand toys off and let your little one play with them in the pool.  Let them enjoy the water….and re-apply that sunscreen whenever they get out!

hotel pool

12. Relax, Have Fun, and Let Your Toddler Lead the Way

This is probably your toddler’s first real vacation…at least where they are more mobile.  So let them lead the way and make some decisions.  If you micro-manage the days you are going to be disappointed.  But if you let your Little One lead the way you may be surprised at where you end up!

Hopefully now you too will survive the beach with a toddler in tow!

toddler at the beach

Do you have any tips or tricks when taking your little ones to the beach?  Please share them below!!

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Comments

  1. Great tips! We are huge brag lovers and our kids are too! We take them to the local beach multiple times in the summer. One thing we have always done since they were able to sit up was take a one ring baby pool. We would fill it with water under the umbrella and that way they can stay cool, splash around near you and be under the shade especially in the heat of the day!! Can’t wait for beach weather!!!
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  2. Samantha says:

    We are actually going to the beach in a little less then a month and I am trying to get a head start on planning since we have a 2 year old. lol Lets hope I can utilize all of your tips and things don’t get too hectic. lol :)

  3. Chelley says:

    This was an awesome list! We’re heading to the beach for a week with an 18 month old! Thanks for all the tips!

  4. Headed to the beach for the 1st time next week with my almost 4 yo and my 2.5 yo. Hopefully things will go well and we will have fun! Thanks for the tips. Clearly I’m looking to plan our trip if I’m online researching.

    • I’m sooooo jealous…have fun! We didn’t make a beach trip this year and I’m so regretting it! I’m glad you found this article helpful! You’ll have so much fun!!

  5. We are going to the beach this weekend and this tips are amazing thanks for sharing with us. I have a 3 yr old and a 15 month old boys ;)

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