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Surviving the Family Beach Vacation

10 hours in the car. 3 small children. Sand in every corner of every everything. Sleeping in an unfamiliar house/hotel/condo.  Blowing up a life size dolphin floatie… again.  Oh yeah, and feeding those 3 children without them consuming a pound of sand with it.

Sounds like a dream vacation, right?  Believe it or not, we’re prepping for our 3rd trip to the beach – each time with at least one kid under the age of 2 – and we love it.  It can be done, and it can be fun.

Here are a few of our tips and tricks for surviving the family beach vacation and actually enjoying it!


Small beach toys – don’t get the huge 5 gallon bucket with 27 shovels in it.  Believe me, it seems like a good idea at the time… “What fun they’ll have!” but when it comes to fitting it in your car… no.  You can even double some of your packing materials as toys.  We used a giant Rubbermaid tub for packing, then used it as a kiddie swimming pool for our 1-year old.

Mesh laundry basket or bag – great for storing and carrying those beach toys to and from the beach.  The mesh holes make it easy to shake out the sand before you bring it all home.

Baby powder – gets wet sticky sand off!  Curse you, moms, who never told me about this when my first child was a toddler.  Just rub on arms and legs, and voila!  I don’t know how it works.  Maybe it soaks up the moisture from the sand so it will dust off.  Or maybe there are little linen-scented invisible elves in that bottle that clean your kids feet off, but either way.  Yes.

Umbrellas – an absolute must if you plan on being out on the beach most of the day.

Picnic blanket/beach chairs – I suggest the nylon kind that dust off easily and zip up.

Indoor fun – in case of rain (or in case of exhausted kids), bring board games, puzzles, crayons and coloring books, or a couple of your kids’ favorite toys.  Again, bring the most compact fun you can.

Sound machines/Noisemakers – in every room.  And no alarm clocks.


There are so many opinions on how to do food, so here’s what we found was helpful for a family with little kiddos:

Breakfast = whatever’s easy!  Cereal, canned cinnamon rolls, and a couple morning we did the full deal: eggs or French toast.  But again, it’s VACATION.  I can cook at home.  Mommy wants a break!

Lunch = at home.  It was too much hassle to clean up and go out for lunch, so we did an easy lunch at home every day.  Sometimes leftovers from dinner from the night before (if we cooked.)

Dinner = we planned to go out a couple of times out of our 6-7 nights, and the other nights we cooked at home. This year, I think we’ll even cook meals ahead of time and freeze them, or prepare things to throw in the crockpot.  Cause, who wants to cook after a busy hectic day of lying around doing nothing?

If your foodie plans involve going out for dinner, FOR SURE have quiet time beforehand.  Little ones will need a nap, older ones can just have down time. Screaming, tired, hot, sweaty toddlers at a restaurant = no bueno.  For anyone.


Apply kids’ sunscreen BEFORE you get to the beach.  There’s nothing worse than trying to rub sunscreen on a wet, or worse, sandy-gritty kid.  Okay, actually there is something worse: your kid getting a sunburn on the first day of vacation.

Hydrate!  It’s easy to forget to drink water when you’re around so much… water.  Take water bottles with you.  Preferably something with an easy flip top lid or straw so you don’t have sandy fingers in your water.

Vacation is a great time to take a break from screen time and media, however, we found that it was helpful for our kids to have a little down time to recharge.  We planned once a day (usually the high heat of the afternoon) to watch a short video and relax.

Find some local fun places for entertainment.  We celebrate our son’s birthday each year at the beach.  Last year he wanted a race car birthday.  We found a local go-kart/bumper boat type place and took him to ride with dad.  It is still one of his favorite memories from the trip!  Putt-putt, go-karts, bowling, ice cream shoppe… look for something simple to change it up from the beach scene, even if it’s just once.

On that note, make sure to research family-friendly, kid-friendly places before you leave.  We found several kid-friendly restaurants that had sand pits or playgrounds.  Depending on the wifi access where you’re staying, it’s nice to have those already nailed down before you get to your destination.

And finally, have a plan, but be flexible!  We loved having a tentative schedule: eat out Monday & Thursday, cook Tuesday/Wednesday, etc, but when something came up we were able to just shuffle.  Whiny tired kids? Nevermind, we’re saving that dinner-out for tomorrow and crock-potting today!

What fun tips do you have on surviving a trip to the beach with kiddos?  What is your favorite part of traveling as a family?  What is your least favorite part? 🙂

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