Few things are more frustrating than pausing the fun during a beach day while someone rushes out to get a forgotten item. However, it's not always just time that you're risking when you're ill-prepared at the beach.
If you buy low-quality goods in a hurry, you may be putting your health in jeopardy as well. Corner store sunscreens may not always protect against both forms of the sun's ultraviolet rays, leaving your skin prone to burns or long-term damage.
You can avoid those hassles with a proper checklist. Need help making yours? We've got you covered. The next time you pack for an afternoon outing, toss in these family beach bag essentials.
1. Sunscreen—and a Lot of It!
You'll probably need way more sunscreen than you think. For one, you'll need enough for each person to apply liberally (about two tablespoons) before the beach and then reapply that same amount every two hours, or more often if you get wet.
You should also consider that different family members may have different needs based on their skin type. While everyone needs a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, you may want to pack a variety just to make sure you're covered:
- Physical Sunscreen: These sunscreens work by creating a physical barrier between your skin and the sun. Those with sensitive skin (like children) may do best with one that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
- Sport Sunscreen: Active family members will need a reliable sport sunscreen that won't sting their eyes when sweating or rinse off in the water.
- Spray-on Sunscreen: A favorite of moms and dads, spray-on sunscreens offer sheer protection for squirmy little ones on the go. They're also great for quick touch-ups for everyone!
Keep in mind that sunscreens should stay out of direct sunlight, as exposure can affect how well they work. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggests storing them in a cooler to keep them from getting too hot (a method that will also make the sunscreen feel cool and refreshing on your skin!)
2. Protective Clothing and Accessories
Since you can't squeeze shade-giving trees into your beach bag, opt for the next best thing (besides sunscreen): protective clothing and gear! Pack light-colored layers for the whole family, including long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats.
Just don't rely on those layers to protect your skin from the sun, since not all fibers offer the same sun-blocking power. For best protection, apply sunscreen under your clothes so that you can safeguard against the sun's rays, no matter what you do or don't wear.
Don't forget the accessories: Pack sunglasses rated for UV rays, including an extra pair in case yours get lost, and several tubes of SPF-rated lip balm. Nothing ruins a vacation like a burn, so protect your whole body!
3. Umbrellas and a Canopy
You may not be able to fit them in your bag, but that doesn't mean they're not important: Pop-up canopies and beach umbrellas are a must-have for hot, sunny days. Just be aware that, as with protective clothing, they're intended to complement quality sunscreen, not replace it. Still, your crew will thank you when they can retreat to some real shade to rest.
Some shade covers have an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating, which indicates how well the material blocks the sun's rays from getting through. A UPF rating of 50 blocks out 98 percent of ultraviolet rays.
4. Fun and Entertainment
An afternoon at the beach can get boring quickly if you don't have entertainment stowed away. Bring a wireless waterproof speaker and for extra fun, make a beach-ready playlist before you leave.
Don't forget the books and games. While card or board games may not be the best for a windy afternoon, beachy options like a volleyball net or a sandcastle building set can make for lasting family memories. To document the fun, you'll want to make sure your phone stays charged for photos, so a portable wireless battery pack is another must-have.
5. Cold, Refreshing Water
When we get hot, our bodies get dehydrated at a faster pace. Not only will you need plenty of water and a cooler, but you'll also want to bring along insulated bottles so that you always have cool sips available.
That goes for the kiddos, too—children have so many distractions during a day at the beach that they're bound to forget to drink up. Remind them to take plenty of water breaks, and pack them their own insulated cups or bottles so their water doesn't go lukewarm after sitting in the sun.
There are plenty of other beach vacation essentials your family may need, but these will help get your packing list off to a good start so you can be prepared. Fun in the sun awaits, so get out there and make the most of it!