7 Essentials to Pack for an Enjoyable Family Beach Vacation

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7 essentials to pack for an enjoyable family beach vacation ocean city new jersey south jersey family

It’s no surprise that my family loves the beach! Living in South Jersey, we are about an hour or so from most beaches, so they make for the perfect local vacation and even are the destination for many day trips. South Jersey families really have the best of both worlds being that we live in such close proximity to the coast *and* the city, right? So, when it comes to traveling to the beach with children, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks over the years that have helped to make for some great experiences. Packing and preparing for a beach vacation doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Besides the obvious bathing suits, clothes, and flip flops that will be packed, here are seven things I personally do (and recommend!) that help to make for an enjoyable family beach vacation:

Bring ride tickets and refillable containers

If you’ve been to the beach before, chances are that you’ve purchased tickets for boardwalk rides and foods/drinks that came with refillable containers. If you still have tickets, pack them! I keep a small zippered pouch of our ride tickets IN my car at all times. This way, if we take an impromptu ride to the beach, I know I’ll be prepared with ride tickets. Many boardwalk foods and drinks also come with refillable containers that offer discounts when you return for a refill. If those containers haven’t expired, bring them! Saving a few bucks here and there can really add up!

Bring an inflatable baby pool

bringing a baby pool to the beach is a total game changer! south jersey family ocean city new jerseyYes, I know you’ll be spending a lot of time on the beach and the water will be right there. Why do you want to bring a baby pool?! Well, if you’re bringing a small child, that pool will let them play in the water without having the waves topple them over. Even though my boys are no longer babies, we still bring a baby pool because, once it’s filled up, they can easily wet sand for sand castles. And, just being honest, I bring it for selfish reasons – it helps me to stay cool! I sit in my beach chair, put my legs in the baby pool, and get to relax while The Mister plays with the boys in the sand and waves! I have gotten baby pools at big box stores for about $5 and they’re easily inflated and deflated with in minutes. Really, it’s a no-brainer.

Haul beach supplies in a beach cart OR rent what’s needed

We spent YEARS dragging a ton of supplies to the beach before we invested in a beach cart. We were exhausted before we had even set up our spot on the sand! Let me tell you, this investment has made our beach-going experience a million times better! If you’re open to buying used, start looking in Facebook resale groups and local yard sales for one in the spring. I usually see a bunch pop up for sale right after Easter because people are doing their spring cleaning. If you prefer buying new, beach carts are typically available in big box stores and wholesale clubs in the spring when the weather starts warming up. If you don’t even want to bother with bringing beach chairs or umbrellas on your own, check to see if your beach has a rental service. Many New Jersey beaches have rental businesses set up right on the sand and will provide umbrellas and chairs for a daily fee.

Bring a *few* beach toys

When The Mister and I first started taking the boys to the beach, I swear we brought enough toys for like 50 kids to play with. I’ll never forget watching The Mister walk out of the house, literally minutes before we were to leave the for vacation, with giant Tonka trucks under his arms. His intentions were sweet because he knew the boys loved playing with those trucks in the dirt (so sand would be better, right?!), but there is such a thing as bringing TOO MANY toys! Seriously, bring 1 bucket and 1 shovel per child and a few molded buckets for sand castles and call it a day. The kids will be perfectly happy and you won’t be hauling a bajillion toys back and forth. If you want to bring a little something extra, I totally recommend bringing sand claws to help with digging in the sand.

Store those beach toys in a mesh bag

7 essentials to pack for an enjoyable family beach vacation ocean city new jersey south jersey familyYou know those plastic totes that come with many beach toy sets? They’re often pretty awkward to hold and, make one wrong move, and the toys come toppling out. Ugh. Ditch that plastic tote and get yourself a mesh laundry bag. Yep, you heard (read?) me right. In addition to holding your dirty clothes and protecting your delicates in the wash, these mesh bags are *perfect* for holding beach toys because they cinch at the opening and have plenty of openings for sand to fall through (no sand getting in your car!)


I know you understand that you need to bring sunscreen to the beach. That’s a total given. BUT, not all sunscreens are created equally, so I will check ahead to see what sunscreens are recommended by EWG. Many of their recommendations are readily available in big box stores, so it’s definitely worth taking the extra few minutes to check for their suggestions.

Come prepared with drinks and food

If your hotel or accommodation has a refrigerator of any size, fill that sucker up! It’s inevitable that your usually hungry kids will be bottomless pits while on vacation. Bring a case or two of water (or bring a few refillable water bottles) and a variety of beverages for kids and adults. You’ll spend WAY less bringing your own juice boxes on vacation than you will buying drinks on the boardwalk every time the kids are thirsty. Stock up on snacks and consider bringing options for in-room meals, too. When we go for our beach vacation, we’ll bring a container each of peanut butter and jelly, two loaves of bread, lunchmeat and cheese so we can make quick lunches in the room. It saves us a lot of money and fills bellies with easy meals that are usually healthier than typical boardwalk meals.

There you have it! Those are just a few easy things that I do to make sure our family beach vacation is enjoyable and goes as smooth as possible. Is there anything YOU recommend doing to ensure an amazing family beach vacation? Let us know!

Read about our recent Mother’s Day Weekend in Ocean City, NJ for recommendations on where to stay, what to eat, and what to do!


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