The Anatomy of a Perfect Beach Day, According to a Mom of 3

published Jun 27, 2023
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Whether you’re embarking on a road trip or taking to the skies, we have ideas for making your vacation as stress-free as possible. This content is presented in partnership with Hampton by Hilton; it was created independently by our editorial team.

Building sandcastles and splashing in the waves are quintessential summer activities, but long days at the beach can be overwhelming. As a family that loves being by the water, we enjoy a good beach day whether we are hanging out locally or . However, with three kids, pretty much every outing requires extensive planning, and preparation is key when it comes to crafting a perfect beach day. 

Of course, you’ve got the basics down, like packing sunscreen and towels, but a little extra prep can really lay the groundwork for a great experience. From mapping out a game plan to making sure you have all the kids’ favorite beach toys in tow, here are a few crucial steps to ensuring maximum fun on your next trip to the beach.

Familiarize yourself with the layout of the beach.

Before you even start packing up the car, you should know exactly where you want to set up camp when you get to the beach. If you’re not familiar with your destination, download a map online to understand where everything is. Your can really set the tone for the day. Look for areas that have easy access to public bathrooms, lifeguard and first aid stations, and possibly food stands if you’re looking to buy meals or snacks.

Also, do some recon on the parking situation so you can get as close to the beach as possible. You don’t want to be stuck lugging all your gear from the farthest spot in the lot. 

Credit: Eric Audras / Getty Images

Get to the beach right before it opens.

Set your alarm and get on the road bright and early to make sure your family is one of the first to arrive at the beach. This way, you can ensure you stake out your preferred spot in the sand, and you won’t have to wade through already-settled beachgoers. Bonus: The weather also will be the most tolerable in the early morning before the afternoon heat kicks in. 

Pack foods your family loves.

Picnics are always more fun than eating lunch at a table, but don’t get too fancy. Stick to foods you know your kids will be excited to eat, so you don’t run into any mealtime meltdowns. Choose easy options like cut-up fruit, sandwiches, or even homemade Lunchables. Don’t forget extras like chips and pretzels for all-day snacking. I would avoid anything that is better to eat warm (although my kids will eat cold pizza and fries any day) or treats that have to stay frozen, like Popsicles.

Make a list, and pack only the essentials.

Nothing is worse than trying to wrangle kids, a cooler, and bags filled with towels and beach toys. Stick to the must-haves, and pack bags with handles and multiple compartments to make transporting your beach setup a little easier. Here are the necessities I bring when headed to the beach with my family:

  • Sunscreen and bug spray
  • Waterproof/sand-proof beach blankets
  • Beach umbrella
  • Towels
  • Cooler filled with ice for lunch and drinks
  • Refillable water bottles
  • A change of clothes for each family member
  • Water shoes for walking in the hot sand and in the water
  • Cash (for food stands or parking)
  • Plastic bag or case to protect your phone from sand and water
  • Beach toys
Credit: Insung Jeon / Getty Images

About that last bullet point: Bring your own beach toys.

Have you ever tried to build a sandcastle with just your hands? You quickly realize there’s a good reason sand toys were invented. To keep everyone entertained, stock up on cheap buckets, shovels, and other sand and water toys. Opt for easy-to-carry options, such as stackable toys or sets that come with their own mesh carriers/backpacks. Each kid can then be in charge of transporting their own toys to and from the beach!

Be prepared to play!

When you take your kids to the beach, I can guarantee they’ll want you to get in on all the fun. Enjoy your prime beach spot as you bury each other in the sand or see who can dig the longest tunnel up to the water. This is what all the preparation has led up to!