April 22, 2022

Beaching with Toddlers: Vacation Tips & Tricks

Beaching with Toddlers

(ahem, because YES, beaching is a verb.)

After sharing some photos from our annual trip to 30A the other week, several new mommas messaged me asking for tips for vacationing with littles. It definitely is a different ball game than the pre-kid vacation life, that’s for sure….but I wanted to share this to encourage you! You may not get to lounge around on the beach and nap the day away while reading a million books (my idea of a dream vacation…), BUT that doesn’t mean vacationing with littles can’t still be a TON of fun!

As I shared with a friend recently: whenever I find myself mourning the loss of a season (for this example, the kid-free vacation life), I’m always pleasantly surprised with the joy of the next one. Beaching with toddlers truly is magical — their wonder and joy is unmatched, and it’s so much fun seeing NEWNESS through their eyes.

We’ve learned through trial and error what makes for the most successful beach trips over the past six years, and I wanted to share some of my findings with you today!

Beach Vacation Tips & Tricks from a Mom of Three

  1. Snacks. These will be your best friend. Invest in a great cooler bag (it’s easier to carry a bag than roll a cooler, in my opinion – we got ours at Costco!) and fill it with a few PB&Js, some Hawaiian rolls + ham & cheese, apple sauce pouches, fresh fruit (blueberries, strawberries, grapes), cheese sticks, and more! We always bring another smaller bag with snacks that don’t need to be cool: granola bars, veggie straws, cheerios, pretzels, etc. The key is having a good variety — for both you and your little people to enjoy!
    • I also highly recommend this beach chair for sitting infants – toddlers. Strap ’em in, stick them in shade, throw food right on the tray. Wa-la! We keep it in the trunk of our car and use it year round – love it so much!
    • Also, having fun drinks in your cooler is a plus, too. There’s something about sticking a straw through a pouch that really pumps my boys up (haha!), so they’re more likely to pause from playing to hydrate. Capri suns, water bottles, etc.
  2. Shade. If you want to be able to stay out for longer than an hour, you’ll NEED something to block the sun. Either a tent or an umbrella will work. If you go the tent route, be sure to check the measurements. With Ryan, we joyfully purchased a beach tent and were dismayed to find it was only 2 feet high and an adult couldn’t even sit in it. Personally, I love using a beach umbrella. It’s much more portable, so you can move it around & put it over sand digging spots. Make sure to put your cooler bag in the shade too!
  3. A sunscreen stick. I have and love this one! This combined with a good SPF long sleeve swim top + hat means you won’t have to even do a lot of sunscreen in the first place — and it’s easiest to capture squirming faces with the stick, in my opinion. I don’t know about you, but my boys DESPISE getting sunscreen on, so the less I need to do, the better! I always try to put sunscreen on at the house before we head to the beach, and then reapply during snack breaks.
  4. Shovels, a big bucket, and NETS! My boys always play with these over any other beach toys. The nets are especially fun once they’re 2+…we love digging (these are the shovels we use) a “baby pool” in the sand near the water and capturing creatures / shells in the tide to make a zoo!
  5. Diaper Bag. If your little(s) is still in diapers, make sure to come prepped for that, too. Swim diapers are a must for bigger kids that aren’t potty trained, but I’ve found them to be overkill for infants (who most likely aren’t going in the water anyway?). They also don’t keep in non-solid poop – so we tend to just put our infants in normal diapers! For this last trip (Noah was 16ish months), I brought a few diapers, wipes, Vaseline, and an extra onesie down to the beach with us. Whenever he needed changing, I made sure he was in the shade to protect his eyes and found a non-sandy spot (either on a freshly shaken out towel or our gathre mat).
  6. Also, make sure to pack a sweatshirt and long sleeve option — even if it’s summer! The beach is cool at night and in the early mornings, so we love having these options for early morning walks and watching the sunset.
  7. Stroller! I almost forgot this one but can’t leave it off the list – we love, love, LOVE this stroller for vacations! It’s much smaller than our normal everyday go-to, so we can fit it in the car with all our luggage. But, it still has GREAT storage space and is remarkably easy to push. We always use it to walk to the beach and park it by the sand.

BONUS: Car rides with kids!

If you’re from the midwest like us, more than likely a beach vacation also means a long road trip. We are weird and actually enjoy car trips as a family, but I know the thought of hours in a tiny contained space with high-energy kiddos can sometimes feel overwhelming. With that, here are some road trip tips!

When traveling with infants, be sure to bring:

  • a mirror to see them (so you can hopefully stay in the front seat and calm any nerves you might have re: breathing/choking/whatever)
  • an arsenal of favorite toys to pass back and keep them occupied! Favorite books…baby toys / teethers…Buzz Lightyear (if you’re our third babe haha), baby guitar, really anything they like playing with that DOESN’T have tiny pieces / fall apart if pulled or chewed on. If it’s a favorite at home, it will probably be a favorite in the car! Sometimes Noah will toss whatever I hand him immediately…sometimes it will buy us another 30 minutes! Then, on to the next toy! :)
  • food they can’t choke on (if they’re eating solids). I especially worry about this with rear-facing seats, but have found that cheerios and puffs are really great road trip options for littles! I also threw a pouch back to Noah at one point in desperation…but that didn’t end well (think: applesauce everywhere), so I wouldn’t recommend that.
  • drinks for them! We pack 2 milk bottles in a lunch box with an ice pack to pull out throughout the trip and also have a water cup. This always gains us some more miles before another stop!
  • A sound machine. We have this one and this one — and have used both, as we have a spot to plug in outlets in our car! If you’re a crazy morning person like us, leave as early as you can (we shoot for 3am!) and turn the sound machine LOUD. Pull the carseat shade over them so lights don’t bother and try to get as many hours in before your first stop!

For toddlers, it’s a lot of the same, plus:

  • a yummy snack for when they wake up (pop tarts or donuts are our fav).
  • A fun surprise or 2 for at some point in the drive (normally a coloring book or fun small toy).
  • Let them pack a backpack and then stick it next to them so they can reach it during the drive. Help them choose items that will be easy to play with in the car!
  • In general, our strategy is to try to drive as long as possible, but when you do stop: make sure they get out and hop around / do jumping jacks / go to the bathroom! We always try to pump them up during stops and be silly and have fun!

And for me (because I like to set myself up to enjoy the car ride as much as I can, too!):

  • a good variety of snacks re: sweet, salty, fruity, chocolate.
  • Yummy drinks + a full water bottle! I love to have something caffeinated and a sparkling water option.
  • Lunchbox with cold fruit and/or veggies to munch in addition to typical road trip snacks. This is my favorite hack and totally helps!

I’m sure there are things I’m forgetting…so shoot me a message or comment below with any other questions or tips you may have!!! :)



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Sami Orndorff is a Wedding Photographer & Lifestyle Newborn Photographer located in the greater Indianapolis area.