Heading to the beach is on the top of every family’s summer bucket list, and we get why — what’s more fun than spending a day frolicking in the waves? Nothing, that’s what! But here’s the thing about a beach day: It can go sour…fast. Especially when kids are involved.
To ensure your entire crew is happy as clams from sunup to sundown, we’ve got a list of essentials that will take the hardship out of your beach excursion So stock up, people, because as parents we know that nothing can ruin a day at the shore like forgetting the sunscreen…but remembering the beach ball? Well, that’s going to be the summer memory that lasts them a lifetime. Check out our favorite swimsuits for all body types here too.
Mac Sports Heavy-Duty Beach Cart ($203.99; amazon.com)
There are lots of beach carts out there at lots of different price points, but having tested this one ourselves for several years, we can confidently say it’s well worth its hefty price tag. The cart’s all-terrain wheels can tackle anything from hilly sand dunes to pothole-filled parking lots, and the roomy interior can hold up to 150 pounds of stuff (boogie boards, skimboards, buckets and shovels included!). The best part is that the entire cart can be hosed down and it folds into a compact square with a fitted cover and carrying handles for hanging and transporting.
Rio Beach Deluxe Sun Protection Beach Umbrella ($26.75; amazon.com)
We have it on good authority that this is the best beach umbrella to buy right now. Why? Well, for one, you can securely screw the durable steel pole base into the sand in under a minute. Secondly, built-in wind vents allow wind to travel through the umbrella, without picking it up and catapulting it down the beach. (If you know, you know — this happens a lot!) Lastly, the tilt feature means you can customize your sun/shade ratio throughout the day.
Yeti Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Cooler ($299.99; yeti.com)
If you know, you know: Parents gotta be hands-free. Especially when heading to the beach, which is exactly why we love this giant backpack cooler from Yeti. Able to store up to 20 cans of beer (or, if you prefer, a bunch of Gatorades and a bottle of chardonnay) or 25 pounds of ice, the waterproof and mildew-free backpack evenly disperses the weight between two padded ergonomic shoulder straps and when placed in the sand functions as a sturdy tabletop snack station.
More to know: The pack has a chest strap and waist belt, and is leakproof, thanks to a super-rugged zipper.
Hawaiian Tropic Island Sport Sunscreen Spray ($8.92; walmart.com)
What’s the quickest way to cut a beach day short? Forgetting sunscreen. The ultimate must-have on our list, sunscreen is a necessity to avoid painful burns, and this SPF 30 spray from Hawaiian Tropic is our pick for the best sunscreen of 2021 because it’s oh-so-easy to apply on little ones while also providing tons of broad-spectrum protection.
GCI Outdoor Big Surf Chair With SunShade ($70; rei.com)
Having a solid beach chair is chief among the beach day “musts,” and this one from GCI is one of our faves. Weighing 10 pounds, the chair has backpack straps for hands-free carrying, a four-position backrest, a padded headrest, a hidden tray for drinks and snacks and — our favorite detail by far — an adjustable sunshade made from UPF 50 fabric. Despite being lightweight, this chair feels sturdy, comfortable and cool, thanks to the mesh-lined backrest that provides ventilation.
GCI Outdoor Waterside Pod Rocker Collapsible Rocking Chair ($102.95; walmart.com)
Another beach chair on our short list of favorites is the Waterside Pod Rocker by GCI. Boasting an ultra-wide, sling-style seat, the chair is transported by carrying bag, features an adjustable UPF 50 sunshade and has attached holders for your cup and cell phone. What really sold us on the chair, however, was the spring action rocking technology that allows you to take in the ocean waves while slowly rocking your day away in the shade.
Dock & Bay Beach Towel ($21.99; amazon.com)
Dock & Bay is reinventing the towel game with its quick-drying microfiber towels that come in 18 fun colors and stripes. The towels are ultra compact — each one folds into a matching pouch — while also being super absorbent. The best detail, though, is that the towels are also sand-free. Simply shake them off after using and all the sand slips away!
More to ogle: Each towel comes with a handy elastic hook for easy hanging, and they don’t collect yucky damp smells.
JBL Clip 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker (starting at $49.95; amazon.com)
A beach day falls flat without a rocking playlist, and this JBL speaker is your solution. Waterproof, portable and boasting an integrated carabiner for hooking onto your chair or umbrella, the Bluetooth speaker has 10 hours of playtime and is an Amazon fave with nearly 32,000 positive reviews.
If you’re looking for an even bigger sound, opt for JBL’s Xtreme 3, which has enormous sound packed with tons of bass, is dust- and waterproof and has 15 hours of playtime and comes with a carrying strap.
Maui Jim Mongoose 54mm Polarized Sunglasses ($249.99; nordstrom.com)
Attempting a beach day without a pair of sunglasses would be tragic, and this unisex pair from Maui Jim is a bestseller for good reason — not only do the rubberized shades stay put on your face, but they also feature polarized lenses that offer incredibly crisp and clear views via glass that is thinner and lighter than the industry standard.
More to know: We love the bright blue lens, but the sunglasses also come in a glossy black and tortoiseshell.
Vineyard Vines Harbor Seersucker Long-Sleeve Cover-Up Shirtdress ($128; nordstrom.com)
Not all swimsuit cover-ups are created equally, and we’re here to say this is one of the best of the best. Made from a lightweight performance fabric, this cute shirtdress from Vineyard Vines looks preppy and crisp but feels breathable and cool (thanks to a mesh air vent in the back!),plus it’s quick-drying, so you can go on and throw it on over a wet bathing suit. We also love how the long sleeves and collar provide extra coverage.
More to know: The fabric has built-in UPF 30, the dress has two Velcro pockets and it comes in sizes 00 to 16.
Amor Inflatable Glitter Beach Ball ($5.99; amazon.com)
You can’t call it a beach day if there’s no ball involved, and this one is our new favorite, thanks to all that fun glitter inside. Who’s ready for some volleyball?
Yeti Hopper Flip 12 Soft Cooler ($249.99; yeti.com)
If you’re looking for a smaller but equally durable cooler, we’re obsessed with Yeti’s Hopper Flip 12, which can hold 13 cans of beer or 16 pounds of ice. Weighing only 3 pounds, this is a bit lighter than the backpack cooler, but can still fit a day’s worth of beverages for the entire family — all while boasting the same award-winning Yeti details like the high-density fabric that’s waterproof and mildew-free, the closed-cell rubber foam insulation and the tough-as-nails, leakproof zipper.
Goodr BAMF Gs Polarized Sunglasses ($35; rei.com)
One of our new favorite products on the market, Goodr sunglasses are quickly becoming a cult favorite this summer because they’re ultra lightweight, slip-proof (even when you’re dripping in sweat) and bounce-proof (for those really intense Slamball sessions!). And they’re polarized and come in a rainbow of fun frame colors, from bright pink to matte black.
Isopho Beach Blanket ($21.98; amazon.com)
Here’s a beach day fact: We all get there early to claim the best seaside spot. There’s no better way to mark your territory on the beach than with a big ol’ blanket, and this one is an Amazon favorite with more than 7,000 reviews. Big enough for up to six adults (it’s 79 inches by 83 inches), the blanket’s chief selling point is its 210T polyester fabric, which is both water- and sandproof — just shake the blanket and both slip right off.
More to know: The blanket comes with a carrying pouch and stakes for anchoring, and you can throw it in the washing machine if it gets dirty.
Grounds & Hounds Coffee Co. Belly Rub Club All-Season Tumbler ($24.99; groundsandhoundscoffee.com)
If your beach day includes a before-sunrise wake time, well then, you’re going to need some caffeine. We love this all-season tumbler from Grounds & Hounds — 20% of the company’s profits are donated to dog rescue programs — that will keep your coffee hot for up to six hours and cold for 12. And if you’re looking for an A+ coffee solution, may we suggest the brand’s cold brew pouches that you simply mix with a pitcher of water, let sit for 12 hours and voilà! You’ve got a barista-level cold brew to take to the beach!
Safego Portable Indoor/Outdoor Lock Box ($49.95; amazon.com)
Enjoy a worry-free dip in the ocean, thanks to this portable safe that will keep all your valuables locked up while you’re out of sight. The safe’s steel cable can attach to your bag, beach chair or cart, giving you peace of mind that your smartphone and wallet are safe and sound.
Scout Pocket Rocket Large Tote Bag With 6 Exterior Pockets ($50; amazon.com)
There are a gazillion beach bags out there, but we’ve favored this one for years because it’s got six easy-reach exterior pockets, perfect for holding sunscreens, sunglasses, car keys, a rolled-up magazine and more. The best part, however, is that the ultra-durable, waterproof polypropylene fabric is also impervious to sand — unlike mesh or fabric beach bags that collect and trap sand, this one repels it from the get-go.
J.Crew Packable Straw Hat ($55; jcrew.com)
We don’t know about you, but finding a cute, packable beach hat is key to a successful summer (and beach day), and this easy, breezy one from J.Crew fits the bill. Designed to retain its shape no matter how squished it gets in your beach bag, the hat’s natural raffia color will match pretty much anything you’re wearing.
Zinka Waterproof Nosecoat, 3-Pack ($22.47; amazon.com)
Meet the sunscreen kids won’t complain about! Long days in the sun require complete UVA/UVB ray blockage, especially on the nose and cheeks — simply apply these fun Zinka sticks on top of your kiddos’ sunscreen and remember to reapply often. We love the bright neon hues, and promise your little ones will too.
BrüMate Hopsulator Trio 3-in-1 Stainless Steel Insulated Can Cooler ($24.99; amazon.com)
You know what’s the opposite of refreshing? Sipping a warm beer. More than 11,000 Amazon reviewers agree the BrüMate can cooler is a must-have because it can keep both 12- and 16-ounce cans icy cold for hours, without any condensation. Prefer skinny can beverages? Fear not — BrüMate’s got a solution for those too.
Bogg Bag Small Tote ($109; amazon.com)
Invented by a mom and designed with families in mind, this bag is unsurprisingly beloved by moms everywhere. Waterproof, tip-proof, easy to clean (just hose ‘em down!) and incredibly durable, thanks to thick rubber material, the bags have a huge fan base…and as a result they’re often sold out. We found this smaller size available in a dozen cute colors, so you’ll want to grab one before they’re gone again!
Click N Play 18-Piece Beach Sand Toy Set ($18.99; amazon.com)
We promise you, if you forget the beach toys, you’ll live to regret it. While a few shovels and buckets might not seem like a big deal, they are to kids! And this 18-piece set will keep your crew busy in the sand for hours so you can get a head start on your summer reading list. When the day is done, throw all the gear in the mesh backpack for easy transport home.
Iplay Breatheasy Sun Protection Shirt (starting at $16.99; amazon.com)
Applying sunscreen to a wiggly baby over and over can be quite the feat, which is why we’re big fans of this sun protection shirt that comes in sizes 6 months to 4T and in three colors (pink, blue and white).
Marchway Floating Waterproof Dry Bag ($21.99; amazon.com)
The worst part about a beach excursion is surely unpacking when you get home — save yourself some strife by throwing all the wet bathing suits and towels in this dry bag! Available in five sizes and more than a dozen colors, the bag will be a lifesaver at the end of the day!
Stanley Adventure Quencher ($20; stanley1913.com)
Store your smoothie or ice water in this vacuum-insulated stainless steel tumbler that can keep your drinks cold for five hours or hot for four. BPA-free, the cup comes with a reusable straw and a lid with three positions — a straw opening, a wide mouth for chugging and a full-cover top for no spills.