We’re a beach family.
To be more specific, my wife, two kids and I are routinely found pinned between sand and saltwater for as much of summer as any human beings can possibly handle.
We have saltwater and sand in our veins.
That also could be from the fact that I eat a lot of saltwater taffy on vacation...and the kids always manage to drop what they are eating in the sand and quickly pick it up and eat it. (It’s my fault. I should have never introduced them to the five-second rule.)
Regardless, the annual week vacation at the beach has extended to two such weeks in recent years since the family ballooned to four.
Packing for the beach used to be a five-minute process of grabbing and flinging a few things into the back of the car. Now, I need a spreadsheet and an accountant to keep it all straight.
Lucky for you, my experience can help you prepare.
I fancy myself somewhat of an expert on the topic, so get ready to brush up on how to properly pack for the coastline and keep those kiddos in a summery mood.
Your toes have not even touched a grain of sand.
But it all starts here.
The long car ride to the beach is the one place we allow the kids to play on tablets—no questions asked.
But Josh, isn’t that a lot of unnecessary screen time for little kids?
First of all, who said that? Second of all, it is very necessary to help bridge time from house to beach, and I consider this moderation for your sanity.
Be sure to also pack books and handheld action figures/dolls. Make your car ride choices interesting ones, because these items will also act as a bit of incentive to get your kids back in the car. You’ll have enough angst trying to navigate traffic. Don’t be a hero. Pack the cool toys.
I profess, my knowledge is currently limited to little dudes.
And given my limited wardrobe, to say I have knowledge about style for any demographic is a stretch.
However, I am a fan of using long-sleeved swimwear to shield them from the sun, as well as dressing them in brightly colored ones to ensure they cannot escape you, no matter how far down the beach they run (Mwuhahaha!).
I prefer nuclear green and radioactive orange to ensure they are always in sight.
Also, nothing says, “I’m a fan of hipster toddlers” like an oversized baseball or fishing hat. Yes, it will help keep the sun out of their eyes, but with the right lid, other gawkers on the beach will find it impossible to keep such style out of theirs.
Also, invest in water shoes. Your kids’ feet will be both sandy and wet, somehow. Socks are about as useful on a beach as skis.
You need towels, but how many? It’s a question I encounter before every trip.
When travelling with adults, the equation is simple: one adult = one towel.
When travelling with multiple children—each of whom are both indecisive and impulsive about whether they are done going back in the ocean or not—you might need a degree in Advanced Trigonometry.
The best I can figure is: (Number of kids) multiplied by (number of hours you plan to spend at the beach) + two for each adult (the kids will want yours the most, trust me) = total to bring.
You may need an extra truck to pack them.
Mess this part up, and you’ll be neck-deep in grumpy.
Bring enough shovels and buckets to make a foreman blush. They’ll all fight over the one “good one,” but at least there will be enough to stand in place of castles that fall over.
Kites are a good call for a windy day. Just be sure to wear sneakers, parents. You will be chasing that string for miles.
I also recommend a toy that is built to be chucked into the water and allow a wave to carry it back in. We have a plastic toy known affectionately as “surfer dude” that rides the waves back in.
Your kid will want to throw something and want to be in the water for a time. Two checkmarks with this toy. Just be prepared to get soaked when it starts drifting away down the coast when your child abandons it for the next toy in line.
Mess this part up, and you’ll be lucky to be neck-deep in grumpy.
Be sure whatever you bring for food can withstand the oncoming flood of melting cooler ice cubes. I’ve had plenty of soggy bread from not heeding this advice.
Take three juice boxes for every child. To avoid in-fighting, be sure each child has an equal representation of the following:
-Juice box size
-Juice box images (I dare you to give only one kid the Batman juice boxes and the other nothing but Robin).
Others to consider
Beach tent: helps with shielding them from the sun and is a useful fallback bed if they are getting sleepy from all the running around
Extra small duffle/canvas bag: I don’t know, quite frankly, what you will use it for, but it always seems to come in handy for my dirty, filthy children
The largest package of hand wipes you can find: No matter what, your kids’ hands will be obliterated and caked in sand, but this will at least start the de-sanding process.
What can I say? Kids come with baggage.
Despite the small caravan worth of goods to store and lug around, it’s all worth it—every last juice box and surfer dude.
Trust me. I come from a beach family.
Josh Farnsworth is a husband, father of goofballs Cooper and Milo, goofball himself, and award-winning writer and columnist living in Worcester. He can be reached for column ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.