The Ultimate Packing List for Your Family Holiday at the Beach

Be extra prepared for your beach getaway with our comprehensive packing list

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A close up view of a sandcastle and some beach toys in front of a young family in the background at the beach

The holidays are fast approaching and the kids are getting excited about building sandcastles and splashing about in the sea. You, on the other hand, are thinking ‘what should I pack for a beach vacation?' - panic stations. And that’s where we come in. Here at Plum Guide, we know all there is to know about family beach holidays. We know all the best destinations, plus where to stay, what to eat, and how to spend your time once you get there. So, what should a family take to the beach? Read on for our expert guide on all the must-haves.

1. Personal items and documents

Two passports on a world map with a camera and some sunglasses

Two passports on a world map with a camera and some sunglasses

Sometimes, the most important items are the ones we forget (typically). Avoid getting caught out at the airport, and make sure you remember the essentials:

  • Tickets and booking confirmations
  • Passports and required visas: Do your research well in advance - you never know what sort of quirks and hidden surprises each country may have in place. Preparation is key.
  • Travel insurance: Easily forgotten, but absolutely essential - a life saver in every sense.
  • Health insurance
  • Foreign currency: Make sure you grab this ahead of schedule. The last thing you want to be doing is exchanging in the airport terminal, where rates are notoriously poor.
  • Credit cards
  • Driver's licence
Summer Wellness, Plum Guide home in Santorini, Greece

Summer Wellness, Plum Guide home in Santorini, Greece

2. Travel gear and luggage

A blue and white beach bag on a sandy beach with flip flops and a large hat

A blue and white beach bag on a sandy beach with flip flops and a large hat

This is the important travel gear you’ll need:

  • Suitcases: These days you can find a wide range of lightweight suitcases - anything to save on weight.
  • Electronic cable storage: These are a lifesaver when it comes to organising cables.
  • Day pack or backpack
  • Beach bag
  • Luggage locks
  • A dry bag: This is great for keeping valuables dry, including electronics and any spare changes of clothes.
Yoga Nidra, Plum Guide home in Ibiza, Spain

Yoga Nidra, Plum Guide home in Ibiza, Spain

3. Electronics

A person lying on a sandy beach while looking at their phone

A person lying on a sandy beach while looking at their phone

Some might argue that the beach should be an electronics-free zone. However, there are a few cases (especially if you’re travelling with kids) that can be made for gadgets on the beach. Some of the most useful electronics you may want to pack include:

  • Phone and portable chargers
  • Camera (obviously)
  • Universal plug adaptors
  • Tablets
  • Headphones
  • Waterproof Bluetooth speaker - Keep the volume down though. You don't want to be that person.
Quiet Days in Malibu, Plum Guide home in Los Angeles, USA

Quiet Days in Malibu, Plum Guide home in Los Angeles, USA

4. Clothes and accessories

A close up view of reflective sunglasses and a straw hat at a beach

A close up view of reflective sunglasses and a straw hat at a beach

When it comes to clothing for a fun beach holiday, it’s all about dressing light and staying comfortable. Breathable fabrics such as cotton, linen, and rayon are designed for hot, humid weather, and will help you stay cool. Here are our beach clothing picks:

  • Shorts
  • Trousers for evening wear
  • Skirts or light dresses
  • T-shirts or shirts
  • Swimsuits
  • Swimsuit cover-ups
  • Pyjamas (for the younger family members)
  • Flip flops or sandals
  • Hats
  • Sunglasses
  • Beach towels
  • Water shoes: If it’s low tide, or you’re simply trying your hand at rock pooling, water shoes will help protect your feet from sharp coral and rocks.
  • SPF protection shirt (sometimes called a rash-guard): This has built-in SPF protection, which not only saves you from a sunburn, but also means you don’t have to apply sun cream underneath. We can all agree that putting sunscreen on an uncooperative child isn’t how we want to spend our holiday.
Zebras on the Beach, Plum Guide home in Cornwall, UK

Zebras on the Beach, Plum Guide home in Cornwall, UK

5. Toiletries

A close up view of toothbrushes and other toiletries in a bag ready for a family holiday

A close up view of toothbrushes and other toiletries in a bag ready for a family holiday

Toiletries are essential on your family beach packing list. Depending on where you’re visiting, there may already be certain toiletries provided, so it’s worth checking first. Here are some of the most essential toiletries to bring on your family getaway:

  • Toiletry bag
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Soap
  • Toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Razor
  • Sunscreen: There are plenty of kid-friendly, reef-safe sunscreens on the market. Some places even ban the use of certain sunscreens which are harmful to coral reefs, so be sure to check the environmental rules of using sunscreen at your destination.
  • Aloe vera: This is always a good thing to have, just in case someone gets a nasty sunburn which needs soothing.
  • Lip balm with SPF: Don’t forget to protect your lips from the sun too.
  • Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitiser: Super important if you’re travelling with kids, as little adventurers' hands can get very dirty, very quickly.
  • First aid kit: It's always a good idea to stay safe with your family beach packing list, especially if travelling with young kids.

As well as these essentials, you may also want to add in a few things for the 'what ifs' of the trip:

  • Paracetamol or other painkillers: Always have these on hand in case someone gets a headache.
  • Rehydration sachets: Being in a warm, sunny place can often lead to dehydration. Rehydration sachets are useful as they replace lost salts and fluids.
  • Antihistamines: Rashes and itches aren’t uncommon, and antihistamines are great for relieving insect bites and stings.
  • Insect repellent: If you’re going somewhere tropical, it’s wise to bring insect repellent to keep those unwelcome creatures away.
  • Waterproof bandaids: It’s going to happen sooner or later, so better to be prepared - you’ll need waterproof ones by the beach.

6. For the little ones

A close up view of a bucket and spade in the sand at a beach on a sunny day

A close up view of a bucket and spade in the sand at a beach on a sunny day

These are just a few extras you may want to bring if you have younger kids:

  • Beach toys: These are half the fun of going to the beach. Exactly what you bring will depend on how long you’re staying there and how active you want to be, but some favourites include a bucket and spade, beach ball, frisbee, inflatable toys, goggles, snorkel mask, and water pistols.
  • Life jacket or flutter board: You don't want your youngest having to miss out on the water fun, do you?
  • A tent or a portable umbrella: If you find yourself somewhere with no shade, you’ll be glad you can still keep the sun off.

What to bring for the journey

Depending on how long your journey to the beach is, you’ll want to have things prepared to make the journey as seamless and tantrum-free as possible.

  • Travel games: UNO or other card games, mini board games, or small gadgets will all be great options.
  • Ipads or tablets: Make sure you download a few films or shows for the kids, just in case you don’t have wifi.
  • Blankets, neck pillows, cuddly toys: The more comfortable the kids are, the less fuss there will be (or so we’d like to think).
  • Their favourite snacks: A foldable cooler bag is perfect for keeping snacks and lunch items cool - you can't have them going hungry on their special day at the beach.

7. Packing tips

A fully packed suitcase, with rolled up clothes and a straw beach hat

A fully packed suitcase, with rolled up clothes and a straw beach hat

Now that you have all you need on your family beach packing list, the next step is to actually pack everything. Here are some handy packing tips and tricks to make your life that little bit easier:

  • Packing cubes: These fit neatly in your suitcase, and help contain your clothes in a more compact space - they also help you organise each person’s clothing if you're sharing a case.
  • Roll your clothes: If you don’t have packing cubes, rolling your clothes also helps to save space.
  • Car cargo carriers: If you’re taking a road trip to the beach and need more space, these will come in handy.
  • Less is more: Make sure you don’t overpack, by laying out everything you need for your trip and then cutting it back. Be ruthless - do you really need all six pairs of shoes?
  • Match your clothing: Make sure your tops and bottoms are interchangeable, so you can mix and match. All kinds of spills happen with children, so it's always good to be a step ahead.
  • Think about hand luggage: If you’re travelling by plane, sometimes hold luggage can go missing. Prepare for all situations by making sure your valuables are in your hand luggage, and that you have a spare change of clothes - you could even pack swimwear, so you can hit the beach while waiting for your luggage to catch up.
  • Wear your heaviest items: Wear your heaviest shoes and clothes for the journey, to save on luggage space and weight.

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