Sunscreen, Beach Umbrella, shovel, microscope....
July 6, 2013 6:45 AM   Subscribe

I am packing for an afternoon-evening beach trip with our kids. Since we are leaving in the afternoon, instead of first thing in the AM, I have time to really think about packing. What are some great things to pack for the beach that people don't think of or forget? (for instance: The book you've been meaning to read, a gallon or 2 of water you leave in the car to rinse off sandy bodies, baby powder to help get off sticky sand, portable kids microscope for looking at sand/critters, baggies to bring home found treasures)
posted by beccaj to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My family went to the beach just about every summer when I was a kid, and to my long-suffering dad's chagrin we would completely pack the family SUV with every beach toy, accoutrement, and contingent that any member of the family could possibly think of; inflatable rafts, toys, extra toys, alternative toys, etc. etc.

Based on our actual (versus anticipated) beach activity, we could have gotten away with pretty minimal equipment:

* Towels/blankets/chairs for sitting on
* Towels for drying off/wrapping up in
* buckets, plastic cups and shovels for sand castle building (very important!)
* sunscreen
* brimmed hats
* cooler with drinks and snacks
* Frisbee
* boogie board (if the kids are old enough for it)

and that's pretty much it. Water for rinsing off is a good idea! My family usually stayed somewhere right on or near the beach that would have an outdoor shower for that purpose.
posted by usonian at 7:10 AM on July 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Depending on how ambitious your (or your kids') sandcastle plans are, you could bring some professional-style sand sculpting tools. I'd suggest some plastic cutlery, a couple spatulas, some old paintbrushes and a water mister would be a good start.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:36 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

For kid's, a BIG shovel. Forget the little plastic one that comes with the pail. Bring a decent size shovel, or at the very least a garden trowel. With a big shovel they can be KINGS OF THE BEACH! They can dig a huge hole to bury a human (be smart from the very beginning...) up to their necks or they can build a half-scale model of the Taj Mahal or whatever. Little shovels are for babies, go big or go home.

If the beach isn't too crowded and the kids are old enough a kite is fun to have. Older kids might want a stunt kite to use if there's enough open space or if the kids are younger you can just get a regular kite up high and leave it there.
posted by bondcliff at 8:07 AM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

posted by Fairchild at 8:31 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Usonian has it.

I would add extra towels for the car seats on the way home.

1. If your kids for whatever reason don't want to dry off before getting in the car, it's easier than a tantrum
2. Car seats get hot when you are at the beach for a long time
posted by donut_princess at 8:32 AM on July 6, 2013

First aid kit (hand sanitizer goop, band aids, rubbing alcohol, couple of bigger gauze pads with tape, maybe burn spray, benadryl...)
Bug spray
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:45 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

usonian pretty much has it.

We usually brought at least one beach umbrella. Extra towels are always a good idea. As well as sunscreen, bring something for sunburn just in case, and bring along some ibuprofen, tissues, a bit of disinfectant and some bandaids (one of us always wound up stepping on a sharp shell or something), and maybe bugspray (depending on the beach). Also, depending on the food being eaten my mother brought a few Tums in case someone overindulged.

Depending on the beach and the wind (or lack of it), it can cool down significantly when the sun starts to go down, so make sure you have something to use as a cover up just in case.
posted by gudrun at 8:48 AM on July 6, 2013

With a big shovel they can be KINGS OF THE BEACH!
Bondcliff speaks the truth! It's such a standard practice in my family that it didn't even occur to me to specify. Even a folding army shovel is a massive improvement over the tiny, flimsy plastic ones. (And in the case of a folding army shovel, it can be fixed in a half-open position which makes it ideal for scooping operations.) Thus armed, you can dig a large hole until the water starts to seep in from below. This will give you large pile of sand on which to build the castle keep, and a basin that you can dig trenches to and from, channeling water as the tide comes in. (Look up when high tide is; if the timing works out, one of the all-time best beach activities is to time the completion of your sand castle to the arrival of the tide, then watch the ocean slowly consume it.)
posted by usonian at 8:56 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Strongly agree with usonian's general minimalism, but will add:

If you bring a few baggies for beachcombing, add some cotton or tissues to the baggies for packing delicate seashells. Much nicer to come home to unbroken treasures :).
posted by third rail at 8:56 AM on July 6, 2013

Metal detector?
posted by fairmettle at 9:54 AM on July 6, 2013

I am a beachgoing pro and I tend to think less is more. It's possible to bring every human comfort but then your enjoyment is lessened by managing all the junk.

In my always-ready-to-go beach bag we have:

Paddle ball game (whatever toys you enjoy)
Tapestry blanket for HQ and sunbathing
Towels for each person
Bug spray (sometimes there are horseflies and mosquitos in the evening)
Hats for everyone, non negotiable
Big water bottle
Sunglasses for everyone
A generous t-shirt or coverup in case shoulders start burning
A small travel hairbrush for detangling after swimming
Reading material
Chair if you want - I pride myself on having the Cadillac of beach chairs (drink holder! Fully extendable to lounge position!) but my other half does not care for a chair.

Going to the beach with kids, you can get a lot of mileage out of a net, as suggested above. THey are pretty badass for catching minnows and crabs. Pails are important to have, but I don't think kids get super interested in those special sand-molding plastic forms - it's much more fun to freestyle a sand sculpture - a blast in fact, and with the right kids can keep them busy for hours with a great, satisfying result. They also enjoy stuff that is really simple from the kitchen that is fun to use around sand and water - berry baskets, turkey basters, little bits of plastic hose, sifters.

For shell collecting, definitely bring the cushioning material. But even better than Ziplocs are rectangular tupperware sandwich containers and other food containers - they are very protective against getting crushed in the bag.

I learned the hard way to leave electronics and wallet in the car. Bring cash if there are concessions and don't bother if not. If you must bring your keys to the beach instead of hiding them in the wheel well or similar, hook them to the handle of your beach bag with a carabiner or something. Lost keys at the beach are rarely rediscovered.
posted by Miko at 10:07 AM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

• Leave-in conditioner + comb right after getting out of the water = tear-free detangling
• Small ziplock bags to keep your touchscreen phone in: it still works through the plastic
• Medium-size ziplock bags for any wet clothing
• Jumbo ziplock bags or garbage bags to dump sandy towels into
• Instant cold packs to refresh the cooler, or bodies
posted by thebazilist at 10:17 AM on July 6, 2013

OH I almost forgot our favorite thing - these plastic whale beach towel clips. WE use these to hold down the corners of our beach blanket, and they work really well, making windy days A-OK. And we never have to go looking for rocks. Every time we go to the beach someone asks where we got them (Christmas Tree Shop, but clearly also available online). Simple solution to the perennially irritating problem of having your blanket flap in your sleeping face because of the breeze.
posted by Miko at 10:18 AM on July 6, 2013

If I'm going to be in an area with jellyfish, I always bring along a small bottle of vinegar in case of stings. I've never actually used it, but would rather give up a bit of space in my bag than be without if someone needed it.
posted by youngergirl44 at 11:15 AM on July 6, 2013

I think some sort of shade-providing structure is mission-critical. I live at the beach, and see many young families out with tent-like shade-makers. These have the advantage over the classic beach umbrella in that they are less apt to go flying in a breeze.

Comfortable beach chairs for the grownups, a la Miko's recommendation, are worth shlepping.

If your beach day ends up being too cool and breezy for lots of water-time, and there is room on the sand for the kids to move around, kites can be fun.
posted by nacho fries at 12:02 PM on July 6, 2013

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