Sand Away Beach BagI remember my pre-kids beach days fondly. Waking up on a sunny day, throwing on a bathing suit, lathering on sunscreen, grabbing my beach chair, and heading out the door. The total contents of my beach bag consisted of a book and a bottle of water.

I am now the mother of four boys under the age of 6, and a day at the beach has taken on a whole new meaning. Now I need an hour to pack the beach bag (void of all magazines and books) and about twice that long to get the kids into bathing suits.

What I Pack In My Beach Bag

Going to the beach with kids is a serious commitment. You don’t want to get there and realize you forgot something. So I am thorough. Very thorough.

Here’s my checklist: 

Umbrella with beach hook (I will not chase an umbrella down a crowded beach); beach chair; towels; sunglasses; aloe; a camera (to capture memories and remind kids about them later); sunscreen (spray-on for kids who can’t stand still); a mesh bag (for all the sand toys, buckets, shovels, and beach balls the kids will end up not playing with); beach cart or wagon (my husband refuses to make 10 trips up the beach path); baby wipes (for the child who insists on using his sand-coated hand as a napkin); and a cooler bag with plenty of drinks and snacks (I freeze drinks the night before so they stay cold).

I always thought my beach bag basics were the same as other moms’. But I was wrong.

What Other (smarter!) Moms Pack

New Jersey Family surveyed readers and asked what they pack in their beach bags. Having spent many summers at the beach, I considered myself a beach aficionado—until I read what other New Jersey moms consider beach-bag essentials. Some of their items and ideas made me say: “Wow, why didn’t I think of that??!”

  • Baby powder to remove unwanted sand from little bodies (how did I not know about this?).
  • Hand sanitizer (beach bathrooms are always out of soap).
  • Ziplock bags to hold wet bathing suits, extra clothes, wet towels, etc. (better than throwing sandy stuff back in the bag).
  • Large cork to throw into the surf. The waves bring it back to the shore and it keeps kids occupied for hours (also an excuse to drink wine the night before).
  • Snow sled that “glides” on the sand and holds all your beach essentials (the kids can help with this one).
  • Portable baby pool for kids (a much better idea than making a hundred trips back and forth from the shoreline to bring water to the blanket).
  • Bug spray (anyone who has ever been bitten by a beach fly knows this is a must!).

Thanks to New Jersey Family readers, our bags are now perfectly packed and we are ready to hit the beach. Happy summer!

Nicole and her family vacation on Long Beach Island; she loves to sit in her beach chair and people-watch. Visit her blog, mommy&everything.

Like the bag in the photo? It’s a One Step Ahead Sand-Away Beach Bag.

Have more ideas? Let us know in Comments!