12 Tips To Rock A Toddler Beach Vacation [+ Packing List] 

November 17, 2022

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Toddler Beach Vacation


Going on a toddler beach vacation is exciting – but can be a little daunting. We are here to put your mind at ease, mom!  

We’ve put together our best tips for tackling a day at the beach with a toddler, and the ultimate toddler beach essentials packing list to keep you sane and in control. 

A day with a toddler at the beach means the chance to watch them take their first gleeful splashes in the ocean, feel the sand beneath their toes, and marvel at the ocean. We live for a great family beach vacation, and we love enjoying the sand and sea with our little ones. 

But even for adults, the sun, salt, and sand can be an acquired taste.  To relax at the beach with a toddler, it helps to come properly prepared – and to be ready to ignore a little bit of discomfort.  The right gear and mindset can go a long way toward making beach days with your toddler enjoyable for everyone. It can also set your kid up to be as excited as you are for future shoreside excursions! 

Read on for our top tips on how to plan and pack for a toddler beach vacation. Don’t forget to grab our beach with toddlers packing list to keep you organized!

Table of Contents

Our Family Travel Resources

Before we dive in, let’s be sure you have our best resources at your fingertips.   

Did you know we have a whole collection of recommended family hotels in the Caribbean? I’ll let you in on a secret, it’s sort of our pride and joy. 

We’ve made it easier for busy parents like you to find the right beach vacation for your family! But don’t take our word for it: Explore our collection using search filters (like room size) designed just for parents. 

Wishing someone else would just handle the logistics for a change? We’re here for that too. We specialize in helping parents narrow down the choices to identify the best Caribbean island and hotel for a top-notch family trip. 

And finally, want more Caribbean travel inspiration in your life? Sign up for our biweekly newsletter, where we feature a Caribbean destination each month and highlight our favorite hotels and family travel tips and resources.

Now, pour yourself a cocktail and let’s get you ready to conquer the beach with your little one… 

Toddler Beach Vacation

Top Tips For Rocking A Toddler Beach Vacation 

Without further ado, here are our top toddler beach hacks and packing tips for a day with a toddler at the beach. 

Toddler Beach Vacation Tip #1: Organization is your friend

Getting to the beach with a toddler can be a challenge, but one made easier with a little planning. If you’re worried you might forget something, keep a running toddler beach vacation packing list to add items as they occur to you, and tick them off as you pack them.

It pays to invest in a beach tote to carry your toddler beach essentials. We are huge fans of the Aloha collection. Specifically designed for moms, these beach totes take a weight off our minds as well as our shoulders. Easy to pack down in your main luggage, they have zipper pockets to keep electronics, pacifiers, snacks, and other toddler beach gear accessible. Plus, the patterns are gorgeous, and will appeal to any mom’s sense of style. Use this Aloha link to get 20% off your purchase!

Whether it’s this bag or another, the best beach bags for moms help you keep everything orderly so you can know – at least in theory – where everything is. Once on vacation, pack your day bag the night before your beach outing, and remember to pop in a few plastic bags or packing cubes for wet gear.

But also, cut yourself some slack. Although it’s important to get organized, details will slip your mind. Don’t berate yourself if you overlook or forget something. 

Grab your toddler beach essentials packing list now, to make life easier on future you. No need to keep it all in your head, mom. We got you.

toddler beach vacation

Toddler Beach Vacation Tip #2: Start out at calm, nearby beaches 

When staying in a hotel with a toddler, it’s a perk to have a beach close by that’s suitable for younger kids. The chance to play in the sand and paddle in gentle, shallow waters, particularly near some food or shade, is top priority. One of the reasons we love small beach hotels with kids is because you’re less likely to have a long hike to the beach. 

If the hotel has its own beach, you know that it’ll be right on your doorstep. This is particularly attractive when nap time suddenly hits, or at the end of the day when you need a reset. The best Caribbean islands for families all have calm sloping beaches at your fingertips. Use our “Calm Beach” filter to find a great hotel for a toddler beach vacation.

If your hotel doesn’t have a calm beach that works for toddlers, that’s OK. Take the time to find the right conditions for your toddler beach day, as it means the kids will last longer at the beach. 


Toddler Beach Vacation Tip #3: Prioritize and reapply sunscreen

Yes it is a pain. Yes it is absolutely on the list of beach must haves for toddlers.  Young kids have especially sensitive skin and a bad sunburn can ruin more than just a day. 

Slather on a base layer before leaving the room. It’s much easier to do it before the kids have laid their eyes on the ocean or pool and are itching to get in.  Plus it gives the sunscreen a chance to sink in.  Reapply at every snack break. 

It can prove tricky to find preferred brands while traveling, so consider stocking up beforehand. This is especially important if your kids have sensitive skin and you need a specific product. Besides, prices are often inflated in vacation towns.

This Neutrogena Wet Skin kids sunscreen stick is our absolute favorite for toddler faces. It’s easy to apply with no white residue. For the body, we stick with Coppertone Kids

As an aside, the same applies to first aid essentials. We suggest you customize your own mini kit to include the classics: antihistamines, hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, band-aids, kid-safe pain relief, and bite cream.

Another tip: keep a bottle of after sun with aloe vera in the hotel refrigerator. If anyone does come back with sore skin, that’ll ease the discomfort and rehydrate the skin.

Toddlers at the beach

Toddler Beach Vacation Tip #4: Cover up with a rashguard

Now, in a glorious tropical destination, sunscreen isn’t always going to cut it. For added protection – and peace of mind – consider adding a rash guard. They don’t hinder mobility and can be worn for sand play and swimming. 

Plus, if your toddler hates putting on sunscreen, a rashguard means less surface area to cover. Win-win. 

When you’re using reusable swim diapers, they look like swimsuit bottoms. So all you’ll need is a rash guard top.  There’s no magic to picking the right one, but we like this simple UPF 50 rash guard for a pop of color.  We recommend sizing up to make the rash guard easier to put on, and to ideally get more than one season out of it.


Toddler Beach Vacation Tip #5: Pack reusable swim diapers

Assuming your toddler is still in diapers, swim diapers go on the list of must have beach items for toddlers. Consider using reusable swim diapers rather than disposable ones, which are easier to manage and take up less space in your suitcase. 

Bear in mind that these types of diapers work differently from regular ones. They’re engineered to contain solids but not to absorb liquids, so you’ll still need regular diapers for the flight and getting out and about. 

These i play by green sprouts reusable swim diapers are the best we’ve found for efficiency and comfort. The snap closure means they fit better than other makes while the wicking liner reduces the risk of diaper rash. They’re machine washable and work back home for swim class. 

When choosing swim diapers, you’ll find that brands run a little on the smaller size. Check the reviews to help choose the closest fit for your toddler.

Toddler and toys at the beach

Toddler Beach Vacation Tip #6: Be selective with toddler beach toys

Toddlers at the beach have an infinite playground of sand and sea to explore. It’s almost instinctual to cram a bag with playthings, but, in reality, they may not need a ton of entertainment. Trust the natural seaside toys and take collapsible versions of tools and buckets for building sand castles that won’t take up too much space in your suitcase.  

This set of collapsible travel beach toys for kids includes a pop-up sand castle bucket with an assortment of sand molds. You can reuse it for years to come, and on domestic beach getaways too.

Do throw a book in the bag; this helps lure your toddler under the parasol for a siesta. Avoid the risk of losing or soaking favorite stuffies by leaving those safely at the hotel. If you’re on the hunt for travel toys that will also keep your toddler entertained on the plane ride to the beach, check out this list of great toddler travel toys from Twins and Travel. 

Once your little ones learn to swim, we recommend bringing along kid-size snorkel masks. Renting adult ones is straightforward, but it can be trickier to find children’s versions. Snorkeling with kids is a great way to immerse them in the underwater world.

Welcome drinks for toddlers

Toddler Beach Vacation Tip #7: Keep your toddler hydrated 

While on a family vacation with a toddler at the beach, you’ll need to keep everyone  well-hydrated. We suggest investing in a reusable bottle with a built-in straw or a sippy cup. Basically, anything that’ll help you avoid sand getting inside.

Cute and practical, these kids’ water bottles by Snug have a push-button lid to minimize the risk of sand getting in. They’re BPA-free and made from insulated stainless steel to keep contents cool.

Remember to carry small change in the local currency so that you can top up with extra drinks and ice cream while at the beach. 

Toddler Beach Vacation Tip#8: Find a sun hat that stays put

There are a ton of hats available to protect toddlers at the beach from getting a sunburned face. Choose one with a wide brim, neck flap, and UV to provide the most substantial protection. Meanwhile, chin straps keep the hat in place on a windy day. 

This SimpliKids wide brim sun hat blocks out UV rays with UPF 50+ and keeps heads cool with a breathable fabric. The body of the hat is adjustable so you’ll get a few years out of it, wind permitting!

A side note for parents, some toddlers (ours included) simply won’t keep their hats on at the beach. In that case, give yourself total permission not to worry about it. Try it out, but just let it go if it doesn’t work, and take extra shade breaks.

Toddler with sun hat on the beach

Toddler Beach Vacation Tip #9: Protect sensitive feet with toddler beach shoes 

Another place where toddlers can really feel the burn is the soles of their feet. Water shoes can provide a barrier from hot sand in addition to pebbles or coral. These are also typically more comfortable than sandals, which can trap and run sand against the feet. 

Feet can breathe easy with these stretchy kids’ water shoes by FEETCITY. They roll down nice and small while the non-slip base makes them suitable for pool use.


Toddler Beach Vacation Tip #10: Bring shade for your toddler at the beach

Some beaches have loungers with parasols for rent, others don’t. If you take your own supply of shade, it means you have the liberty to visit quieter beaches. We can vouch for toddler beach tents. You’ll probably find that your kids are more willing to take cover in one of these as they have that secret den element.

This fuss-free Pop N Go PlayPen requires next to no assembly. It’s windproof with UPF 50+ and folds neatly into an easily-portable carrying bag. As it accommodates up to two adults, you can sit with your toddler and relax for a sand break. 

As another tip, if you have a long walk to the beach, note that Caribbean hotels often provide large umbrellas in case of a tropical downpour. These come in handy for creating shade while walking to and from the beach.

Toddler in the Caribbean beach

Toddler Beach Vacation Tip #11: Bring hooded beach towels to wear home

 After a lovely day with your toddler at the beach, getting back to the resort can be a different story. Rather than wrestling them into regular clothes when you peel them out of wet bathing suits, make your job easier with a nifty wearable beach towel. This saves you from having to pack a towel and a change of clothes.

Thick and luxurious, this quick-dry oversized poncho toddler towel by Willow + Sim is ideal for the journey back to the resort. 

If your bag isn’t already bursting, pop in a bottle of baby powder. A sprinkle of this removes sand from hands and feet prior to leaving the beach or eating, easing the transition from wet to dry.


Toddler Beach Vacation Tip #12: Take something off your plate

That pretty much wraps up our toddler beach tips and packing guide. 

If you’re feeling apprehensive at the thought of booking a toddler beach vacation or have unanswered questions, consider enlisting a travel advisor to help you plan the ultimate family beach vacation! 

Our Mango Tree Travel planning service is designed with families in mind to streamline the process, leaving you free to focus your energy on designing your dream vacation. For less than the price of a fancy dinner out, we’ll guide your way to the right beach destination for your family. Less stress, more fun! 

The Toddler Beach Essentials Packing List

Maybe you don’t need travel planning help – and that’s OK too. Sometimes, all you need is a 2-pager to keep yourself organized. That may be the only way to ensure you don’t forget what you need.  

We get it. That’s why we made you a simple, easy-to-follow toddler beach vacation essentials packing list to make sure you remember all the gear!  When you sign up for our biweekly newsletter, you’ll get not only a full packing checklist for a toddler beach vacation, but also links to our favorite toddler travel gear. Grab it now before you start packing!  

(And just as a preview, your second email will give you some of our best tips for sharing a hotel with a toddler! Just sticking with the theme of keeping mom sane….). 

toddler beach essentials


Is it safe to take a toddler to the beach? 

Of course it is! To be sure, we want to offer our toddlers at the beach sufficient shade, sun protection, and water so they stay hydrated and cool. But toddlers love the sand and sea, and with your help will thrive on a beach day. 

How long should a toddler be at the beach? 

Check in with your toddler throughout your beach trip and pay attention to their energy levels and mood. Younger kids might tire after an hour or two and need to return to the room for a cooldown. Bear in mind that even on a cloudier day, sun exposure impacts toddlers more than teens and adults and that having access to shade and water is important.  

It helps to plan your days with a toddler at the beach to avoid the hottest part of the day – usually between 12:00 and 15:00.  Good thing that’s when toddlers typically take a nap! It makes it easy to avoid overheating. 

Should I bring a stroller to the beach?

Strollers have their benefits as a place to nap while under shade at the beach. On the other hand, strollers and sand don’t mix so you will need to prepare to carry it. This really depends on what you – and your toddler – feel most comfortable with. 

Parents often joke that we take “trips” with little kids, not “vacations.”

Not with Mango Tree. Everyone's on vacation with us.

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