Family Travel

Your Minimalist Packing Guide for a Family Beach Vacation

We are ALL about “less is MORE” (so much more) over here. Especially when traveling with kids. So look no further, because we’ve got your go-to guide for minimalist packing for beach vacation with your fam.

We’ve been on MANY a beach family vacation. Cabo, Florida, Hawaii (my favorite and a GREAT option for a beach vacay :)), Cancun…a beach vacation is always a good idea.

And here’s what I have learned in allll the beach trips we’ve been on (and most of the trips we’ve been on for that matter).

You really don’t care as much about what you’re wearing as you think you will. And you aren’t going to change as much as you think. Beach wear and a few nice outfits for dinners and you are SET. Capsule wardrobe at its finest 🙂

Psst. If you can’t get enough sandy vacations by the water like us, don’t miss our epic round up of affordable (AND magical) beach vacation rentals HERE.

Alright, let’s get into it- your ultimate guide for minimalist packing for a beach vacation with kids in tow!

Minimalist packing tips for a family beach vacation

1. Less is MORE – There is nothing I hate more than traveling with a ton of stuff when also trekking along my kids. Free hands = a less stressed mama.

The fewer bags and totes and backpacks and car seats and suitcases we are packing, the LIGHTER and more ready I am to help my kids!

There is nothing worse than a little one having a melt down (which they will) and you having a bajillion things in your hand ALSO. Yuck, the WORST.

Our goal is always to pack 1-2 suitcases for the entire family for every trip we go on. Even on longer trips, because most likely we will be able to wash our clothes somewhere! (usually an Airbnb). And for short trips, carry-on luggage is a non-negotiable.

2. Layers, layers, layers – This is KEY to packing minimally. What are items you can bring that easily mix and match and layer (for you and the kids!). Pack the pair of shorts that can be worn a few times over and matches everything.

Bring the sweater that can be thrown over all the sundresses you’re planning to wear. This goes SUCH a long way when it comes to packing minimally for a beach vacation. Layers are just a great way to keep things minimal and light.

3. Long sleeve swimsuits for kids, ALWAYS – Honestly, this isn’t even because I am that super sun conscious mama. (more power to you if you are!). It’s because when I am at the beach, I don’t know about you, but I want to RELAX as much as possible.

At least as much as my kids will allow 🙂

And kids having on a long sleeve bathing suit is one LESS thing I have to worry about. Having to just lather on sunscreen to their legs and face multiple times a day is just a game changer in my opinion.

We are all about making family trips as absolutely life-giving as possible. This is just one of those small, simple things we’ve learned over the years that really takes away a beach pain point.

Minimalist packing tips for a family beach vacation cont.

4. When in doubt, leave it at home– I know I know, I sound ruthless. But I promise if you are questioning if you need an item…you probably don’t.

I am guessing you won’t miss it at all once your feet are in the sand you’ve got ocean waves for days in front of you :).

The minimalist packing list for a beach vacation with kids

Clothing Items Checklist for Mom, Dad, and the kids

* A sweater – First thing, because it’s the one item you probably aren’t even thinking about. And can REALLY dampen your experience if you don’t have. I always get cold on beach vacations at night. Once that sun goes down for the night, I’m always thankful to have a sweater to throw over my shoulders for sunset time and beyond.

– Shorts-  For the beach, we like to pack 1 nice pair of shorts and 1 sand-friendly, athletic type shorts

– Tank tops

– Shirts

– Pajamas- 2 sets of sleeping clothes TOPS for each person…this is our trip standard always!

If you’re not quite sure what the temperature will feel like at night, merino wool is a solid choice for pajamas. The BEST fabric for travel because it is cooling if needed, but also keep you warm if the temps drop.

– A few sundresses for dinners or exploring town- Some of my favorite beach sundresses here!

– Sandals- 1-2 pairs of sandals is really all you need. One pair of flip flops you can just slip on and one nicer pair for dinners

– A swim cover up– Your beachy travel wardrobe wouldn’t be complete without a cover-up. Pack a dress or a sarong to throw over your bathing suit and go grab lunch in!

– A sun hat– I prefer a more pliable one that can easily fit in a suitcase. If not though, this hat clip for your bag is a travel game changer!

PRO TIP – Fill the bucket part of the hat with a few items! The key to LESS suitcases is using every square inch of that bag to the FULLEST.

Packing the right swimsuits for the beach

Obviously a critical piece of a water filled vacay. You and the kids are going to be in a swimsuit for 75% of your time away, so you want to make sure you get this RIGHT.

Like I mentioned above, for us, the only way to go is long sleeve rash guard suits for the kids. It both protects them more easily, and is one less thing for you to worry about while at the beach.

Three cheers for one less thing!

It can be hard to find both cute (aesthetic…if you’re a neutral feen like me:)) and affordable suits. Like SO hard. See below the best of the best options that hit all the targets – minimal, cute, affordable, and long sleeve.

And for Mama (because let’s be honest Dad just doesn’t really care right?!). Bring a swimsuit that is not only comfortable but makes you feel CONFIDENT.

If there is one thing that will steal joy from a family beach vacation, it’s you being consumed with what you look like all day while at the water. NO FUN.

Find a suit that makes you be the BEST vacation mom you can be.

My hands down favorite suits for feeling cute and ready to run around by the beach with my kids is Summersalt suits.

I have had the Sidestroke for a few years now and STILL pick it out every time when we have a beach trip. Crazy high quality, verrryyyyy flattering, running at the beach with kid friendly, AND makes me feel like a million bucks.

I like packing no more the 2 suits per person for beach trips. There is just really no need for more. When one is drying you where the other and rotate every other day!

Beach gear for a oceanside vacation with kids

Beach Bag- My go-to beach tote bag. This has been on so many tropical getaways with me now and it is also a staple at home. So classic, versatile, and can really be a companion on any summer vacation.

Another PRO TIP: Same as your sun hat, fill that beach bag up with some soft items you need to fit in your bag. No empty spaces when packing minimally for a beach vacation!

Sunscreen alllll the sunscreen– Our go-to clean, reef-safe sunscreen that doesn’t leave you looking like a snowman if THIS stuff.

Sun protection is a number one priority when at the beach. Make sure to reapply sunscreen every few hours and find some shade when you can. If you do get a burn, don’t forget the Aloe to soothe that scorched skin!

This should clearly be at the top of your beach packing list!

Shade!- If you have kids in tow and aren’t at a resort, it is soooo helpful to have some shade while at the beach. 

These pop up tents are VERY packable and the perfect family beach companion. If you have a super little one, I love these pop up shades for baby at the beach.

– Water Bottles- Something that absolutely cannot be forgotten. You do NOT want to mess with dehydration while on vacation. No trips to Urgent Care while on a trip…pleaseeeee.

Minimalist packing guide for your beach vacation cont.

These water bottles are amazing because not only are the insulated but they mist as well! Perfect for those afternoons that get just a little too hot in the sun.

– Minimal, easy to pack beach toys- These are the BEST collapsible sand buckets. As well as this very pliable beach toy set from Amazon…doesn’t hurt that it’s so darn cute too.

– Goggles- I don’t know if your kids are like mine, but we are somehow incapable of swimming without goggles. If I forgot to pack these, our family beach vacation would be greatly impacted.

– Floaties for super little ones- Again, another hard beach essential to find not in obnoxious primary colors (I know I know, it doesn’t matter…but it DOES TO ME!). These minimal floaties for little ones are everything!

– Baby powder- Have you heard of the baby powder trick for easily getting sand off your skin? This is SO helpful with kids. Especially if you aren’t staying at a resort and there isn’t any fancy showering stations. See this here if you haven’t seen this magic!

* One thing of note I DON’T pack is a beach towel of any kind. If we are staying at either an Airbnb OR a resort, both typically provide towels. So leave that bulky item at home!

If you absolutely must pack a towel, THIS is the ONLY one you should pack. The most compact, absorbent towel there is hands down.

Other beach essentials for packing minimally for a family beach vacation

Pair of Sunglasses– For the kids and mama 🙂

Sunscreen powder for your hair line– Alright a self-admittedly completely neglected item to pack when heading to the beach. This sunscreen powder for your scalp is a serious GAME CHANGER though…something I won’t go without now!

– Travel documents- Letttttt me tell you a story about the time we almost forgot my passport for a trip to the Dominican Republic. ALWAYS bring your travel documents…and double check TWICE.

Beach reads for Mama– Maybe, just maybe if you’re lucky you might be able to sneak in a few chapters of a new book, in between reapplying sunscreen and reminding your child for the 500th time to please WALK at the pool. 🙂 If your haven’t read this one yet, it’s maybe one of my favorite beach/summer reads of all time- you won’t regret it!

A few other tips for minimalist packing for a beach vacation

1. Always roll. You can fit sooo many more clothes (and more likely keep them unwrinkled) if you roll your clothes instead of folding them. Rolling your clothes and lining them up is the clear winner in the packing world. Trust me.

2. Packing Cubes (and I mean QUALITY packing cubes). These are a game changer and one of our travel essentials.

If you are anything like me, and deeply (i.e. obsessively) value organization, using packing cubes when traveling is non-negotiable. We recently upgraded our set to these and I don’t know how we ever went without them.

They make the flimsy one we had before look like chump change. Truly structured and keep your clothes *actually* organized, not falling out of a thin boxed piece of fabric.

I know they are just a bit more pricey. But I promise if you are a minimalist packer/minimalist traveler, organization lover like me…you will thank me later 🙂

3. Pack a laundry bag. My favorite hack is to pack a laundry or garbage bag and as the week goes on put allll your dirty clothes in there. At the end of your trip put the bag of dirty clothes in one suitcase and all your clean clothes and other items in the other.

OR if you are a real pro and in a vacation rental, wash all those clothes BEFORE going home. The best feeling to not have to do a massive load of laundry the second you get back from a relaxing vacation.

Final family beach vacation tips cont.

4. Split your day in two. Here’s what I mean…with young kids, it is TOUGH to spend absolutely all day in the sun. With the many, many beach trips we’ve been on we know this to be true- EVERYONE is happier with a little afternoon downtime out of the heat.

Kids attitudes have a chance to recoup. You get a bit of time to rest. A bit of time to reset back at the house or hotel room is a MUST in our opinion.

Bonus if every other day you rotate who takes that rest/nap time duty and then the other can get in some coveted, magical alone time!

5. Head back to the beach at sunset. Our truly FAVORITE thing to do on beach vacations every night, is head back to the water at sunset. There is something just straight up magical about the ocean at sunset, and we love soaking that up every chance we can get.

At least one of the nights, let the kids swim…there’s nothing more core memory making than a night swim on vacation amirite?! Feeling crazy? Let them jump right in in their cloths- Just the BEST thing.

That’s it friends!

Minimalist packing for a beach vacation will make your getaway just *that* much less stressful. I hope these tips help you narrow down what essential items to bring on your next trip and give you the motivation to leave a few things behind!

If you are flying to your beach getaway, don’t sleep on these flying with kids tips. Less stressful, more life-giving travel with littles is what we are ALL about. Read here for how to not dread flying with your tiny humans!

And if a road trip is your transportations of choice, make sure to check out our round up of road trip essentials HERE

Happy packing! Before you go, comment below- am I missing anything? What other family beach vacation essentials can you not live without?!

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