Summer Journal: Top 10 things to pack for the beach.

What to Pack for the Beach

After a month traveling to Pennsylvania from Florida via car, our little road trip headed South.

Final destination, South Walton County and Seagrove Beach. Purpose: a great end to a wonderful summer adventure. A week at the beach with the whole family.

As you can imagine, packing for such a long time away was tough. We had to prep for Pennsylvania mountain weather, which can be cool, even in the hot summer month of July, but we also had to keep in mind the grande finale to our road trip; a week at the beach in the Florida Panhandle. At the beach it was going to be REALLY hot and really sunny. Needless to say, we had very full suitcases, but we also had limited space. Even with an SUV and a bubble attached to the roof racks things can get tight with 3 adults, 2 kids and a dog, cute as she may be. So, I had to pack as smart as possible. Since doing laundry was not going to be an issue, we packed light cloths and layers for those cooler PA evenings.

Here is my top 10 list of must have, must pack items for your family week away.

1. Sunscreen and lots of it.
Since we were going to be out in the Florida summer sun every day, be it touring the towns, down on the sand or in the pool, this was a MUST. Avoid any chance of sunburn and apply each morning in the buff. GEt out of the shower and lather it on. Be sure to get the kids before heading down to the water, or out in the heat for that matter.

2. As many beach umbrella’s as your SUV can hold.
Shade is important, especially if you are going to be at the beach for more than 2 or 3 hours, but especially if you are planning to stay for a week. Spend play time on the sand in the shade. Enough said.

3. Chairs, and I mean those low comfy ones.
If you can’t fit them in your car, get a few immediately upon arrival. Being able to snooze, read and generally and comfortable relax on the beach is KEY.

4. Towels. Lots and lots of BIG beach towels.
We have a boat load of amazingly large and oversized beach sheets (towels). These hugely oversized towels are not really for anything but covering as much sand as possible. Try to wrap a child up in one to dry off and you may loose them. Ours were from Costco. Hang them to dry and take them with you each day to the sand. Forget washing them until you get home.

5. A full bar.
Thank you Katherine. She ingeniously packed up her “bar” liquids of choice in plastic water bottles. Everything made the trip just fine and when we were done, it all just went into the recycling bin, and we did finish every last drop. This saved us a lot of shopping time and effort at the start of the week. It also made happy hour instant upon arrival.

6. Water shoes & Floats
Even on the soft sand of the Florida Panhandle’s white sugar beaches, there can be prickly things. It also gets VERY hot. Avoid burning toes and get some cheap water shoes. These made wading in the shallow surf more comfortable for the little ones and walking to and from the house easy on our little piggies. Also, don’t forget a few cheap floats, a boogie board or two and a skim board if you dare. All so fun, but more importantly all very entertaining for the kids so that us grown ups could sit and relax. The whole reason for being at the beach, in my opinion.

7. Matching outfits for your kids.
I know this sounds cheezy, but do it. We made many stops along our month long journey. Each morning we planned an outing I would do my best, that is if they cooperated, and dress my girls in cute, comfy matching outfits. My purpose, well it looks super cute in photos, but mainly to protect them. If one got lost, heaven forbid, I could show someone exactly what the other had been wearing. I also would take a photo of them as we were leaving the house, or upon arrival at our destination. This was also insurance should anyone wander off. A photo would be at my finger tips immediately showing exactly what they were wearing and how thy looked that specific day. This may sound extreme, but it isn’t. We live in an extreme world. I prefer to be prepared and on the winning team at all times.

8. Thermos Hydration Bottles.
These are pricy. Believe me I am familiar with this issue. The kids versions are around $14 (available at most major big box stores) and the adult size over $20. Sorry about that, but you must have one. They REALLY do keep ice ice for about 12 hours, even in the heat of the summer and at the beach. This was a fabulous way to keep hydrated at the beach and happy hour going as we watched the sun set on the sand, if you get my drift.

9. A great camera.
Reliving a great beach vacation thru great photos is so delightful. Beautiful photos of fun family times are priceless, so don’t forget to take lots of them. Invest in a great large format digital camera if you are able. We shoot with a Canon EOS Rebel. If you can’t, or don’t want the hassle of lugging this big camera around, something small and digital is just fine. But whatever you do, take lots of photos.

10. No agenda.
This is by far the most important one. Seriously, leave your grand plans and scheduled days at HOME. Relax and enjoy each other. Remember vacation is all about getting away and recharging. Keep it simple. Keep is slow.

Happy End of Summer. Happy Travels.


Elizabeth Montgomery James

After living in California for several years, Beth and her husband, Rod, relocated to Florida, to live, work, and play. They have two adorable daughters, and Beth is very involved with her children’s schools as a parent volunteer, Daisy troupe, and other community organizations such as the Junior League. Beth enjoys crafts, yoga and fitness, as well as a nice glass of Chardonnay. Beth is a graphic designer who has worked on national and international ad campaigns for top consumer brands, and now brings her talents to a variety of projects in and around Central Florida. In addition for bringing classic elegance to everything she touches, Beth has a natural talent for making everything pretty, from kids’ birthday parties to her garden.

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