Planning for a beach trip used to mean packing a bag and beach chair for yourself, and identifying the nearest grocery and liquor stores. But once you have a baby, you have to plan to tow a lot more gear with you too. The term “vacation” takes on a whole new meaning as a large part of your job–your baby–is coming on vacation with you. Admittedly though, some of my best beach trips have been with my babies because we’ve learned to plan ahead, be prepared, and keep it simple with the following tips.
LIMIT YOUR LOAD
Yes, you need to bring more than your own bag and beach chair now, but don’t overdo it. You only have two hands, and one of those has to go to holding onto your child. So I’ve tried to break it down into the five essentials “carry ons” you’ll need to enjoy some fun in the sun:
- A massive mesh bag: This should hold anything that is intended to get sand on it, including towels, beach toys, picnic blanket, child flotation devices, and sunscreen. The mesh will allow some of the day’s sand to fall out on your walk back from the beach.
- A Diaper bag: This is not a vacation from your baby, or her dirty diapers and other baby messes. So pack diapers (including swim diapers), wipes, and change of clothes. It is also helpful to have either cornstarch or baby powder with you to clean wet sand off of your baby when it’s time to leave. Either of these will work to absorb extra moisture so that the sand brushes off easily. This is also a good place to keep plastic grocery bags for wet or dirty clothes, as well as trash. As most diaper bags have multiple compartments, this may be a safe space to store your keys, wallet (if you need it), phone, and camera.
- Insulated bag or ice chest: Gone are the days of passing out from dehydration and being resuscitated by a cute lifeguard. It is vital to bring enough water with you. I suggest freezing partially full water bottles the night before so that they remain refreshing throughout the day–especially if you are a nursing mom. They can also help keep your other food cool. Bring extra water because you may need it to wash off pacifiers, bottles, little fingers, etc. You can keep formula in this bag, as well as baby food or healthy snacks for the day. Cut up grapes, frozen yogurt pouches, and cheese sticks or cubes are all good options if they can be insulated from the heat.
- Portable shade: Perhaps you are an umbrella person or maybe you prefer a tent. There are also smaller pop up tents just for babies. Whatever your instrument of choice, your baby will require shade. If under 6 months old, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends avoiding sun exposure rather than exposing infants to the chemicals in sunscreens, so she will require shade during your entire trip. Even if your child is over 6 months old, it is best to have an escape from the rays for them too. When I had an infant, I preferred not to bring a massive tent with me. My baby was happy in her swing, so we just brought an umbrella to place over her. As my kids were mobile and I had more of them, we began to bring a large tent that everyone could share. It’s really up to you.
- Beach chairs: Hopefully you can find the $5 kind that comes in a carry case and just swings over your back. It’s relatively easy to bring these with you, and nice to give your bum a break from the beach.
How to CREATE A WORKABLE SPACE For baby at the beach
This will differ depending on your needs and your baby’s age. Regardless, it is still the beach–you will be hot; you will be sweaty; your baby will be sweaty. You are going to want to put your baby down somewhere. Instead of laying down multiple beach towels, it’s helpful to have a picnic blanket, sheet, duvet cover (they are more likely to stay put with the wind and are washable), or some other surface where you can lay your baby and keep some of the sand off of your stuff. You can also dig a hole, lay out a sheet inside, and bury the edges to create a play pen on the beach. Or you can substitute a shower curtain liner from the dollar store, and just add water and toys to create your own baby pool.
DRESS BABY FOR SUCCESS
For infants under six months, this means a lightweight onesie offering head to toe coverage, and a hat. Babies older than six months require swim diapers and a UV protective swim shirt. I recently came across a Upf. 50+ coverall swimsuit that offers full coverage of baby’s arms and legs. The brand name is Coolibar and can be found on Amazon as well as Ebay. This is genius and will save you from scrambling after your little one with hands full of sunscreen. The sand gets hot for sensitive little toes so you’ll want water shoes too. To keep your baby safe from any accidental swims, puddle jumpers are your best pal, and of course what baby beach ensemble is complete without a hat and sunglasses. For nursing mamas, a lightweight beach cover up can double as a nursing cover to save additional space and stress.
SCHEDULE AROUND THE SUN
According to the AAP, it is best to limit sun exposure between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. This is where having a baby can be an advantage–your little one will probably rise with the sun if not before. The beach during the summer is like New Orleans during Mardi Gras–you have to get there early to secure your spot. When your human alarm clock arises, it’s time to grab breakfast and hit the beach. You can take a break at 10 for a snack, lunch, and hopefully a good nap after hours of fresh air. Then it’s back to the beach around 4 to soak up some fun when your skin is safe from the sun.
Toting tots to the beach may mean adding some luggage and subtracting some sleep, but it also means multiplying the memories you can make with your family. Make the proper preparations before you hit the road and you may still get to sip on your favorite frozen beach drink after all.