You’ve taken your whole family — a party of six — to Kauai. Yesterday you hiked Waimea Canyon and took silly selfies with a waterfall (“A holiday card contender!” your spouse enthused). The day before you ziplined through a rainforest that had you crazy-screaming (but loving it). Today you’re ready for some closer-to-home time on Kiahuna Beach which is just a few minutes walk from your home base, gorgeous Koloa Landing Resort on the Sunny South Shore. You know that a great day spent with family at the beach is even better with a little planning — especially because your kids range in age — so you check your family beach vacation packing list of must-haves to be sure all your ducks are in a row.
Here are your top-ten, tried-and-true must-haves for the beach:
1. Freeze the day!
Chasing crabs and surfing swells work up a mean hunger. Nothing can make or break a day with family at the beach like food and drink, so you bring loads of it (and then some). Your Koloa Landing beach resort’s guest room has a kitchen, so you invested in some baggies, and froze as much as possible the night before: pineapple chunks, strawberries, grapes, orange wedges, sliced banana, yogurt packets, cooked shrimp, Snickers bars, gummy bears, cookies, brownies, nuts — and of course a few water bottles. Everything tastes better at the beach cold and you didn’t need to pack any ice (because who of us brings freezer packs in our luggage when taking trans-oceanic flights?) You stored all your goodies in an insulated tote (that was easy to pack in the bottom of your suitcase). You keep it in the shadiest spot just behind your chair on a folded towel rather than in the hot sand. You also know that using individual baggies for sandwiches etc. will ensure that IF you get sand all over something, it’s not sand all over everything! No one likes a grainy PB&J. . .
2. Gimme shelter
Mick Jagger might not have been referring to a day at the beach, but these words protect you from the elements. (Pasty-skinned rock stars do seem good at avoiding the sun . . .) No matter how much sunscreen you slather on, you also throw some shade on it. You always pack an umbrella, tent or pop-up canopy to offer your family a way to escape the rays. Family friendly beach vacations are a marathon, not a sprint, and you like to prolong your ability to hang out on the beach as much as possible by not getting fried. No one wants to take the island vacation of a lifetime only to have to hide indoors all day spraying aloe vera on their scarlet shoulders.
3. Have a blast:
Music makes everything better. It can lull your little ones off to sleep and get your spouse dancing on a moment’s notice. Today’s Bluetooth speakers are so easy to pack and to use — and many are waterproof. You took requests from your family and created a tasty beach playlist. Your spouse even threw on “The Ocean” by Led Zeppelin.
4. Powder power
You know that a little sprinkle of baby powder or talcum powder on your hands and/or feet works wonders to get the sand off. By absorbing the moisture that is sticking the sand to your skin, the powder allows the granules to smooth right off. Much more efficient than rinsing with water (and lighter weight to schlepp) this is one of your favorite must-haves for the beach. Ideal for cranky-exhausted toddlers or after your teen buries your spouse up to the chest.
5. Blanket statement
You asked your resort for an extra blanket. No combination of small, damp, sandy towels can make your stay at the beach as comfortable for all as one nice, wide swath of blanket to stretch out on — especially for mealtime. You know that everyone will call out your littlest one when he runs onto the blanket in his super-damp-sandy feet because it happens every time.) Tell your kids that whoever tracks the least amount of sand onto the family blanket wins the day.
6. Clothing time
You wandered to the water’s edge just to dip your toes in, but your teenagers had a different idea for you. The next thing you know you’re cry-laughing as they carry you past the shallows and plop you into the water — T-shirt and all. Few things are less comfy than wearing wet, sandy clothing so pack extra changes for all. Your dedicated “wet bag” will make it easy to carry home all your damp clothes. Though some of the best family beach resorts are right on the sand, allowing you to duck into your room for a change, most are not — so you planned for that walk home!
Sure it’s relaxing to stretch out on a big towel or blanket, but for the long haul, you’re happiest sitting up to eat, watch the kids, read your book and chat up your spouse. Your back thanks you, too. Many family beach resorts will rent you beach chairs and the ones you can wear like a backpack are your favorite.
8. Water water everywhere
Your kids range in age and in skill level so you always borrow or rent surfboards, boogie boards, skimboards, swim fins, snorkels, water shoes or even a kayak or two to take advantage of the gorgeous waves, swimming “pools”, tidepools and reefs. How else will they keep up with all the local humuhumunukunukuapua’a?
9. Always be game
You love to be that fun parent who not only packs an array of pails, shovels, sifters, and cups for some serious sand-pie making but who also comes armed with games to play together. Scavenger hunts keep your little ones happily searching to fill their pails with treasures: a pink shell, a feather, golden kelp, driftwood, sea glass, etc. Write up your list before leaving home. For your older kids, you don’t just bring footballs, Frisbees and/or paddle balls: You create a family tournament, keep score and announce winners: Your daughter gets first place and wins a nice, fresh sand pie.
10. We all scream for sunscreen
You always apply your first round before you leave the resort because it needs time to sink in. Also, with your whole family at the beach, there is a variety of ages, skin types and activity levels, so this is not a one-size-fits-all gig. (Here’s a link to the latest recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics on sunscreen.) You follow their suggestion of hats, sunglasses, and cover-ups, minimizing sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and reapplying a broad spectrum 15 SPF or higher every two hours, and after swimming or sports. Sprays are convenient for sandy skin, but you find they can be trickier to apply correctly — especially by your excited and impatient kiddos trying to spray each other in a tropical breeze.
Bonus Tip: The Rules: The beach can be distracting and dangerous. So you always set some ground rules for your kiddos before your adventure begins and repeat them upon arrival. You point out the lifeguard’s location, discuss the tides and make sure they understand rip currents, and why it’s important to stay together.
If you would like more help creating your family beach vacation packing list, the concierge at Koloa Landing Resort on Kauai’s sunny South Shore has many ideas and beach hacks. Click here for more info about our Kauai resort or to book a room for your best family-friendly beach vacations ever.
Erica Karlin — Koloa Landing Resort