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Packing for the Beach or Pool with Toddlers in Tow :: Keeping it Simple

Nothing says relaxation like a day at the beach or pool with young kids, am I right? YEAH, RIGHT. Packing to bring kids anywhere can be a chore. And going to the water is no different. I’m here today to give you a few tips and tricks to make packing for the beach or pool day—and the ride home—a little easier.

packing for the beach or pool with toddlers in tow


When going to the beach, I typically pack quick snacks and handheld sandwiches that won’t fall apart. My favorite beach has a picnic table. So I bring along a plate and utensils for each kid—in case we choose to sit at a table. Everything goes in separate zip lock bags. These keep sand out; and, when we are done eating, I use one bag for trash and one for dirty dishes. (Pretty sure there are reusable bags that would work for this too.) I pack all of these in a cooler bag and stick a few ice packs or frozen water bottles inside. Nashville Shores doesn’t allow outside food or drink. (But sometimes, if you ask nicely and point out that you have a baby, they let it slide.) Just remember to be a good person and clean up after your family.

packing for the pool

I pack in zip lock bags so I can corral trash in one bag and dirty dishes in the other.

Sunscreen and Safety

I’m a big proponent of sun safety. Melanoma cancer killed my grandpa, so I don’t mess around with it. I always get my kids lathered up with sunscreen before I load them into the car. If I wait until we arrive, their excitement upon arrival means I end up chasing them around—and not getting them as covered as they should be. I also use  lip balm with SPF on my entire family. After years of being a zookeeper and spending days outside, this product became my go to for protecting my lips from being fried by the sun. This stuff works great too. (Also available at most drugstores.) My kids also have these hats. They stay on well, and I love the big flap that covers their ears and neck. Whether we are at the beach or a pool, I always try to find a place in the shade to set ourselves up for home base.

Additionally, I carry a small see through bag on me for any minor emergencies we may face. Inside I keep band aids, antibacterial cream, and pain reliever.

Don’t forget life jackets!

Sand Toys

On beach days, I bring a handful of water toys, a few small construction trucks for my son, and a water friendly bag to carry it all in. I got this tote at Target a few years ago, and they still sell it. I like to pack toys in a container that I can dunk in the water to get all the sand off when it is time to go. Mesh bags offer another good option for smaller toys. Handles are a must for me! I have designated beach toys. When we return home, I simply hang the bag back up in the garage for the next time.

packing for the beach with toddlers


Other random items include beach towels, water shoes, diapers, and wipes. I store these in a zip bag along with hand wipes for lunch time and beach chairs for the beach. We’ve been shopping for a good beach umbrella, but haven’t made a decision yet. Have one you love? Let me know!

packing for the pool or beach with toddlers swim stuff gear

The Bag

If you know me, you know how much I appreciate organization. Picking a beach bag that allows you to stay organized makes your life easier when searching for something. This is a great bag. It has a cooler on the bottom and is roomy enough to fit several towels. I really dig the easy to access external pockets. And you can’t beat the price of this bag. It has seven individual pockets—some of which are mesh for items that need to dry. Sometimes, just a regular grocery freezer bag does the trick. The nice thing about a non-mesh bag? Sand won’t get in. This one doesn’t have any individual pockets, but it is HUGE and will fit everything. You also wouldn’t need to pack a separate bag for food since this would keep it cool.


My stroller is my reinforcement when I take kids by myself. It not only helps me carry everything but also helps me corral my kids when it is time to go. I can buckle my youngest in while I clean everything up and convince my son it is time to go.

packing kids for the beach water play summer fun toddlers

Packing Up

When it comes time to leave, I always give the sand toys a good rinse or shake and put them back in their bag. If we are at the beach, I undress my kids and give them a good dunk in the lake to get a majority of the sand off. Then I carry the kids to the stroller. If my husband is with, we carry them directly back to the car. On pool or Nashville Shores days, I just wrap my kids in a towel and set them in the stroller.

Setting up a changing station in the back of my car allows me to dry the kids off and put on clean diapers. I usually don’t dress them since I throw them in the tub as soon as we get home. BUT. I do always pack a clean change of clothes in case something comes up. Dirty suits and towels go into a plastic grocery bag which I carry straight to the laundry room when I get home. The bag with sand toys gets hung up on in the garage as do life jackets. After I wash the towels, they go back in the bag. I leave the sun screen and lip balm in the bag as well. These small steps make it much easier to pick up and go for the next water day. 

packing for water play beach or pool with toddlers

I hope some of these tips work for you! Nashville has a lot of great splash pads, beaches, and—of course—Nashville Shores. My family has a season pass to Nashville Shores as well as an annual pass to Cook Beach on Percy Priest. This beach is pristine—and even has a playground on property. Going there eases my homesickness for Minnesota lakes! I hope to see some of you in the water real soon!

What other trips or tricks do you know?
Have you heard of the baby powder trick? Has anyone tried this?

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