Beach Bound with Babies


Long before my sweet little ones came into this world, going to the beach meant gathering a few friends in my convertible and heading east for a day of bronzing and relaxation. Fast forward 15 years and two kids later, and a day at the beach has a completely different meaning. Sure, I’m still the same olive-skinned, expert swimmer, sand and shell lover from my teenage years, but a day in the sun with my “entourage” in tow is not as relaxing as it was in the late 1990s. But I am a lover of the beach, and I refuse to let my new life mom status discourage me from enjoying the sun and sand! With some planning in advance and the right tools, any mom can successfully spend a sunny, stress-free day by the sea!

A day at the beach begins the day before. I can’t think of a time that I’ve ever woke up and thought,”I think I’ll take the kids to the beach today.” Sure, I am blessed to live only seven minutes away from the sand, but the preparation it takes to make sure you have everything you need for a day in the sun is too much for me to even consider doing at the last minute. Pre-planning and organization is the key to success for any toddler activity (or almost anything in life, for that matter)!


A Few Tips For Heading to the Beach

Always pack the car the night before

I put the wagon, beach chairs, beach toys, towels and clean water in large bottles in there. Why? Because it’s one less thing I will need to do in the morning. Between breakfast, emails, Mickey Mouse and showering, I know I’ll have enough to remember. I also lay out our swimsuits and sunscreen before bed (I’ve discovered that doing this actually helps the kids go to bed because they know when we wake up, we are beach bound!).

JMB Beach Bound

Pack a post-beach bag that contains a change of comfy clothes for each child, regular lotion, and a hair brush

This will go in the car the night before and stay in the car until our day of sun fun is done. I organize the snacks that don’t need refrigeration the evening before, too. I usually have an arsenal of fruit snacks, apples, bananas, pop tarts, and pretzels. I steer clear of things that will melt.

Check the weather and tides before bed to make sure that nothing has changed from the earlier forecasts

I recommend going when it is low tide. There’s more beach to explore, and low tide creates small tidal pools, usually only a few inches deep that are perfect for little ones. Off to bed we go, dreaming of rolling waves and sunny days.

JMB Beach Bound-on the beach

Pack a few separate bags!

In the morning, we eat breakfast and gather the last bit of things we need. I pack a soft-sided cooler with bottled water, Capri suns, and buddy fruits. I also back a very small cooler with just two drinks that will stay in the car. I gather a bag of “on the beach” essentials, including sunscreen, a few hand towels, a bottle of water (for washing sandy hands before eating snacks), lip balm, hair ties and the kids’ portable radio. I have a separate “electronics” bag. It’s a plastic-lined small bag meant for wet clothes, but I find it useful for my camera, iPad, phone and anything else I don’t want to get wet.


Before we leave the house, I completely slather them with sunscreen, paying special attention to their face, neck and ears. I will reapply a few times throughout the day, but I always start the sunscreen at home.

JMB Beach Bound-sunscreen

Park where there is easy beach access!

Because I’m bringing a wagon, I need a beach access with a ramp. We usually head to 6th Ave South in Jacksonville Beach. For those of you that don’t remember, this is where the pier used to be before Hurricane Floyd damaged it in 1999. It was later rebuilt a few blocks north. There is a large parking lot adjacent to a volleyball court and picnic area. I unload the wagon, beach toys, chairs, cooler, beach bag, electronics bag and the kids and off we go.

Head to the beach in the morning if you can

Once we hit the sand, I reapply them with a spray 110 SPF sunscreen. Overkill? Maybe,- but I like to err on the side of caution. We spend the next few hours sunning and funning, reapplying sunscreen frequently and staying hydrated. We always visit the beach in the morning and never stay more than 2 1/2 hours at a time. If we “beach it” in the morning, I am almost certain that they will nap in the afternoon. Also, the crowd at the beach in the morning seems to be much more “family friendly” than the afternoon/after high school is out crowd.

JMB Beach Bound 2

Don’t forget about post-beach clean-up!

Leaving the beach is a process in itself. Remember those water bottles I mentioned that I put in the car the night before? This is where they come in. I lay a towel down in the back of my SUV and remove the kids salty swim clothes. I douse them with the clean water (that is actually warm from being in the car) and remove all the sand from their bodies. I lotion them and dress them in the clean change of clothes (the ones we packed the night before).

JMB Beach Bound-post beach cleaning

I give them each a fresh drink (in the small cooler that stayed in the car) and put them in their car seats. The last thing I want to do is search around in the parking lot when we are all ready to leave searching for something for them to drink. I’ve done this so many times that I’ve got it down to about 10 minutes, tops! Sometimes, the babies are asleep by the time we cross over the Intracoastal Bridge.

What’s your no-fail beach trick?

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Jessica Morgan
Jessica was born in the “Bold New City of the South" and loves her some Jacksonville. Not only is J-Ville the place where she was raised with her twin brother, but is it also where she met and married her super-handy hubby, Melvin. Together they have a lovely daughter named Lily and a very competitive son, Henry. In a previous life, Jessica was an Event Coordinator for many years at a local country club. But at 40, she took a leap of faith- trading in her fancy weddings and parties for block crayons, lavender oils and melodicas to become the Director of Special Events at her children's Waldorf school. Jessica has appeared on local tv discussing topics ranging from Black Friday to couponing, - dirty hair, consignment sales and summer camps. Jessica enjoys Florida Gator Football, all things Disney, inappropriate jokes, singing show tunes, making fudge, big ugly shelter dogs, reading Emily Post and writing in cursive. Keep up with all Jessica's antics at


  1. One of the best beach tricks I’ve learned is to use baby powder to remove sand. Just apply it to any sandy areas and all the sand falls off like magic! And your skin feels and smells so nice after! 🙂

  2. Erin stole my tip 🙂 I think I am going to park at 6th ave south from now on, and just sit by you!! You have it down pat!! Im also thankful for my outdoor shower!!

  3. I am very organized when it comes to the beach but never thought of bringing a little rug! That’s brilliant!

  4. I’m so glad I found your blog. I’m moving to Jacksonville with 2 little ones (one is still in “the oven” as I type), and I am sure going to use all your tips. Specially what beach to go. Thanks!

  5. Such awesome tips. Baby powder too is also a huge help with removing sand!

    I hope your little ones straps are not twisted and loose like that when you drive! Chest clip should be at armpit level. But I know how kids are (I have 4!) … They like to be in chargebofvthoer caraway and I always have to untwist and readjust later!

  6. We live equal distance from St Aug & Jax beaches and while planning the night before is always ideal we have many days when we wake up and decide last minute or pick up after school for a few hours at the beach. That being said we prefer Vilano so we can drive on, easy walking access to the showers and bathrooms (not porta johns), beautiful sand and lots of tidal pools:) it definitely doesn’t hurt that we have to pass Luli’s cupcakes on the way or that a delicious dinner at the Gas Station or an ice cream from Cold Cow is just a few miles away!

    All great tips! Though I find the baby powder trick works best when the kids are totally dry—mine rarely are. When they were a bit younger we would fill an igloo drink cooler (think the kind coaches get doused with after a game) with warm water & bring one of those cheap bbq drink buckets you can pick up in Target. Before heading home the cooler was put in the back of the hatch and the basin below. Baby was placed in and bathed using the cooler and a “shower” then sister stood in the water for her own rinse off. Those cheap little rugs or bath mats are great for dirty feet or even things in the back that are still damp. A laundry mesh bag is a great way to rinse the toys and keep them together too.
    My only thing is the sunscreen. My kids have sensitivities/allergies so we have tried nearly every brand on the market and some Rx ones too. The Peds dermatologist did tell us that to make sure that we apply at least a medicine cup amount per child (seems like alot) and that anything over 50spf is a false sense of security and too many chemicals for the little guys. Lotion and sticks all the way. Definitely sunscreen before because once those feet hit the beach— well it would be like trying to grease a squirmy pig covered in pebbles:(

  7. Mother of five here, all grown but one now…she is nine. All those are wonderful tips!One of the greatest things about living near the beach for me is being able to already KNOW that we’ll be going repeatedly. That in mind, as soon as the warmer weather begins I pack a beach bag of essentials and keep it ready. Gives room for spontaneous beach/pool time and less frustration. After beach trips everything gets cleaned and put back in the let’s-go- bag.
    This was an easy transition for me because as my babies were little I learned to keep my diaper bag packed and ready to go by the door. More time to spend with precious little ones if you’re always prepared. 🙂


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