beach with kids

Visiting the beach in the summer months seems like a childhood rite of passage. Growing up my family took a trip to the coast of Maine every summer. I have fond memories of those beach vacations and it was a trip I always looked forward to. Flash forward to today and I find myself planning monthly vacations to the beach with our kids. The wide-open sand and surf provide a sense of freedom and normalcy we haven’t felt in a while. Yes, splashing around in the waves and searching for seashells is fun, but you always have to keep safety in the forefront of your mind when visiting the beach with kids. When everyone in the family is informed and on the same page, a family beach vacation can be both memorable and stress-free. 

Are you planning on visiting the beach with kids this summer? Unsure of how to visit safely regarding COVID-19? Or is this your first family trip to the beach and you’re wondering where to start? If so, this post is for you. From the best beaches to social distance and COVID-19 specifics tips to beach safety with kids 101, I’m covering it all. Ready to rock your trip to the beach with kids this summer? Let’s go. 

beach safety with kids

COVID-19 Specific Safety Tips When Visiting the Beach with Kids

1. Do Your Research

Be sure to thoroughly research the area you plan to visit as each state has different guidelines. (No one wants anyone surprises when they arrive on vacation!)  What are the current guidelines or restrictions? Has the destination you plan to visit had any recent outbreaks? Are beaches open to the public? Where will you park? Are restaurants open for dine-in, or only delivery and take-out? Are public restrooms open and cleaned often? And so on, and so on. 


Wrightsville beach

2. Wellness Checks Before Travel

If possible, get a COVID swab or clearance from a medical provider prior to your trip. The COVID swab turn-around is generally 48-72 hours so if you can get tested a few days before you depart, you can rest assured knowing you’re not contributing to the spread. If the timing doesn’t work for a swab, then at the least you should do a symptom check on each family member. Questions to ask: In the last 48-hours have you had a fever greater than 100F? Shaking chills? Dry or persistent cough? Shortness of breath? Worsening fatigue? Loss of smell? Sore throat? Or nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea? 

3. COVID-19 Hygiene Items to Pack

You may already pack these essentials, but in light of COVID you want to triple check that you bring the following items:

  • A mask for each family member, as well as plenty of extras 
  • Hand sanitizer, at least 60% alcohol
  • First aid kit
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Gloves (for pumping gas if driving and/or cleaning surfaces)
  • Travel thermometer

4. Who Should I Travel With?

It’s recommended to travel with members of your household or close family/friends who you frequently contact (grandparents, babysitters, close friends, etc) who may also be helping with childcare. 

best kids beaches

5. Which Beach Should I Visit with Kids?

If possible, visit a beach that is within driving distance of your home. If you can get from Point A to Point B in less than 3-hours you can likely avoid stopping for gas, bathroom breaks, food, etc, all of which are potential places where you could be exposed. 

It’s also a good idea to visit less popular beaches, for example, Oak Isle versus Myrtle Beach. Not only will there be fewer crowds, but you’ll also have more of the beach to enjoy!

beach safety tips

6. Where Should I Stay When Visiting the Beach with Kids?

Although there’s not a 100% safe way to travel this summer, when choosing accommodations, staying in an Airbnb is probably a better decision than a large hotel chain. The guest turnover is generally less and by opting for a stand-alone house versus a condo or apartment you’ll further reduce your exposure to other guests/residents.

If an Airbnb is not available at your destination or you simply prefer hotels, there are several things you can do to maximize safety. A few tips include: 1) defer housekeeping to limit the number of people in and out of your room 2) disinfect commonly used surfaces and objects like remotes and doorknobs, and 3) avoid areas where people are likely to congregate, such as the lobby, coffee shops, retail stores, or fitness centers if open.  

Whether you choose a hotel or Airbnb, be sure to read up on how their keeping guests safe, including mask guidelines, cleaning practices, as well as confirmation of check-in/check-out times as these have likely been adjusted. It is also essential that your accommodations have a good cancellation policy should your travel plans change. 

travel with kids
Backyard of our most recent AirBnb

7. When is the Best Time to Visit the Beach with Kids?

In order to avoid crowds, I recommend visiting the beach either early in the morning or at dusk. By visiting during these ‘off’ times you’ll essentially have the beach to yourselves and as a bonus, you’ll also beat the intense midday heat! (UV rays are the strongest from 10 AM-4 PM.) 

**Pro-tip: As for daytime activity, choose to visit non-beach attractions, like a botanical garden, museum, or boardwalk, etc.  

best time to visit the beach
Dusk offers the best lighting for photos, too!

General Safety Tips When Visiting the Beach with Kids

Now that you know how to minimize your exposure to others, here are 10 essential safety tips to help you approach your next family beach vacation with ease and confidence. 

family on beach

1. Stick Together

Our family motto when traveling is ‘ we always stick together’. Prior to departing for the trip have a conversation with your kids and establish a plan. For example, ‘When we first arrive on the beach and while mom and dad set up our site you can play on the blanket or nearby sand. There is NO running to the water until everyone is ready.’ It is very challenging to keep an eye on your kids in the water and set-up your site at the same time. It’s pertinent everyone understands the plan and is also able to recognize and clearly identify your site. 

**Pro-tip: Avoiding setting up your site near like-colored umbrellas or blankets. This will make finding your site much easier. However, if this is not possible, point out nearby landmarks your children can easily spot. 


kids running on beach
Excited kids racing to the beach

2. Sit Near a Lifeguard Chair

This strategy is two-fold. 1) the lifeguard chair is an easy landmark to spot if children cannot find your site, and 2) you’ll have an extra set of eyes on your kids while they’re in the water.


Advise your children that if they cannot find you, no matter what, head straight to the lifeguard chair. Lifeguards are much better at assisting lost children than them wandering the beach alone. 


family beach trip

3. Swimming Safety at the Beach

Swimming in the ocean is very different than swimming in a pool and even the ‘calmest’ waters can quickly turn. Always swim with a buddy, avoid rocks, piers, etc, and be sure to educate your kids on what a riptide is, and what to do should they encounter one. 

NEVER swim against a riptide, swim parallel to the beach until you are out of the current.


And if your child is not a strong swimmer they should wear a floatie or life jacket anytime they are in or near the water. Bottom line: you can never be too prepared when it comes to water safety at the beach. 

kids at the beach
We prefer to visit dusk and swim in the shallow tide pools

4. Obey the Safety Flags

Different colored beach flags are used to warn visitors of potentially dangerous conditions. A green flag means the conditions are calm and safe to swim. Yellow means there are light currents and caution is advised. Red means there are strong currents and it is not recommended for children to get in the water. Double red means the beach is closed, and a purple flag means jellyfish or other hazardous marine life are present.   

5. Sun Protection

As mentioned above, it’s best to visit the beach early in the morning or at dusk when the sun’s rays are less intense. It’s not uncommon for the UV Index to be 8 or higher in North Carolina in the summer months. This means that you are at a very high risk of sunburn and if unprotected skin and eye damage can occur within 15-minutes. Try to limit your time in the sun between 10 AM and 4 PM, and if that’s not possible diligently (and frequently) apply sunscreen, lip balm, and use umbrellas or tents for shade. It’s recommended to apply sunscreen before you even step foot on the beach, either before leaving your house or once you park. Walking to the beach and setting up your site can often take longer than 15-minutes and by then someone could already be burned! 


Keep in mind that no sunscreens are truly waterproof, and thus they need to be reapplied every one and a half to two hours, particularly if a baby goes into the water. [1} 


**Pro-tip: Set a timer on your phone to remind you when it’s time to re-apply. 


I also highly recommend brightly colored rashguards for both boys and girls. Rashguards offer a second layer of protection from the sun, and if you chose a bright color it will make it easier to spot your child in the water. Many of them even come with a built-in SPF! 


In addition to consistent sunscreen application and rashguards, provide your children with other protective gear including sunglasses and wide-brimmed hat


baby on beach
Bright rashguard for the win!
beach safety with kids

6. Keeping Baby Safe in the Sun

Babies have thinner skin than adults and cannot regulate their body temperature as well. For this reason, they are at higher risk of heat-related injuries, especially babies 6-months and under. If you’re visiting the beach with a baby plan your activities when the sun’s rays are not so intense and also bring your own form of shade like an umbrella, tent, or canopy. 

blue and yellow umbrellas on seashore

7. Lots of Water!

Bring double the water you think you’ll need and remind your kids to drink often. Trust me. You can entice them to drink more by packing flavored water, sports drinks, a juice-water dilution, or even popsicles as a means to stay hydrated. You can also pack fruits with a high water content like watermelon, strawberries, or cantaloupe to sneak in extra fluids.  

beach with baby
Cool as a cumumber with beachfront shaved ice

8. What Foods Should I Bring to the Beach?

Packing food for the beach can be a little tricky since you have to take into account several factors, including cooler space, food that can stand the heat, degree of messiness, and the inevitable ingestion of sand. 

Foods to pack: 

  • wraps 
  • sandwiches cut into small portions (if one portion gets sand on it then at least the whole thing isn’t wasted)
  • granola bars
  • yogurt
  • whole fruits (grapes, apples, bananas)
  • applesauce pouches
  • crackers and pretzels
  • veggies and hummus
  • pasta
  • trail mix 

9. Water Shoes

The sand can get very hot, not to mention stepping on a jagged shell can ruin your day in a hurry. Water shoes can help protect your feet from the heat and any unforeseen injuries.  

10. Other Beach Essentials

  • wipes
  • plastic bags to keep phones sand-free and a another for wet clothes
  • garbage bag
  • rash cream
  • cooler back in the car with cold drinks
  • lip SPF
  • kiddie pool to keep baby cool 
  • beach toys (don’t go crazy, a few shovels and a bucket are plenty)
  • mallet for securing umbrella/tent into the sand 
kids jumping in ocean

Visiting the beach with kids doesn’t have to be stressful and overwhelming. No, it’s not quite like the old days when the only decision you had to make was deciding which bathing suit to wear. BUT with proper planning and by following these beach safety tips, you can ensure your next trip to the beach is the best one yet! 

What are your favorite beach safety hacks? Leave them in the comments below! I’d love to hear. 



XO, Stephanie



[1] AAP: Baby Sunburn Protection

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