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You've got summer vacation booked (or maybe you're trading in winter dreariness for fun in the sun down south). Everyone's excited, the reservations are made, and everything seems ready for the perfect beach vacation with your kids. But wait! Before you hop in the car or on the plane, make sure you're really prepared. While you probably know most of these tips already, it never hurts to review before you hit the beach. The ocean is a great family-friendly location, but it can quickly become dangerous if you're not careful, and you don't want to take any chances with your precious little ones.

Read over these suggestions and keep them in mind while packing, planning, and enjoying the beach, and you'll be sure to have a safe, healthy trip - and tons of fun!

tips for traveling to the beach with kids

The More SPF, the Merrier

Sun protection is the most important thing to keep in mind when planning. Protect your kids from the sun with high-SPF sunscreen; many child-specific brands out there have high SPF and special formulations that are designed especially for children's sensitive skin. If you're bringing a baby, basic sunscreen is not enough! Keep baby fully covered in protective clothing, rimmed hats, sunglasses, and preferably under a tent or umbrella. Pack sunglasses and hats for older kids, too. Your child may not want to wear these into the water, but they're great for time spent building sandcastles, collecting seashells, or munching on midday snacks. Also, an umbrella provides a perfect home base when the kids need a break - not to mention a perfect place for you to relax while you keep an eye on them.

Lifeguards Shouldn't Replace Mom or Dad

Your kids need to be supervised the whole time you're at the beach, and you need to be the one watching out for them. Another adult in your group can take over, but someone you know - and who agrees to the responsibility - needs to be on hand and actively supervising the kids at all times. Lifeguards and other parents are not responsible for your kids, and you shouldn't act as though they should be. If you would rather play around yourself or you don't want to tote around the kids, hire a babysitter or ask a friend or family member to help. Whatever you do, don't drop the kids off to fend for themselves. The potential dangers are just too many and too great.

beach vacation with kids

Lifegaurds Are Still a Must, Though

Stay near the lifeguard. You never know when you'll need the lifeguard's expertise, and hopefully you won't, but in the case of an emergency, you want all the odds in your, and your child's, favor. This all hinges on going to a beach with a lifeguard on duty - which is an absolute must for visiting the beach with kids. Clearwater Beach, Florida is a particularly child-friendly beach, with plenty for the whole family to do, smooth white sands, and activities both on and off the beach. Myrtle Beach is another popular family destination with lifeguards on duty, or if you're willing to take an international trip to the perfect beach, Levante Beach in Benidorm, Spain is an international favorite for its safety and cleanliness.

A Shore Thing

Bring flotation devices (like water wings and boogie boards) but don't rely on them. If your kid can't swim, accompany him or her into the water and stick to the shallowest parts. Even if everyone in your family can swim, encourage everybody to stay close to shore. Tell adventurous kids who want to swim a longer distance to swim parallel to the shore; that way, they can still have fun but not be tempted to go into deep water. Also, some beaches will let you borrow, or rent for a small fee, life jackets for your kids; this is a good idea regardless of whether or not they can swim.

No Diving Allowed

Finally, never let your children dive into the ocean (and don't do it yourself, either). It's generally too shallow in places where the kids can go, and even if it isn't shallow, it isn't transparent enough for you to see the bottom. It's likely to have rocks, shells, sand and any number of things that will hurt your child's head at best or knock your child unconscious at worst. Teach your kids to never turn their backs to the ocean or they'll risk an unexpected wave crashing into them, which can be uncomfortable and  dangerous.

Free Toys (from Mother Nature)

Bring basic toys and keep it simple. Plan for sandcastles and other simple entertainments (collect shells with holes to make necklaces, perfect souvenirs from a trip to the beach) rather than investing in expensive gadgets kids will play with once and then ignore.

beach with kids

Aim for Comfy Clothes and Comfy Weather

Visit during early morning or late afternoon if possible - midday heat and sun are more likely to cause sunburn or dehydration, increase the risk of sunstroke, and wear out your kids (making them tired and cranky)! Wear flip-flops or sandals or other footwear on the beach and on your way to the beach, so your kids don't burn their sensitive feet on uncomfortably hot sand or hurt themselves on broken glass left by inconsiderate beach-goers. Bring extra clothes in a closed plastic bag to change into after the beach and you won't have to be cold and wet on the way home. Some beaches also have showers where you can all wash the salt and sand off, which will protect sensitive skin from irritation.

Don't Go Hungry or Thirsty

Bring water and make sure your kids drink up. Stay hydrated! Dehydration can make you and your kids cranky, and at worst it can seriously threaten your health. Also, bring a cooler full of snacks. Swimming is exhausting work, and playing around under the sun can take a lot out of you. If you keep your kids well-fed, they'll be happier - and you'll be prepared in case you run into traffic getting back in time for dinner. (Or, if you want to avoid the risk of traffic altogether, stay in a beachfront cottage at Myrtle Beach or another beach of your choice and you'll be able to walk right from the waves to your vacation home.) Just make sure you keep trash to a minimum and that any trash you bring to the beach goes home with you in the cooler.

As long as you plan your trip properly ahead of time, you're sure to have a safe, healthy, fun vacation to the beach with your kids. The extra work is worth it for the peace of mind it gives you. For the ultimate in comfort for your whole family, not to mention the most convenient way to enjoy your beach vacation, check out a child-friendly vacation rental, like a quaint cottage or an upscale beachfront home where you can relax in luxury – many vacation rentals, especially those near the beach, cater especially to families with children of all ages!

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