Sun, sand, a beautiful breeze & crystal blue water. I’ve been momming on the beach since my daughter was a newborn & although I might make it all look fairly easy now, and I can pretty confidently say that I do have this whole beach mom thing down, it took a lot of trial and error over the last 3 years to figure out some of my own beach mom tricks. About 90% of our time spent on the beach or during beach walks has always been just Isla & I alone so I’ve always needed to keep things smart & simple so I could manage a baby or toddler and have just the necessities close by.
For example, on only my second beach walk ever that lasted 2 hours with a then 2 month old Isla I realized I needed a better system to carry things when the simple bag I had with handles fell over causing several bottles of breast milk to roll down the rocks. The moment was all caught in a picture since the random tourist man taking the photo for me snapped away while his wife graciously picked everything up! I actually shared the photo at the time but cropped it to just show me smiling with a tiny baby on my lap. I was still too deep into a newborn fog to be embarrassed mixed with just bringing my child from Canada to Mexico but I look back at this photo now and absolutely hysterically laugh!
The point is by walk number 3 I knew I needed something better for our walks so I transitioned to using a small bottle bag cooler by Skip Hop that zipped shut, it was insulated and could clip on to my sarong or baby carrier so I could be hands free…and not risk any more content spills!
Survival with a young baby out on the hot beach & through the various stages of toddlerhood has meant I’ve needed to get very creative to figure out my own mom hacks to make our time in the sun & sand more enjoyable for both of us. Each stage has had different challenges but overall there are several tricks that have consistently come in handy. Here are some beach specific tips & tricks I’ve come up with along the way!
This has quickly become my number 1 can’t live without beach mom item…and my best kept secret! If you’re not familiar with dry bags they’re waterproof bags that lie completely flat & then fill with air as you seal them by rolling the top portion down. The bubble of air allows the bag to float, completely protect its contents and most dry bags come with either an over the shoulder strap or the buckle itself at the top can serve as a handle or can clip onto something (I usually clip the bag itself onto my beach sarong during walks).
I only have a 10 L dry bag but I can still fit my cell phone, car keys, wallet, my daughter’s stuffed bunny, a few snacks, a bottle of water, a drink box of milk, a juice pouch, paper straws, sporks & a small towel inside. It keeps valuables dry & sand free and it’s perfect to grab quick if I’m headed out for a walk with my daughter or going in the water so I don’t have to leave anything of value out of sight.
There are times I’ve also sealed it up and clipped it to the bottom of a beach chair if I’ll be close by so I can keep an eye on it but know it’s not that easy to just pick up and run off with. In my opinion a dry bag is an absolute must with kids while on the beach, at a water park or during water activities at places like Xcaret !
Waterproof Cell Phone Case
My phone is around sand & water on a very regular basis so I just feel keeping it in a waterproof case is a must…if I don’t want to have to replace my phone every month. It also means I don’t need to worry about it as much on the off chance my toddler grabs it. The case protects my phone from dust, sand & water so it’s perfect for me to keep on hand to snap a few photos during our beach adventures. I’ve always bought the LifeProof case for my iPhones and wouldn’t trust them in anything else. They’re still super slender on my phone and allow me to take decent photos. It personally drives me a little bonkers when I see people posting photos from the beach or in water using those plastic bag style cases. Photos look terrible through them and to me it’s worth the money to have something that protects my phone without inhibiting my ability to use it.
Time of Day
I always tell people that I absolutely love the heat…but I can’t stand laying around out in direct sun feeling as if I’m being cooked alive! The sun here in Cancun gets incredibly HOT! Instead I’m a big fan of soaking up some beach time when the sun isn’t as harsh like early morning or late afternoon and enjoy every ounce of daylight until sunset.
For timing if you’re going to be stressing about sunscreen & the heat…just avoid the hottest part of the day! Plan a mid-day siesta, lunch or nap inside between the peak sun’s hours when possible. I’ve always gone for my long beach walks with Isla at sunrise or just the few hours before sunset. I just find we’re both more comfortable that way not overheating or worrying about constantly reapplying sunscreen. It also means beaches tend to be a lot quieter during those hours. Avoiding peak sun hours & peak time for beach goers makes me happy also so my toddler can run & play more with less worry!
When we do find ourselves out during hot mid-day sun I’m always looking for some decent shade. When Isla was a baby I had a small portable pop-up playpen style tent for her. Since then I have searched quite awhile to find the perfect beach shelter big enough for the two of us & a few kids. I examined so many different types of tents, umbrellas & tarps until I finally found the perfect one (my search honestly took almost a year). I finally came across the Lightspeed quick draw shelter.
It comes in a carry case with a handle so I can wear it over my shoulder and it is insanely light. When it’s time to put it up all it takes is the pull of two strings and that’s IT! It literally just pops open and I can easily put it up by myself with a toddler running around by my side. If it’s windy out I can also peg down the corners of the tent. There’s a huge awning over the front to cast a bit of extra shade and it’s given us the perfect spot to hang out, play & even nap on the beach! I can’t imagine our time on the beach for long periods during that mid-day sun without it.
Tula Toddler Carrier
I’ve been wearing my daughter in various carriers since the start. The vast majority of our baby wearing (& now toddler wearing) has happened on the beach during our long walks. If your little one has outgrown the baby carrier definitely get a toddler carrier! When it was time to invest in a toddler carrier so I could comfortably wear Isla on my back I wanted to be sure I was making the right decision. In amazement I once stopped a Canadian mommy in the Toronto airport asking about her carrier as she was toting around her toddler & young baby by herself. As soon as I found out she lived in India and she used a Tula toddler carrier comfortably in the extreme heat in India I knew it would surely pass the test here in hot & humid Cancun. I quickly ordered one and I have not been disappointed!
I had wanted a carrier that was primarily cloth so it would be cool in the heat & breathable, easy to get Isla in & out of, would roll up fairly compact into my bag or stroller so it didn’t feel as if I’d be lugging around a big awkward contraption when not in use & easy to wash up as I almost always have a sweaty, sandy or wet kid jumping in it.
The other advantage is they come in a wide range of super fun fabrics so the Tula carriers are actually incredibly cute! We use our Tula toddler carrier quite a bit while travelling but the beach is where I’ll always have my fondest baby wearing memories of being out in the sun & sand just the two of us with my favourite tiny human by my side.
Mesh Mexican Market Bag
Yes there are a million options for beach bags but I’ve learned that just getting something simple made out of mesh is the most practical. I personally love Mexican market bags & have adopted them as my go to beach bag. They’re cheap, cute, colourful & do the trick!
It seems like no matter how hard we try and avoid getting sand everywhere it’s inevitable! A mesh bag helps keep the amount of sand that gets in the bag to a minimum & helps any damp items that go inside dry off a little quicker. I usually have a separate smaller bag just for beach toys I then keep inside my beach bag to minimize the mess.
We might not live right on the beach anymore but when your house is only 15-20 minutes from one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, you keep a beach bag full of essentials in your car ready…& always have a few beachy items in your daily bag at all times! I feel as if we rarely plan too far in advance for an actual beach day but rather they just sort of spontaneously happen.
Because we have these fabulously spontaneous beach visits, one item I’ve quickly fallen in love with is the Scrunch Bucket! An essential part of our beach days involves playing in the sand & water which means a bag full of various pool & beach toys.
The Scrunch Bucket is a flexible & soft silicone bucket that I can roll down & tuck away in the corner of my mom bag…definitely something I couldn’t do with the old clunky hard plastic traditional buckets. I love having the bucket handy because out of any of her beach toys a sand pail is her go to item on the beach or while playing in the pool.
Here’s another item that’s right on topic with saving space in my bag and keeping fun beach & pool items handy. In addition to a few fun beach toy staples (our scrunch bucket, a little shovel & a few small sand moulds) I try and always keep a small inflatable beach ball in my bag that I usually bring out and inflate at just the right moment…either when Isla is starting to get bored with her sand/pool toys or if I don’t feel like moving locations just quite yet a beach ball becomes a new fun distraction to keep her freshly entertained again. Having an inflatable one is key so I can also keep it in my everyday mom bag ready when we need it.
If you personally know us than chances are you’ve also seen our trusty Mexican blanket up close! We never go too far without our blanket in tow and that includes hitting the beach. I find it’s a great blanket to throw down on the sand to set up our little play area for the afternoon…or even a place to nap.
The sand comes off of our blanket fairly easily with a good shake and can also be washed in a machine when needed (this particular style of blanket comes out of the wash soft, clean & looking great). The blanket also keeps us from having to sit on our towels which we still need. Mexican blankets are just a great, durable & fun looking addition to our play dates on the beach.
Sarong, Beach Cover-Ups & a Hooded Towel
We don’t usually keep any clothing with us when we’re spending time on the beach but just make sure we have great cover-ups. I really like using a sarong because I can wear it several different ways either just around my waist or as a dress. Wearing sarongs have also come in handy because it’s where I used to clip my small cooler bag with baby bottles when Isla was a baby & now my dry bag with all of my beach mom essentials in it. Clipping these items on my sarong or carrier means I can truly be hands free while I carry Isla on my back across the beach.
For Isla I like to have a good terry cloth hooded cover-up with a zipper. Even with as hot as it is here the wind can feel cool after a whole afternoon of swimming or once the sun goes down. On days where the wind is a little stronger a hooded towel acts as the perfect barrier to keep her toasty warm & snuggled (without making it a big deal to her) while we make our way back across the beach during a long walk or so she can keep playing in the sand.
Rash Guard Style Surfer Top
Truthfully it’s likely been a combination of several reasons why I haven’t had to be a mom who has spent my life applying & reapplying sunscreen on my child. Avoiding long periods of time out in mid day sun when possible is a biggie, my daughter’s naturally beautiful tanned complexion is another factor and then the last part of the equation is rash guard style swim tops!
If I know we’re venturing out to play in the sun during the middle of the day I usually put Isla into a bathing suit with a little more coverage like a rash guard to at least keep her shoulders, chest & back protected. That way more skin is covered without having to worry too much about sunscreen on the those delicate area.
Reusable Plates, Cups, Sporks & Straws
Despite being on the go all of the time I’ve still tried to do my best to remain environmentally friendly with reusable items. It’s just become second nature to me now to carry some of my own toddler essentials. Stackable sippy cups have been a life saver! I can keep a few in my bag stacked together to save space and know I have them handy to pour water, juice or milk into them when needed. I’ve always used the Take & Toss style cups (but of course I reuse them) and love the simplicity of them stacking so I can just throw them in my bag.
A plastic plate with a lip is also super important. IKEA sells a great set of lightweight plastic reusable plates that are worth picking up if you don’t already own them. I can bring one or two plates in my bag without them weighing me down & they’re perfect for when we have snacks or lunch on the beach.
Reusable sporks are another item I wouldn’t want to live without! I carry them around in my everyday mom bag so we can opt out of having to use disposable utensils while out. With a spork I don’t have to worry about carrying around or searching in my bag for a knife, spoon or fork. I always keep a few in the pocket of my bag.
Awhile back I started carrying my own straws to replace having to use plastic straws while out. I have both paper straws & a few sets of stainless steel straws I keep on me. Bringing them to the beach means I know I have them if needed and I definitely do feel a lot better about using them over disposable plastic straws.
For the beach I usually try and bring just a few snacks I know we’ll both enjoy. One of our favourites & perfect beach mom hack type snack is a whole avocado! I can easily cut it in half with the spork and then we can just enjoy eating it right out of the shell using the spoon or fork part or quickly mash it up in a bowl.
I also cut up some fruit (pineapple or watermelon are our favourites), some veggie chips, a small container of goldfish crackers & a juice pouch for Isla. The juice pouches are great because you can put them in the freezer overnight and by the time your little one gets to it it’ll be a yummy refreshing & slushy treat.
I have conquered going to the beach alone with my daughter as a baby and now as a toddler many, many times! I usually don’t have an extra set of hands to help me carry everything so all of the above items & tricks keep things simple & help me be prepared all while allowing us to have fun in the sun!
The following products were mentioned as items we personally used with our daughter. We are in no way affiliated with any of the manufacturers…