Your family beach vacation packing list

By Jennifer Kelly Geddes, Dec 2019

Boys building sandcastles on beach

Longing for a dreamy beach vacation in Jamaica? The thought of warm ocean breezes, bright tropical flora and rhythmic reggae music can send you dashing for your suitcase. OK, your family can come, too but it's no small task to plan a family beach vacation when little ones are in the mix.

Before you head to the airport, make sure these essential items are in your suitcase to keep your family safe and entertained. After all, what fun is sand if you don't have anything to dig with?

  • Sun hats. Even if you've slathered your gang with sunscreen from head to toe, a hat is still a must for protection from the sun's harmful rays. A hat with a wide brim and neck flaps provides solid coverage of the spots that sunscreen tends to miss, such as the tops of the ears or the back of the neck.
  • Water bottles. Keeping everyone hydrated is just as important as protecting them from the sun, so carry some lightweight, refillable bottles wherever you go. If bigger bottles are too bulky, collapsible or foldable bottles can save space in your bag. You'll be going green, and you'll avoid wasting money on bottled water at the resort.
  • Eye apparel. You and your kids will likely spend most of your waking hours by the pool or beneath the waves; water goggles, sunglasses and face masks can keep your eyes from getting irritated by chlorine and salt water. If your tot will tolerate wearing sunglasses, outfit them with a pair that blocks UVA and UVB rays.
  • Bug spray. Mosquitoes love water, so pack a small container of bug spray or insect-repelling lotion. Get one with DEET in a concentration between 10 and 30 percent, which is safe for kids 2 months and older. If someone gets bitten, the tube of antihistamine lotion you've slipped in your travel case will help stop the itch.
  • Flotation devices. Water wings are a classic. They're easy to blow up, and kids love paddling around in them. An inflatable ring can also make swimming easier, and many kids' swimsuits now come with built-in flotation support.
  • Diving toys. Jumping into the pool is even more awesome when you're collecting colorful rings or sea creatures from the bottom. Have your kids take turns grabbing them from the pool floor, or give them an extra challenge and see who can fetch the most toys using only their pinkie finger or their toes.
  • Water shoes. Beaches are fun. Hot sand and sharp shells and rocks aren't. The fix: water shoes, whether rubber with a closed-toe or a rugged sandal with strong adjustable straps. Either option works for every family member and is sturdier than those flip-flops you'd buy at the gift shop.
  • Beach gear. Your resort might have a few pails to share, but pack a couple of small ones for your kids. Include a shovel or some other digging tools. You might also consider a small kite, which is an excellent family activity. (Better still: It packs flat in your suitcase!)

Having these essentials in your tote will leave you more time for family fun in the sun and in that gorgeous blue Jamaican water.

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