I just spent a week with my family—husband, 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son—on Block Island, where we went to the beach like it was our job. Like any good work situation, we learned a lot while we were there about how to do it better. No more beach umbrellas flying across the sand, threatening to impale fellow beachgoers. No more sandy food. No more being so hot, or so sun-exposed, that we want to leave after only an hour.
This list of 10 items includes the best beach stuff there is. Stash these in the ample cargo space of your Traverse and, with a few freshly prepared snacks, you’ll be ready for a fun and no-fuss day at the beach—without having to endure on-the-job training.
Picnic blanket: Skip the bed sheet and go for the real deal: a picnic blanket made of quilted cotton that’s lined with waterproof material. It keeps you and your stuff dry when your kids insist on sitting as close to the water as possible. And it slides along the sand easily so you can back it up in a flash when a rogue wave threatens to douse your stuff. This version folds into its own carrying case and is so light, even our 3-year-old can carry it.
Cooler tote: A soft-sided, insulated tote bag keeps drinks and snacks cool without requiring an epic schlep. Just make sure to pack individual portions of eats—our family favorites include sliced cucumbers and hummus, almonds and cranberries, popcorn, and one-liter bottles filled with half seltzer, half lemonade—so if sand gets in your lunch, you only have yourself to blame.
Sport-Brella: The ultimate sun and wind shade for beach days, the pole of this 8-foot umbrella goes into the sand at a 45-degree angle and one edge of the umbrella rests on the ground. The result? You get a large shaded area, protection from zealous ocean breezes, and access to plenty of fresh air. It’s way better than an enclosed tent, which, as we learned, can quickly produce oven-like temperatures.
If you have a traditional beach umbrella you’re devoted to, pack a rubber mallet in your beach bag to firmly embed your umbrella pole in the sand—and prevent potentially hazardous flying-umbrella episodes.
Snow sled: A sled with high sides glides across sand and up and down mini dunes. Load it up with all your beach gear and coast to that perfect spot for setting up camp. Just make sure it has a towrope for easy pulling.
Dishpan: Sometimes the simplest household items are the best toys. Your basic dishpan makes a great sand-traversing sled for little ones and holds plenty of water (for drippy castles) without spilling. It also makes a great storage container for shovels and scoops in the back of your Traverse.
Pro Kadima: The ultimate beach game for all ages, these two wooden paddles and a small rubber ball turn any beach into a beginner-friendly tennis court. Kids can fetch stray balls while adults get a little friendly competition going.
Beach chairs: Settle in for the long haul with these wooden chairs by Byer of Maine. Actually two small pieces that fit together, these chairs come apart and store flat in the back of your Traverse. Unlike metal chairs, they don’t rust, and thus last for years.
Wooden-handled beach shovels: You can’t dig a hole big enough to bury Dad with a laundry scoop, and most plastic shovels break after approximately six minutes of use. Beach shovels with long wooden handles will dig all day long with nary a bend. Better yet, they’re durable, lightweight and come in different colors so each kid can have one in her own distinctive shade.
Beach tote: Keep rolled-up beach towels, buckets, sand toys, sunscreen, bathing suits and a fresh change of clothes for each family member stashed and ready to go in this extra-large classic tote from LL Bean.
Baby powder: Get sand off in an instant with a sprinkle of baby powder. It works wonders on skin. Sadly, I still haven’t found a remedy for convincing kids to not walk across the blanket.
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