When we moved to California, three and a half years ago, I was not a beach person. The first time I got invited to a beach day with some other moms from church was a complete disaster. My first mistake was that I walked there with both boys in the stroller (about a mile and a half), which would have been fine except that two hours later we were all exhausted from the heat and walking back with two whiney children was not ideal.

Secondly, I didn’t realize that the other moms wore their swimsuits for beach day — I thought you just wore normal clothes and the kids wore their swimsuits…so I showed up in a maxi skirt and a t-shirt. This also would have been fine except that when B got taken out by a wave twenty minutes into our beach day, I had to run out and rescue him which soaked my skirt, stretched it out, and suddenly it was about a foot longer, a couple of pounds heavier, and now covered with sand. Also not ideal for walking a mile and a half back home. We also had only a few snacks, one small water bottle, and no sunscreen. Basically it was an all around embarrassing disaster.

The only bright side to this experience was that I quickly learned how to master the beach day with kids, and now about a thousand beach days later I have our system down perfectly.

So today I’m teaming up with Beachmate to share my top 5 tips for a perfect beach day with kids. It’s almost summer time, so make sure you check these off as you prep for those family beach vacations!

1. Have a designated beach bag. As a mom, you probably know the feeling of bringing your entire house along when you go somewhere, and every time you pack up you have to remember a thousand things. When it comes to the beach, we keep a designated bag that always holds our things, so we’re ready at a moments notice.

Our Beachmate bag is my best friend because it’s designed to be a designated beach bag, and they thought of literally everything. Not only does it include buckets and shovels, but it also easily stores them, it has a cooler for food (with a zipper to keep the sand out!), it has pockets that hold our sunscreen, change of clothes, diapers and wipes, baby powder, etc, and it even has an outside zipper pocket that I use to store my keys and phone. Each of the pieces are sturdy and well designed — the shovels are super well made, and the buckets have durable straps instead of flimsy plastic handles. I mean, that alone is worth getting one of these bags.

And even though it holds so many things, it’s really lightweight so I can easily tote it around while carrying the baby. Plus they sell these gorgeous turkish towels that are super lightweight so you can carry a bunch of them without adding much weight to your bag, but they’re simultaneously super absorbent. You can snag one of these amazing bags right here for 10% off right now using code MERRICKSART!

2. Always bring food. No matter what time of day it is when we get to the beach, we are all hungry within minutes of arriving. So I always, always pack a lunch. The Beachmate has a perfect cooler underneath the buckets that can store a nice big lunch.

3. Baby powder is my secret weapon. On that disastrous beach day, when we were all covered in sand and a complete mess, someone asked if I had brought baby powder with me. Of course I hadn’t, and didn’t have any clue what they were talking about. And then, as if on cue, every single mom pulled out a giant container of baby powder, and I discovered the magic of it. Shake it on to wet, sandy hands and it instantly soaks up the water so the sand falls off. This trick alone makes beach days with kids so much more manageable. If you’re headed on a beach vacation, do yourself a favor and grab a huge tub of it and thank me later.

4. Choose your beach wisely. With miles and miles of beach here, we could go really anywhere. But after moving here, I quickly learned which street had the best access for kids — close, free parking, a stoplight to make crossing the street easy, a ramp down to the sand so it’s easy with your stroller or bikes, and a long walk way that reaches about halfway from the boardwalk to the water which cuts down your walking-in-the-sand time. So anytime I take the kids to the beach, we always go to this area.

If you’re traveling and hitting up the beach, use social media to ask about the best kid friendly beaches, or search on the internet for best kid beaches. All those little conveniences make a big difference in a good beach day.

5. Bring a fresh change of clothes. Every time we go to the beach, I bring a change of dry clothes (nothing fancy — usually it’s just basketball or pajama shorts, a t-shirt, and a pair of dry underwear) for my boys. Every single time we have company and I recommend this, they are always dubious. But trust me…it makes such a difference. After several hours at the beach, your kids are soaked and covered with sand, and the last thing you want to do is throw them in the car and then deal with all that wet, sandy mess at your house. Just take care of it all at the beach! Your car stays clean, the wet clothes are all in one place and easy to throw in the wash when you get home (I roll them up in a towel and toss them in the Beachmate inside one of the buckets), and then if anyone falls asleep in the car on the way home it’s easy to take them straight to bed. It takes a little time to get everyone dried off and changed, but it’s so much better to leave all the sand on the beach and not take it home with you.

Grab yourself a Beachmate bag for 10% off using code MERRICKSART, and get ready for those summer beach vacations!

 thank you to Beachmate for sponsoring this post  |  photos by rad and happy