Last May, we spent a week in Hilton Head with a 20-month old. A beach vacation is ideal – it gives toddlers the space to run and sand offers limitless play opportunities. Plus, a little warmth on your face makes you feel human after a New England winter. Here are some hints that made our trip sunburn free.
Sunblock: Blue Lizard was the only brand that prevented my son from getting too much color, even better than more expensive brands. It’s thick and waterproof, so it’s best applied at home. If you’re spending extended time at the beach, I found Blue Lizard wasn’t ideal for touch-ups, it’s too thick to apply to sandy, baby body parts (I didn’t mind the extra exfoliation!). I used a cheap spray or thinner lotion for on-beach applications.
Attire: UV-protective clothing is a must. With my son in a short-sleeve shirt and trunks, most of his little body was covered. Land’s End has a nice selection and the little-mock collar on their shirts helps protect little necks. The shirts dry out quickly, but they’re not terribly breathable, so if your child is prone to warm-spells, take it off when you’re home from the beach. Since they dry so quickly, you don’t need one for every day; we used the same one all week.
Diapers: Reusable swim-diapers are the best invention. They’re basically a tight-fitted pair of “underwear” with a think terry liner and some type of nylon shell. Their tight fit around the legs and waist do a better job containing “solids” than regular disposable swim diapers; they are not meant to contain liquids. Lest you be skeptical of my advice, many pools now require you to use reusable swim-diapers, since they are more sanitary (disposable swim diapers stretch out, giving “solids” the opportunities to become “floaters”). They are also perfect for the beach – as most kids can play for several hours in them and you don’t have to deal with a 10-pound, ocean-water soaked diaper. We used a basic brand, meant to be worn under a pair of trunks, but you can also find adorable patterned diapers that you can use as diaper/swimsuit combo. Imse Vimse makes a particularly cute combo. Clearly, I wasn’t worried about a little baby pee escaping, but what if we had more than that? I had a few extra reusable swim diapers in my bag and would have just put on a new one. The soiled reusable diaper would have gone in a plastic bag, to be washed out later.
Shoes: You have 20-pounds of gear for everything else, why not the beach. While swim shoes still didn’t make me feel comfortable letting my son run wild on the pool deck, I figured they protected his feet from the errant beach shell.
Hats: A broad brimmed hat gives you a little extra sun protection. If your child won’t wear one, get some spray-on lotion to spray on their scalp.
Tent: Haha, a toddler contained in a tent? Clearly, this wasn’t a must-purchase for us, but LL Bean makes a sturdy Sunbuster Tent (if you’re toting a non-mobile child).
Toys: You don’t need much. A few buckets, shovels, and rakes. A $3 set from the drugstore will probably be sufficient. Even empty yogurt or cottage cheese containers (some with holes poked in the bottom) also make good containers.
Myswimbaby.com is a year-round resource with all kinds of swim attire. I especially like their selection of hats and swim diapers.