Visiting the beach, whether a local shore or far-away, can be a relaxing way to spend the day. Like with most things in life, once you add kids into the mix, it can be much more stressful. While most kids love the ocean and the sand, there are a lot of ways things can go wrong.

Planning for a day at the beach with your kids will take more than just buying a new swimsuit and packing sunscreen. You need to make sure you plan everything before your trip or day out so everything runs smoothly and safely. Let’s break down the best tips for enjoying the beach with kids so the entire family can have fun.

1. Don’t Overpack

There’s a big pressure to pack just about everything to take to the beach. You don’t want to forget anything, but you also need to feel comfortable carrying everything from the car to the beach. If you’re traveling with more than one adult, you might be able to afford to pack more things in your haul. Otherwise, you’ll need to have a plan of attack for transport.

A great option is to invest in a rolling cart. These have sand-ready wheels which makes it easier to carry large amounts of things without hauling it all in your arms. If your kids are old enough, they might be able to carry their own beach bags with their daily essentials and toys. For more recommendations on the best beach gear, check out BeachRated for expert ideas.

2. Bring a Shelter or Umbrella

Your kids might love to run in the sun, but they’re going to need a shady place to rest. Having some kind of shelter to set up as a base is a must. You can invest in a small tent that folds for shady space for infants and toddlers. If you can manage it, setting up a large cover or tent can be a godsend.

Because we don’t all have the manpower for larger tents, it’s more likely you’ll just bring an umbrella. All you really need is a large umbrella and a beach blanket. You can set these up with your bags and coolers so the little ones (and you!) have a nice place to rest between play.

3. Start Your Day Early

Timing is important when you’re visiting a popular beach. Unless you’re going at an extremely off time, you’ll want to start the day off early to make sure you get a good spot on the beach. You’ll usually notice significantly fewer crowds in the early morning hours. Plus, it’s always a good idea to keep out of the sun in the afternoon when the sun is at its strongest. Make sure you choose a spot where you have a clear view of your kids as they play, and try to keep your distance from other groups who might be trying to have a relaxing time.

4. Understand Sunscreen

You probably already know that sunscreen is a must, but are you making common mistakes when it comes to sun protection? Sunscreen alone isn’t enough to protect from sun damage. First, sunscreen needs to be applied before sun exposure, and it needs to be reapplied every two hours. If your kids are in the ocean, you’ll need a waterproof variety, and you’ll need to reapply more frequently.

Help younger kids apply sunscreen to make sure they’re protected everywhere. You can rotate between spray and cream sunscreen as needed since not all will be convenient when sand is involved and everyone feels sticky. In addition to sunscreen, use UVA protective water shirts, hats, and sunglasses.

5. Pack Individual Food Items

It might make sense to pack your entire lunch in the same container, but that’s a recipe for disaster. Sandy sandwiches and dropped veggies happen all the time. If you pack things individually, you’ll always have backup food just in case. When packing your food, make sure you keep it cold enough to stay safe. Also, store your cooler or food packs out of the sun once you’re at the beach.

6. Leave Strategically

We all know how kids react when they suddenly have to stop playtime and go home. Kids’ meltdowns can almost always be avoided with some planning. First, give kids advanced notice before leaving the beach. Let them know 30 minutes ahead, then 10, and again at 5 that you’ll be leaving shortly. Start corralling your things before you begin leaving so their transition to the car is quick and painless.

7. Relax

Finally, don’t forget to relax. This is a fun time to share with your kids, and you shouldn’t feel weighed down by making sure your beach day is perfect. If your kids are having fun, then the day is already a success! Bring things that make you happy. Maybe you want to catch up on a good book or work on your tan. It’s okay to take time for yourself as long as you’re always keeping an eye on your kids.

Are you ready for your next day at the beach? The beach is exciting for kids of all ages, but it isn’t always an easy outing. These tips above will make sure you have a perfect day in the sun and sand from start to finish. You might get a little bit sandy, but the sandcastles are still worth it.