Boating with Kids: Tips + Must-Haves


Mom and Sun boatingWe are fairly new to boating but we quickly developed some must-haves when we go out on the boat.

First and foremost is safety; you must have enough life jackets on board for everyone on the boat and every passenger 16 and under must wear them at all times. There are other things the Coast Guard requires, so make sure to check that out and take the Boating Safety Course if you plan on driving the boat.

I have two boat bags that I keep packed once we start going out regularly and then unpack when we stop taking day trips. This helps me not have to repack everything every single time we go out. We can decide on a whim to go out for the day and we just need to pack food and double check what’s already packed.

Our boating trips are typically out to the barrier islands, so planning is key. When we leave the house, we plan on being gone all day so these are my tips and must-haves!


This one is key because nobody likes a sunburn and nobody wants to stay out all day if they get burned first thing. Everyone has their own personal preferences, but we use:

  • a water resistant sport spray on bodies
  • a stick on faces for easier application and
  • everyone has their own sunscreen chapstick. I buy three, each with different color packaging so we know easily whose is whose.

Don’t forget to reapply throughout the day!

Child on a boatNext, we have hats and sunglasses, all of which should have ties or lanyards for kids. We started a precedent that our son Grayson has to have a lifejacket, sunglasses and his sun hat to get on the boat for the day and he is in charge of getting them together.

I also make sure we all have long sleeve sun shirts, though my husband is the only one that typically wears his all day.


Sounds like a given but I overkill this one. I do not want to have boat issues in the middle of the ocean and be out of water, especially if we are on the way home from a long day in the sun. So we pack a cooler of drinks, including single serve water bottles, sports drinks and adult beverages. But I also pack a 32 ounce, insulated water bottle for each of us as a reserve in case of an emergency, or a crazy thirsty day.


Child on a boat eatingWe go simple on this one. I mass produce PB&J for everybody, 2 each plus a couple of extra just in case. Then an individual bag of grapes for each person and an individual bag of chips. I try not to get any fancier than this because once we get out there, everybody wants to play and just grab as they get hungry. Trying to keep track of special sandwiches or snacks is a hassle. And everything is bagged individually so one sandy hand doesn’t ruin the whole batch.


One awesome thing about where we live is the accessibility from the water. We can come in from the islands and grab dinner at multiple places that have boat docks. And some days we just feel like not riding home in wet suits or coverups. So I pack each of us a full change of clothes (simple shirt, shorts, undergarments) and put them in individual gallon ziplock bags at the beginning of boat season. We rarely use them but it’s nice to have if we need them. I also pack everyone a towel, plus 2 just in case.


Sam’s usually has a larger set of sand toys that comes with a small plastic wagon and that has been a winner for us. We don’t play with the wagon much but it helps keep everything together onshore. Fair warning, we have lost a couple of smaller, unattended sand toys to sea gulls.

Dinosaur toys on the beachAnother favorite are the dinosaurs, Jack and Diane, who had a baby, Little Ditty, last year. They are the first toys out of the boat and we like to build them sand houses and take their pictures. It’s fun for the whole family!

Snorkels were a late addition last season but another big hit. We’ve seen tons of wildlife and it’s really relaxing to float and watch for animals.

Boy picking up shells from beachI got a mesh laundry bag to keep the sand toys in on the boat and about 30 minutes before we leave, my husband rinses and lays the toys out so they aren’t put in the storage compartment sandy and wet. Only Jack, Diane and Little Ditty are allowed out during the boat ride home but Grayson usually passes out anyway.


We found an amazing, cost effective first aid kit to keep on the boat. It was so great, we snagged another one for the house!

It has everything in it, everything has its own compartment, is packaged as single use and it includes information if you need to restock.

First aid kit Golf Coast mom Boating must havesSometimes accidents happen and we make sure to check for any open wounds before we get on the boat to go out and when we are heading home.

Having a good first aid kit means we can easily clean and treat any scratches that have been exposed to the water.

We hope you find these tips and must-haves helpful for your next boating trip.

Need waterproof shoes for the boat? Check out our Top 5 Waterproof Shoes for Coastie Kids


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