Pack This! Pop-up sun tent for family beach vacations in Hawaii, Thailand, Mexico, Santa Cruz…

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Our sun tent on vacation in Kauai at Ke'e Beach
Our trusty sun tent on vacation in Kauai at Ke'e Beach.

Just last week while exploring Kauai’s most kid-friendly beaches, my hubby and I had to marvel how well this pop-up sun tent has traveled and served our family (we’ve actually brought it to Thailand and Mexico, among other places)—and how we’d definitely recommend bringing one to any family visiting Kauai with young children.

Sure, expecting your toddler to spend his entire beach time playing in a UV-protective tent is unrealistic at best. But the 10 minutes he may play “sand hotel” in there are just the beginning.

On this last trip alone, our tent:

  • Helped keep sand and sun off of snack bags, backpack and camera case as we snorkeled and frolicked in its front yard.
  • Sheltered our entire family of 5 (cozy!) when the winds picked up and we shivered in our wet bathing suits.
  • Gave a rain-proof place to stash our things (those snacks, camera) during occasional tropical cloudbursts during an otherwise glorious afternoon at Ke’e Beach.
  • Served as a convenient changing cabana for even for my husband of 6 feet (no, not while standing).
  • Gave shade to my over-sunned shoulders and back while my legs stuck out begging for more.

In the past, it’s also served as a shaded and private retreat for breastfeeding at the beach, and a kid or two has managed a nap in there, as well as said husband of 6 feet, with his legs stuck out begging for sun, naturally. Want a convenient place to change baby right on the beach—without getting the sun or sand in his eyes? It’s ideal.

Buying tips for your sun tent: There are a variety of pop-up sun tents available like this (click here to browse several pop up sun tents on the market), but ours has been just the right size to swivel-fold into a disc of only 1-2 inches thick to stick in the bottom of the suitcase without adding much weight. Your best bets will include a window or two for ventilation when desired and sand pockets to help keep it grounded in a gust—I don’t recommend relying on stakes in the sand and with small kids at play. Besides, they love helping to fill the sand pockets as you set up.

 Note: The sun umbrella shown above made a great covered porch for our tent up until the breeze picked up. After chasing it a few times and not finding a good way to anchor it in sand I gave up on it.

Find more tips for planning beach vacations with small children in Chapter 2 of  Travels with Baby, and find practical advice on having fun in (spite of) the sun with young children in Chapter 7.

Have you used a pop up sun tent on vacation? Think one might make the difference in your upcoming travels?

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Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli
Author of the award-winning Travels with Baby and Take-Along Travels with Baby

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