The life of the party: Use your free-checked-bag allowance to take beach toys on vacation

Feb 9, 2020

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There is a certain freedom in holding the right credit cards. I am usually a Team Carry-on gal, but when I’m going to be spending time with my nieces and nephews, I bring along gifts, games and toys to our vacation destination. In situations like that, I love being able to check bags for free. These are the credit cards that get you free checked baggage.

On a recent family trip to Barbados, I checked one bag that was packed to the gills with games, beach toys, kites and more. As I shopped, I paid particular attention to easy-to-pack items. Here are some toys I found that were a big hit with my crowd and might be with yours too:

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When traveling as an extended family, we often rent vacation homes or villas. Many are outfitted with plenty of games and toys but not always. I learned the hard way to always be prepared and have a stash of games to keep the kids busy — especially if we encounter a rainy day. Here are a few.

Corn hole

You probably played corn hole as a kid yourself or maybe even have a permanent setup in your own backyard. The Himal collapsible portable corn hole board (two boards for $35.99) weighs in at less than five pounds and folds up into a small carry case that you can stash in your luggage. The bean bags are just the right size for kids and this can keep a group busy — and having fun — for quite some time.

Ring toss

My gang — some pretty competitive kids — prefers skill-based games. They enjoyed a ring toss game ($23.99) that we set up in a grassy area near the pool of the rental home. In the set we purchased, the rings are made of rope so they contort nicely when you need to pack up the game and stow it in the included zipper bag with a handle. (Note that you also get a set of plastic rings with this game but I left those at home.) At just 2.2 pounds, it was worth packing this game in my checked bag.

Toss and catch

The tweens in our group giggled and laughed as they ran around the backyard playing with the YoYa Toss & Catch 300 ball game ($14.99). Each set comes with two self-stick handheld discs with which to catch one of the two balls. The Velcro-like surface of the catcher makes it easy for the ball to “stick.” At not even a pound, this was an easy game to bring along on our trip.

Flying discs

The Activ Flyer rings — sort of like Frisbees — were a hit the day we spent at a deserted beach. They come in bright colors that are easy to see against the sand and sky. And, since these are rings and not a solid disc, they’re easier for little hands to snatch out of the air. Two rings (7.2 ounces) go for about $12.99.

Inflatable baseball bat

I haven’t tried out this product yet but was intrigued when I found Bedwina’s inflatable baseball bats for sale (12 for $15.89). This could be a super easy item to pack.

Sand Toys

Sand toys have come a long way. Instead of rigid plastic that’s hard to pack, you’ll now find pails, shovels and molds made of silicone, like this nine-piece set from Dejaroo ($16.95). Even the bucket collapses so it packs flat. The entire set weighs in at less than 13 ounces.

But, if you’re a purist and prefer hard-plastic beach toys, go for a set like this one from FoxPrint ($15.98) that includes a carry case to keep everything neat and compact. Its dimensions are 9.2 x 7.9 x 6.2 inches so it will take up a bit more space in your checked bag.

Beach Balls

Of course, you can’t really enjoy a private pool or the beach without a good old-fashioned inflatable beach ball. We like this fun, sparkly 16-inch option from CoTa Global ($9.99).

If you have Star Wars fans in your group, go for the Nino-star beach balls instead. A set of three costs $24.95. Since deflated beach balls are so easy to pack, you can take these three in your checked bag.


Finally, if you are staying somewhere with a big backyard or will have access to a beach or public park, bring along a kite! It’s a simple toy but is always a lot of fun. This Singare octopus kite ($14.99 for a pair) is cute. And, at less than 9 ounces, it will hardly take up any space in your suitcase.

Or, go for something like this kit that the maker, Mint, calls a “Devil Fish.” It’s super lightweight at 4.2 ounces and retails for $17.99

Bottom line

Depending on the type of vacation you’ve planned, you may not need to bring anything to keep your kids busy. Full-service resorts often have plenty of beach toys and games for guests to borrow — especially if there’s an on-site kids club. But, if you’ve rented a beach house or condo, it may not be furnished with absolutely everything you’d like on hand. When that’s the case, it can make sense to pack a few must-have toys and games. What are the family-favorite games in your house? Let us know!

Featured photo by Uwe Krejci/Getty Images.

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