Sunscreen? Check. Beach tote? Check. Shovels and buckets? Check. Hats? Uh-oh.

Thinking about your vacation along Alabama's Gulf Coast can leave you too excited to fully focus on the packing task at hand. No matter how many times you've been to the beach, it's easy to overlook an essential or two, from towels and games to a bag big enough for all of your gear.

To save you from disappointment when you realize you've once again left behind your sunglasses, below are some suggestions that might come in handy as you load up your car for a fun beach trip:

Beach bag

Essential accessories for families staying at Gulf Shores beach house rentalsWhether it's only you and your spouse heading to the beach or your extended family is joining you as well, a large beach bag is probably the most important item to bring with you. It'll hold all sorts of items, and you can even use it as a fashion statement. Straw totes are all the rage these days and typically don't cost a lot of money - and because of their durable material, they can last you well beyond your beach vacation in Alabama.

Games

Frisbees, footballs, beach balls - you name it. Bringing games to the beach is a sure-fire way for everyone in your family to have a great time. Deflated beach balls are super portable and can be quickly inflated once you get to the water. Plus, because they're so inexpensive, it's okay if one accidentally pops. Do be sure that if yours blows away, you do your best to get it back, since the plastic could harm the area's wildlife.

Snacks

Even if you plan on getting lunch at a nearby restaurant, having snacks at the beach is a great idea. You can keep everyone's appetite at bay with a few bags of carrot sticks, celery or some hearty pretzels.

Once the packing is complete, it's time to soak up the rays on the beautiful white-sand beaches of Alabama.