When most people think of beach vacations, the first thing that comes to mind is sun and sand. But there’s a lot more to a beach vacation than just lying in the sun all day. You’ll need to have the right items in your beach packing list to make sure your time at the beach is enjoyable and hassle-free. Make sure you stay protected from the sun and wash up easily after the fun.
Here is a comprehensive beach vacation packing list – things to think about bringing when packing for a beach vacation. This way, you can make sure you don’t forget anything important and have a great time on your beach vacation.
What To Bring On A Beach Vacation
When packing for a beach vacation, there can be many things to remember. Sunscreen, swim clothes, and towels are core essentials, but there are many other items you might not think of from water coolers and insulated bottles to sunglasses and dry bags that will enhance your experience.
Here is a list of things to remember to pack for your beach vacation, divided into different categories.
Beach Vacation Packing List – Sun Protection
When going to the beach, the most important thing is to make sure you are protected from the sun, so you don’t suffer later from sunburn or worse, skin cancer due to overexposure.
Therefore one of the most essential thing on your beach packing list is sunscreen. You need to make sure you put sunscreen all over your body, even the parts that don’t usually see the sun.
Apparently, you should consider applying some on your head too if you have thin hair. A friend of mine, rather hilariously, got sunburn on his scalp since he only had short prickly hair.
Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to make sure you are protected from both UVA and UVB rays. Get higher SPH ranges if you are somewhere with strong rays. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more often if you are sweating or swimming.
Banana Boat Sunscreen: This is one of the most common brands you see around. You can’t really go wrong with it. The good thing is they do come in spray cans that allow for easier application and you don’t have to get your hands all oily. It is a bit on the oily side but serves the purpose.
Mineral Sunscreen: If you looking for a safer option, consider using a mineral sunscreen. These use natural elements like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as active ingredients. They work by sitting on top of your skin and deflecting the sunrays vs soaking into your skin like chemical sunscreens.
Some find that their lips get chapped easily when exposed to the sun, wind, and saltwater. If you tend to get dry lips, then consider getting a lip balm with SPF in it to protect your lips from the sun. This will save you from a lot of pain after a beach day.
After a day of being in the sun, your skin will definitely be drier than usual. Make sure to pack a moisturizer so you can rehydrate your skin and protect it from the sun at the same time.
This is good for application after the day out, and if you happen to get a sunburn, the moisturizer can help to provide some relief. Nature Republic’s Aloe Vera-based moisturizer is a good option for sun burnt relief as they have a cool, soothing feeling on skin contact.
Beach Vacation Packing List – Accessories
Another crucial item for sun protection is a good pair of sunglasses. Make sure the glasses you bring offer UV protection. This will help protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays.
It is also a good idea to get a polarized pair of sunglasses. These will help reduce the glare from the sun reflecting off the water. This is especially helpful if you are going to be doing any watersports.
Wearing a hat or cap is a great way to protect your face from the sun. Also if you have thin or no hair, a cap helps to prevent sunburn on your scalp.
Sports caps with quick-dry materials are the best as you can get them wet, and it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle to wash or dry later. They also use cooler materials and some come with mesh ventilation, offering coverage while not stuffing your head.
If you don’t like wearing hats, then consider getting a visor. This will help keep the sun out of your eyes while still allowing your head to breathe. Make sure you include it in your beach packing list.
Beach or Travel Towel
The typical cotton towels are usually not great for beaches as they get very heavy when wet/moist. A good beach towel should be large enough to lie on, quick-drying, and absorbent. An easy and convenient way is to use a large microfiber travel towel. They are quick to dry, come in a variety of sizes and you don’t have to pack the towel as an extra beach item.
Sandproof Beach Mat
If you want a more comfortable option where you can keep all your things off the sand, or share it with friends, a beach mat is a good option. Make sure to get a sandproof one. You also want it to be made with quick-dry material, and the more compact it is when packed, the better. A nice beach mat certainly provides a better experience, particularly if you want to have a picnic on the beach or play card games etc.
You know what goes well with a sunny day at the beach? An ice-cold drink! You don’t want to be drinking warm water while under the sun.
Barring a bulky cooler, an insulated bottle is a convenient way to make sure your drink stays cold for a long time despite being under the hot sun. Get a stainless steel or BPA-free plastic one, it is a great investment for a traveler because they are good for so many other occasions (i.e. camping, day hikes, road trips) apart from just a beach day.
You will want to document your beach day and get some amazing photos for memory or social media. If you don’t want to risk getting your regular camera or handphone wet then consider getting a waterproof one.
This way you can take photos and videos in and around the water without having to worry about ruining your equipment. And you can also take underwater shots which are sure to capture more attention.
A GoPro is the go-to choice as it is designed for outdoor activities and an action camera that can cater to all sorts of water sports for impressive action shots. However, there are many other action cameras on the market as well. The DJI brand is reputable for drones and cameras, and you can consider the DJI Osmo Action.
This is not a usual travel item but can be a huge convenience. If you are staying in a place with no clothes dryer or you are on a beach vacation, the travel clothesline comes in really handy for drying your clothes quickly, especially if you have a lot. It also doesn’t take up much space in your luggage.
A good travel clothesline should be made of strong material, be able to extend to a good length, and come with clips.
Beach Vacation Packing List – Bags
A dry bag is an essential item if you are going to be doing any water-related activities or even just to keep your things safe and sand-free.
They come in a variety of sizes. Depending on what you plan to do, you might need different types. If you are just going to relax at the beach, but wants a bag to just hold small important items like your handphone and keys when you go for a dip, then a small dry pouch is good.
However, if you plan to carry all your belongings along while doing water activities like kayaking, then you want a dry bag that can fit more things and possibly sling around you.
The rule of thumb is to get one that is large enough to fit your purpose but not too bulky or heavy when empty.
Beach Tote Bag
A beach bag is a must for bringing all your things to the beach. For ladies, a tote bag is a popular option. The tote bag should be water-resistant, and big enough to fit everything you need but not too bulky or heavy when empty.
Mesh beach bags work great in terms of weight, compactibility, and water resistance as well but just be aware that people can see what’s in the bag. So if you are planning to carry your valuables, that might not be a good option.
Backpacks are a common option for packing your beach items. There are many options such as drawstring ones that are lightweight and easy to carry. Alternatively, there are also more sturdy hiking bags like the Venturepal backpacks that can compress into a small pouch when packed in. These are great for travelers.
Similarly, you want them to consider the water resistance, how much weight it can carry, and how compact it is when packing.
Beach Vacation Wardrobe Essentials
Bikini And Swim Trunks
Of course, you will need a good bikini or swim trunks. If you are planning to do any watersports, make sure to get a bikini or swimsuit that is secure and won’t come off easily.
For men, you can opt for swimming trunks, or a more popular option are boardshorts which are great for surfing or any other activity in the water. As usual, you want to get something that is quick dry.
Beach Cover-up – Female
The first thing you need is a good beach cover-up. This could be anything from a kaftan or tunic, to a maxi dress or even just a large sarong. The beach cover-up is important as you don’t want to be walking around in your bikini all day. It is also useful for when you want to go grab a bite or drink in between swimming and sunbathing.
If the dress is not your style, there are also shorts for females that can be easily paired with a t-shirt to serve as a simple cover-up.
Beach Cover-up – Male
Well for guys, it is generally a t-shirt or singlet if you want something airier. Bright colors are better to reflect the heat and a good sports t-shirt work well. Go for fabric that keeps you cool, dries quickly, and is breathable. This will keep you feeling more comfy when you are putting it on while still sweaty.
If you want to be more fashionable, consider rocking a cotton linen shirt that looks more classy.
Regular shoes are not the best option for the beach, especially when you are trying to stuff your sand-filled feet into the footwear. Ideally, make sure you have a good pair of sandals or flip-flops that is comfortable and easy to walk in.
Sandals have a more secure fit and are good if you plan on walking quite a bit, particularly on rocky terrains that might slippery. Try to get something that has good water drainage. For travelers, it might be wiser to invest in a good pair of versatile sandals that you can use for hikes and outdoors, apart from just the beach.
Otherwise, a good pair of Havaianas slippers is a great option for regular beach use and they often have different designs. Crocs clogs are also popular and comfy options, although they take up more space when packing.
Beach Vacation Packing List – Electronics
Apart from a camera, here are other electronics that might come in handy when you are chilling on the beach.
With an ebook reader or Kindle, you can have a digital library at your fingertips. This is perfect for long beach days when you want to catch up on some reading but don’t want to lug around a physical book. Make sure it is fully charged before heading out!
Music always makes any activity more fun, and the beach is no exception. Whether you are planning a beach party or just want to listen to some tunes while relaxing, a portable speaker is a great option.
There are many different types and sizes available in the market. Bose has a great portable speaker that is water-resistant and made for the beach, outdoors, and travel. There are also other affordable and well-rated options that are portable and water-resistant.
You do want to make sure you are not a nuisance to others when playing your music.
That said, you might want to consider wireless earphones instead so you can enjoy your own music without disturbing those around you. This is also a great option if you are planning on going for a run along the beach, or listening to a podcast or audio book.
You will definitely need a charger for your phones and other devices. A power bank is great to have as a backup, particularly if you are going to be spending a long time on the beach. This way you can recharge your devices when there are no power sockets around.
Active Gear For Beach Vacation
If you are going to be mainly participating in water sports or activities while heading to be beach, consider some of these items.
A rashguard is basically a swim shirt that covers your upper body and often has long sleeves. Rashguards are often made of Lycra, polyester, or spandex material which dries quickly and offers UPF sun protection.
When you want to do any surfing, boogie boarding, snorkeling, or diving – a rashguard is useful in protecting your skin from the sun, maybe even jellyfish stings, and cuts from the coral. This is a good addition to your beach vacation packing list if you are an active water sport enthusiast.
If you are going to be doing any watersports in colder water temperatures, you will want a wetsuit. This is a must for activities such as surfing, diving, wakeboarding, and windsurfing. Wetsuits come in different thicknesses depending on the water temperature and your activity. Most of the time you can rent this, but if you already have a pair that you use personally, remember to bring it along.
Do note that the thickness needs to fit with the water temperature and surrounding conditions (such as wind). As a rough guide – 3mm is for water temperatures of 60°F-65°F, 5mm for 50°F-55°F
If you are a fan of snorkeling and know you will be doing lots of it, consider bringing your own snorkel gear that you know you are comfy in. The gear from snorkeling tour companies might not always fit well since they are repeatedly used and is subject to size availability.
This includes a good quality mask that fits well, doesn’t leak, and offers good visibility. A dry snorkel is also important as it stops water from getting into the tube, and fins will help you move through the water easily. You might also want an antifog spray to reduce fogging when in the water.
If you are going to be hiking to any waterfalls or exploring tide pools, you might want to consider bringing some shoes that can get wet. Water shoes often have good grip and provide adequate protection against rocks and other sharp objects. You will also want a shoe that can dry quickly after being in the water. There are many types available from aqua socks to more stable water shoes offering thicker protection.
These are also suitable for water activities like paddleboarding, kayaking, so it depends on your needs and the conditions/terrains you are going to deal with.
READ MORE: GUIDE TO SHOES FOR PADDLEBOARDING
Beach Vacation Packing List – Comfort Items
Now, you might just be having a beach vacation right within the country within having to fly. A local beach vacation or one that you can drive to, allows you to carry “luxury” items that will make your trip more comfortable.
These are bulkier items but also great add ons to your beach packing list for nice family vacation.
If you want to be able to relax on the beach and not have to worry about getting sand everywhere, consider bringing a beach chair and an umbrella.
A beach umbrella will also provide some relief from the sun, particularly if you don’t want to put sunscreen all over your body. There are all sorts available depending on how you want to set it up and the size you need.
Some beaches have rental stores that rent these out for a price; but for other more remote locations, you are on your own.
Traveling with a family or a group of friends, then a portable cooler is a greater option. This will keep your drinks cold for hours and can even accommodate larger bottles. This means that you don’t have to keep going back to the car or buy new drinks at the beach.
We all know how beachfront stores can have higher prices due to the demand. By bringing your own drinks, the savings from buying drinks at the beach stores almost pays for the cooler itself.
Beach Tent or Canopy
If you are going to be on the beach for long periods of time or have small children with you, then a beach tent or canopy can provide some relief from the sun.
Beach tents are usually easier to set up like a camping tent, while canopies might take more work but can cover a larger area. It is almost like setting up your own pavilion so you have space to hang out and even have a big picnic.
These are great if you want to take a nap on the beach or have a place to store your belongings while you are swimming.
Tips for Packing for a Beach Vacation
Now that we have gone through all the essential and non-essential items, let’s go over a few quick tips for beach vacation packing and travel.
Check The Weather.
This might sound like a no-brainer but you would be surprised how many people don’t. The weather can change quickly, especially near the water, so make sure to check the forecast before packing your bag.
This will determine what type of clothing and gear you need to bring. For example, if there is a chance of rain, you might want to bring a small umbrella or poncho.
Use Packing Cubes
Packing cubes help to keep your belongings more organized while traveling. This is especially helpful if you are going on a beach vacation so you can segment all your items and access them easily.
Roll Your Clothes
Instead of folding your clothes, try rolling them up. This saves a lot of space and can help to prevent wrinkles. A lot of compressible items like the travel towel or compact backpack can also be stuffed into your packed shoes.
Use Ziploc Bags
Ziploc bags are great for packing smaller items or items that might leak like sunscreen or shampoo. You can also use them to store wet and dirty clothes after a day at the beach.
Make A Packing List
This will help you to stay organized and not forget anything. Simply write down all the items you need to bring and check them off as you pack them. For larger groups, you might want to assign each person with specific items to bring. This can help prevent overpacking as well.
Here is an article if you want to know more travel packing hacks and tips.