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The Ultimate Beach Vacation Packing List for the Summer

Hooray! With COVID restrictions being lifted, you might feel this is the perfect time to head to the beach. But before you head out for some fun in the sun, you have to pack accordingly. While this can be a daunting task that most people don’t enjoy, it doesn’t have to stress you out!

sunset on the beach with waves crashing.
Photo by Sean Oulashin on Unsplash

Here are a few quick tips before we get into what to pack for your trip:

  1. Always check the weather at your destination at least a day before leaving. This way, you can make sure you have everything you need.
  2. Confirm with your accommodations to see which toiletries they offer so you don’t have to pack as much. If you’re flying, remember the 3-1-1 rule: all liquids must fit into one 1-quart-sized bag and must be in containers no larger than 3.4 oz/100 mL.
  3. If you hate to pack or are inexperienced, there are apps to help you out. There’s one for you, whether you’re a minimalist, a control freak, or just plain lazy. You can get a checklist, weather forecasts, and even activity suggestions for your destination.

Now that you know how to organize your stuff, let’s go over exactly what you need to pack for a sun-kissed beach trip!

What Should I Pack For a Beach Vacation?

No matter where you’re traveling, always make a list before you start packing. This is especially important when planning a trip to the beach since there are some things that are difficult to buy if they’re forgotten. Lists also help keep you from overpacking – something you don’t want to do if you’re flying and luggage space is at a premium. Use an app, write it out on paper, or make one on your phone, but make sure you have a list!

We’ve broken down our packing list into categories to help you stay organized. If you’re not using an app, you may want to do something similar to ensure you don’t miss a thing.

Adult Essentials

Clothing:

  • Swimsuit
  • Light sweater or sweatshirt
  • Windbreaker/rain jacket
  • Travel poncho/travel size umbrella
  • Sun hat (The best kinds are foldable, waterproof, and have a strap that can go under your chin for windy days, which happen a lot at the beach.)
  • Flip flops/sandals
  • Water shoes

Accessories: 

  • Metal water bottle (Glass can break, and plastic is a huge no-no at the beach. Insulated metal bottles keep cold beverages frosty better than plastic or glass anyway. Bring one or two extra filled with water for rinsing sand from hands.)
  • Polarized sunglasses
  • Small purse (Pack it in the beach bag, so you don’t have to lug it around when grabbing a drink or ice cream.)

Gear:

  • Beach towels
  • Sandproof and waterproof beach mat
  • Beach bag (Tip: If you’re flying, pack small items in here, so they don’t get lost in your suitcase.)
  • Cooler
  • Waterproof ID card case/wallet (Some of these snap shut to keep water out and have a strap for carrying.)
  • Waterproof phone case (These also keep sand out that can ruin electronics.)
  • Headphones
  • Book (Check out these fantastic beach reads. Did you know many airport convenience stores allow you to buy a book and receive money back if you return it on your way back home?)
  • iPad/Kindle (Download electronic versions of books and magazines to save luggage space. Pro tip: Many magazine subscriptions offer free electronic access, so that’s an option, too, if you have one.)
  • Cell phone, charger, and cord (Make sure to use a spare charger and cord in case you leave them behind, which many people do.)

Toiletries:

  • Disposable wipes/hand sanitizer
  • Sunscreen and sunscreen lip balm
  • After-sun skincare products (Aloe vera gel, lotion, etc.)
  • Bug spray or essential oil such as Citronella or Peppermint to repel bugs (Sometimes the wind brings mosquitoes, other times it can bring biting flies, depending on the direction it’s coming from.)

Kid Essentials

  • Long-sleeved rash guard with SPF protection
  • National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) certified child life jacket or similar item
  • Sunglasses (Some toddler/baby sunglasses have an adjustable band that goes around the head. These can double as goggles.)
  • Foldable, waterproof sun hat with a chin strap
  • Pop-up shade/shelter (These are helpful for changing or napping in while providing sun, wind, and light rain protection.)
  • Beach toys and mesh laundry bag for carrying
  • Sand free mats
  • Hooded towel that dries kids off and doubles as a cover-up
  • Diapers/pull-ups
  • Swim diapers
  • Changing mat
  • Change of clothes
  • Goggles (Saltwater stings the eyes, even just while walking along the water’s edge.)
  • Baby carrier (Take a hands-free walk with your baby attached to you.)

What Should You Not Forget to Pack For a Beach Vacation?

Man packing suitcase.

There are things you should absolutely not leave home without, regardless of whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally!

Medical

  • Face masks
  • Copy of vaccine cards (Even if they’re not required at your travel destination, it never hurts to be prepared in case you need them.)
  • First aid kit (Make your own at home with the following items:)
    • EpiPen (if needed)
    • Over-the-counter items such as Imodium, Benadryl, and pain relievers
    • Allergy meds, asthma inhalers, eye drops, and an extra mask
    • Ear drops (Safely remove water trapped in ears.)
    • Extra hand sanitizer
    • Anti-itch cream for bug bites
    • Bandaids and Neosporin
    • After-sun gel/aloe
    • Tweezers
    • Ace bandage
  • List of medications (Refill any you might need a week before your trip.)

Documents/Financial

  • Insurance cards
  • Passport/visa/ID
  • Emergency contact and doctors’ info (Have this stored on your phone and written down.)
  • Cash and debit/credit cards (While most places take debit and credit cards, it’s always good to have at least some cash on hand just in case.)

Miscellaneous

  • Phone/electronic charger (This is so vital it bears repeating.)
  • Plastic quart-sized storage bags that seal shut. (If the one in your carry-on rips, you’ll have a backup. Also, you never know how handy these little guys are when you’re away from home!)

What Should I Pack For a 5-Day Beach Vacation?

A luggage with iPad and clothes in between a briefcase and a pair of shoes.
The luggage full of cloths

When packing clothing, stick to a color scheme. You can pack just a few pieces, and they will all match.

Clothing:

  • Three to four pairs of shorts
  • Two pairs of pants
  • Three to four shirts
  • One formal outfit (A button-up shirt and dress pants are helpful if you plan to go to a nice restaurant.)
  • Two to three swim trunks
  • Two sets of pajamas
  • Five pairs of underwear
  • Two to three pairs of socks
  • Two to three undershirts

Outerwear:

  • One light jacket or sweater
  • One rashguard for additional sun protection in the water (They’re not just for kids!)
  • One exercise outfit and running shoes if you plan on working out while you’re on vacation

Footwear:

  • One pair of flip flops/sandals
  • One pair of dressier shoes

Accessories:

  • One to two ties
  • Jewelry

What Should I Pack For a 7-Day Beach Vacation?

As with the 5-day vacation, your best option is to stick to a color scheme when choosing clothing. This list is similar to the 5-day list, just with more of most items.

Clothing:

  • Four pairs of shorts
  • Three pairs of pants
  • Five shirts
  • Two dressy options (interchangeable button-down shirts and pants)
  • Two swim trunks
  • Three sets of pajamas
  • Three to four pairs of socks
  • Seven pairs of underwear
  • Three to four undershirts

Outerwear:

  • Two rashguards
  • Two exercise outfits
  • One light jacket or sweater

Footwear:

  • One pair of dressy shoes
  • One pair flip-flops
  • One pair of running shoes

Accessories:

  • One to two ties
  • Jewelry

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