Beach Trip Packing Essentials

Packing for any trip can be stressful. No matter how many things you throw in a bag, it's hard to escape that nagging feeling you've forgotten something else, even though you can’t quite remember what it might be. Beach trips get particularly overwhelming to pack for, as you have to worry about grabbing all the pieces like bathing suits, beach towels and sunscreen for the whole crew, in addition to all the ordinary things you’d pack with you on a trip. And what if it rains? What if it gets cold? What if it’s scorching hot every day?

We know packing for a beach vacation can be a lot to handle, which is why we want to break it down for you. We’ve put together the ultimate list of all our beach trip packing tips. Follow this advice, and you can be sure something small like a forgotten towel or swimsuit won't throw your whole vacation off course.

How to Pack for the Beach

Before we dive into the actual items you’ll want to pack for your beach trip, it’s essential to start your packing on the right foot. That can be an overwhelming task under the best of circumstances, which means your job is to make it as manageable and straightforward as possible. To make things simple, you’ll want to follow a method to avoid confusion.

Here are our quick tips for establishing this method.

  • Do pack from a list: Before you begin your packing, create a list. Use our list, or make one on your own, but always pack from a list and check items off as you pack them. If you start grabbing items haphazardly, you’re more likely to forget what you’ve packed and what you haven’t, thus ending up with duplicates or things that are missing altogether.
  • Do keep similar items together: Put the beach towels in one bag, clothes in another and essentials like sunscreen, aloe and medications in another. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to find anything. If you throw your sunscreen in with your towels, you can lose track of it, and you may end up buying a new bottle you didn't need.
  • Do plan your outfits: We can’t stress this one enough. If you start randomly throwing items in a bag, overpacking is almost a guarantee. Instead, take some time to plan your daily outfits. Think about what you’ll wear to the beach, what you’ll wear if you go out in the evening and what you’ll wear when lounging around the beach house or hotel. Pack only the pieces for these exact outfits, as well as one spare, and you’ll have everything you need.
  • Don’t overpack: Let’s admit it — we’re all guilty of this one. We want to prepare for anything, so we end up packing far more clothes than we’ll ever need or want in the course of our short trip. Doing so makes your suitcases heavier and harder to sort through to find the items you want. Sidestep this problem by choosing exactly the amount of outfits you’ll need and not adding anything else. You can allow yourself one extra outfit if it makes you feel safer, but try not to go beyond this.
  • Don’t start packing the day you leave: Packing all in a rush in an hour or two before you head out is the best way to guarantee you’ll forget something. No one works well in a panic. Instead, give yourself a day or two to slowly move through your packing list and carefully consider every item you put into your suitcase. By giving yourself at least a day to mull over that “haven't-you-forgotten-something” feeling, you’re more likely to remember what it is and pack it before your trip.

What to Pack for a Beach Trip

Clothes are usually the first thing that springs to mind when it comes to packing, but there are plenty more essentials that need to find their way into your suitcase for your trip to be a success. Here are the essential non-clothing items on your list to include.

  • Sunscreen: Don’t skimp on this. You’ll always use more than you think.
  • Aloe: Someone will end up sunburned, and this cooling gel provides instant relief.
  • Toiletries: If you’re cramped for space in your bag, grab travel-sized bottles.
  • Feminine hygiene needs: Even if you don’t think you’ll need them, it's always best to overprepare.
  • Makeup/skin care: If you plan to use these, don’t forget to pack them.
  • Medications: Bring any daily medications, as well a travel pack of generic painkiller such as ibuprofen, just in case.
  • Beach towels: Don’t let anyone in your party forget to pack this essential item.
  • Beach reads: Buy, borrow or download a book to read as you lounge at the beach, or grab a few magazines to bring along for entertainment.
  • Hair dryer/curling iron: These items come in handy if you plan to head out on the town after a day at the beach and need to restyle your hair in between.
  • Electronics chargers: Unless you plan on having a device-free trip, you’ll undoubtedly need these.
  • Beach bag: You may be able to reuse one of the bags you’re packing in, but don’t forget to bring a bag you can carry with you down to the beach to hold all your essentials.

Remember, if you do forget any of these must-haves, you’ll likely never be far from a reliable pharmacy or convenience store where you can replace anything you may have left behind.

What Clothes to Pack for the Beach

Which clothes you’ll pack for your beach trip depends on how many days you’ll be there, as well as what activities you have planned during your trip. Despite these variations, however, there are a few general tips everyone will want to follow as they pack their clothes for the beach.

1. Grab Things That Can Mix and Match

Apply this tip to every trip you’ll take: The more ways you can mix and match pieces to create new outfits, the fewer items you’ll have to bring in total, and the lighter your suitcase will be. So grab neutrals or colors that go well with anything, and you’ll have numerous ready-made outfits from the same few items.

2. Go Light on the Shoes

Shoes are usually the heaviest item in a suitcase, so it’s always best to avoid bringing as many of these as possible. For your beach trip, we recommend bringing one pair of flip-flops for the beach, one pair of dressier shoes for going out in the evening and no more. If you plan on going for runs while at the beach, athletic shoes will also be in order. Three pairs of shoes is the absolute maximum you should pack, however, as any more will crowd your suitcase and make it difficult to carry.

3. Skip the High-Maintenance Clothes

Got pieces that need to be ironed, steamed or hung out to shake out the wrinkles? Leave ‘em at home. You’re going to be busy at the beach all day and waiting for your turn in the single bathroom in your hotel room. Trust us, you’re not going to want to spend the time dealing with any of these finicky clothing items. Stick to pieces you can fold and shake out again with no damage, and that you can wear once or twice without them starting to look dingy.

4. Grab Pieces That Can Pull Double Duty

The key to packing light is to select pieces that can serve multiple purposes in your wardrobe. For instance, if you have a sundress that's perfect for going out at night, can it also work as a beach cover-up? Or maybe your dedicated cover-up can pair with white or colored jeans at night for an eye-catching dinner outfit. By thinking this way, you’ll quickly become a pro at saving suitcase space.

Choosing the Right Clothes for the Beach

Now that we’re all on the same page about the types of things you’ll want to be bringing with you, let’s get into the specifics. What exactly should you put into your bag or suitcase? We’ve taken the guesswork out of it by providing you with a list.

  • Underwear: Pack one pair of underwear for every day of your trip, as well as one spare pair. We’re always tempted to take more, but that’s all you need.
  • Bras: You can re-wear bras multiple days, depending on how hot it is and what you’ve been doing. Plan to wear the same bra for two or three days, or whatever your normal practice is. Bras are hard to fold compactly, so don’t take any more than you’ll need to get through the days by re-wearing them like this.
  • Socks: Since you’ll be wearing flip-flops and sandals all day, these won’t be necessary. Plan to bring a pair or two of ankle socks to wear with your sneakers if you plan on going for a run or working out while at the beach, but otherwise, these probably won’t be necessary.
  • Swimsuits: It depends on the length of your trip, of course, but we recommend bringing two suits. If they’re two-piece suits, choose ones that coordinate so you can mix and match the tops to give you even more variety.
  • Beach cover-up: Pack a dedicated beach cover-up, or use a dress or tunic to do the job for you.
  • Pajamas: Don’t forget these. Pajamas are another item you can easily wear for more than one night in a row, so plan to get a few nights out of each pair, and pack the amount you’ll need accordingly.
  • Gym shorts, sports bra and workout tanks: If you plan on integrating your workout schedule into your beach trip, you’ll want to pack athletic gear as well. Since these clothes tend to get sweaty, you may not want to re-wear them, meaning it’s best to pack a separate outfit for each time you plan to go out. Plan your number of workouts ahead of time so you can predict your exact needs in this department.
  • Going-out clothes: Planning to hit up restaurants in the evening? Thinking of doing a little shopping at a nearby mall? Maybe just looking to walk the boardwalk in the evening after a long day at the beach? Don’t forget to pack something nice for any such occasion. A cute dress like this Kinsley Flare Dress in Blush is a perfect choice, or perhaps a pair of shorts and a sparkly tank top. Only pack one or two of these outfits, as they are easy to re-wear.
  • Hanging-out clothes: Your day at the beach is over, and now you and your beach party are ready for some time hanging out at the house or hotel, playing games and watching TV. You’ll want something comfy to slip into, such as a pair of shorts and a T-shirt like this Blossoming Top. To fill this need, grab one or two pairs of shorts, a pair of sweatpants and a couple of T-shirts.
  • Jacket or sweatshirt: Yes, you’re going to the beach, but the weather at the beach is always unpredictable. Maybe it’ll rain one day, or perhaps the temperature will unexpectedly drop. What if it gets chilly at night? While you don’t want to overpack, there’s nothing wrong with being prepared by bringing one all-purpose sweatshirt or jacket.
  • Flip-flops: These are a beach essential no one should forget.
  • Sandals: Think flat sandals or maybe strappy heels for your fun evenings out on the town. Try not to grab anything too hard to walk in, especially if you plan on wearing them up and down the boardwalk or sand.
  • Sneakers: You'll only need to bring sneakers if you plan to work out. Otherwise, leaving them at home is a great way to make your bag a few pounds lighter.
  • Sun hat: These floppy hats are easy to fold up and slide into the side of a bag, and they’re great for shielding your eyes and skin at the beach while also keeping things stylish.
  • Sunglasses: These are at the same level of flip-flops — a beach essential everyone should have in their bag at all times.
  • Jewelry: There’s no need to go overboard here. You probably won’t wear any jewelry on the beach, but you might want to accessorize for dinner or shopping. Consider packing one statement necklace and a single pair of hoop earrings, or one bracelet and a pair of small stud earrings. Keep these minimal, however, to minimize stress at the possibility of losing them.

By packing these items, you can feel sure you have everything you need for a fun and successful trip to the beach.

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