Headed on a beach vacation? Use our essential beach packing list to help you pack everything you’ll need for a relaxing beach getaway. Best of all, it can save you money, since packing the right things now will keep you from having to repurchase items once you arrive.
Let other people sweat the small stuff, and streamline your list of hot weather must-haves so you look cool, even when the temperature isn’t. Here’s what to pack for the beach—without overpacking.
All of the products featured in this story were hand-selected by our travel editors. Some of the links featured in this story are affiliate links, and SmarterTravel may collect a commission (at no cost to you) if you shop through them.
What to Pack
Download our fillable beach packing checklist here.
Clothes & Accessories to Pack
Toiletries to Pack
Beach Gear to Pack
Misc. Travel Essentials to Pack
Other Beach Packing Tips
Overall Plan: Light and breezy items should dominate your wardrobe choices. While you want to be comfortable, skip the faded and raggedy T-shirts and instead aim for a summery look that’s casual but polished. And while you’re packing, you may be tempted to focus just on getting there, make sure you also spend some time thinking about how you’ll transport wet and sandy items back home. There’s nothing worse than a suitcase full of sand. CGear has a line of products, including lounge chairs, blankets, and bags, that are “sand-free” and are must-have additions to your beach packing list.
What’s Essential? No beach vacation is complete without a swimsuit. Buy more than one so there’s always something dry to wear, and bring them along in your carry-on. For footwear, pack flip-flops, sandals, water shoes, or canvas tennis shoes, depending on the type of beach you’re on.
Choose a mesh or nylon beach bag with a distinctive pattern so it’s easy to spot in a crowd, and make sure it has inside pockets, preferably waterproof, to store valuables and small electronics such as your cell phone. Speaking of gadgets, make sure that they’re waterproof or have protective covers. A soft-sided insulated tote for drinks and snacks is easier to carry than a bulky cooler. Pack some disposable wipes for quick clean-up. Reusable plastic bags can be your best friend: Use them to bring food to the beach, and then carry wet swimsuits and towels on the way home. And you’ll probably want a portable speaker, too. For more ideas, see 15 Beach Bag Essentials You Need for Summer.
Secret Weapon: If you wear corrective lenses and your beach sessions involve exploring reefs for colorful fish, you may want to invest in a prescription snorkel mask. Having your own mask can also prevent communicable diseases. (I once got a wicked case of pinkeye from a tainted snorkel mask in Costa Rica. Lesson learned.)
Safety First: No matter how good it feels, the sun is not your friend. Load up on sun protection with a strong sunscreen that you can reapply often. If you’re traveling to your destination by plane, look into sunscreen towelettes that won’t explode or leak like bottled sunscreen. When you’re lathering up, don’t forget your face. Add SPF lip balm, and wear sunglasses and a sun hat. Make sure to check the environmental regulations at your beach destination, as some places are banning harmful and coral-damaging chemical sunscreens. Instead, shop for reef-safe sunscreens.
Leave at Home: Being on the beach is an excuse to cut loose; avoid bringing clothing that’s too stuffy or structured. If you’re staying at a hotel, find out ahead of time if towels and other beach amenities are included. Many vacation rentals also have “house” items such as camp chairs and barbecue grills so there’s no need to bring your own.
Book Your Stay With SmarterTravel
Save money on your beach getaway by booking with SmarterTravel Hotel.
Download the Packing List for the Ultimate Beach Vacation
Click here or on the image below to download our fillable beach packing checklist.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2012. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Chris Gray Faust contributed to this story.
You Might Also Like:• The 10 Best Weekend Travel Bags for Men
• 10 Ultralight Rolling Carry-on Bags Under 6 Pounds
• 7 Terrible Travel Presents, and What to Give Instead
• Warm and Actually Stylish Travel Clothes for Winter
• The Ultimate Packing List
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.