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Finalizing a beach vacation packing list requires a slightly different strategy than other kinds of trips: For one, preventative measures like sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats are non-negotiable. Then there’s the sand, the wet clothes, and the keeping-kids-happy, if you’re traveling with young ones, to factor in. Before you jet off on your next beach vacation, be it to Miami, Maui, or the Maldives, consult our ultimate beach vacation packing list below—it's filled with all the essentials you might forget, from the waterproof tech bag that’ll protect your cell phone to the best towels for every kind of beach trip imaginable.
Beach trip essentials:
Clothing & shoes
Skincare & beauty
This article has been updated with new information since its original publish date. Additional reporting by Kristi Kellogg.
When it comes to choosing which clothes to pack for a beach vacation, less is more. More often than not, you’ll find yourself in comfortable, loose-fitting clothes that can be reworn throughout the weekend or week by the beach. There are the essentials—bathing suits, sundresses, and walking sandals or flip flops, (there's no better time to break out your Chaco's)—you can’t leave home without. Beyond that, we recommend packing lightweight pieces of clothing like an oversized button-down and breathable linen pants, which can be worn on the beach or out to dinner.
Read more: Summer Clothing Essentials for Travelers
After taking a dip in the water, you'll want to throw on a lightweight cover-up. The sarongs, pool skirts, and breathable sets below are easy to put on and can be worn to lunch or the beach bar. If you've spent a little too much time in the sun, the Lulus Vacation Jumpsuit will keep your skin protected while still feeling breezy. Plus, they take up very little packing room—roll them up tightly and toss them in your beach tote.
Read more: The Best Beach Cover-Ups for Women
Grab a hat for you and ones for your family members, too: They'll block out more sun than glasses alone and keep your scalp from getting burned. You could opt for a chic straw hat or a sporty cap if you want to tie your hair up. Another trendy favorite you can't go wrong with: the beloved bucket hat.
One thing's for sure—you'll need a beach tote to carry all of your essentials. If you're going for the coastal grandmother vibe, pack a straw tote bag like the ones below from Express or Hat Attack. If you need room to pack snacks, drinks, and a beach blanket for the whole family, the Away 45L tote has you covered. This extra-spacious and durable bag fit everything my friends and I needed to pull off a sunset picnic on the beach last summer—and it's water-resistant, too. For something a little more simple, our editors adore the Boat and Tote bag from L.L.Bean—it's a classic.
Read more: The Best Tote Bags
A reusable shopping bag will come in handy on many occasions. You can drop in odds and ends on your way to the beach or stash your beach accessories without schlepping another full-size tote around. On the way home, use them to wrap up dirty clothes or still-damp suits.
After a long day at the beach, nothing feels better than a hot shower and a comfortable pair of pajamas. The one thing that can improve the experience? A robe. If you’re going to bring one from home, you’ll want it to be lightweight and quick-drying, like these waffle robes from Parachute and Nordstrom.
Read more: The Best Hotel and Spa Robes
When you’re deciding what to pack for a beach vacation, sunscreen should be the first thing in your bag. Check out our favorite body sunscreens for every skin type, including the best choices for babies and children. And of course, you can't forget to protect your face: Supergoop's Unseen Sunscreen is a long-time favorite of our editors, as well as the Kinfield Daily Dew reef-safe sunscreen for those who prefer a mineral option.
In case you end up being less than diligent about reapplying SPF, bring a cooling mist or aloe lotion for some much-needed post-beach care. These soothing formulas help hydrate the skin and are gentle enough to use on sunburn. Pro tip: Pop the aloe gel in the fridge for a few minutes before using it for an extra-cool feeling.
Depending on where you travel, you may want to pack bug spray, too. In places like Florida and North Carolina, summers get buggy, and you’ll be happy to have packed a spray on nights when you want to sit on the porch or dine outdoors. These sprays will protect you and your family from mosquitoes, ticks, and chiggers.
A roomy Dopp kit will hold all your travel necessities: lip balm, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, contact solution or eye drops, a razor, shampoo, conditioner, and body and face wash. If you want to stay extra organized, opt for Calpak's spacious cosmetic case—there are two separate compartments and it's clear, so you can quickly spot what you need.
One item you don't want to forget for a day at the beach: A pair of sunglasses. These polarized frames from Quay are sleek and lightweight, and the pair from Sojos are equally as chic. Even better, they're on sale for under $20, so there's no need to worry about accidentally losing or breaking them.
There’s no better time to put your insulated water bottle to use than a day at the beach, when staying hydrated is even more important than usual. These bottles from Hydro Flask, Yeti, Simple Modern, and Stanley will keep water cold for hours, and hold plenty of water to keep you hydrated during a full day at the beach. If you want to feel comfortable tossing it in your tote without any leaks, go for the Hydro Flask or Yeti—the straws can be completely concealed to prevent spills.
Read more: The Best Reusable Water Bottles
When you’re out on the sand for hours at a time, playing music or taking photos can mean a drained battery. Come prepared with a portable charger: We love the Anker PowerCore for its reliability and the iWalk for its ultra-compact size.
Read more: The Best Portable Chargers for Travel
Even for the most loyal of print fans, it’s hard to argue the benefits of e-readers on vacation. They take up less space in your bag, let you have more book options on deck, and in the case of the Kindle Paperwhite, can withstand a splash of water much better than a paperback. Bring one on your next beach vacation and finally cross a book or two off your reading list.
While you may be going to a resort where towels are included, it’s never a bad idea to bring your own, especially if you have one that you love. The ones we've featured below are lightweight, ultra-soft towels you'll want to lay on all day long. Roll them up tightly and they'll hardly take up much space in your suitcase.
A beach bag that doubles as a cooler is a must for family beach days. Keep your water bottles cold and come prepared with snacks for the kiddos and yourself in any of these insulated bags. If your beach vacation is a drive away rather than a flight, consider investing in one of Yeti's indestructible Tundra Haul wheeled coolers.
For more fun (and comfort) underwater, grab a few pairs of goggles, like this classic pair from Speedo. They're not meant for deep diving, but they'll come in handy in the pool and in shallow ends of the ocean. Speedo makes smaller googles for kids, too.
Waterproof phone case
Nothing ruins a vacation quite like having to fish your phone out of the ocean (or pool, or sink, for that matter). If you’re at all afraid of getting your phone wet by the beach, consider investing in the Osprey dry bag. This thing will keep your electronics and other valuables dry as a bone when you’re on a boat, sitting in a splash zone, or in a kayak. If you want to take your phone in the water with you, we recommend one of LifeProof’s Frē Series waterproof cases.
Read more: The Best Waterproof Phone Cases
If you're traveling with kids, games will keep them happy when the shade comes out, when the water's too cold, or when they need a new activity. For beachgoers a drive away, a Spikeball set will get plenty of use in the backyard and at the beach, but it is something you'll have to lug onto the sand. More portable options include flying rings, Kan Jam, and water-resistant Uno cards.
A portable speaker might not be an essential, but it's definitely a bonus for any beach day. JBL, Bose, and Marshall make some of our favorite portable speakers. They're compact and lightweight enough to store in a tote bag and will stay charged all day long.
Water shoes are just the thing for traversing rocky patches of the beach. They also are a game changer for exploring tide pools. The traction helps you feel secure and grounded, while also protecting your feet from jagged edges and sharp objects. Our favorite pairs include these quick-drying Vifuur shoes; for something a little more stylish, Reef sandals are comfortable to walk in all day long and you don't need to worry about getting them wet.
A beach blanket is a must for room to spread out and lounge—and makes a big difference when you're having a picnic and don't want the sand blowing into your snacks. The best beach blankets can be rolled up neatly and toted around on your shoulder for hands-free carrying.
Read more: The Best Beach Blankets
What's a beach day without a beach chair? The options below are comfortable, lightweight enough to carry down the boardwalk, and feature a cupholder. An even more fun option: this comfy inflatable lounger that's just $40 on Amazon.
Beach umbrella or sun shade
The Fatboy sun shade folds up into an easy-to-carry travel pouch. There's space for two adults and two kids under the tent, and you can set it up in three different configurations to suit your needs. We also love this heavy-duty beach umbrella from Sport-Brella. It's sturdy and will last you years (if not decades).
SPF lip balm
One spot you really don't want to get a sunburn: your lips. There's nothing fun about chapped, cracked lips after a day in the sun. Two non-sticky and non-tinted lip balms we love are from Supergoop and Aquaphor—they provide sun protection while moisturizing your lips for hours.
Before eating lunch or after playing in the sand, it's nice to wipe your hands clean with an antibacterial wipe. These travel-friendly hand wipes fit nicely in your backpack or tote and will always come in handy, especially if you have kids. I never travel without them (they're also great for wiping down your plane seat and seat tray in-flight).