True story: I was once so excited to hit the beach that I completely forgot to pack a bathing suit and was resigned to sitting on the sidelines all day while everyone else splashed around in the ocean. While I highly doubt most others would make the same error that I did, it is handy to have a checklist of absolutely everything you might need before you head to the shore. So, we compiled the ultimate packing list, from sunscreen to yummy snacks to extra bags for wet towels and swimsuits. Here are the 16 beach essentials you actually need.
Rule number one for beach adventures: You can never have too much SPF. And we’re not just talking about the number of bottles of sunscreen you stick in your bag. Despite the FDA’s stance that anything over 50 doesn’t make much of a difference, a recent study suggested that SPF 100 really is better for you than SPF 50. So, if you haven’t already been subscribing to the ‘more is more’ approach, if might be time to upgrade to something more powerful. Many dermatologists and skincare experts also suggest opting for mineral or physical sunscreens as opposed to chemical, especially if you’ve got children tagging along (although buying separate child or baby sunscreen probably isn’t necessary).
Similar to sunscreen, you can never have too many towels. Towels to lie on, towels to dry off with after you swim, towels to wrap around your shoulders when the temperature starts to drop in the evening, towels to wipe everyone down before they get in the car, towels to protect your car seats and prevent your steering wheel from overheating in the parking lot. Bottom line: you should probably grab nearly every towel in your home before you hit the beach.
Unless you want to spend your whole day squinting into the sun, we suggest tossing a pair of sunnies into your tote. Polarized lenses are best for combating glare and reducing the strain on your eyes, however they can make it more difficult to read LCD screens, like your phone, GPS or Kindle. Either way, make sure your sunglasses block UV rays or they won’t do much in terms of protecting your eyes from the midday glare.
4. AN UMBRELLA
Besides making you feel like you’re on a fabulous vacation on the Amalfi Coast, a wide, colorful umbrella can help create a mini oasis and escape from the sun for you and your fellow beachgoers—especially the little ones.
5. BEACH CHAIRS
Your kids might be A-OK plopping themselves down just about anywhere on the beach, but not everyone is quite so amenable to the idea of spending hours sprawled out on a sandy towel. Whether you spring for a super fancy recliner or a simple beach chair, try to avoid models with metal armrests which are pretty much guaranteed to become too hot to touch within the first 30 minutes of your arrival.
6. SAND TOYS AND GAMES
You might be perfectly happy to lounge in your chair, take a dip in the water and enjoy a calm, relaxing day, but you’d be hard pressed to find a anyone under 18 who’d agree with you. Come prepared for the inevitable call of boredom with playing cards, a volleyball, tennis balls and rackets, shovels and buckets for building sandcastles, frisbee, ring toss, books and anything else that might keep the kids entertained until at least 3 pm.
Shop beach games: Bicycle playing cards ($3); Wilson volleyball ($9); Sun Squad bucket set ($10 for set of 10); Pulsar frisbee ($10); SunnyLife foam bat and ball set ($20); SunnyLife beach bats ($25); Sun Squad 4 Game Combo Set ($30); SunnyLife inflatable basketball set ($35); Sun Squad 2' x 3' Wood Bean Bag Toss ($80)
7. WATER BOTTLES
All that time spent out in the sun, sweating, swimming and running around is bound to dehydrate you quicker than you realize. Grab a few oversize reusable bottles and fill them up with water and ice before you leave the house, so you won’t be forced to pay for an overpriced 12 oz. plastic one later.
8. A COOLER
Filling your water bottles with ice will definitely help keep your drinks cool and refreshing for longer, but a designated cooler will do an even better job. Load it up with water, iced-tea, juice boxes and fruit, lunch or even ice pops and you’ll be good to go for the whole day.
Speaking of beach snacks, some are far superior than others for sandy, wet hands. Wraps prevent your sandwich filling from falling out the sides, while frozen grapes provide a sweet treat that’s just as delicious once it’s reached room temp (unlike drippy ice cream). Mixed nuts, trail mix and salty chips can help replenish any electrolytes lost from sweating in the heat, just try to avoid adding chocolate to the mix or anything with a cheesy coating as they can become goopy, melty messes if left in the sun too long.
Shop beach snacks: Power Up Trail Mix ($5); Popcorners Multipack ($5 for box of six); Setton Farms Pistachio Chewy Bites ($6); Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Sweet & Savory Variety Pack Crackers ($8 for box of 20); Sahale Snacks All Natural Nut Blends Grab & Go Variety Pack ($21 for box of 12); Bobo's Peanut Butter & Jelly Stuff'd Oat Bites ($27 for box of 30)
10. FIRST AID KIT
You hope your beach day will go off without a hitch, but it’s best to be prepared with a basic first aid kit, just in case. Antibiotic ointment, bandages and pain killers are a good place to start if you’re putting together your own emergency bag, or you can pick up a handy little pre-packed kit to keep in your tote or car at all times.
Shop first aid supplies: Advil Tablets, 100 count ($9); Neosporin First Aid Antibiotic/Pain Relieving Ointment ($10); Band-Aid Family Variety Pack ($10); Be Smart 180-Piece First Aid Kit ($12); Johnson & Johnson 140-Piece First Aid Kit ($12)
11. AFTER-SUN ALOE
While we’re on the subject of first aid, you’ll definitely want to bring along a bottle or two of cooling aloe. Hard as we all try to apply sunscreen correctly and as often as possible, there are times we find a random red stripe somewhere on our body at the end of the day. The sooner you start treating sunburn the better, so slather on that refreshing aloe gel on the car ride home and keep applying regularly until your burn has faded.
12. A HAT
A giant, wide-brim straw hat can make you feel glamorous and lovely. But more than that, it’s another way to get in some 360-degree sun protection. If you opt for a classic baseball cap, however, don’t forget to apply sunscreen to the back of your neck!
13. SANDALS OR SHOES WITH TRACTION
This is not the time to break in your new sleek, platform sandals. Walking on sand isn’t exactly easy and you risk walking out of your slides if you opt for styles that don’t strap on to your feet. The surrounding rocks, dunes and boardwalks can also be pretty slippery when wet, so we suggest choosing footwear with some solid traction just in case you want to go exploring (or you have to run after a kid who has that exact idea).
14. DRY CLOTHES
The only problem with piling into the car and heading out to the beach on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon? Everyone else is likely to have the same idea. Which means sitting in an endless line of cars on your way out of the parking lot…and on the highway. Car games, good music or a book on tape can help dissipate the frustration of bumper-to-bumper traffic but nothing will help as much as some fresh, clean clothing. Stick a bag of light, breezy clothes (including underwear) in the trunk and change in the bathroom before you depart, for an infinitely more comfortable trip home.
15. BAGS FOR WET CLOTHES/TOWELS
And what to do with all those wet bathing suits and sand-packed towels? Include some water-resistant, zippered bags in your post-beach car kit to keep your dirty laundry separate from everything else. Gallon Ziplock bags are great for wet swimsuits and trunks, while a nylon tote should be large enough to fit all those extra towels you’re now so grateful you packed.
16. A BEACH BAG
It may seem like an obvious inclusion, but having a bag specifically designated as your beach-going tote means you can pack it with all the above necessities and then leave it as is in your hall closet. No need to constantly repack and risk forgetting something important (like, say, your bathing suit), because everything is right there waiting for you to grab on your way out the door.
Shop beach bags: L.L.Bean ($45); Everything But Water ($54); Business & Pleasure Co ($59); Mark & Graham x Steele ($89); Hat Attack ($109); Roller Rabbit ($118); Lululemon ($128); Squeeze de Citron ($140)
PureWow may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from PureWow's editorial and sales departments.