The Ultimate Beach Vacation Packing List

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From universally flattering bathing suits to our favorite cooler, here's all the essentials and extras.

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It’s easy to get lost daydreaming about your next beach vacation, especially when things get stressful or the weather starts cooling down. Mental transportation trips don’t require checklists, but knowing what to pack when the time actually comes to tuck your feet into the sand keeps vacation stress at bay.

You’ll need to choose your suitcase and its contents with care. There's the essentials to remember, like reef-safe sunscreen, a swimsuit, and sunglasses. And, yes, chances are that on a beach vacation you’ll be spending plenty of time on the surf, but you’ll also be going out in town. Depending on your destination, essentials and extras may not be available to purchase. That’s why we’ve created this complete checklist of what to pack for a beach vacation—no matter where in the world the sun and sand might take you.

After you’ve got your passport, wallet, and everyday toiletries ready, use this checklist for everything else.

Packing Checklist for a Beach Vacation

Here's everything you need to pack for a beach vacation with our top recommendations for each item, from the best swimsuits to our favorite cooler. Use this as a checklist and read more about each of our specific recommendations below.

Clothing

Shoes

Gear and Accessories

As we’ve mentioned, beach clothing goes beyond just the beach. At the bare minimum, you’ll want to have a few things to wear for your time spent off the sand. This includes any cover-ups for quick jaunts away from your towel or a loose-fitting sundress to wear at restaurants or in town. We also included a few necessary garments for sun-protection and, of course, what you’ll wear to ride the waves. When choosing clothing for a beach vacation, you’ll want to stick to fast-drying, breathable, and lightweight materials that can be comfortably worn in hot temperatures. When it comes to hats, the ability to pack down, hold shape, and provide shade are key factors.

Angashion Summer Bohemian Spaghetti Strap Midi Dress

Best Sundress

A spaghetti strap sundress is practically staple beach-vacation attire. It’s a great way to elevate your beach look without having to put too much effort in. The Angashion Summer Bohemian Spaghetti Strap Midi Dress has faux-buttons and a midi length that make it appear more formal than it is (in reality, you can just slip it on over your head and you’re ready to go). With 37 different colors and patterns to choose from, you can pack a few of these in your suitcase and be set for a drink at the beach bar or a night out on the town. Plus, it’s got pockets.

Price at time of publish: $34

Tempt Me Deep Plunge V-neck Monokini

Best Swimsuit

A killer swimsuit may be one of the most important items you pack in your suitcase. This deep-V monokini is flattering on a range of body and bust types and manages to look sexy without being too revealing (read: it’s family-friendly). Thick straps over the shoulders support larger busts, while the removable padded cups help to enhance small busts. It comes in 43 different patterns and colors, so it could be worth stocking up on more than one. We love the subtle details like the high-cut, eyelet striping, and criss-crossed back.

Price at time of publish: $33

Coolibar UPF 50+ Women's Aubrey Wide-brim Beach Hat

Best Sun Hat

This dermatologist-recommended sun hat offers UPF 50+ protection and a 5-inch brim to help keep your face and ears shaded from the sun. The crushable, straw-like construction makes it extra packable, so you can toss it in your suitcase or beach bag without worrying about it losing its shape. The soft cotton lining helps to absorb sweat at the crown, and an interior drawstring ensures a custom fit. We’re also fans of the simple straw-and-stripe appearance that will match your beach day vibes—and almost any outfit.

Price at time of publish: $49

Related:

Chubbies Lined Classic Swim Trunk

Best Swim Trunks

Chubbies swim trunks combine colorful, fun designs with a more custom fit. The Classic Swim Trunks are shorter than your average trunk and hit around mid-thigh level, giving them a flirty feel. A mesh lining keeps it cradled and the elastic waist has a drawstring for an adjustable fit. We also love that the back pocket has a zipper instead of the usual velcro. Made from polyester and spandex, these trunks are breathable, flexible, and fast-drying—a.k.a. perfect for the beach. If the spritely designs (like neon flamingos) aren’t your thing, there’s also solid colors and patterns to choose from.

Price at time of publish: from $70

Bishuige T-shirt Dress Beach Cover-up

Best Swimsuit Cover-up

An ideal swimsuit cover-up can be thrown on in a pinch and will cover you up enough to walk through a casual restaurant without getting stares. This T-shirt-style cover-up dress is made from a rayon and spandex blend making it extra breathable, bouncy, and breezy. The crew neck and A-line cut are flattering while still providing solid coverage, and we, of course, love the hidden pockets. Depending on your body, this dress will hit just above your knee or higher. It comes in over 40 colors and patterns and sizes that range from S to 3XL.

Price at time of publish: from $29

Shoes can sometimes be the trickiest thing to pack when heading out on a beach vacation. It’s a no-brainer that you’ll want a pair of sandals or flip-flops that can easily slide off and on and shield the bottoms of your feet from hot sand, but you’ll also want to consider versatile shoes that can be worn at the beach, on the rocks, in the surf, and out on the town. Choose lightweight materials that will survive getting wet and will dry fast when they do. Look for an adjustable, snug fit that won’t slip off in the sand. And don’t overlook durability, as the last thing you want is to be spending your beach vacation searching for a replacement shoe.

Rainbow Leather Sandals

Best Flip-flops

Rainbow flip-flops are the flip-flops people who live on the beach wear. They are tops when it comes to comfort, fit, and durability. The memory foam sole molds to your feet so your fit only gets better with time, though you’ll need to break them in. Soft leather straps don’t chafe the tops of your feet and the thong won’t cause painful blistering between the toes. Both the men’s and women’s leather versions can be worn in beach conditions or even out on the town.

Price at time of publish: $69

Teva Women's Original Universal Sandals

Most Versatile Sandals, Women

Water sandals save space when packing because of their versatility. These Teva Women’s Original Universal Sandals come in 37 different colors so you can mix and match them with practically any outfit. Plus, they are lightweight so they won’t bog down your suitcase or beach bag. The adjustable hook-and-loop straps get you a customized fit, while the contoured EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam footbed and arch support keeps it comfortable. High-traction rubber soles work on several types of terrain—hikes, sand, gravel, or indoors. A big bonus? They're made from recycled materials.

Price at time of publish: $35

Related:

Chaco Men's Z/Cloud 2 Sandals

Most Versatile Sandals, Men

If you’re looking for a breathable, secure, and stylish sandal that can take you from beachside to beach bar, the Chaco Men’s ZCloud 2 Sandals are just what the doctor ordered—literally. This sandal has a podiatrist-certified and biocentric Loveseat footbed that gives all-day, walking-on-a-cloud comfort. You’ll also get custom fit thanks to the toe loop and adjustable strap system, along with reliable traction on sand or slippery gravel thanks to the gripping rubber outsoles. Six color options give a decent amount of choice, too.

Price at time of publish: $81

Must-haves for a beach vacation include a solid sunscreen, and we also recommend always packing a reef-safe sunscreen, just in case your destination doesn’t have any readily available (or charges an arm and a leg for it). Some of these items can be omitted, like the personal beach canopy, if you know you’ll have cabanas or shade available to you. But it never hurts to pack a decent beach tote and top-notch necessities like an insulated water bottle, UV-blocking sunglasses, a waterproof cell phone case, a sand-proof towel, or insect bite control. And, even beautiful beaches get boring, so why not bring along a portable beach game, too?

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk Sunscreen SPF 60

Best Sunscreen

It’s tempting to reach for the tanning oil or a light SPF for your beach vacation, but the truth is that protecting your skin is the top priority (self-tanner exists for a reason, right?). La Roche-Posay is a dermatologist-recommended sunscreen brand, and their Anthelios Melt-In Sunscreen Milk SPF 60 deserves a spot in your suitcase. This sunscreen is light, unscented, and is formulated for use on your face and body. It’s oxybenzone-free (but don’t confuse it with reef-safe) and sports added antioxidants to help with the broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection.

Price at time of publish: $36

ThinkSport Safe Sunscreen SPF 50+

Best Reef-safe Sunscreen

Planning on heading into the water during your beach vacation? Don’t forget to pack the reef-safe sunscreen. Thinksport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen is a 100 percent non-nano mineral sunscreen that is sweat-proof and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. It’s also comfortable enough to wear as your usual sunscreen, and it has a very minimal white cast. It gets the job done without harming marine life, leaving a greasy after-feel, and without irritating skin.

Price at time of publish: $17

Related:

Ray-Ban RB2140 Original Wayfarer Sunglasses

Best Sunglasses

Classics stay classics for a reason, and in that respect, it’s hard to go wrong with the Ray-Ban Original Wayfarer sunglasses. The crystal lenses in these frames come polarized for better clarity and reduced sun glare. They’ll also give you 100 percent UV protection against UVA, UVB, and UBC rays. These glasses feature photochromic lenses that adapt to the weather and lighting conditions to make sure you’ll have the least amount of eye strain and the most amount of pigment and precision.

Price at time of publish: $193

Bite Away Insect Sting and Bite Relief

Best Bite and Sting Control

Trips to tropical beaches can often mean you’ll be around tropical insects. While you may not have to worry about stings and bites while you’re on the sand, the magical hours of sunrise and sunset can be an issue. The Bite Away wand uses heat to instantly stop your bites from itching and stings from, well, stinging—without chemicals, sticky residue, or smells. It’s ideal to slip into your beach bag or keep at the ready in your hotel room. No, it doesn’t prevent bites or stings, but it is pretty darn good at making it seem like they never happened.

Price at time of publish: $30

JOTO Universal Waterproof Phone Pouch

Best Waterproof Phone Case

The Joto Universal Waterproof Phone Pouch gives you a lot of bang for your buck. Since it works with practically all types of phones, you won’t have to worry about re-purchasing if you get a new one, and you can easily hand it off to different members of your group as needed. The stuff-and-seal mechanism protects your phone up to 100 feet deep, so you can use it for boat days, snorkeling trips, and floats. The convenient neck strap means you can keep tabs on it easily. Plus, you can still (usually) use your touchscreen thanks to the pouch's dual-sided clear window design.

Price at time of publish: $8

CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag

Best Cooler

Keep your drinks and snacks chilled in the Clevermade Collapsible Cooler Bag. This cooler bag can hold 50 12-ounces cans plus ice and keep them cold for hours. It’s ideal for packing in your beach vacation bags since it’s fully collapsible and won’t take up much space in your suitcase. It breaks down flat with a zippered closure for easy storage. The pop-up design takes seconds to set up, and the bag feels sturdy with its board base and wire-rimmed top. The front zippered pocket can hold (and hide) a cell phone or other slim items, and you don’t have to worry about having a bottle opener on hand since there’s one built into the handle.

Price at time of publish: $44

Bluboon Waterproof Beach Tote

Best Beach Tote

This machine-washable beach tote is more than just a bag to toss a few beach essentials in: It comes loaded with pockets for easy organization. Four exterior pockets can hold everything from water bottles and sunscreen to flip-flops and reading materials, while the main zippered pocket is large enough to hold a couple of towels, your cover-up, and a change of clothes. There are also slip pockets inside the main pocket for smaller items such as keys and cell phones. An additional side zippered compartment is waterproof and can hold wet swimsuits or towels. It comes  in 12 different colors and designs, making it easier to find one that fits your style and personality.

Price at time of publish: $25

Qipi Beach Cabana Canopy

Best Beach Canopy

Long days at the beach call for some respite in the shade. Packing a collapsible beach canopy is a must for shade breaks and cover from dangerous UV rays. This canopy has an easy pop-up design that uses a center pole for stability and height. Each corner has fillable sandbag pockets to ground the canopy, which is key on windy days. Thoughtful details like mesh pockets in the inside corner for holding sunscreen, cell phones, and other small items make this beach tent stand out.

Price at time of publish: $72

Related:

The Beach People Sand-Free Cabana Towel

Best Beach Towel

Bringing your own beach towel is a game-changer. The Beach People Sand-free Cabana Towel comes in six colors (in a beachy palette, of course) and rocks a traditional white stripe design. This isn’t your mom’s beach towel, though. It’s fade-resistant, sand-proof, and made from soft cotton. We love that the top side is flat-woven to repel sand, but you still get the benefit of a terry cloth dry on the bottom—both without compromising on the larger 30 x 60-inch size of a beach towel. Toss it down, shake it off, and repeat.

Price at time of publish: $29

Outside Inside Backpack Bocce

Best Beach Game

We love a good beach vacation as much as the next travelers, but sometimes you need a little more entertainment than a good book. Bocce is a great beach game to pack since it’s family-friendly and can be played with as little as two players or with large teams. This portable Outside Inside Backpack Bocce set has nine 1.75-inch waterproof and sandproof PVC balls in four colors and comes with a convenient 5.5 x 5.5-inch carrying case that can easily be packed in your suitcase and tossed in your beach bag.

Price at time of publish: $18

Hydro Flask Wide-mouth Bottle with Flex Cap

Best Water Bottle

It’s important to stay hydrated while you’re spending time in the sun, and a concession stand isn’t always a given at the beach. Get ahead of the thirst game by packing your own reusable water bottle and filling it up before you hit the sand. The Hydro Flask Wide-mouth Bottle with Flex Cap gives you up to 24-hour ice retention so you can gulp down cold drinks, even if you stay all day in the sun. A stainless steel body makes it sturdy enough to toss in your beach bag, or just carry it via the flexible top handle.

Price at time of publish: $38

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between waterproof and water-resistant?

<p>If something is water-resistant, it means that it can hold up to water exposure up to a certain depth and/or length of time. When something is waterproof, it is completely impervious to water exposure. </p>

How much should I pack for a weeklong trip?

<p>The amount of things you’ll need on a weeklong trip depends on the type of activities you plan on doing and whether you’ll have access to a washer-dryer. Packing pieces that can be mix-and-matched will help save space, and this includes versatile shoes. For a beach vacation, you’ll likely want to bring at least three swimsuits or swim trunks if you’re planning to go in the water several days on your trip. </p>

Why Trust Travel + Leisure?

The writer for this packing checklist, Katherine Alex Beaven, has never lived more than an hour from the nearest beach and has been lucky enough to pack her own bags to visit beaches from Miami to Maldives.

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