When it comes to the ideal vacation for relaxing, unwinding, disconnecting and having an epic time – you can’t do much better than the beach. Whether it’s just for the day – or for several days – the beach offers endless opportunities for fun and leisure.
But with all these different opportunities to soak in all that outdoor glory, it can be difficult to know exactly what to pack for the beach. Men and women have different needs, as do families if you’re traveling with children. And that’s why we’re here! We’ve put together this comprehensive guide to walk you through all of your potential beach packing needs.
In this guide you’ll find a list of your beach essentials, a women’s and men’s beach packing list, a family beach vacation packing list, what to pack for a day trip to the beach, bonus items to pack for some extra beach-time fun, advice on how to stay organized and keep your valuables safe at the beach and other essential safety tips.
By the end, you’ll be a beach packing pro so get ready to soak in the relaxing vibes, surf, sun and fun!
Ok then, let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- Beach Essentials
- Women’s Beach Packing List
- Men’s Beach Packing List
- Family Beach Vacation Packing List
- What to Pack on a Day Trip to the Beach
- BONUS: Awesome Things to Bring to the Beach
- What Bags to Take to the Beach
- Getting Organized
- What to do With Valuables at the Beach
- Essential Beach Tips
- Final Thoughts on What to Take to the Beach
#1 – Beach Blanket
You’ll be spending a lot of time lounging around on the sand, so you want a big and quick-drying beach blanket on your beach packing list. The edges of these don’t fly up as easily – throwing annoying sand all over you – when the ocean breeze strikes like regular towels do! The extra cushioning adds another layer of comfort for picnics, sunbathing and midday napping. Fold it up into a nice, compact tote for easy packing and transport
#2 – SunGod Sunglasses
A sturdy and effective pair of sunglasses is most definitely one of your beach must-haves. Our favorites are SunGod Sunglasses because they provide maximum protection from harmful rays, and are built to last. Their polarized triple-layer scratch-resistant lenses and trademark SunGod Adventureproof® flexible frames material make for an ultra-durable pair of shades. But that doesn’t mean they’re lacking in style – you can customize them to your style with a variety of available patterns and colors. Read our SunGod Sunglasses in-depth review here.
#3 – Sun Hat
Your face needs extra protection at the beach, even with sunscreen. It’s your body’s most sensitive area and the most prone to sunburn – and the most noticeable place for premature wrinkles! A protective sun hat is a must-have on your beach packing list. Women get maximum coverage from damaging rays with wide-brim hats – plus look fabulous in pictures. Men also need either a baseball hat to shade the face or a bucket hat for increased face and neck area protection.
#4 – Flip Flops
You can be sure that a pair of reliable flip flops are going to be your main beach footwear. For trekking through the hot sand and for slipping wet, sandy feet into – they’re always the best way to go. You may even want to bring more than one pair; a less expensive rubber pair and a more fashionable pair – perhaps with leather accents – for other beach activities and outings.
#5 – Active Roots Water Bottle
Spending so much time outdoors under the sun will quickly dehydrate you if you don’t drink water regularly throughout the day. It’s easier to stay hydrated if you have plenty of cool water readily accessible in an insulated stainless steel bottle, like the Active Roots Water Bottle. Its extra-large 25-ounce size keeps liquid cold for up to 24 hours – which you’ll appreciate when you need refreshment.
#6 – Skeletool
We highly recommend a small multi-tool, like Skeletool, for your beach packing list. They’re extremely useful for the outdoors, especially for picnics or if you’re camping at the beach. A small knife comes in handy for slicing fruit or bread. If you’ve ever tried cutting an apple with disposable cutlery – you know how well that goes! Or if you need a bottle opener or a small pair of scissors, it’s all right there. They’re compact and easy to pack into your bag, too.
#7 – Active Roots Microfiber Travel Towel
You’re at the beach – getting wet comes with the territory! Be sure you have a compact and lightweight Active Roots Microfiber Travel Towel on your beach packing checklist. It dries in less than an hour, and its material is anti-bacterial – so forget about having to lug around a heavy and stinky wet towel! And it folds up into the size of a small book – you gotta have it.
#8 – Active Roots DayPack
It’s always worth having a daypack with you whenever you travel but often NOT worth carrying something bulky around. The Active Roots adventure daypack is hands down the best foldable day pack around, it comes with a water bottle holder, folds down super small yet provides plenty of space for your day-venture and is tough and sturdy.
#9 – Camera
There are certain views you can only find at the beach – like the ocean-lined sunsets, rolling waves crashing and all that fun in the sun. The beach provides the perfect photo-ops for the most frame-worthy photos, so you’ll want to capture them in high resolution. Using your cell phone is great for impromptu shots, but also bring a digital camera to dial the quality up a notch. Another great option is a waterproof HD action camera that can really document the water action!
#10 – Protective Cell Phone Pouch
Being constantly surrounded by sand and water, you’re putting your cell phone in a very high-risk environment when you choose the beach as your travel destination. Including an inexpensive protective phone holder pouch on your beach vacation checklist could easily save you from the hassle – and cost – of repairing or replacing a damaged phone. It’s also waterproof, so feel free to take it into the water for some ocean-surrounded selfies!
#11 – Portable Charger
Finding an outlet at the beach isn’t exactly probable. And, depending on where your accommodations are, you may not have access to a power source for a long time. Having a portable charger tucked away in your day bag is a smart item for your beach packing list. That way you can keep your electronics charged – including your phone, your e-reader or any other device that accommodates USB charging. It’s such an easy way to avoid the bummer of finding yourself with a dead electronic device when you need it!
#12 – Sunscreen
One of your key beach essentials is good-quality sunscreen. You need to make sure you have a broad spectrum kind that will protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays – that not only cause painful sunburns – but are also responsible for skin’s premature ageing. Who wants that? We also recommend reef-safe sunscreen that’s free of Oxybenzone & Octinoxate – chemicals found in most sunscreens that have been shown to harm the marine ecosystem.
#13 – Travel Jungle Gym Set
Whether you’re traveling for a weekend or for a year, it’s difficult to keep your usual workout routine on the road. There are loads of workouts online to print and follow, but there’s nothing like being in a gym with proper exercise equipment. Enter: Monkii Bars. You can set up your workout station anywhere – hotel rooms, mountainsides, your backyard – and the pocket gym comes with its own app so you can learn the ropes (cough, cough) of staying fit on the road!
#14 – After-Sun Lotion
Even without getting a sunburn, a long day out in the sun can take a toll on your skin. It doesn’t take long for your skin to feel dry and unhealthy. Rejuvenate and rehydrate your skin with some after-sun lotion; its moisturizing ingredients like cocoa butter, aloe lotion, vitamin E and jojoba oil feel heavenly after a refreshing shower! Also, remoisturizing helps to prevent peeling, so you can preserve that tan as long as possible.
#15 – Fairywill Electric Toothbrush
Ok, traveling with an electric toothbrush may not be top of mind when you’re thinking about what to take to the beach. But, we’re here to put it on your radar because we love the Fairywill Electric Toothbrush – and know you will too. It’s travel-friendly and doesn’t need to be recharged for 30 days after just one 4-hour charge, and only weighs 55 grams. But the best part is the different modes that give your teeth a super cleaning, and it feels amazing knowing you’re keeping your smile extra healthy!
#16 – Mosquito Repellent
Depending on your beach destination, mosquitoes could be prevalent – they do thrive in warm, wet environments, after all. You want to have potent bug repellant on hand in case you need to ward off their nasty and itchy bites. We like Jungle Formula Maximum Range because it contains 50% DEET for maximum protection and keeps nasty mosquitoes away.
#17 – Travel First Aid Kit
It’s important to be prepared with basic first aid essentials in case you’re at a beach where a pharmacy or a store isn’t easily accessible. Between rocks or shells in the ocean, you can’t see, or tide pool exploring, you have the possibility of getting a cut or scrape that needs to be treated. Instead of exposing yourself to the risk of infection, it’s much smarter to have a disinfecting ointment and band-aid or bandage, so you can treat a minor injury right away.
#18 – Lip Balm
Your lips are another super sensitive area that you need to protect from prolonged sun exposure. Not just to avoid the discomfort of dry, chapped lips but also to safeguard them against the sun’s damaging UVA/UVB rays. A good lip balm with SPF needs to be on your beach packing list and is something everyone should use in addition to sunscreen. Keep that pucker moisturized and healthy!
Women’s Beach Packing List
Hey, ladies, there are specific items that you should consider adding to your beach vacation checklist, so we’ve put together this women’s beach packing list with you in mind!
Bikini and/or One-Piece
When you’re on a beach vacation, you can pretty much count on living in your swimsuit. You’ll want at least two swimwear options – so you have one to wear in case one doesn’t dry enough overnight. Plus, you’ll want to mix up your look in pictures by having different styles of bikinis or one-piece bathing suits – or a mix of both! For more active days, consider bringing a sporty style that offers more support.
Swimsuit Cover Up
For taking a stroll along the beach, grabbing a bite nearby, or just for giving your exposed torso a break from the sun’s rays, you’ll want to have a swimsuit cover-up on your beach packing list. They’re so convenient to throw on and be on the move. They’re comfortable and flattering on all body types. They look really stylish too – throw on a wide-brim hat, and you’re camera ready!
Sun, saltwater and beach air leave your hair dry and lifeless pretty quickly. The best way to keep your hair from always being a tangled mess is to treat it with a leave-in conditioner. You don’t want to be blow-drying and dealing with hair styling tools anyway, so spritz on some product and be ready to rock that natural beach hair!
While we don’t advocate frying your skin to get that golden tan, we believe that adding an SPF-containing and reef-safe tanning oil product to your beach packing list will allow you to safely achieve a sun-kissed, bronze tone. There’s nothing quite like having people know instantly that you’ve been on a beach vacation just by looking at your freshly-acquired tan. A healthy glow looks good on everyone!
Men’s Beach Packing List
Ok, fellas, we’ve put together this men’s beach packing list with some added items specifically for your own beach vacation needs.
You’ll be using board shorts as your main daywear and swimwear – and could possibly be all you wear for your entire trip! So we suggest packing at least 2-3 pairs of board shorts to give you a fresh, dry option to choose every day. Funky, bright colors and patterns are perfectly fine for most beaches – unless you’re going somewhere in the world where that’s not the norm. It’s smart to make hybrid board shorts at least one of the pair you pack for your beach essentials. In case you go out to dinner or somewhere else other than the beach, these are meant to be worn in water or fashionably on dry land.
When you’re wearing only board shorts all day long, your upper body gets a lot of exposure to the sun’s strong rays. We suggest a rashguard shirt as one of the things to bring to the beach for extra sun protection. Because they’re so lightweight and breathable, they’re also comfortable to wear for sand and water sports – like surfing, swimming, playing beach volleyball or just tossing around a frisbee.
Fashionable Tank Top
There usually isn’t much need to dress up on beach-focused vacations, but you’ll want some options apart from sports t-shirts to wear with a pair of solid-colored board shorts or casual shorts. Beach-style fashion is a perfect opportunity to show off your tan arms with a tank top that looks fashionable and helps you stay cool in the hot weather! Be sure to include one or two of these on your beach packing list.
Family Beach Vacation Packing List
Kid’s skin is so sensitive – please be careful about preventing sunburns by applying water-resistant and kid-friendly sunscreen regularly throughout the day. This goes for the whole family, but special attention needs to be given to the little ones, especially because they’re constantly running around and jumping in and out of the water. It’s best to leave the harsh chemicals found in most regular sunscreens off their skin and opt for a more gentle, hypo-allergenic kind that will protect and nourish.
As children sit on the sand for hours, building sandcastles and digging holes, their heads and faces get a lot of direct exposure to the sun’s harsh rays. In addition to sunscreen, give the kids extra sun protection with a UPF 50+ kids sun hat. Particularly for infants and toddlers, their scalps are much more sensitive than those of adults and will quickly sunburn without proper coverage.
Each member of the family will benefit from having a pair of grip-sole water shoes to protect their feet from sharp rocks or shells found at many beaches. Especially if you trek over to explore tide pools or more remote marine areas, you’ll want shoes that will stay on your feet and keep everyone from slipping on the wet rocks. Also, for the little ones, kids water shoes stay on better than flip-flop style shoes and will protect their little feet from hot sand while they’re running around.
Who wants to build a sandcastle? Most likely, your kids do! And, really, who doesn’t? Don’t count on your kids staying still for very long, or lounging out on the beach blanket for extended periods of time. You’ll want a sand toy play set to give them plenty to play with and keep them entertained. All it takes is a bucket, shovel, and some moulds, and you’ve got hours worth of sand playtime!
Apart from having something spacious and comfortable to lay on while at the beach, having a source of shade for necessary breaks from direct sunlight makes for much more pleasant beach days. A portable beach tent is a perfect solution because it provides both of these things in one item – and is big enough to provide shelter for the whole family!
Floaties or Ocean Swimming Accessories
The beach is the world’s biggest playground. There’s the sand to play on, and of course, the ocean! Be sure to add floaties or swimming accessories to your beach packing list – not only will it provide extra fun for the kiddos, but they provide extra safety should a bigger wave roll through. Of course, you never want to keep your eyes off the kids while they’re swimming, but the extra measure adds to your peace of mind.
Kids get really dirty at the beach. As they do everywhere, they get their little hands into everything. Making the trek to the nearest beach bathroom to find a sink and soap (if any is even stocked) isn’t convenient, so sanitizing wipes should definitely be on your family beach vacation packing list. The whole family needs to clean their hands before digging into those beach snacks.
What to Pack on a Day Trip to the Beach
Foldable Beach Chairs
When you want to read, eat your picnic lunch or socialize – sitting upright in a chair is a much more comfortable option to have in addition to your beach blanket. With all the gear you probably already have lightweight foldable beach chairs that collapse down into a tiny 14 x 5” tote that weight only 2 lbs are much more convenient and portable. You’ll appreciate that you included them on your list of what to bring to the beach for the day.
A beach day isn’t complete without a cooler full of drinks and food. The best way to keep so many items cool and refreshing is with a collapsible cooler. One like this is perfect because it’s spacious enough to hold several cans, fruit, sandwiches – or whatever is on the menu for the day – but collapses down flat for easy packing and portability when not in use.
Being out in the sun and getting your dose of vitamin D is awesome, and natural part of any beach vacation. But, having a source of shade to cool off and get shelter from the sun’s rays is a welcome reprieve. A beach umbrella makes a full day at the beach much more bearable and enjoyable, so make sure you include one on your list of what to bring to the beach for the day.
BONUS: Awesome Things to Bring to the Beach
E-reader or Kindle
When you need to pack light, lugging around books is far from ideal. But who doesn’t enjoy getting lost in a good book while lounging at the beach? With an e-reader or Kindle, you can download as much reading material as you want and only have to worry about carrying one device that weighs less than 10 ounces! The anti-glare screen is a welcome feature for the bright beach sunshine too.
Music always improves any ambience – whether you’re looking to relax while sunbathing or pump up the energy while playing beach games – a portable waterproof speaker you can play music on through your phone adds instant pleasure. Be sure to include it on your beach packing list, and get it prepped by downloading some awesome beach playlists – set the ultimate beach vacation mood with your favorite tunes.
Relaxing and lounging around is one of the best parts of beach vacations, but there will be times you want to get up and get the blood pumping. Classic beach games are the perfect things to bring to the beach, like paddle ball or a frisbee, for having some fun and getting exercise! Organize an intense game of beach volleyball, and you’ll really get a workout!
Obviously, the main star of the beach is the ocean. The water is great for cooling off from the heat, but the waves are a serious source of fun! Take advantage of those rolling waves with a small bodyboard that offers hours of entertainment and enjoyment. Kids and adults alike will love it.
What Bags to Take to the Beach
Nomatic Travel Bag
If the beach is your travel destination for a few days – or more – you’re going to want a reliable and awesome bag to pack all of your beach must-haves. Spoiler alert: a rolling suitcase is not our top recommendation. But we’ll tell you what is: the Nomatic Travel Bag. It’s made of waterproof, durable material that’s perfect to handle beach air moisture. It’s also packed with smart and convenient pockets and compartments that maximize space and allow for easy packing for everything on your beach packing list. To learn more about its awesome functions, read our Nomatic Travel Bag in-depth review.
Multi-purpose Beach and Day Bag
Beach trips require having many daily essentials on hand to get you comfortably through the day. You need a convenient way to carry your camera, phone, sunscreen,travel towel, water bottle, and wallet as one of your beach bags. A water-resistant beach bag will serve you well on the sand, and if you decide to wander off to explore or take a stroll to areas nearby. No need for anything fancy – just something practical and versatile.
It’s pretty easy to get things wet – that you don’t want wet – when you’re vacationing at the beach. A dry bag stays watertight after it’s rolled and sealed, so you can easily pack your wallet, camera, phone, and any other valuables without fear of damaging anything – even if you take it into the ocean. It’s also a good idea to pack an extra set of clothes in there if you plan on showering off and changing in the beach facilities to go to dinner or to go out and about straight from the beach.
Packing Cube Set
We definitely think backpacking is the best way to travel, but it can get a little unorganized. You know, like when you have to basically unpack and repack every time you’re looking for that one thing you need? A packing cube set can be a real game-changer. If you use one cube for swimwear, a second one for shorts, another one for tees and tanks, and so on – you’ll make your life a lot easier!
Another backpacker favorite for staying organized is a hanging toiletry bag. It’s extremely helpful to have all of your accessories neatly gathered in one bag that you can hang for easy accessibility, especially when counter space isn’t plentiful or even available. A well-organized bag is worth having whether you’re tree whilst camping or a hook in the wall – it helps to have quick access to all your stuff.
What to do With Valuables at the Beach
Take valuables with you
If you’re leaving your stuff unattended for extended periods of time, your most secure option for keeping your valuables safe is to take them with you – even in the ocean. Or use a wearable fanny pack-style waterproof pouch to store your valuables and sling across your chest or around your waist.
Use a security belt when possible
When you’re not in your swimwear in areas around the beach, a safety accessory like the Active Roots Security Belt is a smart and subtle way to go. You can hide your cash in a zipper pocket that’s hidden inside but otherwise looks like an everyday fashion belt from the outside. Read more on what makes the Active Roots Security Belt so awesome.
Have travelers insurance
For more extended beach trips, in addition to taking basic safety precautions, your best bet is to travel insured. There’s always the chance of getting stuff lost or stolen at the beach, but having a plan with World Nomads Insurance will cover you in the unfortunate case that anything valuable does get stolen during your vacation. Things can always go wrong no matter how hard you plan and try to avoid them, so give yourself the peace of mind by knowing you’re covered by comprehensive insurance.
Essential Beach Tips
Beaches are fun and amazing – whether you’re a kid, an adult or a dog! But there are essential beach tips to follow in order to keep your beach time as safe and enjoyable as it can be.
We can’t emphasize this enough. You will get dehydrated quickly, and it can lead to dangerous consequences. Please keep your water bottle filled and drink often.
Too many hours under the sun under damaging rays is bad for your skin and your health. Don’t just apply sunscreen in the morning and call it a day. Be sure to reapply every few hours to protect yourself.
Take heed to lifeguard surf/tide warnings
As fun as the ocean is, it can also be very dangerous. Changes in surf and tide can happen quickly, and dangers such as rip currents are things we can’t see. Check swimming conditions ahead of time, and definitely be mindful of any lifeguard safety warnings and signs before you enter the water.
Always keep an eye on your party
Whether or not every member of your group is an excellent swimmer, always keep an eye on each other. The ocean is an immense power of nature and can be unpredictable. Especially with children, be aware of where they are at all times and stay safely within quick access.
Final Thoughts on What to Take to the Beach
That’s it, friends – you’re ready to hit the beach! You now know everything you need for your ultimate beach packing list. We’ve covered all beach scenarios with details on your top beach essentials, beach bags you’ll need and want, and special packing lists for women, men and for families. We’ve also included some suggestions for how to keep your valuables safe at the beach and essential beach safety tips to make sure that your trip is nothing but fun.
So now it’s time to start getting those beach must-haves organized and packed, and you’re ready for some serious fun in the sun!
Also – don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.
Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through the site, The Broke Backpacker will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps me keep the site going.
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Writer and Editor, Ana Pereira is a California native, inspired by Earth exploration and introspection. Recently, she spent several months exploring Africa and South Asia. She spends most of her “down-time” out in the wilderness, climbing, hiking, and beyond, and is feverishly passionate about travel and health.