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Exactly What to Pack for a Beach Vacation

You’re heading off to a beachy destination, YAY!! But first…packing. You want to pack what you need and not the extra stuff you don’t. So if you’re wondering what to pack for a beach vacation, I’ve got the list perfect list for you.

photo of bathing suit, sunglasses, hat

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, see my disclosures.

Oh, and get this… women over-pack by 2/3rds when they go on vacation. Don’t be one of them! Use this guide and don’t be tempted to over-pack, mmmkay?

What to pack for a beach vacation?

Okay so the very first thing you’ll do is consider the activities on your beach vacation. Will you be hanging out on the beach the whole trip? Or will you be exploring the area and have more adventures that will require different types of clothing and gear?

It’s important to have a really good idea about which activities you’re planning so you don’t overpack. And so you have everything you’ll actually need at your beach destination.

Will you be tubing the mountains of Kauai? You’ll need a rash guard.

Are you planning to hike the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum? You’ll probably want decent shoes!

Next you’ll want to check the weather before you go! I’ve forgotten this step and just made assumptions in the past and it’s not a good combination!

Based on your activities and the weather, it’s time to get to packing.

Okay, let’s dive in!

walking along caribbean beach
Walking the beach in Turks and Caicos

Things to pack for a beach vacation

I’m going to assume your trip is going to be 7 days (because week-long vacations are awesome). So here’s your beach packing list for a week. If your trip is longer or shorter, adjust the number of total outfits you’ll need.

 Just don’t overpack.

Here’s my #1 tip for packing: you’ll always need less than you think!

I’m guessing you don’t want to spend hours packing to leave on your trip. Or waste precious vacation time by having to pack everything back up. So simplify your packing list and you’ll be glad you did.

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    For a week-long vacation to the beach, you’ll need:

    Packing list - sunglasses, wallet and packing cubes
    Just one pair of sunnies will do it! Keep it simple to save time 🙂


    Dresses or shorts/shirt combo: 3 total outfits.

    I prefer dresses so I might take 2 dresses and 1 shorts/shirt. For my trip to Turks and Caicos I didn’t even take shorts. I packed all dresses!

    Now you might be thinking this is not enough. Well friend you’re going to the beach to enjoy the sunshine, water and sand. You’ll likely be in your swimming suit most of the trip. If you go out for lunch or dress up for the evening, rotate your outfits during your week.

    If you work out consistently and are planning to keep that up, you should pack athletic gear. Better yet, wear them on the plane so your big shoes don’t have to go in your luggage.

    But if you only *think* you’ll workout during your vacation, skip it because you likely won’t use it.

    Also for clothing, be sure to pack pajamas! (1 set) This is something I used to forget all the time and it was unfortunate. So don’t skip this!

    Last thing before we move on – don’t forget bras, undies and socks. I won’t give you advice on how many pair here, it’s up to you on that one. 😉

    Swimming suits: 2 suits, 2 swim covers

    Take 2 so you can wear one while the other is drying out. You really don’t need more than 2 swimming suits on your beach vacation. I mean, unless you’re planning to post beachy pics to Instagram. 🙂

    Same with swim covers. I mean, who doesn’t love a good swim cover? You can go shear, layer with an actual dress, oversized shirt – love all the options! But just pack 2.

    sun hat, swimsuit and basic clothing
    Don’t forget the accessories! Simple earrings and hat can go a long way.

    Shoes and accessories:

    Shoes: 1 flip flop for the sand, 1 dressy sandal plus water shoes

    *Athletic shoes only as needed.

    Don’t take 7 different kind of sandals. Truth is, you really won’t need a huge variety. So keep it simple and stick to 2 sandals – one for casual and a dressy pair that works with your outfits.

    And I always recommend water shoes for a beach vacation. Some beaches have powdery white sand. But many beaches do not! And cutting yourself on a piece of coral is no fun.

    These are hands down my favorite water shoes. I love that they’re dual purpose, too. I’ve used them hiking in Hawaii, kayaking in Iowa and of course for a great beach water shoe.

    Get these water shoes on Amazon.

    sitting on the beach in Kaanapali
    Sitting on Kaanapali Beach, Hawaii


    When you’re thinking about what to pack for a beach vacation, don’t forget about a fantastic beach hat!

    If you don’t have a beach hat, buy a beach hat before you go or shop for one at your destination. I love a good beach hat because it’s so functional! It really keeps the sun away from your scalp and face, and even shoulders and ears, too.

    Pro tip: wear it on the plane to prevent it from getting bent.

    Next consider your jewelry.

    Simple is better here. When planning outfits, plan one set of jewelry that can go with any of them. Packing and getting dressed are both super simple!

    Looking for personal hygiene items? Keep reading!

    Beach vacation essentials

    beach travel essentials like passport, phone case, wallet
    Packing all the beach vacation essentials: wristlet, passport, tablet, waterproof phone case

    There are definitely things that I pack for week-long beach vacations that I don’t pack on other types of trips. Here are the beach vacation essentials that get used most when heading to the beach.

    • Sunglasses. One pair will do it!
    • Lightweight beach towel. This one is my favorite because it doubles as a blanket on the plane and has a pocket to hide your valuables. Win!
    • Beach hat. Listed twice because I love them so much.
    • Beach bag. This can also be used for your carry-on so you don’t have to take multiple bags
    • Reef-safe sunblock. Take 2 or more for a week long vacation. Always make sure it’s reef-safe to protect our oceans. (Find out why reef safe sunscreen is important.)
    • Lip balm with SPF. Don’t forget to protect those lips.
    • Lotion. Your skin will thank you after all that saltwater.
    • Water-proof case for your phone. This one’s a must! Water cases with lanyards are really cheap to buy and will prevent your phone from getting wet or sandy when snorkeling or just hanging on the beach.
    • Book or tablet for entertainment. It’s so relaxing to lounge on the beach.
    pack a swimming suit and beach hat for your vacation
    Packing essentials like a good basic suit and beach hat are key.
    • Snorkel gear. My husband and I always pack ours so we can snorkel when and where we want to – for free!
    • Leave-in conditioner. Ocean breeze and salty air are a combination for tangles. Pack some leave-in conditioner and use it daily.
    • Reusable water bottle. Make sure to get a good insulated cup since you’ll likely be in the warm sunshine.
    • Bug spray and anti-itch cream. Bug bites on vacation are no fun.
    • Baby powder. Helps to remove the stubborn sticky sand.
    • Packing cubes. More about these later.

    Pro tip: if you’re heading to a VRBO or airbnb, make sure to ask them if towels, beach chairs and a cooler are available.

    The Absolute Best Beaches on Turks and Caicos!

    Turks and Caicos is a must-see destination because of it’s breathtaking beaches! Whether you’re looking for the perfect honeymoon location, a family trip or anything in between, you’ll want to dip your toes in the sand of the beaches in Turks and Caicos.

    More things to bring to the beach

    Here are a few more things you might want to consider packing for the beach. I don’t consider them beach essentials, but if they fit and you think you’ll use them, pack them!

    • Collapsible cooler. If your vacation rental doesn’t have a cooler to use, this one will save you so much money on your trip rather than relying drinks at the nearby bar. Pack drinks for your whole day instead!
    • Body glide. If your thighs like being real close together, like mine, you’ll want to consider a stick of this. I mean, wearing swimwear and dresses all day plus warm weather is a recipe for disaster.
    • Dry bag. I have one in orange and take it on all my beach trips. It’s great for kayaking, hiking waterfalls or just to keep the sand out of your stuff.

    Now let’s pack items you’ll need for specific activities.

    • Hiking up a mountain for the epic view of the coast? You’ll probably want additional clothing or gear, like a backpack.
    • Rash guards are great for water sports. They also help to keep the sun off your skin after a few long days in the sun.
    • If you’re planning to do some boating or kayaking and have a GoPro, make sure to pack a float strap.

    If you’re thinking woah, there’s a lot to consider, you’re right! With so many things to bring to the beach, let’s keep it moving.

    Misc stuff I pack for every trip

    clutch, money, passport, sunglasses for your trip
    Pack simple beach essentials like a cute clutch
    • Travel insurance! Anything can happen while you’re on vacation.
    • Photo ID
    • Passport and holder. Check out this RFID passport holder one that keeps your info safe – and it’s cute.
    • Cash. Make sure to take plenty of 1’s for tips!
    • Printed tickets, visas, confirmations or transfer info (if traveling international)
    • Medications, including motion sickness and/or essential oils
    • Insurance card
    • Phone charging cord and portable charger
    • International travel adapter (as needed)
    • Tablet or iPad with downloaded content. Audio books, movies, games, etc.
    • Noise cancelling headphones. I didn’t think they were worth it until I borrowed a pair. Now I can’t go on vacation without them!
    • Neck pillow and eye mask for long flights
    • Small purse or wristlet
    • 1 cardigan, sweater or denim jacket. Wear it on the plane so you don’t have to pack it!
    • Personal hygiene items
    • Makeup. Simple is better here. Lots of makeup is not a good beach look.
    • Hair products. Keep it minimal to avoid overpacking. #beachhairdontcare
    • Snacks! For the plane and for the vacation. Packing a box of granola bars will save you money on your trip.

    Also consider buying travel insurance. As much as we all want our vacations to go 100% perfect, sometimes they don’t. Travel insurance can protect you and the money you spent on your vacation.

    Next is putting it all together….the fun part!

    suitcase sitting outside with cactus in backgroun
    Save money by packing in a carry-on only!

    How to pack for a beach vacation

    After years of traveling, I’ve got packing down to an art. #justsayin

    My first tip is to try everything on at least a week before your trip (more time if possible). This will allow you to narrow down what to wear based on how you feel in your clothes. You want to feel your best self on your trip! This also gives you time to grab something if needed.

    Next lay out everything you think you might need, according to your list. Then ask yourself if something can be used for multiple things. For instance, can you bring your beach towel and use it as a blanket on the plane?

    Instead of a personal item being a backpack or tote, can you use your beach bag? This will help you to save space in your luggage.

    Next, buy packing cubes. I mean it! They’re 100% worth every penny. Packing cubes are basically a travel hack that allows you to pack more into less space by condensing everything. It’s like they shrink everything into a wayyyy smaller space.

    So they’re pretty much magic. Just buy the packing cubes!

    I’ve used them for family trips, beach vacations, and the smaller ones work great if you’re packing super light for a weekend getaway.

    Related article: Best Budget Travel Tips (so good you’ll want to try them now)

    Packing list for a beach vacation -printable

    Okay so here’s your downloadable beach vacation checklist. Just customize it based on your activities, the weather and your length of beach vacation.

    And remember not to overpack!

    Download the perfect packing list for your next beach vacay!

      I won’t send you spam. I hate spam. Unsubscribe at anytime.

      Well hopefully by now you’ve figured out what to pack for a beach vacation. I hope you have an absolutely amazing time on your beach getaway! Comment below with where you’re going – I’m dying to know!

      Love this packing list for a beach vacation? Save this to Pinterest for later!

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      Tuesday 20th of June 2023

      Very handy! Thanks so much for sharing.


      Wednesday 21st of June 2023

      You're so welcome! Enjoy your upcoming getaway!


      Tuesday 3rd of November 2020

      I always forget lip balm! Friends, don't be like me.


      Tuesday 3rd of November 2020

      Haha that's the worst!!

      Alex Silgalis

      Tuesday 20th of October 2020

      Wow very well written article. I agree that the packing cubes are super critical for ANY type of trip.


      Monday 26th of October 2020

      Thanks! Love packing cubes, such a space saver!


      Saturday 29th of August 2020

      Love this list! I'm a chronic over-packer.... So this is incredibly helpful! Thanks for sharing!


      Sunday 30th of August 2020

      Oh it's a tough habit to break! Glad you found this list helpful!


      Monday 10th of August 2020

      I don't think there is a single item you forgot to take to the beach! As someone who is always traveling to the beach, I'm very impressed, and I'll definitely use your list before my future beach trips.


      Tuesday 11th of August 2020

      Oh thanks so much Ashley, what a compliment! I'm glad it's helpful for you!