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Exactly What to Pack for a Beach Vacation (Say Goodbye to Stress with this Guide)

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.

woman on beach walking with hand on hat what to pack for a beach vacation
What to pack for a beach vacation – so many essentials in the list below!

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 through lush national parks in Costa Rica? You’ll probably want decent shoes!

woman walking on beach in swim coverup with palm tree and hat on
Walking the beach in Turks and Caicos with a swim cover up and hat

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!

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.

Get the perfect packing list for your next beach vacay!

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

    woman wearing swim suit cover on beach in Maui Hawaii with ocean in background what to pack for the beach
    Enjoying the beach in Maui with a swim cover


    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!

    Shop my favorite beach dress here

    For you, this might be a cute jumper or shorts and a nice shirt. Whatever you’re most comfortable in works best!

    Now you might be thinking 3 outfits for a week 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.

    beach essentials for women - walking on beach towards teal water white sand blue sky
    Walking on pristine beaches in the Caribbean😍

    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.

    Related read: What to Wear in Hawaii for Midsize Women (Swimwear, Outfit Ideas & More)

    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

    Nikki of She Saves She Travels website woman standing on beach with ocean in distance taken from drone
    Another picturesque beach shot, taken from my drone in the Caribbean

    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.

    Shop my favorite swim cover here

    Packing for the beach – 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.

    woman wearing pink water shoes on rocky beach with white wave what to pack for the beach
    Wearing my favorite water shoes in Kalamata, Greece

    And I always recommend water shoes for a beach vacation. They’re hands down one of my favorite items to pack for a beach vacation. Some beaches have powdery white sand, like the best beaches in 30A Florida. 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 a coastal trail in Hawaii, on the most romantic islands of Greece and of course on beaches where I don’t know if the bottom is sharp or not.

    Side story: while exploring the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand, my husband stepped on a sea urchin close to the shore. My water shoes protected my feet though!

    Shop my favorite water shoes here


    pic of woman sitting on white sand beach with dark blue water
    Walking the gorgeous shores of Aruba in a beach hat and cover up

    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 like this 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, or fill it and pack it in the bottom of your suitcase to hold its shape.

    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!

    Pro tip: don’t pack anything in your checked luggage of value. I’ve heard too many horror stories of people ‘losing’ special items on the flight.

    Beach vacation essentials

    woman holding white and pink towel with beach behind
    One of my favorite beach accessories: towel with hidden pocket

    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.

    snorkeling gear and beach with land in distance
    Favorite snorkeling gear for underwater adventures in the Caribbean
    • Sunglasses. One pair will do it!
    • Lip balm with SPF. Don’t forget to protect those lips.
    • Lotion. Your skin will thank you after all that saltwater.
    • Bug spray. I hate to admit it, but most beachy spots have mosquitos. Protect yourself with this spray.
    • Water-proof case for your phone. 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.
    • GoPro. This is a must-have on any adventurer’s packing list! This GoPro allows you to take photos and videos underwater, and it comes with me on every beach vacation. Don’t forget the float strap!
    • Drone. If you really want to level up your beach photos, get a drone and learn how to fly a drone. It’s one of my favorite travel accessories, and makes for epic photos!
    30a Florida beaches view of blue and teal water with blue beach umbrellas lining the waters edge best places to fly drones in the US
    Stunning drone footage from 30A, Florida

    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.

    hand holding comb and sun bum conditioner with beach in distance
    More beach essentials!

    More things to bring to the beach

    Here are a few more things you might want to consider packing for the beach. Some of my go-to items are on this short list!

    • 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 on 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 hiking backpack. If you want to pack lighter, this small athletic backpack is more compact.
    • Rash guards are great for water sports or keeping the sun off your skin. There’s also cute one-piece swimming suits with rash guards built in these days, too!
    • Light jacket. Depending on the time of year and if it’s the rainy season, you may want to pack a light rain jacket just in case.

    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

    what to pack for a beach vacation woman sitting on swing on beach with multicolored bar behind wearing black dress
    ‘Hanging’ out on the beach in Placencia Belize (sorry, had to!)
    • Photo ID
    • Passport and holder for international destinations. 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
    • Anti-nausea wristband. Ever since my cruise on Aegean Sea and Mediterranean, this has been a life saver! For me, it works great on planes, boats and even while RVing, too.
    • Insurance card
    • Phone charging cord and portable charger – charge this for the plane ride, too!
    woman in dress walking on beach what to wear to the beach
    Walking on Hanalei Beach in Kauai during a Flytographer photo shoot
    • International travel adapter (as needed)
    • 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
    • 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 trail mix or protein 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!

    How to pack for a beach vacation

    blue and green suitcase with flowers in the distance
    Packing it all up for the beach!

    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.

    suitcase packed with packing cubes hats and a few other items
    Beach essentials stuffed in packing cubes and carefully placed in luggage

    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!

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      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!

      exactly what to pack for a week at the beach


      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!