Beach Packing List – What To Pack For The Beach (The Essentials)

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A day at the beach is hard to beat. Imagine it — the waves crashing nearby as you relax in your perfectly selected spot, your toes in the sand, the sun warming your whole body as a breeze tickles you. Pure bliss!

Sun protection? Check.

A comfortable place to sit? Check.

An icy cold beverage at the ready? Check.

Grab your bikini, girls (or trunks, guys) — it’s time to hit the beach!

Planning a Trip to The Beach

Beaches make some of the most perfect vacation spots. Whether you’ll be staying for a few hours or a few days, there are plenty of things to do and a plethora of sandy spots around the world to choose from.

Technically speaking, a beach is a piece of land that slopes down into a body of water. This means your relaxing day at the shore can happen near the ocean, a lake, or even a river. Simply find yourself a great spot and start relaxing!

Not really the type to lay around for hours? You can go for a swim or maybe even try snorkeling. More of a sports fan? Gather up your friends (or even strangers!) for a game of volleyball in the sand. No net?

Perhaps building a sandcastle is more your speed or maybe hunting for shells and other treasures — the possibilities are endless!

If you don’t have a body of water nearby to get your beach fix you can always plan a trip to one of the many sandy vacation destinations around the world. Looking for something serene and quiet? Railay Beach in Thailand is inaccessible by car so you’ll need a boat to get there. Talk about peaceful!

Need something a little less remote? The coasts of Australia are home to many gorgeous locations, including Bells Beach. Surrounded by cliffs, this spot is the home of the world’s longest-running surfing competition. Far out!

With almost 80% of the world being water, it can sometimes feel like there are more beaches to choose from than there are grains of sand!

No matter which beach you pick, the right gear can make or break your entire trip. Are you well prepared? This handy list will help you figure out what to bring.

Beach Essentials: What to Pack for the Beach

Emmert Wolf once said, “a man is only as good as his tools.” The same can probably be said about your next trip to the beach. Without the right essentials, your relaxing time might quickly turn into the stuff of nightmares. Pack smart with the following must-haves!

1. Swimsuit

Unless you’re headed to one of the many famous nude beaches around the world, this first essential is a top priority. If you’re going for more than a day, you might want to pack two so you will always have a dry one to shimmy into — nothing sets a beach day off to a weird start quite like putting on a cold suit still wet from the day before!

Ideally, you’ll want to find a swimsuit that you feel comfortable in. It should be stretchy and snug to your body without being too tight that it cuts off your circulation. The material should be breathable and lightweight. Watch out, though! The sun can cause the color to fade. Try buying your new suit in a darker shade to extend its lifespan.

You might also need a specialty swimsuit depending on where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing. Surfing or going somewhere with chilly water? You might want to pack yourself a wet-suit so you’ll stay warmer. Prone to sunburns even with the help of sunscreen? It could be a good idea to invest in a rash guard to prevent yourself from turning into a lobster. Whatever type of suit you choose — make sure you feel great in it!

2. Towel

Even if you’re not planning on getting into the water, a towel is an important tool for the beach. It can provide you a place to sprawl out on the sand if you feel like laying in the sun for a while and taking a nap. You can use it to keep color-treated hair safe from the damaging rays of the sun by wrapping it around your head. Too hot? Cool off by draping a wet towel around your neck. Is the beach breeze too chilly for you? Use a towel as a makeshift blanket.

Since the primary purpose of a towel is to dry off, you’ll want to select one that’s absorbent. If you’re planning on buying a new one for the beach then there are different styles to choose from. Microfiber towels are a popular option because they compact down to a small size and absorb many times its own weight in water.

The soft texture is nice and soft for wiping away sand plus microfiber towels can be found in a wide array of sizes and even shapes. Another choice is a cotton waffle weave towel. According to one manufacturer, Gilden Tree, this style of towel dries up to 40% faster in the dryer than others.

The waffle-weave design means this towel will stay thick and soft for years to come but beware; a long lifespan means they’ll end up being a little on the pricey side at the register.

3. Sunscreen

Protecting yourself from the harmful UV rays of the sun is a step you can’t afford to skip. If you do, too much sun exposure can lead to permanent skin damage or even cancer. Make sure you grab a bottle of sunblock with the right SPF rating for your skin! Don’t know what your ideal SPF number is?

The Sun Protection Factor recommended by experts is 30 or 50 and will be most effective for about two hours — make sure to reapply as needed.

While traditional rub on lotions is still very popular, spray bottles of sunscreen are also a great option for ease of application. A word of warning to environmentalist beachgoers — most sunscreens contain ingredients that science is starting to show may be harmful to certain ecosystems in the ocean, such as coral reefs.

Reefs take generations to grow so the damage done by these ingredients that wash off your body in the waves can have consequences that reach far into the future. If protecting the beach is important to you, opt to buy one of the new reef-safe formulas that are hitting the market.

4. Sunglasses

While it’s true that they make great accessories, a pair of sunglasses is also a safety feature you’ll need to keep your eyes protected from those harmful sun rays. The right ones should fit your face comfortably without pinching your skin and have polarized lenses for maximum protection.

Pick a style and brand that you feel confident in. How about some mirrored aviators? Maybe Ray-Ban or Oakley are brands that strike your fancy? Do you wear glasses? Splurge on a pair of prescription sunglasses or opt to buy the kind that fit over your regular eyewear. Whether you’re spending $10 or $100, you’ll definitely be needing a pair or two!

5. Hat

It’s easy to forget that our scalps are a part of our skin — that is until you get a sunburn on the top of your head! Sunscreen doesn’t necessarily penetrate through all of your hair to get through to the sensitive skin underneath, so you’ll need a hat for protection. Plus, just like with your sunglasses, you’ll have another way to accessorize your beach look!

What’s important about a hat is it covers your scalp. A wide-brimmed hat or even a baseball cap will do the trick perfectly! To up to protection factor, you can choose a sun hat that has a flap of fabric in the back to cover your neck. Bonus? The hat brims will provide shade.

6. A Beach Umbrella or Pop Up Tent

Speaking of shade, if you’re planning on staying at the beach all day then you might want to consider bringing along a way to escape the sun. Too much of a good thing can turn bad — and even dangerous — quickly.

Heatstroke and dehydration may mean your beach trip ends up at the hospital. In addition to drinking lots of water throughout the day, finding some shade during the hottest parts of the afternoon may help you keep your cool.

You can go the traditional route and bring a beach umbrella. Try to choose one with a heavy bottom to weigh it down or it might blow away. You can also purchase ground stakes that will keep your umbrella in place.

Pop up beach tents are another popular option that set up in just a few minutes. These provide the added benefit of shelter from any coastal breezes that might be whipping sand into your face (not to mention privacy)!

Whether you choose an umbrella or a tent, make sure you opt for one that’s made of UVA and UVB resistant material.

7. A Place to Sit

Since the beach is just a strip of land, you’ll need a place to sit down. While some beaches provide lounge chairs for a fee, you will most likely need to haul in your own. What you bring will depend entirely on your preferences.

Do you like to sprawl out and lay down? You can bring a beach blanket. The best option, in that case, would be a heavy one that won’t blow away easily, however, you can always weigh the edges down with your other belongings if all you have is a lightweight one.

Would you rather have something off the ground to sit in? Another choice can be a collapsible chair. Maybe you’re more of a swinger? You can get a portable hammock stand and sway to the rhythms of the ocean. Ah, now that’s relaxation!

8. Cooler

What’s worse than a day at the beach with nothing to drink or eat? A day at the beach with only warm and sandy things to drink and eat, of course! After all, what’s a beach picnic without the picnic?

Swimming in those waves and walking through that sand can make you work up an appetite and staying cool is so much easier with an icy cold beverage in hand. The solution? Pack a cooler!

The ice will keep your treats perfectly cold and having a place to store your snacks will keep the sand from getting into your sandwich — not to mention keep the seagulls at bay!

Right now two of the most popular coolers on the market are the Yeti and the Pelican. Both of these companies boast the ability to keep ice frozen (yep — frozen!) for up to several days depending on which size you choose.

There are large ones that need to be carried to base camp by multiple people or small bags that can fit only a few bottles and snacks. Choose the size that best fits your needs, load it up with water or other drinks and some delicious treats, fill with ice, and you’re ready to go.

9. Buckets, Shovels, and Other Toys

When the all-day relaxation marathon starts to get boring you’ll be looking for things to do. Make sure you’re prepared for this by bringing along some goodies like buckets, shovels, and other toys or gadgets!

Maybe you’re the type who likes to read and can get away with sinking their teeth into a good book or magazine all day or maybe a crossword or sudoku puzzle is more your thing. If you’re more of an architect or have kids then you might want to think about bringing buckets and other tools for building sandcastles.

Kites are another fun option and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs. They even have massive multi-person kites shaped like sea creatures or divers! More of a techie? Consider bringing a metal detector to hunt for buried treasure or a drone to explore the shoreline without getting out of your seat.

Want to get a little more hands-on? Maybe some snorkel gear is what you need for a great day at the beach! Don’t forget a waterproof camera to take pictures of all the critters you come across beneath the waves. Are you a sports fan? Balls, nets, or surf and boogie boards are a great way to burn off some energy at the beach. Whatever you choose to pack, you’re certain to find some beach gadgets and toys that help you create lasting memories.

10. A Place for Valuables

What’s the quickest way to turn your beach dream into a beach nightmare? Theft! While beachgoers relax and let their guard down, some criminals will try to use this opportunity to steal. While it’s always best to keep your most valuable items at home or locked up in your car, some items — like keys — need to be with you on the beach.

To keep your keys, phone, and other important items from getting lifted while you comb the shoreline for seashells or swim in the waves, you’ll need a place to hide them.

You can purchase a box or bag that’s lockable online or at a big box store. Some of these can be big (like a toolbox or cooler) while others may be small (like a pencil case or pouch).

Some may lock with a key you can wear on your wrist and others use a combination you can set. Not in the market to buy something? You can clean out an old bottle of sunscreen with a wide mouth and use that to hide your belongings, confusing any would-be thieves!

11. Sand Removal Technique

When the trip to the beach is over you’ll want to bring only memories and maybe some pictures or small shells home with you. You’re not going to want to haul back half the shoreline in the form of sand! Since the little grains will inevitably get everywhere, you’ll want to come prepared with your favorite technique for removing them.

If you’re feeling fancy, you can splurge for a mini battery-powered hand-held vacuum but if that’s not in the budget, you can choose a powder to help get off all that sand. Many stores are now selling products designed specifically for this purpose but baby powder or cornstarch will work just as well.

Simply dust some powder on your sandy body parts and wipe away with a dry towel or cloth. No more sandy car floors or itchy legs on the drive home!

12. A Waterproof Bag

Once you’ve collected up all of your beach essentials, you’ll need one more important thing — a bag to haul it all in! Taking a million trips back and forth to the car is not fun and you’ll thank yourself for packing your belongings into something easy to carry.

Ideally, you’ll want to pick a bag that’s waterproof and resistant to sand. Material that’s too soft or has a shaggy texture will collect those little grains and be hard to keep clean, however, something waterproof will both repel water and sand or dirt.

A bag with a zipper or draw strong closure is a good idea to keep your belongings from spilling out all over the place. Have a lot of stuff that’s bulky and hard to carry?

Maybe you’ll want to think about investing in a beach cart. If you go this route, make sure the wheels are large and have treads that are good enough to make it through all that sand.

What NOT to Pack for the Beach

Just as important as knowing what to pack, knowing what NOT to back is also critical. Here are a few of the most significant things you should avoid bringing along to the beach:

  • Ice: it may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people pack several bags of ice in their Igloo coolers and find themselves shocked when it melts halfway through the afternoon. Rather than packing actual ice-cubes, freeze ice-packs and line the top and bottom of your cooler with them. You can also freeze bottles of water the day before in place of packing bags of ice or ice-packs.
  • Jewelry and valuables: in a perfect world, your wedding ring and great aunt Betsy’s pearl necklace that you adore would be safe and sound on your finger and neck while sunbathing at the beach. In reality, they are not safe at all. Besides the general risk of being lost in the sand (forever) if they happen to come off, there is also the risk of a thief (of which many professionals frequent beaches targeting unsuspecting tourists) taking them off of your hands (literally!)
  • More than one jacket: Even in the cooler months, one jacket is more than enough for a trip to the beach. Pack your favorite one, because there simply isn’t enough space in your bags (or on your body) for multiple jackets when your packing for the beach.
  • Too much cotton clothing: cotton clothing are comfortable. That said, they are also heavier and take much longer to dry-out than other types of clothing materials. The beach is surrounded by oceans of water (pun intended), so, chances are your clothes may get wet. So, avoid packing too much cotton. Instead, try hybrid cotton materials or nylon and polyester.

Tips and Tricks for Packing Beach Essentials

Here are a few tips and tricks that we thought you’d like to know before packing for the beach:

  1. Bring only the essentials. Try cutting your initial gear in half on your final pack.
  2. Keep your luggage half packed at all times once you’ve arrived at your destination.
  3. Wear the largest or heaviest portion of your clothing while traveling to and from your destination.
  4. Place your shoes in the bottom of the bag. Place socks into shoes, and belts coiled in shirts.
  5. Roll your pants and shirts up like burritos, this will save more space than you realize.
  6. Place all of your personal and toiletry items into one small bag inside of your luggage
  7. Use smaller luggage than you think you really need. This will force you to pack less (only the essentials).
  8. Pack plastic bags (like grocery bags) for wet swimwear and clothing.

Selecting the Best Items to Pack for the Beach

While this list of essentials is a great starting place for ensuring your beach trip stays relaxing, you might need to prioritize certain items over others depending on your needs. What’s important to you and your good time?

Going solo for only a few hours? You might not require so much protection from the sun and can probably get away with only bringing a towel.

Are you a surfer? You might not need a place to sit if you plan on spending the whole time riding the waves.

Having a beach date with your sweetie? Maybe a cooler (filled with your favorite goodies!) and a blanket are the most important tools for a perfect trip.

Going with the kids? You’ll definitely need lots of sunscreen, buckets, towels — actually, you’ll probably need this whole list! Remember — you’ll have to carry all the stuff you’re bringing with you so only pack what’s most important or your beach trip might turn into beach chores.

What are some of your favorite beach essentials that you can’t live without? Leave a comment and let us know! Now — we’re off to get some sand between our toes. See you at the beach!