Have you selected your beach destination for your next beach vacation? Some people choose to fly to faraway getaways and stuff all their beach gear into suitcases and carry-on bags. Other people opt for road trips or taking advantage of a local beach. Whichever you choose, we have a beach trip packing list for you with some travel tips on what you should know before you go.
Everyone has a different answer for the best beach in the world. Whichever type of beach you decide to visit, this list will help you pack and plan.
A Great Beach Book
Headed to the shore? Pack Adventures From Scratch in your beach bag! This adventure guide is packed with over 50 activity suggestions, along with conversation prompts, tear-out cards, and more. Scratch off a suggestion for your day in the sun, and make your summer vacation even more memorable!
Know Before You Go
Before you get to your beach day, there are a few things you should know:
What Your Setup Will Look Like
Are you hosting a large group of people? Will someone be hanging out with your things all day or do you need to find a safe spot for credit cards, car keys, and any valuables.
Amenities that Are Available
Is there a bathroom at the location you are visiting? Do you need to bring all of your food or are there restaurants or concession stands where you can purchase some throughout the day? It’s good to know these things and you can easily find answers online.
Check if Rentals are an Option
Many busy beach areas offer rentals for beach umbrellas, beach chairs, and water sports equipment. It might be easier to rent from the establishment instead of packing it all up to bring with you, so check on that ahead of time and make any necessary reservations.
The Ultimate Beach Trip Packing List
Now that you have some basic information about where you’re going, it’s time to pack your beach bag (or maybe your entire car. We broke the list down into subcategories to make it easier to sort and pick out your items.
The Beach Essentials
Let’s start with the basics. These items are important no matter what kind of waterfront spot you find. Whether you’re going for an hour or a whole week, make sure you have these items handy and ready to go.
Bathing suits should be an obvious item. Swimwear is important if you want to get in the water and play. There are swimming suits in every shape, size, and color, so you can easily find something that is comfortable and functional. Many people also bring along a rash guard that can protect their skin from too much sun exposure. They are made with a very lightweight material that will keep you cool and safe from sunburns and rashes.
If you are traveling to a beach destination and plan on spending multiple days at the beach, it’s probably a good idea to have more than one swimsuit so you can clean them and not have to wear the same one every single day.
Towels serve two purposes at the beach. It can dry you off once you’ve been playing in the water and it can serve as a smaller beach blanket to sit on while you’re relaxing in the sunshine. There are some giant towels that make fantastic blankets as well and dry quickly if someone who just got out of the water lays down.
You can also use blankets with the slippery sleeping bag material to make it super easy to wipe the sand off the top of. Then you can bring a few towels, but have a clear space to snack and hang out in between your swimming sessions. Whatever is comfortable and won’t get ruined by the elements.
If your beach enjoyment comes from lounging and relaxing, make sure to bring a few beach chairs. It isn’t super comfortable to just lay all day, especially if you want to read and keep an eye on anyone in your party that is swimming or playing near you.
Beach chairs come in many varieties. There are small fold-up camping chairs that work or a lounge-style that folds flat. Many beaches have chairs available to use for free or rent, so that’s a good amenity to check on. If you drive to the beach often, it might be a good idea to leave some in your car as well. You never know when you might need a chair.
Let’s not forget the SPF to help avoid uncomfortable sunburns. The UV rays from the sun can do horrible things to your skin, so make sure you have plenty of sunscreen on before you get to the beach and that you are reapplying every few hours (more often if you’re swimming).
Any lotion that you buy should be reef-safe. Many beaches are no longer allowing some of the older, more well-known brands because the chemicals in the product can be extremely harmful to the fish and coral that live there. Check this list of reef-safe sunscreen from Surfrider to make sure you’re shopping for the right brand.
In addition to face and body lotion, don’t forget lip balm to protect your lips from the sun. Also, make sure you’re getting often-missed spots like the tops of feet, ears, and back of hands.
Sun Hat and Sunglasses
Another great option for sun protection is a good hat that helps shade your face and protect it from the sun. It’s hard to get sunscreen to cover the skin that is exposed by the part in your hair, so wearing a hat will be good for those spots as well.
Sunglasses are helpful for your eyes which can also get damaged from too much sun. Shading your eyes on a bright sunny day will help you avoid squinting and straining while spending time outside. Scrunching up the muscles around your eyes can lead to headaches and tension, so sunglasses are an easy solution.
In between your time splashing in the ocean, you probably want to have some type of coverup to throw up. This will help protect you from the sun, make your outfit more appropriate if you have to go inside somewhere that might require a shirt, and will keep you warm if there is a breeze.
Sarongs are pieces of cloth that are easy to wrap around and wear like a skirt or wrap. But you don’t need anything fancy or specific. You can easily pack a pair of shorts and t-shirts or a sundress that you can slip on.
Flip-flops are a popular type of shoe for the beach. While sneakers are comfortable, they are a pain for a sandy beach. You need to be able to shake off your shoes or slip them off easily when you hit the sand. Sandals and slip-on crocs are convenient and easy if you’re looking for some beach footwear.
First Aid Kit
Any time you take a family trip or bring a group together to do something fun outside of the house, a first aid kit is a good idea. It doesn’t need to be anything crazy, but you should have a few basic supplies in case there are any mishaps during your day of fun.
What should you include? A few basics are hand sanitizer, Benadryl, bandaids, aspirin, antiseptic wipes, and any medications that your family members take on a regular basis. Epi-pens are important for anyone with life-threatening allergies. Obviously, if there are specific activities you know you’ll be doing, you can prepare a little better for any specific accidents that are common.
It’s not the most fun thing to pack, but it’s always better to be prepared just in case. Better safe, than sorry.
If you are spending a full day at the beach and have the space, bring along a toiletries bag. This can help if you are going right to dinner or a beach party after lounging in the sun. Throw in a toothbrush and some toothpaste along with deodorant to do a little refresh after a day of saltwater, sand, and sweat.
These little luxuries can make a big difference and can help you wake up before your fun adventure continues. Nothing feels better after a nap in the sun than a quick face wash and clean teeth.
Food and Beverages
All fun activities and events should have some kind of food and drink plan. If you are spending just a few minutes at the beach, it’s not necessary to bring anything along, but as soon as you stay for more than an hour, you might find yourself wanting a snack or something to drink. Have a plan for your group’s food and beverages for the beach. We’ve got a couple of ideas to help you.
Definitely bring a reusable water bottle for each person to the beach. Most public beaches have drinking fountains where you can refill the bottles throughout the day. It’s good to make the water easy to get to so everyone is able to stay hydrated while they play in the sunshine.
If you are heading to a beach without any public facilities, make sure to bring large jugs of water and ice so that people can refill their bottles that way. There are some water filters that will allow you to drink water from anywhere, but make sure that you have the ones that are made for that so you aren’t consuming anything that isn’t good.
A cooler is crucial for beach days when you are hanging out for more than an hour or so. There are many types available, from soft-sided collapsible options to giant hard rolling coolers that have wheels made for trekking across the sand. There are even cooler options now with speakers and blenders built in.
Find a size that fits the volume of snacks and drinks you’re planning to bring. Another option is to keep one cooler for beverages and the other for food, so you can use two smaller ones. Either way, make sure you add enough ice packs or ice to the cooler to keep things cool all day long. If you need more ice, most gas stations and convenience stores sell it so you can refill.
There are some beaches that have grills and picnic tables to make cooking food a little easier, but most beaches are pretty rustic when it comes to food prep. Keep your snacks and meals simple. Make sandwiches ahead of time and cut up any fruits and vegetables you want. Finger foods are easy because you don’t need to worry about dishes and silverware.
Chips, crackers, and pretzels are other easy snacks and you can find single-serving bags that make them easy for kids. Granola bars are another easy snack. You just want to avoid anything that might melt in the sun. If it’s in the cooler, it’s fine, but anything in a snack bag outside might end up getting a little warm.
We mentioned the single-serving bags of snacks, so it’s also important to remind everyone to throw out their trash. Enough trash gets into the ocean and waters and you want to make sure that you aren’t adding to the problem.
Even better than throwing out your trash would be to pick up a few pieces you find while you’re there. Leave the beach a little cleaner than you found it. There is an entire movement called Take Three for the Sea which promotes picking up three pieces of trash anytime you enjoy the great outdoors. Help reduce the amount of trash that is floating around where it shouldn’t be.
Games and Entertainment
Some people go to the beach to stare at the waves and just completely shut off their brains, but others might want to bring along a few things to keep them entertained at the beach and have some fun with their friends and family. Consider packing a few of these items for your trip.
Books and Magazines
Reading is a great beach activity. Whether you flip through a magazine and look at pictures or you dive into a brand new book, you can enjoy the warm breeze and sunshine while relaxing. For some ideas, check the summer reading section at your local library or bookstore. They almost always have a selection of beach/pool reads.
Cell Phone Charger
If you are using your phone for photos, videos, or music throughout the day, you might be burning through the battery faster than normal. If you have access to a portable charging bank, bring it with you for your beach day. It will allow you to recharge your batteries halfway through the day so your phone will keep up with what you want from it all day long. Most of them have enough juice to charge two or three phones back to full battery.
Portable speakers are a great accessory to have for the beach. If you have a little space around you, you can turn on the tunes and add to the mood of the day. There are tons of Bluetooth speaker options of all sizes and volumes. You can even find some waterproof speakers if you’re worried about people who are wet getting too close to the speaker.
Want to capture memories from your beach day? Are you going on a once-in-a-lifetime family trip? Bring a camera along. If you want something that could go into the water with you, consider a GoPro camera or something similar that is made to get wet and be along for adventures.
You could also try something retro like a Polaroid camera that prints the small photos out right away. Just make sure to document the fun in whatever is easiest for you.
Any family beach vacation should involve some type of sand castle building. Toys for playing in the sand are inexpensive, bright, colorful objects that can be used to move sand around, dig it out, and shape it into molds. You can find these sold at most toy stores and large retailers during the summer months. If you are traveling off-season, check Amazon or other online shops that keep things in stock all year round.
There’s no lawn at the beach, right? That doesn’t mean that you can’t play some of the same games that you play on the grass on the sand instead. If you’ve got any games at home, bring them to the beach and set them up.
Badminton, ladder ball, and frisbees are all great options. Many beaches also have volleyball nets set up, so you can bring a ball and put together a couple of teams to hit the ball around. Bring the games if you are planning to spend an entire day because it will give you tons of options if people aren’t sure what to do or start to get antsy.
Fun in the Water
When you’re ready to get in the water, there are a few things you could bring along to add to the fun.
Snorkel and Goggles
If you are visiting somewhere with clear waters and any kind of fish or sea life, consider bringing snorkeling equipment. You can swim along the surface, and using goggles and a tube that helps you breathe above the surface while under the water, you can swim along and watch the life swimming around below.
This is a fun activity on rocky beaches where the bottom hurts a bit. Water shoes can be helpful as well while you’re wading out to the deeper waters.
Inflatable floaties are a fun and colorful water toy to bring to the beach. You can find them in every shape and color now, from flamingos to swans to food items. These are fun to have in the water if it isn’t too choppy and windy.
If you are at a beach with bigger waves, bring along a boogie board or surfboard and take advantage of the power of the water to push you along and challenge you. Many beach towns have lessons you can sign up for if you are a beginner and you can often rent them there as well.
Kayak or Paddleboard
Small personal watercraft, like kayaks and paddleboards, are a great option to get you out on the water. There are some inflatable options now, plus some collapsible or foldable options. These make it a little easier to get into your car for the beach.
If you bring one of these along, make sure you have a dry bag for your valuables and a life jacket because there’s always the chance that you could flip and you want to be safe.
Bringing a baby or toddler to the beach for the first time? Make sure you have some swim diapers with you. They serve the same purposes as regular diapers, but they will not swell up and become extremely heavy when they are sitting in the water. These are going to come in handy if you want to bring your baby into the water and you don’t want their bottom to quadruple in weight as the diaper absorbs water.
When the Sun Goes Down
Once your beach day is done, there is still plenty to take advantage of in the evenings in a beach town. Pack a few things that will help you and your group make the transition.
If you feel like you didn’t reapply your SPF enough throughout the day or let any kind of sunburn start to get through, apply some aloe vera. This soothing gel will help cool your skin down and reduce the effects of sunburn as the sun goes down.
You can never go wrong bringing some bug spray along on your evening adventures. Some beachfront towns deal with some nasty mosquitoes and you don’t want to deal with bug bites and itching while you’re trying to enjoy dinner (or the next day at the beach.)
Saltwater can dry out your skin and your hair. It’s always good to rinse off with fresh water when you’re done playing in the water. If you can bring some leave-in conditioner for your hair, that will help you head right to dinner from the beach.
Change of Clothes
After a day of sunscreen, sweating, and wet clothes, it’s good to have a change of clothes packed and ready. Bring a few plastic bags to throw your wet clothes into so they don’t affect anything else in the car or bags.
Light Jacket or Sweatshirt
And finally, grab a sweater or a light jacket. When the sun goes down and the breeze picks up, you might want an extra layer so you can continue to enjoy the outdoors without getting a little chilly. Especially if you got a bit too much sun, the cooler night air might feel extra cool.
Frequently Asked Questions
When you have young kids, your beach trip packing list should include beach toys, swim diapers, lots of sunscreen and sun protection, and a good umbrella or shade tent.
The essentials for a beach trip packing list include sunscreen, towels, swimsuits, a book or magazine for entertainment, water to stay hydrated, and sunglasses. These things all easily fit into a smaller bag or tote.
This summer, plan a beach trip and grab an Adventures from Scratch activity book, which provides dozens of surprise ideas for adventures. Make it a summer the whole family will remember!