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As much as I enjoy exploring big cities and charming little towns, beach vacations are my favorite. The beach allows you to be very active – there are so many beach activities for the whole family. My favorite beach activity, however, is relaxing in a nice lounger with my trusty Kindle loaded with great books after a good swim.
How much you need to bring with you will depend on where you are staying. A nice resort will provide beach loungers, umbrellas and beach towels. Often even some water sports are included. But if you are staying in a rental, find out ahead of time what’s provided. A good host might have some beach stuff ready for their guests and you might not even need to bring anything except your swimsuit and some sunscreen.
Let’s see what are some of the must haves to pack for your next beach vacation.
In This Article
It doesn’t matter where you are headed, beaches, cities or mountains: sunscreen should always be number one on everyone’s packing list. For a beach vacation I now try to pack a reef safe sunscreen. Some states in the U.S., and a few countries around the world, are banning sunscreen that contains two common chemicals, oxybenzone and octinoxate, which could be harmful to marine life.
Mineral sunscreens appear to be safer for coral reefs. Hello Bello SPF 50 sunscreen is reasonably priced and has a pleasant smell. I’ve used it on my recent trip to the Maldives, a country located very close to the equator, and with regular application I didn’t get sunburned at all.
There are lots of other reasonably-priced great options on the market, such as Thinksport Safe Sunscreen SPF 50+. And when applying the sunscreen, don’t forget the ears. You definitely don’t want to have bright red ears after a day in the sun (don’t ask me how I know). This is also available in Kids safe version.
Lip balm with SPF could also come very handy. Your lips can get sunburned just like the rest of you so don’t forget to pack one, as it takes no space.
I can’t imagine a beach vacation without a great book! I’ve had my trusty Kindle for years and now Amazon came out with a waterproof version of this classic ereader.
Sure, you can read on an iPad or another tablet, or even on your smartphone. However, Kindle’s glare-free display is the closest you’ll come to reading a real book. It’s easy to read even in bright sunlight. And who wants to lug around multiple books, especially if you are traveling with just a carryon. The built-in backlight is amazing so you can read when it’s dark on the plane or if your partner is sleeping.
To save battery life, you can turn on airplane mode. That just means that your Kindle is not on Wi-Fi. When you need to download a new book, just turn off the airplane mode. I get most of my books from the library; my local library has saved me hundreds of dollars over the years!
You can’t enjoy the beach vacation without a great swimsuit. Always bring at least two, so while one is drying out, you can wear the second suit. Also, in case something happens to one, you’d want a backup. That applies to everyone in your family, of course. A beach coverup for ladies is another must have.
I am partial to Land’s End swimwear for both men and women. I’ve had a few Land’s End swimsuits over the years and all have held up for a long time. I love that Land’s End sells a variety of styles and sizes for all body types. Their return policy is excellent and they stand behind their products.
My other favorite is L.L. Bean. They don’t have as many styles as Land’s End but what they do carry is top quality.
Beach hats could come in handy too, if you are planning to spend a lot of time building sand castles or playing beach games. Floppy fisherman-style hats don’t look very cool, but they also cover the ears. If your kids (or your spouse) are prone to losing stuff, bring two hats for each person, just in case. A favorite of Julie and Alexandra is this packable hat on Amazon. It rolls up small, comes in at under $16, and comes in a variety of colors. The adorable bow in the back is just too fun.
And don’t forget to bring a nice beach tote for all your essentials. A roomy tote that’s also, ideally, water resistant should be big enough for all the stuff your family will need on the beach. If you want something really fun and unusual, you can’t beat a beach tote made out of recycled sails. That’s a material that should definitely hold up well over time!
If you are staying at an Airbnb or another type of rental, bring your own beach towel in case one isn’t provided or there aren’t enough for your whole family. There are so many options now for lightweight, quick drying towels that are cute and functional.
Sand Cloud makes sand-resistant, ultra-absorbent Turkish cotton towels in a variety of boho-inspired patterns and colors. The towels are manufactured in Turkey where the company pays fair wages. Sand Cloud donates 10% of its profit to marine conservation – perfect for an eco-conscious traveler.
Dock and Bay towels are made of 100% recycled material and come in a variety of cute colors and patterns.The material is sand-resistant and quick drying. A carrying bag is included and you can even personalize the towels. Bryce and Alexandra brought two of these towels along with them to Spain when they spent the summer of 2019 in Spain with their daughter. These towels are incredibly packable, don’t hold water or sand, and come in a variety of fun prints and colors. They were a must-have for our almost-daily beach vacation in Valencia, Spain.
If you are staying at a resort, check if there is a dress code for the sitdown restaurants. The resorts in the Caribbean often require that gentlemen wear long pants and collared shirts at the property’s more formal restaurants. Breathable fabrics like cotton and linen are your friends. It could still be hot and humid in the evening, so you’ll want to stay comfortable.
On the other hand, depending on where you are, it could be really chilly at night. I remember going to Mexico a couple of years ago in December and I was surprised to find out that I indeed needed a sweater I threw in my suitcase at the last minute.
I really wished I’d brought a Hydro Flask or another reusable insulated water bottle with me on my recent trip to the Maldives. There was no drinks service on the beach and the resort doesn’t have plastic bottles. In any case, any drink I’ve brought with me from the room was warm in a matter of minutes.
When it’s 95F, you really want a cold drink! But lesson learned, next time I am definitely bringing a Hydro Flask bottle with me.
This might sound like a strange suggestion for a beach getaway, but if you like swimming in the ocean as much as I do, then tinted swim goggles are a must. I’ve taken my swim goggles with me for the first time when we went to the Maldives and I wished I’d had them on all my previous beach trips.
The goggles help protect your eyes from the salty ocean water and the bright sun and make swimming that much more pleasant. I am partial to TYR Nest Pro Goggles. At just around $12, you can’t go wrong. I’ve had these for a couple of years and I am still very happy with them.
I am probably not the only one who always has a spare pair of sunglasses in my suitcase. A contingency pair is always a good idea in case you lose or break one pair. I also don’t like to bring an expensive pair to the beach with me, because I am afraid of scratching or losing them.
If you prefer an active beach vacation, a pair of inexpensive polarized sports sunglasses might be best. They’ll stay put even when you are playing beach volleyball. And because they didn’t cost much, you won’t be constantly worried about losing or scratching them.
For something more fun, but still affordable check out these glasses.
They have a modern camo frame and the rubber nose pieces and temple ends become tackier when wet and will help the glasses stay in place. Perfect for the beach!
What’s a beach vacation without a great pair of flip flops? There are of course the classic Havaianas in an array of beautiful prints and colors. I am partial to Crocs though, because they have arch support and I find that they are a lot more comfortable.
Another must have is a pair of good sandals. My personal favorites are Aetrex sandals. I discovered this brand a few years ago and I’ve probably bought 8-9 pairs already. These are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever had!
Teva and Keen sandals also get rave reviews and have a loyal customer base. Teva makes incredibly comfortable shoes, including sandals and flip flops. Keens are a classic and some models can even double as water shoes!
Bring a pair of nice shoes for the evening too, especially if you are going to a more upscale resort.
Power banks were one of the most popular must-haves among 10X Travel team members. You, or someone in your family, are guaranteed to drain the battery and you’ll need to recharge your phone, iPad or Kindle. When your teenagers’ phones run out of juice, and you whip out the power bank, you are guaranteed to be the coolest parent in the world.
If you like to stay active, or have kids to entertain, bringing a couple of beach games is always a great idea. There are, of course, your old trusty playing cards that can provide hours of entertainment. There are even waterproof cards now, made of plastic-covered thick cardstock!
But for something more active, pack a paddle ball set. It’s like a cross between ping pong and badminton and is a ton of fun to play.
Boochie is another fun game – an updated and modernized bocce ball but with higher stakes. It’s silly and fun and great for the beach.
The Activ Flyer game is a lot of fun too! You use soaring rings in a frisbee-like fashion and you can catch them with your arm, leg or even with your head. The rings float, so you can play it at the beach or in the water. The rings are also very lightweight, so they are perfect even for the tiniest players.
All of these games are very compact, and you can take them anywhere with you, even if you are traveling with a carryon only.
If you have young kids, sand toys are always a hit. And if you don’t have room in your bag for a big set of sand toys, they are often very inexpensive to buy at the destination. Your hotel or resort might even have some that your kids can use. It’s always worth emailing the property ahead of time to find out what exactly is available.
Sometimes, parents who have vacationed earlier leave behind things they don’t want to take home, so you can reuse those and leave them behind for the next family.
There are endless things you can bring to the beach with you. On the other hand, you don’t want to bring too much stuff especially if you are traveling with just a carryon. The key is to be strategic and decide on the things that are most important to you ahead of time.
Most importantly, don’t forget to bring sunscreen! Sunscreen could be really expensive at your destination, especially at high-end resorts.
What do you bring to the beach? Share your beach must-haves in the comments.
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