Summer Vacation Packing List: The Best Beach Essentials

Beach essentials and blue beach bag on pink background

The beach is an excellent place to relax and unwind. It’s also quite popular with vacationers, so if you want to make the most of your time on the sand or in the water, you’ll need to be prepared. You don’t have to spend a fortune on gear, but being ready for any situation can make all the difference between enjoying yourself or being miserable throughout your trip.

Sunscreen (go with a higher SPF than you think, and don’t forget one that’s good for your lips!)

Sunscreen is a must-have. You can’t get away with just wearing your bathing suit and sandals, no matter how cute they are, so be sure to add some protection to your skin. Sunscreen comes in many different SPF levels, from 15 all the way up to 50+.

The minimum you should use is 30; anything less than that won’t protect you for long enough (and SPF 30 will protect against 97% of UV radiation). If you’re planning on spending more time outside than usual this summer or if you have fair skin (or both), consider going with something higher like 50+, as it will protect against 98%.

Some sunscreens only work on certain parts of your body—for example, some have ingredients that make them only safe for facial use while others don’t contain those same ingredients but can still be used on lips or other areas where there may be sensitive skin. Look for something labeled “broad spectrum” (which means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays) so that no matter where you put it, it’ll do its job!

Water bottle

Essential beach things in suitcase
  • You’ll need to stay hydrated while you play in the sun and sand, so make sure you bring a water bottle.
  • If you forget this essential beach item, it’s not the end of the world (though it might be for your thirst). Most public beaches have free water fountains for refills.
  • Water bottles can be difficult to clean in the sand or on sidewalks where there isn’t much space. To keep your drink tasting fresh, try using a straw!-travel essentials list

Lip balm

You’re going to want to pack a lip balm. It doesn’t matter if you’re a chapstick person or a vaseline person, just make sure it’s something to keep your lips moisturized and protected from the elements. The sun can be harsh on our delicate skin, so taking steps to protect yourself is important. You may think that it’s only a little bit of sun but over time those little bits will add up and lead to chapped lips or even worse, cracked skin that leaves you in need of some serious lip surgery!

Beach hat

A good hat will protect you from the sun. If you don’t have a hat with a brim, it’s important to make sure that your face is covered. A hat with a chin strap will help keep it on your head and prevent it from blowing off in the wind. A wider brim will protect not only your face but also your ears and neck.


If you’re heading to the beach, sandals should be at the top of your packing list. They’re an essential item for your trip and will make it much more comfortable—not to mention stylish!

To avoid any future blisters or skin irritation, you want to pick a pair that fits well. Make sure they don’t rub against your feet uncomfortably or cause any redness where they touch. Also note that some brands are better than others when it comes to comfort—so check reviews before buying.

Once you’ve found a good fit, look for other qualities in your sandals such as style and price point (some brands have higher prices). We recommend these types:

Flip flops

One of the most important things to bring on your beach vacation is a pair of flip flops. Flip flops are an absolute must-have for any daytime trip to the beach, whether you’re lounging in a cabana or walking along the water. The best type of flip flop is one that has a strap across your foot that goes between and behind your toes, as this will prevent sand from getting into them when you walk around on the beach. They also protect against sunburn and keep your feet cleaner while walking through shallow waters or over rocky paths (not sure how many people know this, but there are rocks everywhere!).

If you don’t already own some comfortable and durable pairs of sandals like these Journee Collection Joanne Flats (available at Nordstrom) then I recommend buying them before heading off on vacation so they’re ready whenever it’s time for adventure!


Gorgeous stylish brunette girl in one-piece swimsuit and sunglasses with cocktail

You’ve probably heard it before, but sunglasses are the most important of all summer vacation essentials. Sunglasses are not just for style—they actually protect your eyes from the harmful UV rays that can damage your vision over time. While on a beach, you’ll want to make sure you have a pair of polarized sunglasses (which will make it easier to see through glare), UV-protective lenses (to help prevent sunburns), and non-breakable frames (so they won’t get lost or broken)-travel essentials list

A couple of towels (one for drying off, one for shade)

  • Towel. A couple beach towels are a must-have for any beach trip. These large, absorbent pieces of fabric can be used to dry off and lay on during your day at the beach, but they also serve many other functions that you may not have thought of yet! You can use them as a blanket or shade cover if you don’t bring one with you.
  • Compact umbrella/sunshade. If you want to get some relief from the sun while still enjoying the view, be sure to pack an umbrella or sunshade that folds up quite compactly into its storage pouch so that it doesn’t take up too much space in your bag!

A good book or two

A good book or two can be the difference between an enjoyable vacation and a miserable one. You’ll have plenty of time to read as you lounge on your beach towel, so bring something you love to get lost in. Here are some suggestions for what books to bring along:

  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

If one of these books doesn’t sound like it would be your cup of tea, that’s okay! There are plenty more to choose from—it just depends on what kind of mood you’re in when packing up your suitcase. If you don’t like any of these suggestions (or if they end up not being right for you), don’t worry! Just go with whatever feels right at the moment; after all, this is supposed to be fun!

Waterproof pouch to keep phone in while you’re swimming or kayaking

You’ll want to keep your phone in a waterproof pouch. There are many options out there, but we recommend the LifeProof Fre for its durability and accessories (the bag comes with a carabiner). We also recommend keeping your phone in a dry bag—this way, if you drop it into the water, it will float instead of sinking to the bottom of the ocean where you’ll never see it again. You can toss all of these pouches into one large waterproof bag so that they’re protected no matter what happens.


When it comes to snacks, bring the ones that are easy to eat. You don’t want your beach bag to be weighed down by heavy packaging or difficult-to-open containers. Also keep in mind that you might not be able to find a place where you can sit and eat your snack while basking in the sun or swimming.

In order of importance:

  • Be sure they’re easy to pack (no twist ties!)
  • Easy on the go (convenient packaging)
  • Easy in the sun (foods won’t heat up quickly)
  • Hungry? No problem!

This is not your typical packing list – it has some unique items that may make your trip a lot more enjoyable!

The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to take everything. You definitely don’t need to bring your entire house with you on vacation, but there are some essentials that will make your trip more enjoyable.

One of the most important things is to find out what type of accommodations are included in the price of your stay. If it isn’t a hotel or resort, then you can probably get away with bringing less stuff because they may provide things like towels and sheets (and even pillows!)-travel essentials list

Another thing to consider is whether or not there will be a lot of walking involved during your stay. If so, then I’d recommend taking a backpack instead of luggage since they’re easier on the body!

I hope this list has helped you figure out what to bring on your next trip! Whether you’re going on a road trip or taking a flight, remember that most airlines will let you carry-on one bag for free. It’s always best to keep your belongings organized so that no matter what happens over the course of your journey (or if something goes wrong), everything will be there when it’s needed most.

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