Summertime is beach time! Whether you’re hitting up the ocean coast or spending a lazy day by the lake, there are some beach essentials that are always a must-have. To help you stay organized as you prepare for your getaway, we’ve prepared a beach packing list for you.
Here’s what to bring to the beach for a fun day in the sun.
1. Something to carry everything to the beach
A beach bag is absolutely essential because it will be your catch-all for all of your beach day essentials. Look for one that has a lot of compartments or water bottle pockets to help keep you organized. It also needs to be easy to clean – a nylon bag is a great option and it dries quickly. Or, go for a mesh tote, which will air out any wet swimsuits.
If you take your beachgoing seriously, you need a beach cart. These handy contraptions make it a snap to haul everything from your car to the water – perfect if you’re packing heavy duty items like chairs or umbrellas, or if you have a long walk from the parking lot to the shore. Look for one that has big wheels, so it can handle sand without getting stuck.
2. Beach umbrella or sun shelter
You’ll want some sun protection from the harsh ultraviolet rays, so make sure to pack a beach umbrella or sun shelter.
When choosing a beach umbrella, look for one with an SPF rating to block out as much of the sun’s harmful rays as possible. And make sure the umbrella is big enough to shade you and any friends or family members who join you.
If you’re going to be at the beach all day, consider getting a sun shelter. These can be freestanding or staked into the ground, and offer more UVA and UVB protection than a simple umbrella. Some even come with features like ventilating mesh windows, an extended floor, and side panels.
3. Beach towel
Beach towels are essentials for any beach trip. Towels are a necessity for drying off, lying down, or sitting on. Choose a brightly colored or patterned towel so you can easily spot it on the sand.
And make sure it’s oversized, so it’s big enough to comfortably lie down on. After all, you don’t want to be cramped up on a tiny towel or get sand in your hair!
When choosing beach towels, look for ones that are quick-drying and super absorbent. Microfiber towels are a great option because they do both.
4. Something to sit on
If you don’t fancy sitting on a towel all day, bring along a beach chair.
Beach chairs are vacation essentials because they’re lightweight and easy to carry. You can choose a folding camp chair, a low variety that sits close to the sand, or a lounge chair that allows you to lay down for an afternoon snooze. Some beach chairs even come with built-in cup holders or can be staked into the sand for a little extra stability.
A beach blanket is another option which can double as a rain shed, sunshade, tent, and toddler crawl if need be. Just shake it off when you’re done and fold it up to carry home.
Look for an oversized one that’s big enough to fit a few people, with ground stakes to keep it positioned in windy conditions. It also should be washable, quick-dry, and have a water-resistant backing so it doesn’t get sand in it.
TIP: If you like to cover your beach chairs with a towel, beach towel clips are really useful. They help keep your towel in place so it doesn’t blow away in the wind.
5. Cooler with drinks, lunch, and snacks
What’s a day at the beach without food and drinks?
Bring a cooler filled with water, juices, and soda, and don’t forget beach-friendly snacks. Also, if you and your friends prefer adult beverages, light beers and wine coolers are refreshing and less dehydrating.
For maximum cooling, blue ice packs are the way to go. You can also freeze water bottles overnight and use them as ice packs in the cooler during the day.
We’ve got a list of snacks to bring to the beach at the end of this article.
6. Insulated travel mugs
Leave your water bottle and plastic drink cups at home. The best way to keep drinks cold and spill-free on a beach trip is with an insulated travel mug. These have lids with straws or spouts, so you can drink without taking the lid off.
Choose one that is double-walled and insulated, so your drink will stay cold (or hot) for hours. We use ours every day and can vouch for how well they work!
Check out the reusable Yeti Rambler. It’s stainless steel, comes in a variety of colors, and is environmentally friendly. Best of all, they fit in our SUV’s standard cup holders.
7. Dry bags
Concerned about getting sand or water in your precious electronics? Then you need a dry bag.
Also known as dry sacks, these waterproof bags come in all different sizes, so you can choose one that’s big enough to fit your phone, camera, Kindle … or even a sleeping bag!
They’ll also help to keep everything away from prying eyes while you’re in the water.
Look for a dry bag that is made from durable, water-resistant material. And make sure it has a secure closure, like a zip-top or roll-top, to help keep the water out. If it also has a D-ring, you can attach it to your chair or backpack with a carabiner.
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What to wear to the beach
Before you start packing up your cooler and heading off, take a minute to think about what you’re going to wear to the beach.
After all, you don’t want to be caught in the sand with impractical clothes or shoes!
Here’s what to wear for a beach day:
8. Loose clothing
Unless you intend to drive to the beach in your bathing suit, you’ll need to wear some clothing for the trip. A sundress or a pair of shorts and a tank top are perfect options because they are easy to remove once your feet hit the sand.
When selecting your clothing, look for items made with lightweight, natural fabrics. Those are ideal for beach days since they won’t stick to your skin in the heat and humidity.
9. Bathing suit
If you plan on going in the water on your vacation, pack a swimsuit that you feel comfortable in. It’s smart to pack more than one if you’ll be at your beach destination for a long time. Packing a few different styles will help blend in your tan lines.
When choosing a swimsuit, think about getting one that has UPF sun protection built into the fabric. This will help protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, even when you’re in the water.
Some popular features in women’s swimsuits include a racerback or cross-back style for more support, and built-in shorts for extra coverage. Some also offer tummy control for a more flattering fit.
With men’s swim trunks, look for a mesh lining for extra support and pockets for holding keys or a wallet.
10. Rash guard
If you don’t want to wear a shirt all day ― or you prefer something that’s more modest ― a rash guard swimsuit is a very good option. Available for men and women, a rash guard is popular with surfers. It’s also a good choice for beachgoers because it protects your skin from the sun and can prevent painful sunburns.
Rash guards come in long-sleeved and short-sleeved styles, so you can choose the one that’s right for you.
Even if you don’t plan on going in the water, a cover-up is always a good idea. It will help to protect your skin from the sun, and it can also double as a dress for lunch or dinner.
Men have the option of wearing swim trunks that looks like shorts. However, women don’t have that ability.
Some of the most popular swimsuit cover-ups for women are sarongs, pareos, and kaftans. They come in a variety of colors and prints, and can be worn in a variety of ways.
A pair of sandals or flip-flops are a must for a day at the beach; leave the sneakers at home. You’ll want to have something on your feet when you’re walking on the hot sand. But you don’t want shoes that will fill up with sand and become uncomfortable.
When choosing footwear, look for a pair that’s comfortable and easy to get on and off. Flip flops are inexpensive and easy to find in case your kids break theirs. If you prefer sandals, it’s a good idea to make sure they have good arch support to avoid foot pain later.
13. Sun hat or visor
If you’re going to keep the sun out of your eyes and off your face, a hat or visor is essential! A wide-brimmed sun hat is a good choice because it will provide the most coverage. But if you don’t like hats, a visor is the next best thing.
When choosing a hat, look for one that’s made from breathable material like straw or cotton. Look for a crush-proof style that can be packed in your beach bag without getting damaged. And make sure it has a chin strap or tie so it doesn’t blow away in wind.
Sunglasses are a must-have for any beach day. They will help protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. And they can also help reduce glare from the beach and water.
When choosing sunglasses, look for an impact-resistant pair that has 100% UV protection. Even better if they’re polarized, because that will help you see beneath the water’s surface.
And make sure they’re comfortable to wear, so they don’t slip and you don’t have to keep adjusting them. This article can help you choose the right sunglasses.
15. Change of clothes
An extra change of clothes can be helpful on a beach day, because you never know when you might get wet.
Essential beach toiletries
Along with clothing and beach gear, these toiletries are essential for any trip to the beach.
16. Waterproof sunscreen
Never go to the beach without sunscreen! Make sure to apply sunscreen before you leave the house. Be sure to apply it liberally to all exposed skin, including your lips, ears, and the back of your neck.
Choose a waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and make sure it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. It’s important to remember to reapply it throughout the day, especially after swimming or sweating.
Chemical sunscreens absorb UV light, while mineral sunscreens deflect the sun’s rays away from your skin. Choosing which sunscreen to use can get complicated, but here are some to take a look at.
17. Lip balm
Lip balm with SPF is a must-have for any beach day. It will help protect your lips from the sun’s harmful rays. And it can also help keep them hydrated and free from painful chapped lips.
When choosing a lip balm, look for one that has at least SPF 30. For a little fun, you can get one that’s tinted or flavored. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s easy to apply so you can reapply it often.
18. Insect repellent
If your beach vacation is in an area where there are mosquitos or sand fleas, you’ll want to protect yourself from their bites. One of the best ways to do this is by using a repellant that will keep them from biting you.
The most powerful bug repellant ingredient is DEET, and it’s in the most effective bug sprays. If you prefer a chemical-free alternative, look for one that contains essential oils like citronella, lemon eucalyptus, or lemongrass. Lavender makes a good bug repellent too, and some studies say it’s more effective than citronella.
19. Aloe vera or other soothing gel for sunburns
Even if you’re careful, there’s always a chance you’ll get sunburned. And when that happens, aloe vera gel can be a lifesaver. It’s cooling and soothing, and it will help relieve the pain of a sunburn.
There are aloe vera gels or creams that contain additional ingredients like lidocaine or menthol, which can also help relieve the pain of a sunburn. Some also contain moisturizing ingredients that will help keep damaged skin from feeling tight and dry.
20. Towelettes or wipes
On a beach day, moist towelettes or baby wipes can come in handy for all sorts of things: wiping sand off your feet, cleaning up after a swim, or freshening up your sweaty face or body.
Choose wipes that are alcohol-free and hypoallergenic, and make sure they’re gentle enough to use on your skin.
21. Wide-tooth comb
A wide-tooth comb can be helpful for getting the sand out of your hair. It can also be used to comb out wind-blown knots and tangles from the waves. Plus, it’s essential if you want to style your hair after a day in the sun.
22. Hair detangler
If you have long hair, a spray-on hair detangler can be a lifesaver. If you apply it when you arrive, it can also help protect your hair from harmful rays. It can help get the knots and tangles out of your hair after a day at the beach.
There are all sorts of detanglers on the market, so choose one that’s right for your hair type. Remember to apply it before you comb out your hair.
23. First aid kit
A small first aid kit can come in handy on a beach day. It should include band-aids, gauze, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, and pain relievers.
If you have any allergies or medical conditions, be sure your first aid kit includes anything you might need, such as an EpiPen or inhaler.
24. Plastic bags
Zip-to-close plastic bags are useful for all sorts of things on a beach day: storing wet clothes, keeping your electronics dry, or holding the shells you’ve collected. They are also great for holding ice packs or cold compressors.
What to bring to the beach for fun
If you’re looking for some fun entertainment to take to the beach, there are plenty of options available. Here are some suggestions to add to your packing list.
25. Books and magazines or e-reader
Books and magazines are a great way to pass the time on a beach vacation, and so are are word search and crossword puzzle books.
If you prefer to have a wide range of reading materials, go with an e-reader. If it helps, Amazon’s newest Kindles are rated to protect against accidental immersion for up to 60 minutes. Learn more about waterproof features here.
26. Beach games like Frisbee or beach ball
Frisbees, beach balls, and other family beach games can provide hours of fun on the beach. They’re also great for getting friends up and moving around, which is always a good thing.
Click here to see more ideas for fun things to do on the beach, like cornhole, surfminton, volleyball, and KanJam.
if you enjoy checking out the scene or people watching, binoculars are another beach vacation essential. They can enhance your birdwatching or whale watching, and come in handy for checking out the boats in the harbor.
Look for a compact pair of binoculars with fully multi-coated optics. And don’t forget to bring a lens cloth to keep them clean.
28. Mask, snorkel, and swim fins
If you plan to spend a lot of time in the water, snorkeling gear can be a great addition to your beach day. A mask or goggles will help you see underwater, and swim fins will help you move through the water more easily.
Snorkels are especially useful for exploring the underwater world. Rather than needing to raise your head to breathe, you can simply float face-down in the water and gaze at fish, coral, plants, and other aquatic life. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a turtle or two.
Before snorkeling, be sure to apply another layer of sunscreen to your back. It’s easy to lose track of time and end up sunburned. We’ve learned that the hard way!
29. Waterproof camera
A waterproof camera is a great way to capture all the memories of your beach day. There are all sorts of options available, from basic point-and-shoot cameras to more advanced models. And there are even some phones that are waterproof, or at least water resistant.
Two top photography tips:
- bring along extra batteries and memory cards.
- make sure the lens is clean before you start taking pictures.
Some GoPro-type action cameras come with accessories like a remote control, additional batteries, and a carrying case. Others have built-in Wi-Fi so you can share your photos and videos directly to your phone or social media.
ⓘ TIP: If you’re in the market for an action camera, this is the #1 best-seller on Amazon.
30. Portable charger for your phone
A portable charger can be a lifesaver on a beach day. Your phone will probably get a lot of use taking pictures, checking the weather, and staying in touch with your friends or family. And you don’t want it to die when you need it most.
Make sure to choose a charger that’s compatible with your phone, and one that can hold enough power to fully charge your phone more than once. Other features you might look for are qi charging, flashlight, compass, and even solar panel charging. This one offers them all.
31. Waterproof speakers
If you want to listen to music or audio books on your beach day, bring along a portable speaker. Look for a speaker that’s waterproof and soil-resistant so you don’t have to worry about it getting damaged by the elements.
For convenience, get a bluetooth speaker that can be recharged with a USB cord. Some speakers even offer a noise-cancelling speakerphone and wireless streaming.
32. Earbuds or headphones
If you want to listen to music, audio books, or podcasts on your beach day, bring along a pair of earbuds or headphones.
If you plan to go in the waves, this waterproof set was specifically designed for swimming.
33. Portable boombox
A portable music system is another must-have to bring to the beach. With a CD and radio combination, you can play CDs and listen to music, news, or talk shows. And if you’re lucky, you might even be able to pick up a local station that’s playing some good tunes.
Even better if it has bluetooth capability.
34. Sand toys
You can’t build castles or dig holes if you don’t have beach essentials like buckets, shovels, rakes, and such. So if you’re going to the beach with kids, don’t forget the sand toys.
Bring water toys like squirt guns or water balloons to help everyone stay cool in the heat.
Be sure to have more than one set of toys, so there’s no fighting over who gets the bucket and shovel!
35. Inflatable raft or float
If you want to relax in the water, an inflatable raft or float is a great option. There are all sorts of different types available, from simple floats to more elaborate ones with built-in cup holders and storage pockets.
You can even get huge floating mats that can be joined together to hold a group!
36. Body board
Don’t forget to pack a body board if you want to boogie board! These are great for riding the waves, and much easier to control than a surfboard. Sizes vary, so make sure to choose one that’s big enough for you to stand on.
When buying a body board, look for one with a durable body and a soft foam top. You’ll also want to make sure it has leash plugs so you can attach a leash. You’ll need a leash if you want to body board in the ocean.
Finally, while most beaches have a lifeguard on duty, it’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand in case you need to pay for parking.
You might also need cash if you want to buy food, drinks, or ice cream from the concession stand.
Snacks for a day at the beach
Looking for ideas of what to bring to the beach to eat? Here are some ideas of things to pack in your cooler for your day trip:
- Fruit like grapes, watermelon, or cantaloupe
- Veggies like carrots, celery, or cucumber
- Crackers or a baguette
- Lunch meat and deli meats
- Nuts and seeds
- Dried fruit
- Granola bars or energy bars
- Chips and dip
- Cookies, brownies or other sweets
- Sandwiches or wraps
- Leftovers from home
Drinks for the beach can include:
- Iced tea or coffee
- Sports drinks
- Beer or wine
- Don’t forget the ice!
Finally, remember to pack plates, cups, napkins, and utensils if you need them.
Ready for your beach trip?
Going to the beach can be a lot of fun, as long as you’ll have everything you need. With this beach packing list as your guide, you’re guaranteed have an amazing day at the beach!