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The Ultimate Beach Packing List for a Week-Long Vacation

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Make packing for your next beach vacation a breeze with this checklist of essentials.

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Make packing for your next beach vacation a breeze with this checklist of essentials.

Packing for your surf-and-sand vacation is as stress-free as a day at the beach, thanks to this easy-reference guide to your essentials for a week.

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After 14 months of COVID lockdowns, it’s likely the anticipation of your first postvaccine beach vacation is akin to the same giddy excitement you felt as a kid during the countdown to the first day of summer break. But alas, you’re an adult now and can’t rely on your parents to pack your pool floaties for you anymore. 

If you’re staying at a resort, it’s safe to assume you won’t have to pack essentials like beach chairs, umbrellas, and towels. But if you were lucky enough to snag coveted reservations at an Airbnb beach house this summer, double-check with your host to see what amenities they include. To make sure you don’t show up unprepared—or overpack—use this beach vacation packing list to guarantee you have everything you need for a week-long trip.

Beach clothing

Avoid overpacking with this easy formula Wendy Mak, author of The Capsule Wardrobe: 1,000 Outfits From 30 Pieces, uses when she travels: Simply multiply the number of tops with the number of bottoms you plan to bring and that’s the number of outfits you’ll be able to create (as long as each top coordinates with each bottom).

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“As a general rule of thumb, if I’m going away for a seven-night beach holiday, I’d pack two to three pieces of swimwear (so that they have time to dry in between), a pair of shorts and a couple of skirts, four tops that match all my shorts and skirts, and a dress in case I go somewhere special,” Mak told AFAR in 2017. In addition to the swimwear, this eight-piece wardrobe will give you at least 13 outfits for when you’re not lounging on the beach in your suit.

If you plan on working out, don’t forget your workout gear and sneakers. And even though it could be warm during the day, be sure to check the weather and pack additional layers to keep you warm at night in case the weather dips after the sun goes down. You wouldn’t want to miss the beach bonfire, would you? 

Clothing to pack:

  • 2–3 swimsuits (We like Summersalt suits, $45–$125, which are made with recycled polyamide fabric and include a range sizes from 0 to 24.)
  • 1–2 swim cover-ups
  • Rashguard for additional sun protection in the water
  • Polarized sunglasses, like the Maho Positano shades ($195), which include subtle yet effective grips on the ears so you don’t have to worry about them falling off your face into the water.
  • Sun hat (the wider the brim the better)
  • Four T-shirts or casual tops
  • Three pairs of shorts or skirts
  • Pants for evenings
  • Sweatshirt or light sweater for evenings
  • Nicer outfit (dress or button-up and slacks) for dinners out
  • Socks and underwear
  • Sleepwear
  • Small purse or belt bag
  • Workout gear and running shoes

Footwear:

This Paravel beach tote is made with a stain-resistant coating, so rogue ketchup and ice cream spills don’t stand a chance.

Beach gear

Before you pack, check to see what amenities your hotel or vacation rental includes. Most provide beach chairs, umbrellas, and towels you can use during your stay. Otherwise, you’ll just want to stick to the essentials for keeping you and your family entertained, hydrated, and comfortable during a day out on the sand.

In case your accommodations don’t provide, pack these items:

  • Beach chairs
  • Beach umbrella or tent
  • Beach towels (We like the Matador x Volcom packable beach towel, $35; it’s made with an ultralight and quick-drying nanofiber material and folds up into an attached pouch.)

You may also want:

  • Snorkel gear (Tour operators may provide them, but after living through a pandemic it doesn’t hurt to BYO for peace of mind.)
  • Underwater camera, like the GoPro Hero9 ($380), which is waterproof down to 33 feet and comes with accessories like a floating hand grip if you purchase it in a bundle directly from GoPro
  • Inflatable floats for lounging in the water
  • Toddler swim floaties for families traveling with small children
  • Swim diapers for babies
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Beach toiletries and hygiene items

In addition to the basics you pack every time you travel—toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, razors, etcetera—you’ll also want to be sure to pack additional toiletries to keep you protected from the sun and any germs you encounter at the beach. Choose a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or greater that also is water resistant and broad spectrum so you’re protected against both UVB and UVA rays.

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You’ll also want to use a reef-friendly formula that doesn’t use oxybenzone and octinoxate, two ingredients that are banned from being sold in destinations like Hawaii and Key West. To calculate the amount of sunscreen you’ll need for your beach trip, the American Academy of Dermatology Association says most adults need about one ounce to fully cover their body and recommends reapplying every two hours or after swimming.

Toiletries:

  • Sunscreen
  • SPF lip balm
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Wet wipes for disinfecting your hands and getting all the sand off them before you eat
  • Face masks (Many destinations still require visitors to wear masks on public beaches unless they are in the water. Please check local regulations before you go.)
  • After-sun lotion (Kelty makes a CBD After Sun Lotion, $30, infused with aloe vera and 200 mg of CBD to give sun-exposed skin extra relief.)

You may also want:

  • Bug spray for evenings
  • First aid kit, like the Vssl First Aid ($130) which includes adhesive bandages, gauze, tweezers, and more in a waterproof cylinder that doubles as a flashlight
  • After-sun leave-in hair conditioner, like Sun Bum’s Revitalizing 3-in-1 Leave In Treatment ($15), which detangles, conditions, and protects hair from the damaging effects of the sun and salt water.

This article was originally published on January 14, 2019; it was updated on May 18, 2021, with current information.

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