I am the family Super Packer, a title I deserve but despise. However, packing for the beach is my favorite and it may have a little something to do with clothes that take up less space — and feeling motivated by the thought of warm sun on my skin and sand between my toes.
Here are the non-negotiable:
- Passport. If traveling internationally, make sure to bring a passport for every passenger. All passports should have at least six months validity from the date of departure. Also, confirm if any visas or reciprocity fees are required for your destination. If traveling domestically, keep a valid driver’s license with you during travel.
- Credit cards. Take more than one and always inform the issuers of your travel to prevent a possible fraud alert.
- Cash. We recommend small denominations of clean, untorn bills. U.S. dollars are easily exchanged or accepted in most destinations.
- Prescriptions. Remember to pack enough for the duration of your trip plus a couple extra in case you are delayed. Include medications, repellants, or sunscreens that will be difficult to find while traveling. For beach destinations, I always bring an extra set of contact lenses to replace any that fall out during an epic ocean wave.
That’s it. Everything else can be purchased or replaced. You don’t want to become a prisoner to your suitcase, but because you will want to be comfortable and not spend all your time finding appropriate beachwear while on vacation, we recommend also bringing the following:
- Beach bag. Bring a good beach bag, preferably one that can fold up easily into your luggage without taking a lot of space, that is easy to clean, and durable. Our new favorite is the Day Tripper by Aloha Collection. Click here for our review.
- Swimwear. Two to three suits that you feel comfortable wearing. Now, feeling comfortable being seen in a swimsuit is different than being comfortable wearing a swimsuit. It’s my goal to learn how to do the former, but the latter is especially important at the beach where ocean waves and toddlers can do funny things to your swimsuit. Bring a good swim cover that can double as an outfit if needed.
- Clothing. I always recommend packing for five days even if your trip is five weeks. That’s 5 pair of under goods; something to sleep in; one fleece, jacket or sweater; 4 pair of lower-half (shorts, skirts, pants, depending on weather and destination customs); five tops; and at least one outfit that would be considered Beach Chic — a nice tunic, dress, or linen jumpsuit for women and a light blazer and slacks for men.
- Shoes. Flip-flops are a must. Plus another sandal or shoe that can be used for adventure. Our favorites are the Luna Sandal and Keens. And consider one other pair for a nicer dinner.
- Accessories. Always bring a pair of sunglasses and sunhat. Sunscreen is amazing and should be used frequently, but a good sunhat will provide much better protection. If you’re traveling during the rainy season, you may want to bring a compatible rain jacket or poncho.
- Toiletries. You’re at the beach. Keep it minimal and pack small quantities. Instead of combing the travel section of your local grocery store, try some reusable containers like the GoToobs filled with the products you already use from home. Always include a good sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and remember that beach destinations typically increase the likelihood of mosquitos. I don’t like it, but DEET continually gets rated as the best repellant for mosquitos. And for areas that may be stricken with malaria, Zika, and other parasitic infections or viruses, the benefits to using DEET outweigh the disadvantages. If sticky sand is an irritant to your skin, pack baby powder and check out the ultimate sand eliminator travel tip.
- Luggage. Staying organized and moving freely with dependable luggage is key to spending more time vacationing and less time packing and unpacking. I always use packing cubes (aka portable drawers) for any trip regardless of duration and I love my North Face Rolling Thunder or Patagonia Black Hole wheeled duffle bags. I like the rigid back paired with the flexibility of a durable, water resistant shell that can shift and collapse as needed.