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The Ultimate Packing List for a Day at the Beach

Open trunk with beach day luggage

Gearing up for the Perfect Day at the Beach 

There was nothing I enjoyed more than going to beach as a kid. We would frequently visit a beach called Sandbanks Dunes, in southern Ontario with some family friends, and my brightest memories are from those visits. 

I would spend my days crouched over in the sand collecting tiny little shells, I remember eating Bugles off of my fingers, we’d play King of the Hill on a floating dingy (they’d always push me off first) and finishing off the day with some volleyball before heading back to the campsite. 

Looking back on it, it’s a literal miracle that I didn’t end every day with a lobster-level sunburn, which is usually a rather common occurrence for us gingers. I can appreciate now how much preparation it took from my parents to pack everything we could possibly need for the perfect day at the beach. 

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My love for beach going has not diminished in the slightest, and my packing skills are getting really good. That’s why I’d like to share with y’all what I think is the ultimate packing list for a day at the beach, or for a whole beach vacation! 

Are you heading out on a road trip? We’ve got the Ultimate Road Trip Packing List for you here!

Camping can require so much planning! We’ve got you covered with the Ultimate Camping Packing List

Are you headed out on a backpacking adventure? We’ve prepared a the Ultimate Backpacking & Hiking Packing List right here.

Before you Head Out.. 

Two beach chairs on the beach resort

There are some important things to consider before you head out to the beach. At the end of the day, a beach day is meant to be as stress free and enjoyable as possible, so there are some things you can sort out before you go to ensure that. 

Who are you going with?

What you bring and how long you stay at the beach is totally going depend on who you’re going to be spending the day with. I can personally stay at the beach all day long as long as I have a hat, but young kiddies may find it harder to stay in the sun for that amount of time.

If you’re hanging out with seniors it may be too uncomfortable for them to stay at the beach for the entire day. Everyone has different tolerance levels for being in the sun for a long time, so communicate about how long they’d like to stay! 

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What are the weather conditions going to be like? 

This may be an obvious one, but I myself have been trapped at the beach during a horrendous rainstorm. This isn’t such a big deal if you’re going to the lake, but it can be a whole other story if you’re going to the ocean.

An old friend of mine used to reminisce about how when he lived in Florida, they’d wait for hurricanes to come around because that was when the best and biggest waves would hit. Personally, that sounds like my worst nightmare.

If you’re visiting the ocean it’s also important to keep an eye out for the tides. I once visited the Bay of Fundy which has the most intense tide changes in the world – a total of 55 feet in depth during a 12 hour period! – and though the tide came in super slow, I can see how if you weren’t paying attention you could get caught in a cove.

How far away is your destination?

Knowing how long you’re going to be at the beach and how far away it is is going to allow you to better plan for meal times, and if you should pack extra clothes! You may potentially have to pack both lunch and dinner for your loved ones, and some extra hoodies for the chilly ride home. 

Do they allow pets there? 

This is a big one! Depending on where you live, it can be super tricky finding a beach that allows pets (yeah, I’m talking to you, Quebec). Too many times I’ve been in a car with a group of friends and my dog, only to be turned down at the entrance. 

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There are many beaches that allow pets, but some require your pet to be on a leash. If it’s a super hot day, you also need to consider if there is enough shade for them to get some repose from the sun. Being covered in fur I imagine is a lot like wearing a pair of fur pants and a jacket on a hot summer day.

The Ultimate Beach Packing List

The following section is a list of all the things that you could possibly want or need for a beach trip. We’ve arranged it into different sections so that you can pick or choose what you’d like to add to your list. 

Applying sunscreen on mans back at the beach

Beach Essentials

1. Sunscreen – forgetting your sunscreen can mean either a super uncomfortable next few days, or you have to leave early if there’s no shade. I like using Sun Bum waterproof spray on sun lotion with SPF 30 so that I’m protected from the UV rays but still have a little color at the end of the beach day!

2. Bug Spray – did you know that bug spray also repels insects like ticks and no-see’ems? (if you don’t know what that is, consider yourself lucky. These little buggers are so tiny that you can’t see them, and you can’t tell you’ve been bit until the end of the day when your feet and ankles are covered in hundreds of impossibly itchy bites).

3. Water – the elixir of life. I always like to bring more water than I need, especially since I’m travelling with a dog. It’s always better to carry more and prevent dehydration in my opinion.

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4. First Aid Kit – though I don’t usually travel with one of these, there have been times where I’ve sliced my toe on a clam shell and really wished that I had a way of cleaning the sand out. 

5. Sun Hats & Sunglasses – not only do they make you look super cool, a sun hat and sunglasses are a great way of ensuring that you don’t get too much sun and experience things like sun stroke or heat stroke. Also, did you know that your hair doesn’t actually protect your scalp from sun damage? The majority of skin cancer first occurs on the scalp. Wild!

6. Snacks – snacks snacks snacks! Chompin’ on snacks at the beach isn’t just enjoyable, it’s actually super important to keep your sugars up when you’re spending so much time in the sun and swimming around. Snacks are a great way to deal with that inevitable crash at the end of a day in the sun, too. 

7. Beach Towels – one of my biggest pet peeves on the planet is using a wet towel. There’s always a chance that someone forgot their beach towel or that your dog ran all over yours and soaked it. I always bring extra, and it is always used.

Laid out items for day at the beach

Personal Items

8. Wipes – I love wipes. I bring wipes with me every time that I go camping. Wipes are nice if you’re applying lotion sunscreen, if you’re getting ready to chop up some food, or if the outhouse doesn’t have any sanitizer in it.

9. Toilet Paper – not all beaches have outhouses! Just remember that if there are no garbage cans either, if you pack it in, pack it out! Leave-No-Trace is the most respectful way to interact with our environment. 

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10. Lip Balm – I literally never leave the house without lip balm, but it is especially essential when going to the beach. Everything dries out those pretty little kissers, so do yourself a favor and pack your lip balm. Or better yet, get a lip balm with SPF! Have you ever had a sunburn on your lips? It’s awful, would not recommend.

11. Moisturizer – not everyone is going to consider this as being important, but I really dislike the feeling of super dry hands that have been in sand the whole day. I usually travel with a mini moisturizer with me. 

12. Hairbrush/Ties – this one is reserved for those of you with hair. But trying to eat a sandwich on a windy day at the beach can be a wee bit annoying. 

Bikini and beach apparel coming out of a beach bag


13. Swimsuit – hey not everybody is into skinny dipping!

14. Cover Up – this isn’t an essential item, but man do they ever make ADORABLE swimsuit wraps. To die for.

15. Hoodie – sometimes a slight breeze at the beach when you’re all wet can send you into a shivering frenzy!

16. Big T-shirt – in my opinion, a big t-shirt is an essential item for a day at the beach. Once I’ve decided that my skin has had enough sun, I just put on a giant t-shirt to cover my shoulders and burnable areas. This way I can still wade in the water and wear my bikini underneath.

17. Water Shoes – water shoes are so awesome if you’re a squeamish swimmer and don’t like touching the bottom, or if there are rocks around that are super slippery. Water shoes are also amazing if you’re heading to the beach with your kids and they’ll prevent little scrapes from rocks and shells. 

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Two folks sitting in beach chairs under a beach umbrella

Comfort Items

18. Beach Chairs – though I do love laying out on a towel, it can be nice to sit upright to read a book or eat a snack on a beach chair. They’ve got some cute and minimally spaced beach chairs out there! I remember when they used to be so heavy. 

19. Beach Umbrella – this is an especially important item if there aren’t any trees at the beach you’re visiting. It’s always important to give yourself sporadic breaks for those intense sun rays.

20. Shade Tent – I usually see big families with super young babies with shade tents. Though they take up a little bit more space, it’s a great way to stay safe!

21. Cooler – a day at the beach isn’t a day at the beach without some cold soda and cooled snacks. Though coolers are clunky and take up a lot of space, it’s always such a treat to enjoy cool libations rather than hot ones covered in sand.

I’ve actually seen a backpack cooler or sale which is so smart! This may only be suitable for smaller groups, since you can only fit so much into a backpack cooler.

22. Foldable Table – though this isn’t a total necessity, folding tables can come in handy especially if you’re spending the day with a lot of people! It’s also a great way to make sure that sand doesn’t accidentally get kicked into the hummus. 

Three boogie boards sitting in the sand on a beach

Entertainment Items 

23. Sand Toys – man, I miss the days where I had sand toys and could make those insanely huge sand castles. Have you ever been to a beach where the wet sand can be dropped in such a way that it’s structurally sound? Wow, so fun. 

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24. Frisbee – I pretty much always have a frisbee on me because it’s my dogs favorite toy, but it’s a great game to play in the water, too!

25. Volleyball – nothing like starting a game of beach volleyball and reenacting the scene from Top Gun. Drool. 

26. Beach Ball – have you ever read that review of a too-giant beach ball? Here you go.

27. Spike Ball – though I have personally never played because I am far too uncoordinated to not being horrifically embarrassed the entire time, people seem to really enjoy playing spike ball. 

28. Goggles & Snorkel – this is a great one for kiddies and adults alike! Convince your kids to go try and discover a new species!

29. Flippers – honestly flippers are just the best.

30. Waterproof Camera – these are so much fun!!!! It’s impossible to look cute underwater!

31. Life Jackets & Other Floaties – honestly I love me a pool noodle. Some of the best times I had at the beach would just be floating on an inflatable mattress (I don’t think they had the giant swans and donuts when I was a kid) and we’d fall asleep and float to the middle of the lake and wake up and panic because we thought we floated too far and somehow had entered the ocean. 

32. Portable Speaker – personally, I think it’s a bit of a weird move to play music when they’re are a ton of people at the beach (not everyone likes dad rock as much as me, I accept that) but if you’re by yourself, have at ‘er!

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33. Books – tired of talking to your weird relatives? Stick your nose in a book!

34. Scrabble/Crosswords – I recently purchased a travel Scrabble board, and I am fully addicted! I bring it everywhere I go! I’m a bit of a word gal, but there are tons of fun board games to bring to the beach. No cards. Cards fly away. 

35. Paddle Board/Boogie Board – some of the greatest pain and pleasure I have felt came from bailing off of a boogie board into the hard packed sand. 

Open suitcase packed for a beach vacation

Extra for a Beach Vacation Packing List

This next section is for those lucky ducks out there who are about to venture on a family beach vacation. The following items are a good idea to bring along with all of the previous 35 items we just mentioned, so grab that beach bag and start loadin’ up!

36. Aloe Vera – this stuff is always a good idea to have on hand. To be honest I’m pretty bad about applying sunscreen and aloe vera has saved me many times. I was once on a vacation in St. Lucia and the groundskeeper brought my sister and I (she is also a redhead) a fresh aloe leaf and lathered on the fresh juice for us. It was so cool and so soothing. Thank you Keiran!

37. Wet Bag – it can be very helpful to have a wet bag to put your wet bikini and towel in to save the rest of the items in your dry bag from getting all soggy. 

38. Passport & Travel Documents – don’t be that guy who forgets their passport. 

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39. Extra Contacts – I rarely ever let myself open my eyes under water for fear that I’ll lose my contact lenses! I also always travel with extras, just in case. 

40. Extra Bathing Suit – it isn’t the greatest feeling in the world, realizing you’ve left your bathing suit in your wet bag and you have to put on soggy one the next morning. Plus, you don’t have to tell me twice to show off my new bikinis!

41. Extra Flip Flops – flips flops are hilariously fragile and break all the time. Bring an extra pair. 

Water rushing over a sandcastle at the beach

Extras for Beach Days with Kids… 

The main thing about spending a day (or days) at the beach with kids is that you basically have to bring extra everything. Things just seem to happen around kids (frozen telephone poles? peas up the nose?) , so be prepared for the unexpected 

  • extra bandaids
  • extra sunscreen & bug spray
  • extra towels
  • extra sweaters and blankets 
  • extra toys 
  • extra snacks
  • extra water 
  • extra hats 
  • extra games 
  • extra water
  • extra beach umbrellas
  • waterproof diapers 
  • kids flippers

Beach bag sun hat and sun screen sitting on the beach


What are some of the best beaches to visit?

If you’re on the hunt for the perfect beach destination from a vacation, the Gulf Shores in Alabama are an amazing getaway for those cooler months. Key west is a beautiful beach Peninsula in Florida, North Carolina has some gorgeous sandy beaches and don’t forget about all of the other coastal towns along both the east and the west coast. Beaches are everywhere! You just have to do a little hunting.

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What are some fun beach games to play or beach toys to bring?

One of my favorite parts about going to the beach is that pretty much anything can be a beach game. You don’t really need beach gear in order to play a game, and you can just use what’s around you! Building sandcastles, burying each other, tug of war, limbo, building Inukshuks, sand angels, the possibilities are endless!

There are so many fun beach toys that you can bring as well that can be used either in the water or right on the shore. My favorite beach toy growing up was just a simple shovel and bucket, but I also loved playing volleyball, flying a kite, tossing a frisbee or a beach ball… And you can’t forget boogie boards!

Should I bring a rash guard to the beach?

If you’re currently packing up your beach gear to head to the beach, you may be wondering if you should bring your rash guard.

It’s going to be a good idea if you’re planning on doing some surfing, but may be overkill if you’re just going to be sitting around! A rash guard is basically just a nicely fitted sun shirt.

Is a beach blanket better than a beach towel?

I personally like to bring both a beach blanket and a beach towel when I go for a day at the beach. Beach blankets are usually very finely woven so that sand just rolls right off of the surface and doesn’t get all stuck in the fabric.

I like to lay the beach blanket down (also since they’re usually much larger) and then keep my towel hanging up. At the end of the day I’ll even roll up my wet clothes in the beach towel.

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What are some good brands for sun protection?

If you’re on the hunt for the best brand of sun protection to add to your beach trip packing list, look no further than Sun Bum. Sun Bum products are great for their variety of UV protection, they used mainly natural ingredients, and their branding is so stinkin’ cute!