Don’t forget anything the next time you head to the beach with our printable packing list for beach vacation! It has everything you could ever need to pack for a family beach vacation including everything from the obvious beach towels to the lesser obvious things like plastic bags!
My family is headed to the beach the first week in June, and I for one cannot wait to check out a new beach destination. We normally go to Anna Maria Island or Gulf Shores but this year we’re headed a little north to Clearwater.
Somehow no matter how far in advance I start packing, I always forget something.
Not this year.
This year, I thought it would be a good idea to actually write down my beach vacation packing list instead of just winging it and trying to remember all of the things to bring.
And of course, that means I made a printable beach packing list for you to use too! I made the list as universal as possible so that no matter who is going on your beach trip, you’ll have all the essential items and all the ones you may not have thought about!
You can download that for free at the bottom of this post!
Beach Vacation Packing List
I’ve broken this beach packing list into six different categories and broken out this post into the same six to keep things organized. I know I personally like to pack all my clothes, all my toiletries, and all of my beach stuff at once rather than going back and forth between areas in my house.
Also, this is written to be the most complete packing list for a family beach trip, so it’s extensive and works best if you are doing a road trip to the beach. If you’re flying, this list can still help but you obviously won’t be able to bring larger items like beach umbrellas and beach chairs.
- Clothing – this includes pretty much everything you’ll wear on your body during normal times (not including swimming/beach time)
- Swim gear – everything you need for swimming whether it be swimming at the beach or a pool.
- Toiletries – this one is pretty self-explanatory but this includes all those things you’d put in a fun toiletry bag!
- Beach days – everything you need for those times you’re actually headed to the beach. If your family is anything like ours, this might be every day.
- Food/drinks – everything you need to make sure you stay fed and hydrated on your trip!
- Extras – anything that I recommend bringing that just didn’t fit into one of the categories above!
This is probably the easiest category for you to pack for your family vacation. Most people don’t forget things like shirts and underwear, but I wanted this to be the most thorough list of beach essentials. So it only makes sense to start with clothes!
Make sure you pack the following items! Also, try to pack things that you can mix and match together so you can pack fewer clothes and just not as much stuff in general.
Tops – I recommend lightweight tops that will do well in the heat. If you know you’re going to be out in the sun a lot, light colored shirts are always a bonus as well. While I love a good black t-shirt, it feels like it can add ten degrees compared to wearing a light colored one. I typically pack a mixture of t-shirts and tank tops that work for whatever activities we have planned.
Bottoms – Similar to tops, I like to pack a number of types of bottoms depending on our activities. For women, shorts, skirts, and long pants are a great option. For men, you’ll want shorts and long pants. Even though it my be a million degrees, I always recommend bringing at least one pair of long pants in case you need them for a nicer dinner out (anywhere with a dress code) or if you’re planning to hike or do anything where long pants would be beneficial.
Pajamas – I recommend bringing at least two different types of pajamas, one that will keep you warm if your lodging runs cold and one that will keep you cool if your lodgings run warm. I’ve stayed in way too many hotels that are freezing and way too many vacation rentals that the AC barely works – bringing options will keep you comfortable!
Socks/Underwear – I don’t think I really need to explain this one. Pack these.
Sweatshirt/Jacket – Depending on where you’re going to the beach, the evenings can get a little chilly. Having a sweatshirt you can throw on if it does get cooler is always smart. I also recommend a light jacket, ideally a waterproof one, in case you get caught in one of the many rainstorms that frequent beach destinations.
Sandals/Shoes – plan your shoes based on your activities. I pretty much wear my favorite shoes to wear to Disney everywhere, including beach destinations. But I also like to bring along a pair of tennis shoes (for adventurous activities) and just regular flip flops to wear in the actual sand.
Sunglasses – another must-have for the beach or any time you’re going to be out in the sun for long. I typically bring two pairs of less expensive sunglasses because somehow I break or lose them regularly.
When was the last time you went to the beach and didn’t do a little swimming! We personally like to stay at places that have a pool (totally worth the extra cost) and access to the beach, so we always prepare for both!
Bathing suit – could you really call this a family beach vacation packing list if there weren’t swim suits on the list? I recommend packing 2-3 swimsuits per family member so that you have one to wear while the other one is drying. No one wants to put on a wet bathing suit. If you’re buying swim suits for kids, here’s a safety tip on choosing different colors to help kids be seen in the water.
Pack one swim suit per family member in your carry-on bag. You can typically replace everything else on this list in your destination if your bag gets lost but swim suits can be hard to find at a moments notice, especially if you want something unique or need something in a specific size.
Cover ups – unless you’re staying beachfront, you’ll likely want to bring something to wear over your swimsuit when getting from one place to another. This could be anything from shorts and a tank top to cute coverup dresses.
Rash Guard – my kids typically wear rash guards to the beach mostly to protect from the sun! I recommend at least one short sleeve one child and if you’re going somewhere where the water might get cooler, a long-sleeve one.
Water Shoes – pack some shoes that are designed to get wet because they likely will! These can be something as simple as flip flops that you just kick off or a full coverage water shoes that is designed to be worn in the water.
Swim Diapers – if you have little ones going, make sure to order and pack swim diapers before you get there, especially if you’re traveling off season. You’d be surprised how hard it can be to find swim diapers when you really need them. I personally prefer disposable ones but you can also do reusable ones, or even both.
Goggles – these can keep little eyes from the sting of salt water and chlorine while also letting kids swim underwater! Plus, if kids are used to swimming in googles, they may have a hard time doing it without. Goggles are something you may be able to buy everywhere but once you get used to a certain pair of goggles, it can be hard to switch.
Water Toys – while swimming can be so much fun on its own (especially if you play these swimming pool games), it can be even more fun with water toys! We like to bring balls, boats, and buckets galore any time we head to the pool. A simple bag of toys can keep kids entertained for hours.
Swim Vest or Life Jacket – if little kids or kids who don’t swim a ton are going on your next beach vacation, floatation safety devices are a must. If you’re doing any sort of boating outing (one of our favorite things to do in Daytona Beach), make sure they provide life jackets for the littlest kiddos in your crew or bring your own.
Swim Floats/Tubes – those huge pool floats are all the rage right now and for good reason. It’s fun to just lay and relax in the pool (and to jump on them). If you have space, toss a couple of deflated ones in your bag and don’t forget an electric pump!
Dry Clothes – okay so I know I already mentioned what clothing to bring along above but this is just one to add to your swimming bag when you go swimming. I highly recommend bringing a change of clothes for the whole family or at least the kids. Wearing a wet swimsuit or wet clothes (if you’re wearing a cover up) isn’t the most comfortable thing, especially not if it’s cold out.
I’m going to breeze through this list because while these are important things to bring, they’re pretty self-explanatory. If there are little things or tips I recommend for this list, I’ve added a short note.
- Hairbrush/comb – you may also want to bring a detangling spray or conditioner to put on after swimming or beach time.
- Toothbrush + Toothpaste
- Soap + Body Wash – I personally love to bring along a hand soap that includes a pump dispenser to make it easier to wash hands. I find that my kids never do as good of a job with a bar of soap.
- Shampoo and Conditioner
- Makeup – I highly recommend using something with a high SPF on your face unless you want to add sunscreen on top of your makeup.
- Lip Balm – I recommend SPF lip balm to protect your lips from the sun!
- Sunscreen – bring more sunscreen than you think you’ll need so that you can use it generously. Most of us don’t spend as much time in the sun regularly as we do when we’re at the beach. Plus, you’re likely wearing less clothes and showing more skin! If you’re going somewhere near a reef, make sure to bring a reef-safe sunscreen!
- Hair Products – this could be any number of things from hair spray, dry shampoo, and definitely hair ties.
If you travel often, keep a to-go toiletry bag packed that has all the toiletries you need for a typical vacation. Stock it with travel size items and just refresh as needed. It’ll save you a ton of time and headaches when it comes time to pack because you’ll already have everything you need there!
Alright now let’s get into the meat of this packing checklist – the beach gear! No matter what tropical destination you’re visiting, you’ll likely spend lots of time at the beach. So make sure to pack these items or a similar item that serves the same purpose!
Beach Bag – there’s very little that is more important to your beach getaway than a good beach bag. Okay, I kid, but a beach bag really is important. You want something that is big enough to hold all of your beach essentials, that is okay getting sandy, and also easy to carry. You’d be amazed how quickly your hands get full when going to the beach! If you need some ideas, here are some great beach bag ideas!
Beach Towels – it may be hot enough for you to drip dry but that doesn’t mean you want to, so I recommend at least one towel per person plus a few extras for when your little one drops the towel in the pool. It’s going to happen.
Towel Clips – since we’re talking about towels, one of the items I never want to go to the beach without again are towel clips. We first used them on Castaway Cay on our Disney Cruise and they’re amazing. They look kind of like chip clips or hair clips and hold your towel to a chair so it doesn’t fall down or blow away.
Sun Hat – one of the best ways to keep faces from getting sunburnt is with the use of a sun hat! This can really be any kind of hat, but I love the floppy ones for women and brimmed ones for men and kids. It’s like protective clothing for your face!
Beach Chairs + Beach Blanket – If you have room for them, beach chairs to protect you from the hot sand (and just give you somewhere to relax) can be a great idea. If you don’t have your own or are flying, often times you can pick them up for cheap at a store in your destination or rent them at the beach. I also recommend a good beach blanket that you can sit on. Towels are great for drying off and covering chairs but beach blankets are the best for really enjoying the sand. Get one that is waterproof and sand resistant.
Beach Umbrella – this is another nice to have if you can fit it items but not absolutely essential. It is nice to have a little shade though so if you can fit it, bring it! Or you can typically rent ones at the beach. Another great option is a small beach tent or shade pop up that can give you a little shade from the hot sun.
Sand Toys – there’s a reason building a sandcastle is on pretty much everyone’s summer bucket list, it’s fun for the whole family! Bring things like shovels, buckets, and other toys to play in the sand. And make sure to bring enough for everyone to get in on the fun!
Portable Safe – if you want everyone to be able to get in the water and enjoy the beach, I recommend bringing a small portable or travel safe to use when you at the beach. I’ve used one that is small enough to travel with but keeps my cell phone and credit cards safe and locked up. While they’re not fool-proof, it’s enough of a deterrent that my guess is anyone who may think about stealing things will move on.
Snorkel Gear – if you’re road tripping and going to snorkel, bring this along. There’s something nice about using your own gear compared to someone else’s. If you’re not planning to snorkel or you’re flying, you can skip this one.
Food & Drinks
While I’m not going to tell you the best snacks to take to the beach, I am going to lay out some of the things you should pack to facilitate having the best drinks and snacks at the beach! You can choose what goes in your cooler and fridge!
Water bottle – I recommend bringing an insulated water bottle for every person in your group. Fill them with ice water back in your hotel room (or house) for cold water for as long as possible. It’s important to stay hydrated when you’re out in the heat!
Cooler – pack up a large cooler or an ice chest with ice, food, and drinks! You can stock up at the grocery store or even using a grocery delivery service like Instacart to save money on your beach vacation! If you don’t have a large cooler or don’t have room, you can pack a small foldable cooler in your suitcase to still bring some chilled essentials each day!
Ice Packs – while ice is great for a larger cooler filled with drinks, I personally prefer ice packs for smaller coolers that tend to be not as waterproof as they are advertised as being. Keep the ice packs in the freezer then use them in small coolers to keep a couple of choice items chilled as long as possible!
Wet Wipes – as the mom of a toddler, we always have wipes in our bag. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve used them for things other than changing diapers. Wet wipes are great for wiping off sandy hands before eating, cleaning up messes after, and doubling as napkins when you don’t have any.
Trash Bag – I always say I’m going to bring this and always forget, which is why it’s on my list! While beaches almost always have trash cans, I often don’t feel like getting up to throw away every little thing, especially when I’m watching my kids do water activities. Bring a trash bag (or roll of trash bags) and just keep your own trash until it’s time to cleanup and leave. Then you can dispose of the trash in a trash can!
Snacks – I know I said I wasn’t going to tell you what snacks to bring but I am going to say this – bring snacks. Playing in the water and heat makes people hungry. Depending on if you’re bringing a cooler or not, you can bring perishable snacks like fruit, baby carrots, and string cheese. If not, non-perishable snacks like trail mix, peanut butter crackers, and rice cakes are great.
Drink Mixes – one of my favorite ways to enjoy something other than water without having to bring a bunch of other things is to bring little individual drink mixes to the beach or pool. It’s a fun way to add some flavor without having to carry a bunch of different drink options.
Plastic Bags – all of my favorite travel tips and travel posts include me encouraging people to bring plastic zipper bags in various sizes. It’s amazing how often one will come in handy. I personally use them a lot for wet clothes, keeping things away from the sand and water, and holding leftover snacks and food. They also work great for a dry bag to keep anything that can’t get wet protected.
Cash – while I don’t often travel with very much cash, it’s always smart to bring a little with you. Bring it in small bills like $1s and $5s that you can use in vending machines, buy food at street carts, use it to tip people, and to buy souvenirs – especially if you’re going somewhere like the Caribbean where they sell all sorts of fun crafts.
Hand Sanitizer – I’m not sure there’s ever going to be a time again when people don’t want hand sanitizer around.
Okay so we’re going to the end of the ultimate beach vacation packing list, but there is still a short list of things that I highly recommend bringing along! They just didn’t fit into any of the other categories above!
Chargers – make sure you have the chargers for any electronics you may bring, PLUS I highly recommend portable chargers. When you’re out in the sun, you typically have to brighten electronics like cell phones and Kindles up higher than normal. This drains your battery faster than normal and having a backup battery and charger is a huge help!
Bug Spray – while you might think that you’re going to a beach and not a jungle, there will still be bugs. I’ve been bit by sand fleas, mosquitos, and all sorts of other number of bugs on our beach vacations. Bring it and use it. I also recommend bringing anti-itch cream for those times you didn’t use it or missed a spot.
Personal Fan – I shared my favorite personal fan in my post about things to bring to an amusement park. They’re great for the beach as well, especially during the summer. You could also do something like cooling towels instead, but I personally love the fan.
Aloe Vera – when someone inevitably gets sunburnt on one of the sunny days at the beach, you’re going to want this the next day. It may not be sun protection, but it sure makes people feel better when they didn’t use enough sunscreen. Don’t wait to get some until your next vacation, you’ll likely need it for this one.
First Aid Kit and Medicine – this is a must for pretty much any trip whether you’re going to Playa Del Carmen or skiing in the mountains in Ruidoso. Really you just shouldn’t leave home without having a first aid kit and any medicine you might need.
Cell Phone Case – I’m not talking about your regular fun of the mill cell phone case, I’m talking about something that’s waterproof that will protect your phone from the elements if you want to bring it along for pictures and videos in the water.
Lodging Details – I always recommend printing out a copy of the details for wherever you’re staying and any reservations for all of the fun things you have planned. While I know many are digital these days, your phone likely won’t work when you need it to. Technology is like that.
Waterproof Bag – I already mentioned bringing plastic bags so you could just use that but you could also just buy a larger waterproof bag where people can store things they don’t want to get wet or sandy.
Book or Kindle – One of best things to do at the beach or pool is read a book and relax (while keeping an eye on any kids of course). There’s a reason they call an entire genre of books beach reads. If you need some ideas, these are some of the best Kindle Unlimited books.
The last thing on each of the list is a space to add personal items of your own. This is where things that I may not have though of because they’re specific to your family trip would go. For my family, this might be things like:
- Pacifiers and stuffed animals for my toddler to sleep with
- Camera and camera cards for me to take pictures
- Nightlight for my older kids to use in their room
Hopefully with the extensive list I’ve already provided, you won’t need to spend a lot of time adding personal items but don’t forget those because they can easily be the most important items to pack for your family!
More Packing Lists
Check out these other printable packing lists to get even more ideas of things you should bring to the beach!
- Weekend trip packing list – headed somewhere for a weekend, this is the ultimate list of things to bring!
- Disney packing list – the ultimate packing list when you’re ready to any of the Disney parks! Also, some great ideas just for hot days in general!
- Packing tips for road trips – if your beach vacation starts with a road trip, this is a must read!
- Baby travel packing list – if you’re traveling with a baby in tow, you’ll want to keep these things in mind!
Download the Free Printable Beach Packing Lists
I’ve created a printable beach vacation packing list for you to download and print. There are two different designs, one that’s a little prettier and one that’s just standard text.
Each one has all of the items listed in this post as well as space to put in your own items. To download, simply click here or click the button below. It’ll take you directly to the packing lists to print and use!