Whether you’re fulfilling your lifelong dream of backpacking around the Thai islands of Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Tao and Ko Samui, or all you want to do is sunbathe on an all-inclusive getaway to Spain, there are some beach holiday essentials you should never leave home without.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a backpack that can be easily carried over rough terrain or a shiny suitcase that will only need to be wheeled over smooth tarmac, the things you’ll need to pack into it are the same.
But from the basic items you use every day to extras you only need when you’re going away to a specific location, it can be difficult to remember exactly what it is you need to take – especially if you’re packing for other people too.
This is why it’s so handy to have a beach holiday packing list. Not only does referring to a checklist ensure you save money by not having to buy anything you’ve forgotten, but you won’t have to put up with that sense of dread when you feel like you’ve forgotten something.
Beach holiday packing list
You’re not going to get very far without essential items like your passport, boarding passes and money, but there are some other things you’ll be lost without if you forget to take them with you on your beach holiday.
As well as packing a bathing suit, sunglasses and a beach towel, less obvious items you’ll want to make sure you include are a travel adapter so you can charge your devices, prescription medication and lip balm with SPF to protect against the sun.
But it doesn’t end there: Read on for our complete list of beach essentials to take with you on your next sunshine getaway. Every item you’ll need is highlighted in bold to make it easier for you to check them off as you pack them into your bag or case.
Beach trip packing list: Essentials
As with any holiday, you’ll want to make sure your memories are treasured forever, so remember to pack a camera, as well as your mobile phone if it doesn’t have the ability to take pictures. Other important electronic devices include a tablet and e-reader, along with a portable speaker and earphones so you can listen to music while you’re sunbathing. You should make sure you take all the necessary chargers, as well as a travel adapter that’s compatible with the country you’re visiting.
If you wear glasses or contact lenses, remember to pack those, along with any prescription medication, vitamins, birth control and a first aid kit including painkillers for emergencies. Though you should check what (if any) rules apply to any medication you take abroad.
It’s likely you carry your house keys, purse or wallet containing your bank cards and cash in sterling as a matter of habit anyway, but don’t forget to bring any foreign currency you’ve had changed too. Remember to keep these items in your hand luggage, so they can be easily accessed when you need them.
Other beach holiday essentials you’ll need to take with you include a padlock for your luggage or hotel safe, a guidebook and maps, a travel pillow for the journey, tissues and hand sanitiser.
Beach holiday checklist: Documents
Some of the other things you’ll want to make sure are easily accessible in your hand luggage include a valid passport with enough time left on it depending on the country you’re visiting (six months is usually safest).
You should also check whether there are any visas you need to arrange before you travel and make sure they’ve either been added to the pages of your passport, or you have a separate document from the relevant embassy to confirm your visa status. For more information on the tourist entry requirements for different countries, visit the government’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) website, which gives up-to-date, reliable travel advice, including any vaccinations you might need to get before you travel.
You may decide to hire a car while you’re away – especially if your hotel isn’t close to the beach – so remember to take your driving licence too. Even if you don’t wish to hire a car, it’s a good idea to take your photocard license for ID purses, instead of carrying your passport around with you.
These days, you can access most other travel documents on your mobile device’s email app but if not, you’ll need to make sure you pack any insurance documents, boarding passes and hotel tickets as well.
While travelling abroad, it’s easy to get lost in the moment or distracted by all the unusual sights and sounds – and pickpockets are aware of this. We all know it’s important to stay vigilant, but being the victim of theft can happen to the best of us, so it’s wise to make photocopies in case any of your important documents get stolen or lost.
Beach vacation packing list: Clothes
Deciding which clothes to pack can be the most daunting part of packing for your beach holiday, especially if you’re trying to travel light. However, a good tip is to choose tops and bottoms that go together so you can mix and match, meaning you’re likely to pack less.
The whole point of going on a beach trip is so you can relax and take time out from the stress and pressure of modern life. With that in mind, you can’t go wrong with light, airy, comfortable clothes that don’t need ironing. Plus, you’ll be grateful for these in the hot weather.
Everyday garments to consider packing include T-shirts and other lightweight tops, skirts, dresses and shorts, not forgetting a light jacket or cardigan for the evening in case the temperature drops.
While it’s true that you don’t need as many clothes on a beach holiday, you’ll likely be going for meals out in the evening, so it’s wise to pack some smart outfits and shoes or sandals as well as your flip-flops and swimsuit. Consider packing a second swimsuit or swim shorts, so you have a spare if your main one needs time to dry out. The good thing is it’ll be small enough that it won’t take up too much space in your suitcase or bag. It’s also a good idea to remember to bring a kaftan or cover-up, especially if you’re visiting a country that has a more conservative attitude to clothing.
Some other beach holiday packing list essentials are Pyjamas, underwear and a jumper with cosy socks to protect you against draughty air-conditioning on planes, buses and trains. And if doing nothing all day every day isn’t really your thing, you might want to take your workout gear and trainers to ensure you stay fit and active while you’re away.
Beach trip checklist: Toiletries
You can’t always be sure that a hotel will provide its guests with soap, body wash, shampoo and conditioner (especially when it comes to budget accommodation), so bringing your own might save you from having to buy more when you get out there. The hassle of trying to work out whether you’ve bought the right stuff from the shop around the corner, combined with the fact that it’s also often very overpriced, is definitely something you don’t need to be dealing with on a relaxing beach holiday. The same goes for a hairdryer unless you’re trying to pack light and can do without it. A big bonus of going on a beach vacation is that you can generally get away with having wavy hair that’s been dried naturally anyway. Don’t forget to bring a brush or comb and hair ties, though.
Because you’ll be spending most of your time in the sunshine, aftersun is a necessity. You might not feel like you’ve been burnt after a day at the beach, but exposure to direct sunlight will still dry out your skin, so applying products containing aloe vera can help moisturise your skin and prevent sun, salt and sand damage.
The sun also attracts bugs like mosquitos, so you should make sure you pack a good insect repellent too.
Some of the other essentials you’re likely to struggle without include a toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, shaving supplies, feminine hygiene products, earplugs, a portable mirror, tweezers, a nail file and nail clippers or scissors.
More luxury items include makeup remover and other skincare products like moisturiser, as well as nail varnish, perfume and makeup including lip balm with SPF to stop you from getting dry, cracked lips after lying in the sunshine and swimming in saltwater.
Beach holiday packing list: Beach gear
While most of the above items should be considered when packing for any type of holiday, there are some things that are relevant to beach holidays only.
To protect yourself from the sun’s glare, you’ll need a hat and a good pair of sunglasses. Polarised sunglasses are best for reducing the intensity of direct sunlight and glare from the water. Sunscreen is essential for avoiding sunburn and it’s advisable to go for an SPF rating of at least 15. If it’s water-resistant, that’s even better. Remember to reapply the lotion regularly to reduce the risk of skin cancer.
Sitting on a beach towel or blanket will make a day on the sand much more enjoyable, but if you want to save on luggage space, a sarong will do the job just as well (as long as you’re OK with air-drying after a dip in the sea). If you’re holidaying closer to home, fold-up chairs will make for an even more comfortable beach day – but consider how far you might have to lug them.
You might also want to pack a pair of water shoes so you don’t cut your feet on coral or sharp stones, a cool bag for carrying snacks and drinks and a water bottle to ensure you stay hydrated in the hot sun.
You’ll need a beach bag that’s big enough to carry everything in it, and going for one with a distinctive pattern will make it easier to spot in a crowd. If it’s got inside pockets, you’ll be able to stay organised as your valuables and small electronics like your mobile phone will be to hand. It’s worth bringing waterproof pouches for your gadgets to ensure they’re protected from water and sand.
Some fun extras you might not have thought about include: Goggles and snorkelling equipment, armbands or floatation devices for children and beach toys like footballs and Frisbees – which are small and lightweight – or bucket and spade sets.
As you can see from this checklist, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to packing for a beach holiday. However, if you get organised beforehand and take some time to really consider which items you need to take with you, you can ensure that all you’ll be worrying about while you’re away is which drink you want to order next and what restaurant you’ll be eating at for your dinner that evening.