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Beach Packing List: 15 Must-Pack Essentials

If you’re heading to the beach and want to make sure you don’t forget anything, this Beach Packing List, filled with all the beach essentials you’ll need, is for you.

For more help planning the rest of your beach trip, check out all of our travel posts.

Three beach umbrellas with chairs and people under them, on the beach, with the words "Beach Packing List Must-Pack Essentials" digitally written on top.

It’s beach season. I mean, we have so many sunny days here in North Carolina that it’s almost always beach season. But I actually went to the beach on Monday with my parents and my nephews. As we were watching my nephews having such a fun day belly flopping on the sand and getting hit by waves, my mom said, “I should have packed extra clothes for the kids.”

I was surprised she didn’t.

I had a zip up for me and she had one too, so we ended up changing the kids into those after rinsing them off. I did have some dry clothes for me, but she didn’t think about them for herself either.

It got me thinking about all the other things people forget to throw in their beach bag.

So, to make sure you don’t forget anything for your next beach day, I put together this list of things to pack for the beach. Now, keep in mind, this list is for a quick day at the beach without kids. So you won’t find things like sand toys and beach games.

If you are heading to the beach with kids in tow, our What To Pack For A Day At The Beach With Kids list is for you.

A suitcase on a porch with the words "The Ultimate List Of Packing Lists" digitally written on top.

This is just one of the packing lists we have on the blog. Some of the others might be a huge help for your beach trip, so be sure to check out The Ultimate List Of Packing Lists with lists for a day at the zoo, a list for your toiletry bag and carry-on bag, and more.

Beach Packing List: 15 Must-Pack Essentials

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A towel on the back of a beach chair.

Beach Towels

If you’re planning on going swimming when you’re at the beach, you definitely need to pack a beach towel so that you can dry off.

Even if you’re not planning on swimming, having a towel so that you can lay out and get some sun is nice too.

Sunscreen on the sand at a water park.

Sunscreen

Everyone wants to be tan in the summer, but no one wants to get burned. So, pack sunscreen.

Quick note: Check your sunscreen at the beginning of each season. If your sunscreen is old, it can get really watery. Or, as I’ve also had happen, it can get really thick. Neither of those is ideal. Believe it or not, sunscreen can expire, so you want to look for indications (changes in texture, separation of ingredients, etc.) and toss it if that happens.

A man sitting in a beach chair on the beach with beach toys to his left.

Beach Chairs

Kids are fine playing in the water and on beach blankets all day. Their bodies are built for that. But adults, we need a little more back support. So, it’s a really good idea to pack a beach chair for your next beach trip.

We love the Tommy Bahama chairs that have a zipper pouch at the top and a cooler bag at the bottom because that’s an easy way to carry extra beach items. Those also have backpack straps, so it’s easy to carry and keeps your hands free for the rest of your items.

A beach blanket on the beach surrounded by beach chairs and bags.

Beach Blanket

You might not want to sit up the entire time you’re at the beach. You might want to lay down and suntan. And, if that’s the case, bring a beach blanket to lay on.

Sure, you can lay on your beach towel, but if you already used it to dry off from taking a dip in the ocean, or you used it to brush off any sandy items you accumulated, you don’t really want to lay on it. It won’t be that comfortable.

We have a couple blankets that we choose from. Some are regular blankets, so we weigh them down with our beach tote and beach chairs. Others are weighted in the corners, so they weigh themselves down (which are a lot easier, but more expensive than regular blankets).

A two-toned blue beach shade above people on a beach.

Beach Umbrella

There’s not much shade at the beach, so you definitely want to pack some of your own in the form of a beach umbrella or a beach shade.

Umbrellas are what people usually bring to the beach. Although, I’ve seen so many of them fly down the beach (basically every time I go to the beach), so even though they’re common, they might not be that great of a design. We had a beach tent, but it was so small that it didn’t really offer too much shade. So, an actual beach shade might be better.

There was a group of college friends here in Wilmington that designed the Shibumi Shade, which is a wind powered shade, that combats that problem. When they first came out, the entire beach was covered in the two-toned blue sails. Miami Beach has banned them and Myrtle Beach will only allow them during the offseason because they do take up a lot of room. And, when there’s a lot of beach goers during the summer, there’s only so much space for everyone.

But, if you’re visiting anywhere else, it’s a good investment.

A pair of sunglasses.

Sunglasses

Pack your sunglasses for the beach. Your eyes need sun protection too.

If you’re planning on swimming in the ocean, I’m gonna suggest that you pack a cheap pair of dollar store glasses for that and keep your expensive sunglasses on the beach. One large wave could knock you down and send your sunglasses into the great abyss of the ocean. Better for it to be those cheap boardwalk ones than nice ones.

Planning a trip to the beach? Don't pack potato chips! Check out these 5 Healthy Beach Snacks that you can pack instead (from www.drugstoredivas.net).

Lunch

With parking being as expensive as it is at the beach right now, we usually head down in the morning and spend the entire morning and afternoon out there. That means we have to pack our lunch.

Sandwiches are our best suggestion because they’re not messy. Anything messy can attract seagulls (if you follow us on Instagram, you know that happened Monday. If not, see the evidence here). Plus, wrapping it in a small bag or aluminum foil means less garbage for you to lug to the garbage can at the end of the day.

Sure, you could find some food on the beach for lunch, but do you really want the extra cost of that? I never do. I’d rather pack lunch and have it on the beach, then save my money for a fun dessert or coffee on the drive home.

Speaking of expensive parking, most lots by us are pay by phone and require a debit card or credit cards for payment. They don’t accept coins. So make sure you have your credit card handy to pay for parking.

A bag of popcorn at the beach.

Snacks

There is a very good chance you’re going to want to have some snacks when you’re hanging out on the beach. We pack a mix of snacks, from carrots to popcorn to Goldfish crackers. Anything that’s easy to eat and isn’t messy is our go to.

We actually have a great list of the Best Beach Snack Ideas that you should check out before you go shopping for your beach trip.

A pink, silver, and blue reusable water bottle on a shelf in the store.

Insulated Water Bottle

When we were young and would go to the beach every week, my mom filled this huge water jug with water for us to share all day. If it got empty, one of us kids would run to the water found to fill it up. Now, everyone has their own water bottles and doesn’t share. That’s fine. Just a couple more things to pack.

When you’re at home, fill the bottles up with ice and cold water. An insulated water bottle will keep that ice longer than a plastic one will, but the heat of the beach is gonna melt it anyway. At least it’ll keep your first fill of water nice and cold. After that, you’re relying on whatever temperature the water in water fountains is.

A gray, rectangular JBL portable Bluetooth speaker.

Portable Speaker

Pete loves having his music play at all time, and of course, that includes at the beach.

We have a ton of portable speakers, but when we go to the beach, we generally take a pretty small one. Not everyone wants you to pay DJ for them. So bring the tunes but keep them in your space.

Planning a trip to the waterpark? Be sure to check this What To Pack For A Day At The Waterpark list on www.drugstoredivas.net.

Waterproof Phone Case

The first time I used a waterproof phone case was at a water park. It was amazing. The waterproof phone case kept the water out and I was able to take really great photos. When I looked around the water park, I realized there were so many people who also had these around their necks. They’ve become essential items, not that we’re all used to being tethered to our cell phones.

So, if you want to take photos in the ocean, or just want to make sure you have your cell phone on your at all times and don’t want to worry about it getting splashed, definitely pick up a waterproof phone case for it and pack it on your beach trip.

​External Phone Charger

Each beach trip is filled with fun moments that you definitely want to capture to remember. So you take lot and lots of photos with your phone (because almost no one is packing a digital camera these days). But, what happens if your phone dies and now you can’t use your phone as a GPS? Could you get back to your hotel?

Don’t even think about that. Pack an external phone charger. Just make sure it’s charged before you throw it in your beach bag.

Clothes hanging up in a changing room.

Change Of Clothes

If you go swimming, your bathing suit is going to get wet. And when you’re sitting on the beach, that’s a great way to dry out. But, do you want to drive home in a wet suit after spending long days on a sandy beach? No. So make sure you pack a change of clothes.

And, don’t forget to pack a change of undergarments too. Those are essential clothing items. But, if you drive to the beach while wearing your bathing suit, you often forget to pack those. And then have to decide what to wear on the drive home.

And, while we’re at it, maybe throw a brush and hair tie with those clothes too. That way, your outfit can be completely fresh and sand free and ready for a night out on the town and your wild, wind blown hair won’t give away where you just were.

Woman walking into a restroom holding a wet bathing suit bag.

Wet Bathing Suit Bag

Now that you’ve changed into your dry clothes, you need somewhere to put your wet bathing suit. Thank goodness they sell wet bathing suit bags. The dry bag has a waterproof layer inside so all the moisture stays inside that bag. Then, you can just toss that in your beach bag and not have to worry about your bathing suit getting everything else wet.

The best way to remember to pack that bag is to pack your dry clothes inside it before you head to the beach. Then swap your dry clothes with your wet bathing suit before you head home.

Baby Powder

Here’s a great beach hack, if you don’t know it already. Baby powder takes sand off so easily. So, instead of heading to the bathroom to wash your feet, just sprinkle on some baby power and you can wipe the sand away.

​So, for that reason alone, it’s a great idea to keep a small bottle of baby powder in your beach bag.

A beach a sunset with the words "The Best Family Beach Vacation Tips" digitally written on top.

More Beach Tips:

If you’re planning your next beach vacation, we have a bunch of posts to help. You can see them all in our list of The Best Family Beach Vacation Tips.

And, if you need some ideas of where to plan your next beach getaway, we love Hilton Head Island, SC and go to Myrtle Beach, SC often (because it’s close enough for us to do as a day trip).

We also have really beautiful beaches to choose from near to us in Wilmington, NC (Carolina Beach and Kure Beach are a quick drive in one direction and Wrightsville Beach — where we had our wedding reception — is a short drive in the other direction).

Which of the items on this Beach Packing List do you forget most often? Let us know in the comments.