Packing for the perfect beach vacation

Katie Uniacke

The beach calls. Long, lazy days in the sunshine and a chance for adults to finally recharge their batteries with a good book, and for kids to have some good old-fashioned fun in the sun, not involving any screens (for once).

There’s something about the quality of light at the beach that makes everyone glow. It’s not just the sunburn, the beach just has a way of making us happy and helping our worries drift away.

Packed up and ready for a holiday on the beach

If you’re lucky enough to be heading off on a beach holiday and you’re not an experienced beach-goer, then you might well be staring at an empty suitcase and a huge pile of clothes, wondering what on earth you should be taking with you.

That’s where this list comes in. Whilst it’s never going to be exhaustive as everyone will be heading to different sun traps under different circumstances, with various family members in tow, it’s a great starting point for packing for a family holiday, presuming you’re checking in a bag.

We’ve thrown in a few tips for those of you lucky enough to be heading off on a solo beach retreat too.


You Will Need:


  • T-shirts x 4
  • Overshirts x 2
  • Shorts x 2
  • Long, light trousers x 1
  • Sundresses x 3
  • Evening outfits x 3
  • Long trousers and warm jacket for travelling
  • Warm layer for the evenings
  • Sun hat
  • Light scarf
  • Bikini/swimming costume/swimming trunks x 2
  • Beach flip flops/sandals
  • Evening shoes
  • Underwear/socks/bras



  • Toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Coconut oil
  • Deodorant
  • Sunscreen
  • Natural mosquito repellent
  • Hairbrush/comb, ties, clips, etc.
  • Makeup



  • Sunglasses
  • A cooler for drinks
  • Sarong
  • Travel towel
  • Books/Kindle (+charger)
  • Plug adaptors
  • Music/podcast player + headphones
  • Pack of cards
  • Kid’s games/colouring books, etc.
  • Beach ball/games


The Details:

Whilst the logic behind most of the items on the list above is self-explanatory, some require a little more clarification, and some are excellent multi-taskers.



Over Shirts x 2

Handy for both men and women in hot climates, over shirts allow you to keep your shoulders and arms covered from the sun’s rays without heating up too much. Be sure to take ones that don’t wrinkle too easily and avoid white, which shows dirt and sweat.



Women in the family should take advantage of the opportunity to crack out their best summer dresses. Take a couple that can’t be worn during the day and thrown over a bikini and a couple that are a bit fancier for day to night wear.

A girl on the beach with her travel towel

Evening Outfits x 3

Men, women and children of all ages need something a bit nicer to change into in the evenings. Whilst there’s no need to bring along a dinner jacket, it can’t hurt for men to put on a nice shirt, for kids to scrub up a bit and for women to bring something a bit sparkly along. Bring a few options that can be recycled.


Travelling Clothes

No matter how warm it is where you’re going, it’s going to be chilly on the plane journey, and probably cold once you get home. Wear something comfortable and warm, with long trousers and long sleeves.


Warm Layer for the Evenings

The days might be hot, but it can cool down in the evenings in lots of beach destinations, so take a warm layer that goes with the outfits you’ll be wearing in the evenings.


Sun Hat

Every member of the family needs a hat to keep the sun off their faces.


Light Scarf

A great trick for women, who can use a light scarf to protect their shoulders from the sun, but also adds a little warmth if it gets chilly in the evenings.


Bikini/Swimming Costume/Swimming Trunks x 2

The most important items for your beach holiday, make sure that you feel comfortable in your swimwear. Taking two sets means that one can always be drying whilst you’re wearing the other, and vary those Instagram snaps a little.

Two friends chilling on the beach


The beauty of a beach holiday is generally that nobody needs to bring any footwear along that requires you to wear socks.

Women and kids should bring along a pair of flip-flops that can deal with sand and salt water for the daytime, and a fancier pair that are kept nice for the evenings. Men can upgrade to boat shoes in the evenings.

If you do think you’ll be going off on any long walks, however, make sure you do bring a pair of supportive trainers and socks, so you don’t do your feet any damage by wearing unsuitable footwear.




Coconut Oil

Whilst you might want to opt for traditional after sun, coconut oil is what I use when I’ve spent too much time sunbathing. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory and is incredibly cooling for fried-skin.

Bonus: it can double as a hair mask for those beach-frazzled locks, a hair gel and even as a makeup remover, meaning you save on space.



Sunscreen is a controversial one, as although we all know that the sun can be incredibly damaging, the chemicals in a lot of commercial sunscreens are pretty bad for us too.

Go for a brand that’s as natural as possible and has your health in mind. I love using sunscreen powders on my face to avoid that horrible greasy feeling which makes it impossible to apply makeup.

Sipping coconut on the beach

Natural Mosquito Repellent

Beach often equals bugs, so make sure you come prepared. Although you should always use a repellent with DEET in when there’s a risk of malaria, all those chemicals can really damage your family’s skin, so stick with one of the many excellent natural products you can find on the market today.



Any makeup-wearers in the family can definitely reduce the amount they wear when on a beach holiday, as a full face isn’t exactly practical, and a tan gives you a nice, healthy glow.

Stick to the bare minimum and save it for evenings out. Throw in a red lipstick to take the look from day to night.



Misc: Don’t Leave Home Without…

Travel Towel

You’ll probably have towels provided on your holiday, but this one can be your beach towel or be taken on day trips with you. Quick drying and lightweight!


A Sarong

Make sure you pack one of these for every member of the family. Whilst some people think they’re just for women, absolutely everyone needs one of these when they’re on a beach trip.

It’s the ultimate multi-tasker, as you can use it as a towel, a make-shift garment, a sunshade, a picnic rug, or a blanket. It folds up to a much smaller package than a towel does, and it dries much more quickly.


Good Reading Material

How long has it been since you actually read a book? Here’s your chance! Days on end on the beach are the perfect opportunity for getting stuck into a good story.

If you’re going traditional, be sure to take a couple of books with you as one is never enough. If you’ve got a Kindle or tablet then load it up and keep it charged.

A person getting some reading done on the beach

Music/Podcast Player + Headphones

As well as having something to read, you’ll probably want something to listen to. Get your favourite music downloaded or a few episodes of your favourite podcasts ready to go. Don’t forget your headphones.

Pack of Cards

Those balmy nights shouldn’t be spent watching TV or glued to a screen, but the conversation in the family might start to wear a bit thin after a while. Bring along a pack of cards to keep the whole family amused. A game of travel scrabble or something similar wouldn’t go amiss, either.


Beach Games

Although you can pick up a few beach toys whilst you’re there, if you have an inflatable beach ball throw that in. Things like a bucket and spade can often be borrowed from your accommodation.

A man playing with a volleyball in the water

The beauty of going on holiday to somewhere warm is that you don’t need to take half as much stuff as you would if going somewhere cooler. You can forget all about the coats and thermal socks, and spend most of your holiday just wearing your favourite swimsuit.

With this list as a guide, you’ll be more than prepared for making the most of your beach time, whether it’s just you, a trip with your friends, or a whole-family getaway.


Now, where’s that cocktail?

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