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The easiest beach vacation packing list ever!
I love the beach but I hate to pack! When I say I love the beach what I mean is that I threaten several times a year to move to a remote beach and open a waffle hut or a taco stand. My husband rolls his eyes but one day it might just happen. For reals. I also always joke that in my next life I am coming back as a hippie. I really don’t think I will seriously have a next life but if I got a redo I would totes choose to be a beachy hippie chic because that’s how much I freakin love the beach ya’ll.
I guess overall I have been traveling to interesting beaches for the last 17 years and I have been to Atlantis at Paradise Island (twice), the beaches in Bangor, Wales, Andros Island ( Bahamas), Grand Bahama Island, Mexico (Playa Del Carmen & Cabo), California, Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Little Gasparilla Island, Destin, Navarre, Key West ( many times), and I know I am missing a few. You get the idea but the point is I LOVE THE BEACH. But as strong as this beach love is the hatred of packing for it is real.
Does any other mama out there loathe packing or am I alone here? I usually wait around until the very last minute and then I get SO frustrated trying to figure out what in the world to pack. To make a VERY long story short I end up packing an insane amount of clothing that I really do not need and then still struggle when I get there to figure out what in the world to wear. But ladies we are going to fix this.
On the last several trips I have made a conscious effort to spend more time figuring out exactly what the heck I need and only taking that. I have implemented packing cubes in addition to a few other tricks. This has made packing and unpacking SO much easier for us.
But all of that is changing today because I want to welcome you to the only beach vacation packing list you need. I am going to share a detailed packing list including women’s clothing that is stylish, comfortable, AND affordable. I will also include some packing tips and tricks to save you space when you are packing for your next beach vacation!! At the end there will be an option for a free printable 7 page guide to packing for your family in an hour or less. Are you ready? Here we go!
What is overpacking ?
Simply put- overpacking is when you throw everything under the sun into your suitcase and hope that by some miracle of God when you get to your destination you will somehow pull out this amazing perfect outfit that you never even realized you owned. Won’t happen.
Overpacking can really become exhausting and even expensive. I am sure I am not the only gal here that has had to pay the $100 surcharge when your suitcase was over the limit. Anyone else? Yep I thought so. Depending on how many extra suitcases you have this can REALLY add up quick and then you have to pay again on the return flight too. After a few times of doing this that dollar amount starts to add up quickly.
Even if you are not flying it’s a pain to pack multiple, heavy suitcases in the car, lug them up to hotel room (stinks for you, poor husband, or bell hop), and unpack it all. Plus there is the problem of having so much clothing ect everywhere in your room or house once you arrive at your destination.
If you are going on a cruise then most cruise lines limit you to 1-2 suitcases per person depending on the length of cruise. There can be charges here as well for luggage over a certain weight ( usually 50 lbs) OR additional pieces of luggage.
We recently stayed on an island where you could only reach the island by boat. EVERYTHING had to be loaded on the boat and then unloaded on the boat and transported to the house. IMAGINE if you had overpacked for that.
I think the biggest reason that we overpack is related to lack of planning and preparation. If you are like I was, then you probably waited until the very last minutes when time was really tight to begin. This is certainly a mistake. I can not tell you how many times I have gotten to a destination and had alot of pieces of outfits but nothing that really “gel’d”. I am here to help you change that starting with a detailed plan for packing.
FIRST, Some general packing info:
How do I plan for the weather?
My personal favorite is when you pack thinking that you will have xyz type of weather and then in reality you end up with the total opposite and sadly your packing does not accommodate the last minute weather forecast. I can not TELL you how many times this has happened to me- especially in Florida. No offense Florida you know I have only love.
You can certainly look at the weather prior to your trip and I usually do check this out a few days before we leave and then maybe again the night before. I always make sure to have a pair of pants ( jeans or white jeans) because you never know when you might get an overcast day or cloudy night. It’s also not a bad idea to throw a rain jacket, umbrella, or both in just in case. Sometimes I will tie a sweater around my waist or neck the day we travel and this is perfect for a cool plane, restaurant, or an unexpected chilly day or night. Layers are always your friend!
Don’t forget about the sun!
It is very important to STOCK UP on sunscreen and take plenty with you. In my experience when I have had to purchase emergency SPF at the hotel, convenience store ect it costs WAY more than way I pay at Target. When you are out you have to do what you have to do but if you pick some up when you see a sale or at the end of the summer you can make a stock pile for all of those summer trips and save a bundle. My favorite SPF I am loving right now is this Neutrogena and this Sun Bum.
Also make sure to pack a baseball hat or a beach hat to keep the sun off of your face and also protects your hair color and hair. Hey- hair color is not cheap! Plus the whole skin cancer issue too I’m just saying. I take this one from Target that was super cheap and roll up very small for packing.
NEXT, Clothing you need for a beach vacation:
Dresses are one of my favorite things to pack for a beach vacation. Actually, for any vacation. They. are. so. versatile. I usually take at least two long and two short. I also like to have a couple in the mixture with sleeves for cooler days and nights or to cover your shoulders and arm when you got too much sun. As room allows I lean towards six dresses because they can also double as coverup or shirts if you tuck them in.
One of the things I love about dresses is that you can really dress them up or down with shoes and accessories and change the entire look. For example, I will often wear a dress with sandals during the day or over my suit as a coverup. You can then add wedges or heels and a fun bag and early carry this look right over to a evening outfit. My dresses are from all over the place but some of my favorite dresses have come from Nordstrom, Old Navy, and Amazon.
2 pair of shorts
I always recommend taking a pair of casual jean shorts. These can be white or blue denim but I love the blue because it does go with everything color wise and you don’t have to be as worried about stains if you are clumsy like me. These have to last a week so I prefer to have something that hides stains well. These can be worn over your swimsuit, under a short dress, or with a cute top and any shoe. These Caslons are my all time fav. Not too short but not too long= perfection. I also always take a pair of sport shorts. These are also great for pool, beach, or any physical activity and they dry super fast. I think you can not go wrong with black because it goes with ev-ery-thing. Even that fun, yet overpriced, souvenir shirt you will certainly pick up!
1 pair of pants
You should always take at least one pair of pants. You never know when there will be an overcast day that is surprisingly cool or you might want to go for a late night stroll on the beach looking for ghost crabs. It can get chilly at the beach at night. In this example I selected a pair of white jeans from American Eagle (above). I like these pants because they are ankle length with a frayed hem. They just feel perfect for the beachy casual feel. They can be dressed up or down and work with any of the shoes options from sandals to converse to heels. Dark blue denim would work well too.
I love these two light and airy t-shirts from Caslon. I chose a plain white tee and a white with black stripes to work well with the other items. You can throw these tees over a short or long dress and tie a knot in the bottom of the tee for a fun, cute look. These tees are so versatile and will work with any of the, dresses, bottoms, or shoes. I suggest including a basic color so you can mix and match. I also included this under armour t-shirt that is perfect if you decide to hit the gym, go off-shore fishing, or indulge in any other physical activity where you need something cool that will dry quickly.
1 dressy blouse
I also like to throw in one dressy blouse. This blouse can be mixed and matched with any of the bottoms, thrown over a dress, or worn with any shoes. I especially like this one because it is then and airy but packs a fun and color punch with the vibrant tone. Similar can be found here.
1 tank and 1 bralet
I included a cute tank in this list that I picked up at Target for under $10. Any cute tank will work including one you might already have. I am all about shopping in your own closest first because I bet you have some of these staples already. If they need a refresher then thats ok too.
This bralet (above) is a staple piece made by Free People. It is alittle pricey but I have worn and worn this little beauty. I just picked it up in navy for a long weekend at Amelia Island, FL and wore it the whole weekend. It comes in a variety of colors but I love the white because of course it goes with everything. I think this is SO cute under any of the dresses or maxis. This bralet also works well under any tank or t-shirt. You can also find similar looks at Target as well as other places for cheaper as well but this free people bralet has been a worthwhile purchase for me because I have worn it a ton.
2 bathing suits
I always recommend at least two suits and I usually even take three if I have room. Totally your choice on the style but as for me I like the one piece monokinis that have alot of cutouts and details that give you the feel of a two piece but cover all of the important bits that maybe moms don’t want to put on blast i.e. the stomach but of course no one I know (cough, cough). Bikinis are perfect too and if you can or want to rock that mama then go on with your bad self.
1- 2 coverups
I think one coverup is sufficient especially if you choose a neutral color like this white one. Two is certainly also great IF you have extra room. This particular coverup is very thin and will dry very quickly. Choose a coverup that goes well with any of your bathing suits options and if it can double as a dress or as a top then that is an extra bonus too.
This one is from Target, was under $20, and similar from Target is here. Target is one of my favorite places to find inexpensive swimsuit cover up. They have tons of inexpensive and cute options that won’t break the bank. You can certainly spend a lot of coverups but I think it’s hard to beat Target.
1 purse and 1 backpack
I can not even tell you how obsessed I am with this rattan bag. This bag has been everywhere on instagram, in all of the fashion blogger’s post, pinterest and anywhere else you can think of and not without good reason. This is the summer “it” bag in opinion. I love that this bag can turn any old thing in your closest into the perfect vacation outfit. Seriously. I feel like no matter what plain jane outfit I pair this little bag with it just ups the ante and makes a great, fun summer look. There are certainly very cheap dupes available everywhere but I splurged a bit more and got this one off of amazon. While still very affordable it did cost a touch more than the cheapest ones I found but the reviews led me to believe that this particular version was quality and it was. This bag is very well made and it is one of my favorite summer purchases to date.
This backpack this backpack. Where to begin? I wasn’t sure I was ready to jump on the backpack train. It just did not seem like me. Well let me tell you- I am a mama converted. My Louis neverfull went promptly to the back of my closest and it has been me and this little beaut ever since. Am I saying my Louis days are over? Why certainly not. But for the day in day out grind of a mama this baby is where it is at. I initially got this back for vacation to shelter my go-pro, DSLR, sunscreen ect on the boat. And while this is perfect for that use it is also GREAT for every day life. This is available in a ton of different sizes and colors and I can assure you that I will be adding to my collection very soon. I think this bag is a no-brainer vacay must because it has a ton of different uses both when traveling and at home.
4 pairs of shoes
There are four types of shoes that I feel are necessary for a beach vacation. You have to take at least one pair of heels for your trip. I love these nude stilettos because they will match any of the dresses you bring. In my opinion these also make your legs look much longer since they are flesh colored it gives the illusion ( in my case) of elongating the leg.
I think a tennis shoe is also necessary for those days spent exploring all of the shops and tourist attractions. You need something that is comfortable and will will work for walking lengthy distances. These converse shorelines are a perfect option and my go to. I never go on vacation anywhere without one of my pairs of shorelines with me. I love these creme ones because they match everything and I think this color screams beach!
Chacos are probably optional but I can’t live without them anymore. I grabbed these before our trip last month to Little Gasparilla and I will never go to the beach again without them. I wore these almost every day. They were perfect for boating and for walking to the beach. I wore them fishing too. We have a trip coming up soon to go offshore fishing and these will be what I pack. Chacos come in so many fun and colorful patterns and options that you are sure to find something you love. I got a few blisters the first time or two I wore them but once they break in they feel like heaven.
Last but certainly not least are some sturdy and waterproof flip flops that will hold up to the beach or pool. I like flip flops that you don’t have to worry about the sand or the water and you can rinse them off with a water hose. These Jack Rogers are my favorite but anything made with a similar material will work just fine too.
The last thing you need to know about packing is that there are some items to make it easier
These Gonex Packing cubes ARE LIFE! For real! I bought one large one for every person in a different color. They hold SO much and make unpacking a breeze. Each person’s clothing is separate so there is no shuffling through everyones stuff looking for that one piece of clothing you need. These make unpacking at your destination a breeze because you just pull out each person’s cube and place in the drawer. SO easy. I honestly have no idea how we did vacation before these. I truly feel like you are able to get a ton more clothing into the suitcase as well. My sister recently bought these for a three week trip and gushed about how much room they saved her. They are a must! Check out my video below using these babies.
Has anyone else seen the movie JOY with Jennifer Lawrence? Well it is great and it is a true story about a female entrprenuer named Joy. If you have not seen the movie it is definitely worth watching. I digress but among many of the products that Joy has made over the years this little steamer is one of her creations and definitely my favorite item of hers. I bought this last summer and have been using it faithfully when traveling ever since. It’s very affordable and small! I HATE ironing and especially using the iron at hotels ect because I have ruined several articles of clothing when someone’s previous “iron burn” ends up on my white shirt. Insert my little steamer. It is tiny as can be and really packs a punch. You do not want this for day in and day out use on multiple items but it is jam up when traveling. I especially recommend this if you will be using the above packing cubes, ziplock baggie method, OR rolling your items. You can have the prettiest outfit in the world but if it’s wrinkled I am sorry to tell you that it looks like yesterday’s garbage. Hey what are friends for if not to tell you the truth?!
- Try to stay with a palette such as seen in my first picture in this post. This will make sure things will mix and match
- Choose neutral bottoms that will work well with all of your tops
- Take more sunscreen that you think you need
- Roll clothes to fit more items into your suitcase or cube
- Take a small lint roller. These work great on suede or fabric shoes too
- Buy travel toiletries to save space or get some small clear bottles from the dollar store and pour from your existing shampoo, conditioner, and body wash
- Put all toiletries into a ziploc or a bag to prevent spills onto your clothes
- Look into a condo/hotel/house with a washer and dryer available. This will minimize the amount you need to take and you can also wash along and along so you don’t have a mountain of laundry when you get home.
If you enjoyed this article please share and check out this free printable checklist with a seven page guide of everything you need to pack for your next family vacation including lists for kids, Dad, toiletries, and general beach items. With this list you will be able to pack in an hour or less. You can find that packing list here.
And there you have it! Now you have seen everything I pack when I go to the beach for vacation. Remember when you pack that less is really more. If you overpack it can be very expensive and you probably won’t wear alot of it anyways. So now that we know what you need the pack the question is where are you going? I would love to hear all about your upcoming trips!
With much love & travel,