Packing Tips & Tricks to Slay Your Next Beach Getaway

Fashion & Style

We made it, people! Officially at the home stretch of winter. After months of cracked skin, frozen toes, 9 pm bedtimes and tolerating SAD, there is simply no better time than now to reward yourself with a much-needed warm weather vacay.

So you’ve planned out your vacation days and bought your swimsuit (whichever came first, no judgment), but now it’s time to find the right items to stow in your bag. To help ensure that your next oceanside getaway is as stress-free and practical as possible, I’ve rounded up a list of tried-and-true warm-weather getaway packing tips and tricks.

Anyone heading anywhere tropical this spring? I’d love to hear some of your beach essentials!

1.  Channel Your Inner “Minimalist”

I used to be a chronic over-packer, finding myself packing three outfits for each day. “What if I want to work out? (I literally do not exercise when I’m on vacation) What if a cold front sweeps in and the normal 83-degree Florida weather plummets to a rock-bottom 50 degrees (when has that ever happened?) I should bring something really fancy JIC, right?” (heels? at the beach? pshh.) Oh, you forgot the top you wanted to wear with your jorts? Here, I have three to choose from. And two backups.” (I was that friend).

Needless to say, overweight luggage costs were practically incorporated into my travel budget.

Just a few years ago, I instilled the “When in doubt, leave it at home” rule.  If there is something you’re on the fence about bringing, just ditch it. Chances are you won’t miss it when you’re out enjoying yourself in paradise.

While it may sound cliché, when it comes to a beach vacation, less is definitely more. Instead of overstuffing your suitcase with items you likely will ignore, stick to the essentials.

I honestly can’t recall a beach vacation that wasn’t spent almost entirely in a bathing suit, flip-flops, and a breezy cover-up. So do make sure to bring enough bathing suits to withstand the week. I recommend bringing a variety of cuts (strapless, one-piece, high-waisted) to avoid coming home with one awful tan line.

Editor’s Tipmake your list and check it twice. I’ve found that if I plan my wardrobe out in advance, I’m far less likely to overpack or forget a key item behind. Also, the smaller your suitcase, the fewer the temptations (you’ll also spend less time pining over what the heck to wear while on vacation).

This may come as a shock to some of you, but contrary to popular belief, it is O.K. to wear something twice.

Queue tip #2…

2. Dual-Purpose Pieces

So you decided to forgo your shower to watch the sunset and have that extra daiquiri. Good for you. After all, a beach vacation is all about going with the flow without a plan or agenda.

Thus, when deciding what clothing to pack, remember that pieces that can easily transition from day-to-night are key. A flowy maxi can be worn over your suit and transitioned well into the night–just swap your flip-flops for your favorite block heel sandals, throw on some pasties, and trade your beach bag for a clutch and you’re ready for the night. Or those trousers you wore last night? Pair with your bikini top for a beach-ready look.

With so many amazing one-piece bathing suits out there right now, your jean shorts serve as the perfect cover-up, and can also be paired with a cute tie-front blouse. Sounds pretty easy, right? When packing, just make sure you can wear each piece at least twice.

3. Smart Soles

The easiest department to overpack is without a doubt the shoe department. If you are anything like me, you spend most of your beach time barefoot… because you can. Plan out your activities ahead of time and think about what shoe options are best for your vacation. Chances are there is going to be a lot of sand and various activities going on during the trip, so comfort is key. All you really need are three pairs of shoes: durable, affordable flip-flops that you won’t mind shuffling through the sand in, some comfy tennis shoes, and a pair on the “dressier” side, like a wedge or strappy gladiator.

4. Functional Accessories

Now you’ve got your clothes nailed down and its time to find the right items to stow in your bag and tote to the shore. Packing your beach carryall is as important as your suitcase. I typically use the same straw bag for the plane ride as I do to shlep all my stuff to the beach. Not only does it save room, but also saves your fragile accessories from getting squashed–like your protective-yet-stylish hat, and your sunglasses.

Editor’s tip: Play around with your looks and pack a variety of different sunglasses. No need to spend a fortune on them–after all, they are a trendy item that are likely to get scratched at the beach anyway. My favorite style right now is without-a-doubt the retro cat-eye.

Looking for a new beach bag? Check out a few of my favorite totes equipped to carry all of your beach essentials… and are sure to keep you stylish.

5. Beauty and The Beach

The beach is a carefree, low-maintenance place of relaxation and all about embracing the minimal side of beauty (time to put that #nofilter to good use). Don’t go crazy when packing your makeup bag…nobody wants to be that girl rocking eye shadow and a full face of foundation while in a bikini.

They don’t call it “beach hair” for nothing. With the help of a little texturizing spray, you’ll nail the toussled, I-literally-woke-up-like-this look. T-minus 20 minutes until dinner? No problem. That “no makeup, makeup” look is all the rage this year, and finally–thanks to the sun gods–, your skin isn’t translucent! On the makeup front, a few coats of waterproof mascara (a necessity for us blondes), some highlighter/bronzer and some facial spray (just a couple spritzes of a mineral water spray will instantly refresh skin after hours spent in the sun) are all you need to achieve that desired, dewy glow.

While all the above rings true, with the shore comes natural extremes, like skin-burning UV rays and oh-so-drying salt water, so its also important to stay protected. Make sure you have a strong, broad spectrum sunscreen and some SPF lip treatment and you’ll be sure to head home fresh-faced and sans sunburn.

Editor’s tip: Our skin can be rather…uh…startling? after months of being couped up inside. I’m not one for spray tans…but I swear by Kate Somerville’s 360 Face and Body towelettes. Apply just one day before for a streak-free, just-got-back-from-vacation tan.

6. Pack Your “Zen” Essentials

Waves crashing, drink-in-hand, “out-of-office” on. If there’s one place to challenge yourself to unplug and live in the moment, it’s at the beach. No matter how Instagrammable it may feel–make sure to carve out some “you time.” Pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read (for me, it’ll be The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer), do some self-reflecting over your favorite Spotify playlist, or maybe do some journaling or goal setting for the rest of the year.

My Current Stress-Free Spotify Playlist:

  1. Horchata: Vampire Weekend
  2. Lovers’ Carvings: Bibio
  3. Bam Bam: Sister Nancy
  4. This Must Be The Place: The Talking Heads
  5. Way It Goes: Hippo Campus
  6. Drew Barrymore: SZA
  7. LOVE: Kendrick Lamar
  8. Darling: Real Estate
  9. Dreams: The Cranberries
  10. Baby: Ariel Pink
  11. Naked Kids: Grouplove
  12. Signal: Sylvan Esso
  13. Dead Pontoon: Toro y Moi
  14. Golden Days: Whitney
  15. Mystery of Love: Sufjan Stevens
  16. Where’d All The Time Go: Dr. Dog
  17. On The Beach: Neil Young
  18. Waiting in Vain: Bob Marley

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Dion Lee – Fine Line Swimsuit – Azure • Dion Lee • $190
Sole Society Sepia Fringe Sandal • Sole Society • $89.95
Clare V. Alice Tote • Clare Vivier • $225
Grlfrnd Helena distressed denim shorts • GRLFRND • $148
Tularosa Cecily Midi • Tularosa • $178
Eilat Leather Slides • Diane von Furstenberg • $109.99
Loeffler Randall – Cruise Pompom-embellished Leather-trimmed Straw Tote – Navy • Loeffler Randall • $350
Mara Hoffman Printed high waisted bikini • Mara Hoffman • $220
GRLFRND – Cindy Frayed Denim Shorts – Black • GRLFRND • $150
BEACH RIOT Celeste Pant • Beach Riot • $174
Nike Air Presto Women’s Shoe • Nike • $120
Solid & Striped The Rachel Bikini Top • Solid & Striped • $88

Shop Beauty

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Clarins Sunscreen Care Cream High Protection SPF 30 • Clarins • $36
Charlotte Tilbury Brightening Youth Glow • Charlotte Tilbury • $55
Cle de Peau Beaute UV Protective Cream Tinted Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ • Clé de Peau Beauté • $85
Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs & Rosewater 8 oz. • Mario Badescu • $12
Kate Somerville Somerville 360°Tanning Towelettes , 8ct • Kate Somerville • $48
Fresh Sugar Berry Tinted Lip Treatment SPF 15 • Fresh • $24

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Wit & Delight 20″ Hardside Spinner – Sage • $99.99
Janessa Leone Lex Woven Straw Hat • Janessa Leone • $205
Smythson – Bon Voyage Leather Passport Cover – White • Smythson • $285
Le Specs X Adam Selman The Last Lolita cat-eye sunglasses • Le Specs • $119
Wood & Canvas Chair “The Outer Banks” • $288
Brixton Ellington Straw Fedora • Brixton • $58
Smythson – Panama Hot Stuff Textured-leather Notebook • Smythson • $60
Wit & Delight Travel Wallet • $24.99
Astella Folding Beach Chair • $59

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BY Madeline Nachbar - March 6, 2018

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I really love these pictures! This is basically how I pack for any trip – always, always pieces for more than one purpose, or basic pieces. I’m all for minimalist fashion! The less I have to carry, the better. 😀

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

March 6, 2018 10:48 am

Great post! Just what I needed for my island vacation.

March 6, 2018 3:32 pm

Thank you for the packing tips! However, I noticed that all the above pictures were of similar looking white women with flowing hair and long, slender limbs. I’ve been a long time reader of W&D and I was happy to hear about this site’s commitment to have themed articles relating to wellness and issues that impact the daily lives of women. The lack of diversity represented on the site, however, has been problematic for me. I noticed that I visit less and less because of this. I know that the W&D team are hard working and committed to improvement, and… Read more »

March 6, 2018 8:22 pm
Reply to  Lea

Lea, I completely agree! It’s a strange contradiction to proactively talk about mental health on this website and then also post articles like this one, which include image after image of stick thin white women.

It’s reasons like this that have prevented me from reading as often as well.

March 7, 2018 12:06 am
Reply to  Lea

Lea, thank you so much for your note. I want you to know that diversity is very important to us at W&D, as well as wellness and the issues that impact the daily lives of women. I’m sorry to hear you feel like that, that was absolutely never our intention.

March 6, 2018 3:48 pm

Thank you so much for sharing!
I am sure that my next beach getaway will be perfect because of your tips!


March 6, 2018 10:04 pm

This was a great article! We are going to Hawaii this summer and this article was relevant to me. I end up wearing comfy beach clothes with a few pairs of sandals to mix and match through the week. Love the straw bag!

March 7, 2018 12:33 am

I always try my best to pack light and only bring the essentials no matter if I go on a beach vacation, adventure trip etc. But I don’t always succeed so your packing tips are coming in handy.

April 3, 2018 5:17 am

I’m also a chronic overpacker. I always pack and never use my workout clothes. Shoes typically come to 5 pairs, minimum. And my husband is even worse than me, ha — once I finish packing, he’ll start naming other items I might need, and I cram a bunch of extra things in. I’ll have to try and remember some of these and reduce my load next time!

Do you have a link to your Spotify playlist?

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