All Articles The best beach accessories and traveler tips for your next beach trip

The best beach accessories and traveler tips for your next beach trip

Jackie Homan, Jetsetter
By Jackie Homan, JetsetterMar 9, 2020 7 minutes read
A collection of beach accessories, like sunglasses and a straw hat.

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Packing for a beach vacation isn’t like packing for any other kind of trip—there’s more to think about than just what you’ll need to wear for dinners or day trips from your hotel. For every beach, there are a hundred things to consider: Will you need water shoes for rocky or shelly sand? How about beach towels—are they included with your stay or will you need to pack your own? And that’s to say nothing of the other essentials: a portable cooler, a comfortable beach chair, an umbrella, games, drinks, sunscreen… the list goes on and on.

Ready to take your beach vacation to the next level? Start with these packing tips and traveler-favorite beach accessory recommendations.

Preparing for your beach trip

Before you go, find out if your beach destination offers equipment rentals. Headed to a far-flung beach or traveling by plane? You probably won’t be able to lug lounge chairs, umbrellas, or other bulky beach supplies with you. Instead, check to see if the beach has equipment rentals available (searching the beach’s reviews on Tripadvisor often helps) or if you can purchase affordable equipment once you’re there.

Ask if your hotel or rental offers towels. Before you pack, reach out to your rental host or make a quick call to your hotel to ask about beach towels. If they have them there for guests to use, that’ll save you tons of space in your bag.

Check the weather. You might automatically associate “beach trip” with hot and sunny, but depending on the time of year and destination, you could be in for a surprise. Something as simple as the Apple weather app will work in a pinch, but there are many more accurate weather apps out there that’ll give you the full picture. Download one, and pack accordingly.

Clothing to pack for your beach vacation

A collage of beach attire, including aviator sunglasses, a two-toned turquoise and blue one-piece women's swimsuit, a straw hat, a blue men's swimsuit, a women's cover up with horizontal black and white stripes and a large blue tote bag.

Bathing suits

For a swimsuit that’s flattering on all shapes and sizes, turn to a swimwear brand called Summersalt, which based its fit on more than 1.5 million body measurements from 10,000 women—resulting in suits that are both comfortable and attractive. According to the reviews, the best-selling Swan Dive one-piece style is well loved by female shoppers. For men, dozens of Reddit users recommend swimsuits from Orlebar Brown. The quick-drying Bulldog mid-length swim shorts offer a five-year warranty, so you know the quality is top-notch.

Swimsuit cover-ups

Go for a cover-up that not only complements your swimsuit, but also blocks harmful sun rays. Coolibar offers UPF 50+ cover-ups for women (the Oceanside Tunic Dress has more than 300 positive reviews), men (the Morada Everyday Short Sleeve T-Shirt protects better than an ordinary tee), and kids and babies.

Sun hats

Keep the sun off your face with a packable sun hat, baseball cap, or visor. The Lanzom straw Panama hat for women is top-rated on Amazon, with more than 2,000 five-star reviews. For guys, this simple Carhartt cap rakes in the positive comments, with one enthusiastic reviewer saying, “This fits my big melon head!”

Beach bags

Stash your stuff in a roomy, water-repellent beach bag to keep it safe from the sand and surf. The Dezzio Classic Functional Beach Tote isn’t just one of the best beach bags—it’s the equivalent of a Swiss army knife, with features like a cooler pocket, towel holder, sunglasses case, bottle opener, and USB ports.

Polarized sunglasses

There’s a reason Ray-Bans are a household name—their polarized lenses block more than 99% of reflected lights, eliminate glare, and reduce eye strain. But they’re also pricey, so if you’re looking for a more affordable option, check out Voltstorm’s Gioventù Unisex Polarized Sunglasses on Amazon, which have 4.7 out of 5 stars and offer 100% UV 400 protection.

Beach shoes

Those who are headed to a shelly or pebble beach (check the beach reviews on Tripadvisor if you’re not sure what your destination’s beach will be like) will want to pack water shoes. Sea Star Beachwear makes stylish waterproof espadrilles designed for sand and sea for women, men, and kids.

Relaxing on the beach

A collage including, a blue reclining beach chair with a footrest, a green folding beach chair, and purple inflatable couch.

Beach chairs and loungers

If you’re driving to your beach destination and can bring along beach chairs, decide on which qualities are most important to you—because you have a lot of options. Will you have to carry your beach chair a long distance? Choose a folding backpack beach chair, like this top-rated one from Tommy Bahama. Feel like sprawling out? This reclining lounge chair lets you stretch your legs. Need something ultra-portable? Go for an inflatable air sofa. Want to keep the sun off your skin? Get a beach chair with an umbrella canopy attached.

Quick-dry beach towels

Backed by dozens of beachgoers on Kickstarter, South & Rho’s genius oversized beach towel features a back sleeve that goes over your chair (so it doesn’t blow away when you get up), a front pocket for your phone, and a sand-resistant, quick-drying microfiber construction.

Sand-free beach blankets and hacks

In the Tripadvisor forums, travelers recommend a sand-free beach blanket, like this one from WELLAX. It’s made from durable parachute nylon that doesn’t stick to sand, so you can easily brush it off at the end of the day. If you don’t want to buy a new blanket, make like this Reddit user and bring a fitted sheet to the beach instead. When you fit the edges around any coolers or bags you have, it’ll form a sort of wall to keep out sand.

Protection from the sun

A collage of all of our topic sunscreen picks

Stay in the shade

There are lots of ways to stay cool at the beach even on the sunniest days. If you have room in your car, consider investing in an easy-setup beach tent, like the Pacific Breeze Beach Tent, which has UPF 50+ sun protection and windows for ventilation; its average rating on Amazon is 4.6 out of 5 with more than 3,400 reviews.

For a more glamorous feel, you can choose a sun canopy that pops up to create a shady section of sand. Or go the traditional route with a classic beach umbrella—but get one with a sturdy anchor (MOVTOTOP’s beach umbrella is made with fiberglass rib support) to prevent any accidents on windy days. Remember that your destination may have canopies for rent or inexpensive umbrellas for purchase nearby, so only buy these ahead of time if you’re not worried about space or transportation.

Pile on the SPF

Even if you plan to stay under your umbrella all day, SPF is critical for a beach trip. Look for a reef-safe sunscreen free of oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals that are harmful to coral reefs and banned from some beaches. Blue Lizard makes one that comes in large, medium, and travel sizes, depending on if you’re packing in a carry-on or checking your bag.

In the case of a carry-on, other Tripadvisor travelers have an additional recommendation: solid stick sun blocks. This option gives you some extra SPF protection without taking up space in your carry-on quart-sized liquids bag. And don’t forget about your lips! An SPF Chapstick goes a long way.

After-sun care

If you do get a sunburn, turn to something like Korres’s Greek Yoghurt After Sun Cooling Gel to calm your face and body after the sun, and Sachajuan’s Hair After The Sun treatment to condition hair after excessive sunlight exposure.

Beach entertainment

A collage of our beach entertainment picks, including an Amazon Kindle, a copy of book "Crazy Rich Asians," a waterproof speaker, and a copy of the book "The Girl On The Train."

Music for the beach

If you’re on an uncrowded stretch of sand and want to blast your tunes out loud, bring along a waterproof Bluetooth speaker. Many Tripadvisor travelers recommend the wireless Clip 3, which is super portable with an integrated carabiner. If you’d rather keep your music selections private, pack waterproof headphones instead. Tozo’s T10 wireless earbuds are a great pick, with advanced Bluetooth 5.0 technology, a charging case, and more than 18,000 five-star reviews on Amazon to vouch for them.

Books or e-books

Nothing beats a brand-new beach read, but paperbacks and hardcovers can take up precious luggage space and get ruined with a splash. Try the waterproof Kindle Paperwhite to nix both issues—it’s thin, lightweight, and has a glare-free display that reads like real paper. A few classic page-turners that are always popular with beach readers include Eat, Pray, Love, Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, and Crazy Rich Asians. For younger readers, consider Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and similar books with broad appeal to kids and teens.

Portable chargers

After using your phone for directions, music, texting, and more, you’ll probably run down the charge quite a bit. To avoid being stranded on one-percent battery, pack a solar-powered portable charger. GoerTek’s solar charger has more than 1,000 five-star reviews.

Protecting valuables

A collage including the FlexSafe by AquaVault, a black, slash-resistant pouch that can hang from your beach chair.  Also featured are two square water proof pouches.

Anti-theft beach vault

You might already use a safe in your hotel room for your biggest valuables, but what about the things you need to bring to the beach with you (phone, keys, wallet)? Hundreds of reviewers recommend the FlexSafe by AquaVault. This portable, slash-resistant vault can lock onto your beach chair, bike, or any other fixed object to keep your belongings safe from theft while you’re riding the waves.

Waterproof pouches

If you’d rather keep your phone and money on you while you stroll along the beach, some travelers suggest a wearable waterproof pouch that can go around your neck or across your waist. Others, like one traveler in this Tripadvisor forum, simply suggests the “you look after mine and I'll look after yours” route with fellow beachgoers.

Snacks and food

A collage of our top snack picks, including a steel insulated water bottle, Goldfish, Kind Bars, a silver cooler bag, and Chips Ahoy cookies.

Best snacks for the beach

When you’re packing a cooler for a day at the beach, stick to munchies that are simple, mess-free, and refreshing. For example, go for wraps over sandwiches—they’re easier to eat and transport in foil—and choose whole fruits like apples or grapes over melons that need to be sliced up. Individually wrapped snacks like granola bars, trail mix, or string cheese (with an ice pack) can also make for easy eating. Most importantly, bring plenty to drink in a reusable insulated water bottle.

How to pack a cooler for the beach

The first step to packing the perfect cooler is investing in the right one for your needs. If you’ll be flying with it, you’ll need something packable, like Camco’s Pop-Up Cooler tote. If you’re driving to your destination and supplying food for a family or group (or bringing along lots of beverages), consider OlarHike’s well-reviewed 30-liter collapsible cooler bag.

Some Tripadvisor travelers recommend sticking your cooler in the refrigerator or freezer at your hotel overnight before your beach day. Others say the best way to keep your cooler cool is by burying it in the sand (leaving a couple inches at the top unburied) for natural insulation.

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Jackie Homan, Jetsetter
Writer, traveler, proud owner of an indoor s'mores maker for the rainy days | style + travel editor at | Instagram: [@jackiehoman](