The Ultimate Beach Bum’s Guide to Everything You Need for the Perfect Beach Day

You want to be at the beach this very second, right? Yup, so do we. The sound of waves, the feel of sand under our feet, and the total legitimacy of eating more than one ice cream in a day. 

Ahh, so good. 

But every time we go, we manage to forget at least one thing. It’s like a heady dream takes over our brains as we’re so excited we forget we need actual stuff. It seems basic, but a checklist of things to bring to the beach has been a lifesaver. 

We’ve put together this list of essential things needed for the beach. Why just essentials? Because if you’re not careful, you’ll spend more time packing than you will actually hanging out on the sand. 

Now let’s get cracking and you’ll never turn up to the beach again to realize you’ve forgotten your underwear. 

The Top 10 Things to Bring to the Beach

This list contains the make-or-break items. Y’know, the stuff you have to go back home for if you forget. We haven’t included things like keys, wallet, and phones because c’mon! You’re a smart beach lover; you don’t need to be reminded of that. 

1. Swimsuit

Have you ever rocked up to the beach and realized you’ve only got one half of your bikini? Not a good situation. Especially when the water looks absolutely stunning.

Bikini, trunks, swim shorts, those tiny Speedos… Whatever you choose to wear in the water, bring it. If you’re heading off to somewhere with chilly water, don’t forget your wetsuit.

Even if you think you might brave the cold while sat in your cozy home, when you get to the sand and stick a toe in the water, you might regret leaving it at home. 

This goes for booties too. Lots of beaches have spiky stuff lurking in the shallows that you don’t want to be stepping on in bare feet. 

The opposite of swimsuits is also important. Bring spare underwear! Especially if you’re going to your beach with your swimsuit under your clothes. How many times have we forgotten dry underwear? So many times. 

2. Sunscreen

Unless you want to be the most wrinkly pensioner in the nursing home, bring sunscreen. And none of that low protection stuff, either. Go for a solid factor 30 at least and make sure it protects against UVA and UVB rays. 

Think you might have an old tube shoved in the back of your bathroom cabinet? Avoid it.

Most sunscreens only last for a year. Yup, they have a use-by date! Once opened, you shouldn’t use the same tube for more than 12 months. 

If in doubt, buy some new stuff. You can get waterproof sport sunscreen that’s great for swimming, as well as creams designed for children.

Sunscreens made of zinc are the best in the business for total protection. They don’t sink into your skin but are highly recommended for the height of summer and any tropical destinations. 

3. Towel

There’s nothing we hate more than forgetting our towels and using a t-shirt to get dry. Laying out your beach towel is all well and good for lounging around, but when you want to dry off, you’ll find it’s covered in sand. 

We recommend using a micro-fiber towel for getting dry. They’re ultra-absorbent and pack up super small. They even dry themselves so fast that by the time you go back into the sea and come out, you’ll have a lovely dry towel to use all over again. 

Micro-fiber towels are also really good for other areas of your life. You can use them in the gym, at the pool, and on camping trips. They’re lightweight and come in their own tiny bags for easy storage. 

4. Water

One of the most important things you need for the beach is water.

Getting to the beach and realizing you’ve forgotten drinking water is fine if you can walk to a shop, but a huge problem if you’re nowhere near one. Nothing will give you a headache faster than combining sunshine and dehydration.

Always take more water than you think you’ll need when heading to the beach and drink it regularly throughout the day. If you’re going beach camping, you’ll most likely be somewhere very secluded. That means carrying all your water with you and ensuring you have enough for drinking and cooking with.

5. Hats, Cover-Ups, and Parasols

You’ve packed your sunscreen, but is it good enough alone?

As much as we try, we can’t sunscreen our heads that easily and keeping your head cool is essential if you want to stave off heatstroke. Pack your hat and it’ll do wonders for keeping the sun off your head as well as the sensitive skin on your face.

In areas of high UV, sun-blocking rash vests and leggings are also really great. If you’re taking the kids to the beach, these UV rashies protect their skin better than anything else. Never underestimate the power of the sun, especially in our favorite locations like beautiful Belize.

When you get out of the water for a relaxing lie-down or to grab an ice cream (essential), a cover-up is the easiest way to get dressed without getting dressed. And reading your book in full-sunshine is only going to make you too hot, so a parasol is ideal.

6. Beach Blanket

You know when you lay out your beach towel and within five minutes it’s rucked up and partially covered in sand? Not good. You want your beach day to be as relaxing as possible and that means having a place to sit comfortably.

A beach blanket is perfect for this as it’s big enough for a few people and keeps the sand out of places you don’t want it.

To secure your blanket, use a ground stake for each corner loop. This means you don’t have to worry about a breeze or the blanket being shifted out of place.

7. Camera

When you’re thinking about what to take to the beach, it’s easy to forget your camera. Sure, you can use your phone but phones and sand aren’t always best friends.

Beach days are the times we remember so vividly. Everyone’s in high spirits and they bring out the kid in all of us. When you’ve started a sandcastle competition and your best friend is trying cartwheels for the first time, you’re going to want to take photos.

Waterproof sports cameras like GoPros are perfect for beach days as you don’t have to worry about sand or water getting inside. But getting a waterproof case for your normal camera is a good option, too.

Whatever you choose, check for a memory card and a full battery.

8. Games and Toys

All right, so we’ve got water, sunscreen, towels, etc. But what about the fun things to take to the beach? When you’re spending a full day or longer by the sea, you’re going to want to mix it up a bit.

A frisbee is one of the most fun things you can take to the beach. It’s easy to play with any amount of people and if you’re bringing your dog, you won’t be able to stop them from getting involved. Frisbees are easy to pack and can always double up as plates.

Bat and ball is another winner and there’s no net required. Lots of beaches have volleyball areas too, so if you want to channel your inner Maverick from Top Gun, don’t forget your volleyball.

Kites have got to be the best beach toy for a breezy day. Kids will love flying little kites but if you’ve got a performance kite in the garage, now’s the time to get it out.

For flat, calm days, inflatable beach toys are fun regardless of your age. Even your grandma loves to bob about on an inflatable. And they’re easy to pack while deflated.

Just don’t forget your pump, and store any dark-colored inflatables in the shade when not in use. Boy, do they get hot in the sun!

9. Snacks

We know, we know, it’s all about the ice cream. But while lounging around on the beach and splashing about in the water doesn’t sound very energetic, you’d be surprised. On the beach, you’ll find yourself a lot more active than you were planning on.

So remember to bring food. Popular beaches will have cafes and food trucks, but to keep costs down, it’s good to at least take some snacks. If you really want to go all out, then a picnic should be high on your list of things to bring to the beach.

A cooler bag is ideal for beach trips, even if you’re not bringing cold foods. When the sun beats down on foodstuffs, they start getting hot and sweaty (yuck). Pack your picnic and your water into cooler bags or boxes.

10. Book or E-Reader

We lead busy lives and have way too many video streaming subscriptions. When was the last time you kicked back with a good book? The beach is the perfect place to read without time pressures.

E-readers are a great option for beach reading as they don’t get glare from the sun like tablets and phones do. The ability to read them one-handed is also a bonus as that other hand can be used for something important, like propping yourself up or eating ice cream.

There’s something so magical about reading at the beach. Being out in nature is one of the best ways to reduce stress and reconnect with yourself. So breathe in your surroundings, open that book and let your worries melt away.

Bonus 11. Multiple Bags

If there’s one thing that’s always forgotten but very useful, it’s multiple bags. Firstly, you need your beach bag. We’ve covered a lot of stuff here and you’ll need somewhere to pack it.

Then you need a dry bag, especially if you’re camping or think it might rain. Dry bags are simple fold-top bags that keep your phone and keys safe from water. You can even swim with them!

You’ll also need spare carrier bags for wet swimsuits, wetsuits, and towels. No one likes putting wet, sandy stuff directly into their car.

Yet another spare carrier bag for rubbish is essential, too. Lots of beaches don’t have bins and you don’t want pockets full of trash. Grab a few other small bags while you’re at it; you never know when you might need one.

Get Packing and Get Down to the Sand

Now that you have our essential list of things to bring to the beach, it’s time get planning your day in the sun. This checklist is the fundamentals that every beach day requires and you can add to it depending on your own needs.

When you’re packing your wallet for a day trip, it’s ideal to only take the money you think you’ll need and leave the rest at home. Do you really need five store cards, two credit cards, and all the other stuff? It’s hard to keep track of valuables when you’re having so much fun in the sand.

If you’re heading off to tropical places with clear water and stunning reefs, you can usually hire cool stuff like masks, snorkels, and fins.

Remember that the sun will be harsher on your skin in the tropics and it’s easy to forget its power when you’re snorkeling for a few hours. Invest in a good UV rash vest and sunscreen with zinc in it to get the most protection.

Above all, have an absolute blast on your beach trip! Follow our journal for stories and tips on adventures from hiking and camping to beach days and diving.

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