What You Actually Need to Pack for the Beach


It’s very simple, actually. Whether you’re going for three days or seven days, I am a firm (and admittedly grungy) believer that the only items you need on a beach vacation are the following:

(1) bathing suit

(1) cut-off shorts

(1) top

(1) sandals

(1) sunglasses

(3) pairs of underwear (or, one for each day)

+ SUNSCREEN (a LOT! Because your friends/family will steal it; you know they will), a toothbrush and toothpaste, baby soap, moisturizer (1 for face, 1 for body), and your passport or ID. Books and technology are add-ons that I’m not counting here.

Depending on who you're traveling with, you may need a razor and shaving cream (to be utilized at night, not in the morning, unless you want salty ocean water lighting your shins on fire), and depending on how fancy this place is, you might need some sort of dressy caftan situation.

But for my post-Fashion Month four-day getaway to Parrot Cay—the insanely, yet understatedly, luxurious Turks and Caicos resort—with Nick and Stevie, I needed nothing fancy (nor did I do very much shaving). Instead, I trussed up my trusty Ksubi shorts (last summer, frantic for the perfect cut-offs, I asked Leandra for advice: “Ksubi makes the best ones, and Shopbop has ‘em”) with a black-and-white woven leather belt from cool-girl French store Iro and decided on a blue and cream baseball tee (men’s Levi’s Vintage, scored at American Rag in LA) as a top. Swimwear consisted of a postage stamp-sized Rosa Cha bikini I picked up in Rio almost a decade ago, covered in crayola-bright bumper cars. Very mature, yes, yes, I know. Now the sandals—let’s talk sandals. Have you ever wanted an ankle bracelet? I have. I saw a really chic girl—slightly hippie in that “I meditate” way—in Williamsburg last summer who had a strand of silver…bells? Bells….around her left ankle. Where did you get that?? “India.” Great. The closest thing I’ve ever found are these sandals from a brand called Ancient Greek Sandals, which I found at Joseph in Paris, of all places. They’re like jewelry for your feet.

And in the beauty department, you really don’t need much. You don’t. Are you really going to do a mask? A peel? No, you’re not. You’re going to snooze poolside after two pina coladas, and your main concern for the entire trip will be whether or not you’re going to get burned. So, sunscreen! I reach for La Roche Posay Anthelios SPF 40 without fail, year after year, trip after trip. It has the consistency of a normal body lotion, and it doesn’t stink. On this particular trip, my cosmetic splurge was NARS’ infamous Body Glow: a deliriously tropical-smelling bronzing oil. I packed it in not one but two Ziploc sandwich bags for fear that the glass bottle would explode in my Tumi, but the TSA gods spared me, and thus it came to pass that I sashayed around feeling like a Tahitian mermaid for the long weekend. What more could one ask for? Oh, a sweater. You actually really do need a sweater for a beach vacation—but that's the boring part.

—Emily Weiss

Photographed at Como Shambhala Parrot Cay in March 2013. Accommodations provided by Parrot Cay.

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  • unvanquished

    I agree about not packing a ton but I sweat in the sun. I couldn't wear the same shirt everyday. I would stink to high heaven.

  • http://thecornerapartment.com/ Elizabeth @ TheCornerApartment

    You're a week too late with this post! Or, perhaps my spring break was a week too early. Have fun on your vacation!


  • http://nomadic-d.blogspot.com/ Nomadic D.

    I'm just starting to plan for my Mexico vacation (waaay in advance, but hey, that's half the fun, right?) and I am totally intrigued by the Nars Body Glow. Really? Did you put it on during the day? At the beach? Or is it for tropical glamour in the evenings? I've been looking at swimsuits and found these super fun (and mature, just like yours, ha!) from We Are Handsome:


    Definitely going to try and follow your lead and pack light though. Just thinking about it relaxes me...


  • Charlotte

    I love your style, Emily!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nina.trendsurvivorpapaioannou Nina Trendsurvivor Papaioannou

    May I ad,

    (1) camera

    (2) batteries

    See you in my blog, maybe.




  • ester

    I would love to hear more about the nars body glow. does it stain your clothes? does it sparkle? thank you!

  • http://www.thewayweliveonline.com/ Kristie

    Yeah, i'm getting really sick and tired of overpacking. I would add lip balm and face wash that won't dry your skin out.

  • Bonnie Clyde

    Great post!!

  • Alice

    I aways feared not bringing enough and then wanting to punch myself when arrived at the destination. Last year, however, I packed just like you've described (but then maybe 3 shorts and 3 tops) in a carry-on and it made life so much easier

  • Guest

    this post is so true. I always overpack and end up kicking myself but it's not so bad to just leave the rest in the car i guess!


  • Dejhana Waite

    I'm a habitual over-packer but it's never bothered me much on the beach. I just leave the rest in the car!


  • http://procrastinatingpretty.blogspot.com/ TheProcrastinator

    One of my favourite beach products is Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse -- this sounds awful, but I use it to get rid of any tan lines. Just apply anywhere you're pale and that skin will darken faster than everything else. I can see my 45 year old self cringing at these words.

  • Paulina

    I'd like a sunscreen with a bit of tint perhaps ;) And big sunglasses :) plus something for my lips! Maybe Nuxe Reve de Miel Baume Levres...

    But I actually need vacation to take them...


  • http://www.facebook.com/elspbeth.hodgins Elspbeth Hodgins

    Tree of Life is an Australian store and they have lots of different anklets, also the silver one is $2, I'm not sure if they ship internationally though.

  • Ashley

    Great now all I want is a trip to the beach!! Damn you, midwest!

    xo Ashley


  • Bells

    But... but... what about the makeup? Becca Beach Tints and Lancôme Doll Lashes Mascara, maybe? ;)

  • mlle p

    I would add a straw or cotton hat and am ready to go NOW.

  • http://glampostsnooze.com/ Susan

    Perfect post.

  • http://www.mybougeotte.com/ Victoria {Bougeotte}

    I agree about not packing a ton, but come on, one bikini? I live in bikinis in summer. Literally. I wake up, put one on, and walk around in it all day. So for a 3 day vacation I would need at least 3.

    Or maybe that's just me...


  • Tessa B


    check out these for ankle bracelet sandals.

  • Lucy Apted

    Perfect items. I'd say the top isn't even necessary.

  • Val

    those sandals are too expensive to throw them in the sand and water :(

  • Guest #12

    I'm going to Hilton Head South Carolina on the beach and this was very helpful THANKS

  • Casey

    Very true! The less the better. If you are going to the beach, chances are you are trying to relax, so why stress about bringing pounds of useless items along? However, you can't forget about the towels and/or chairs! If you ever are looking for a different opinion on packing, check this article out. https://omghow.com/articles/pack-for-the-beach-in-the-summer. Thanks so much for your insight.


NARS Body Glow
Ksubi Albuquerque Cutoff Shorts
La Roche-Posay
La Roche Posay Anthelios SPF 40 Sunscreen
Ancient Greek Sandals
Chrysso beaded flat leather sandals