cliff diving

One of the best parts about a summery vacation in the sand is that you can get away with packing very little. With a small bit of planning, your light-as-a-feather carry-on can be fully equipped with all the main essentials for your getaway in the sun. Here are 10 items that will keep you careless on the beach with a drink in your hand and absolutely nothing on your mind.


A giant tote

Beyond just being ridiculously convenient on your flight (a bag that didn’t cost you an arm and a leg causes no anxiety when having to be placed on the floor of an airplane) a giant tote will keep you from going back and forth to your hotel room forgetting items. Sure, you’ll probably throw things in there that you won’t use all day, but with so much space, you won’t have to stress over prioritizing what to take and what to leave on your daily trips to brunch, the pool, the sand, wherever.

woman tote beach

Swanky: Printed cotton tote (Melissa Obadash)

tote bag

Steal: Oversize Millie Geo Print Tote (Sole Society)

tote bag

A big floppy hat

Yes, fedoras are cute, but if you’re getting closer to the equator or spending more time in the dark spot-inducing sun, you’ll want something with a little more cover. Packable options are great but if you can’t find one you like that will easily fold into your luggage, just keep it with you on the plane (stuffed into your gigantic tote) and you won’t have to worry about it losing its shape.

women floppy hat beach

Swanky: Bella Woven Sun Hat (Eric Javits)


Steal: Geometric Hat (Phase 3)


A pair of flip flops

Why not just say sandals? Because its obvious you need sandals on a beach vacation, and because we specifically mean flip flops – the kind you can easily get your feet into and out of without any hand involvement at all.  The best are ones with zero metal hardware because you’re inevitably going to forget to push them under your lounge chair and they’ll end up sitting in the sun for a while. If that happens, the shiny parts will burn your feet faster than the ground you’re avoiding standing on.

feet in the pool

Swanky: Rockstud Flip Flops (Valentino)

flip flop valentino

Steal: Georgica Jelly Flip Flops (Jack Rogers)

flip flop jack rogers

A stick of sunblock

Sunblock isn’t the easiest thing to pack and if, God forbid, it does explode in your luggage, it’s pretty hard to salvage anything that’s been covered in sunblock, at least in time to wear on your trip. A good alternative is sunblock in stick form and the extra stickiness will actually prove helpful when you’re in and out of the water.

woman face shade hat

Swanky: Sun Protection Stick SPF 50+ (AmorePacific)

sunblock stick

Steal: Sugar Sport Sunscreen SPF 30 (Fresh)

sunblock stick

An inexpensive pair of sunglasses

The two worst things that can happen to an expensive pair of sunglasses are 1) you sit on them or otherwise break them, and 2) you lose them. Both possibilities are pretty plausible when you’re on vacation. Save yourself the money and the stress, leave the Ray Ban wayfarers at home, and get yourself a pair of inexpensive plastic ones that you won’t mind losing or damaging. Plastic is great, just like with your flip flops, because you won’t be wearing searing hot metal on your face.

sunglasses on women

Quay Invader Shades (NastyGal)

nasty gal sunglasses

Wayfarers (Circus by Sam Edelman)

sam edelman sunglasses

A sporty swimsuit

If you’re a beach baby, you’ve already got lots of swimsuits and you may have even already bought a new one just for this trip. But put another on the list, one that’s just a tiny bit more functional. You might find yourself doing flips off a cliff into the ocean, zip-lining over a river (yeah, that IS a thing in Cancun!), or trying out watersports with the cutie you just met at the pool. The last thing you want in any of those situations is to be pulling at your bikini to prevent anything from slipping out. A sporty bikini will not only keep everything in place, but you may also find it’s pretty darn comfortable while giving you a stand-out athletic look on the beach.

cliff diving

Swanky: Genevieve bikini (Lisa Marie Fernandez)

bikini red

Steal: Victory bikini (Body Glove)


A romper that can go from the beach to dinner

The last thing you want to do when you’re on vacation is micromanage every minute of your and your friends’ time. To smoothly be spontaneous, limit the need to stop back at the hotel room for wardrobe changes by wearing something versatile. Since you’ve got that giant (and adorable) tote, you could throw some wedges in, too, in case you want to dress it up just a bit more.

dinner on the beach

Swanky: One Shoulder Romper (Nicholas)

romper white

Steal: Tie Waist Ruffle Romper (ASTR)

astr romper orange

Minimalist makeup

The best items in your makeup bag for a beach vacation are BB cream or tinted moisturizer with UV protection, blush, highlighter, and bronzer. You can honestly get away with just the first two, if you’re really looking for low-maintenance. These double and triple up in a number of products, like the Multiple from NARS (creator of the cult-classic Orgasm blush) which acts as blush, highlighter, and more. Ditch mascara and eyeliner – if you sweat it onto your face you’ll completely lose the effortless fresh-faced glow you can only really have on vacation.

fresh face girl

Color Control Cushion Compact SPF 50+ (AmorePacific)

bb cushion compact amore pacific

The Multiple (NARS)

nars stick

Bronzed Cheek Perfection Gel (PER-FEKT)
per-fekt bronzing gel

Dry shampoo

Washing, blowdrying, and flat-ironing/curling your hair every single day is a serious time-suck – especially when you’re on vacation. Stretch out the fabulous blow-out you’ll get right before you leave by clipping it half-up on day two, in a loose side braid on day three, and in a messy high bun on day four (perhaps with the help of a cute headband). Days two through four are made possible (and easier on the eyes) by a little dry shampoo. We can’t help you beyond that; on day five, you should probably wash your hair.

Dry shampoo with oat milk – travel size (KLORANE)

dry shampoo


While it’s tempting to wait until the last minute and just throw a swimsuit and maxi dress in your suitcase, taking a little time to pack the essentials will let you enjoy every precious moment on vacation – fully prepared to relax and let loose.