What I Packed: Summer Beach Vacation

Since I’m at the beach this week, I thought I’d put together a beach vacation packing post. This isn’t really a “what to pack” post as much as it is “what I packed” because I certainly don’t consider myself an authority on the subject as I haven’t been to the beach in years.

Also you should know, I am a chronic over-packer and make no apologies for it. I hate to get to a destination and wish I had more options, and that happens every time I try to pare down my packing, so now my rule is: If in doubt, throw it in.

I’m way more lenient with myself when packing for summer vacations than winter. I will try to pack smarter when traveling to a cold weather destination, but in the summertime, an extra pair of sandals or another top or two isn’t going to make any difference in the weight of my suitcase so why not bring options?

Speaking of my suitcase, I fit everything on this list into one side of one 24″ spinner suitcase, so while I may have a few more options than absolutely necessary, I really don’t think it’s overkill… but I suppose everyone has a different opinion on that!

Okay, with all of that out of the way, this is what I brought and why. I basically followed the same rules as my Maine vacation packing, but since the weather at the beach is more predictable (or so I thought… haha!) I didn’t need as much variety.

What I Packed: Summer Beach Vacation

What I Packed: Summer Beach Vacation

#1. Shoes. As usual, I start with my shoes. As I explained in my What to Pack for a Maine Vacation post, your activities tend to dictate your shoes so I try to think about what activities I’ll be doing and select my shoes accordingly. (See more expert packing tips  from JLS blog reader Mary Fowler.)

I was wearing my Tory Burch Miller sandals for the ride down so they aren’t pictured here, but I’ve worn them pretty much every day at some point. I also packed my gold Sam Edelman Gigi sandals (didn’t need them; haven’t worn them) and my white Converse Shoreline sneakers (they come in handy when we go to the boardwalk.) I didn’t have plastic beach sandals so I bought a pair on the boardwalk our first night here.

#2. Shorts. Next I think about my bottoms, and I tried to stick to neutrals so I can bring a variety of tops without thinking through each outfit. I didn’t bring any jeans *gasp* because I figured it would be too hot for them. I did bring my favorite jean shorts (similar), white denim shorts (similar for less), and army green shorts.

I haven’t worn the olive shorts yet, but I really wish I’d brought a pair of jeans for the chilly evenings. Live and learn!

I also brought my older rolled cuff jean shorts along with a graphic tee that I like to wear as a swimsuit coverup. I don’t use my favorite jean shorts for this purpose because I don’t want to get them wet and sandy so I can wear them in the evenings after I shower from the beach.

#3. Tops. As I said above, since I keep the shorts and shoes neutral, I can pretty much throw in any of my favorite shirts and know they will work without having to think through each outfit. I grabbed a variety of tank tops and short sleeve t-shirts, and I haven’t needed them all, but here are the ones I packed.

I also like to have a sweatshirt or sweater for cool mornings and evenings, and I brought two options — my thermal hooded cardigan and the stripe pullover, and I’ve these worn over and over.

Who knew I’d wear long sleeves more than short sleeves to the Jersey shore in July? It has been quite chilly in the evenings so after the beach, I usually throw on one of those tops with shorts. At dinner a couple of nights, I was cold even in that and wished for jeans.

wearing: dress // sandals // tote

#4. Dress. I wore a casual dress for our ride down on Saturday and then I wore it to church on Sunday. I’m not big on dresses but it’s nice to have a casual one at the beach to throw on for going out to dinner or even as a backup swimsuit coverup.

#5. Swimsuits & Coverups. I packed 3 swimsuits. I probably only need two, but again, it’s not like they add any significant weight or space to the suitcase so I threw them all in. I can only link one; the other two are old. I have the hardest time finding swimsuits I don’t hate on me. Either they make me feel matronly or they are too revealing.

I have two tankinis from Title Nine with the built-in underwire bras and then a one piece from Boden that I added to my collection this year. I wanted something that didn’t give me strap lines, and I like how it has a body-sculpting lining to keep everything smooth and tucked in.

As I said above, I packed an old pair of jeans shorts and graphic tee to wear as a coverup, which is usually what I wear over my swimsuits to the pool. But at the last minute, I threw in a lightweight hooded coverup that I picked up at Athleta a couple years ago.

I’ve worn both options, and there’s really no rhyme or reason to my choice each day. Generally I like the shorts and tee for the pool because I often want to stop on the way home and pick up a few things at the store, and I feel more comfortable going in the store in clothes. Here at the beach, the coverup is easier to throw on (one thing instead of two, lol) so if I’m trying to pack light in the future, I’ll try to remember to ditch the extra shorts and tee because the coverup is lighter.

wearing: tee // shorts // tote

#6. Pajamas. I like to bring a long pair and a short pair because I never know if the place where I’m staying will be cold or hot. I’ve only worn the short pair on this trip, but I was glad to have the long ones when I was in Maine. See? Options are good.

#7. Loungewear. On longer trips like this, I always try to bring something comfy to throw on in the evenings, but I realized when I packed for Maine that I’d lost my favorite yoga pants so I ended up wearing pajama pants as loungewear. As soon as I got home, I ordered 2 pairs of joggers — a long pair and a short pair (similar).

I brought the short pair to the beach, and I’ve been wearing them almost every day either in the morning or evening with one of my t-shirts and sometimes my thermal hoodie on top.

#8. Hats. I’m not typically a hat girl, but they’re a must for the beach. I brought both a baseball cap and a straw hat. I want to be a straw beach hat kind of girl, but they always feel so dramatic, lol. I typically opt for my baseball cap instead.

#9. Beach Bag. Duh. But I had to mention it. This straw bottom tote is my go-to this summer. It’s nice and roomy, it has an interior pocket for my phone, and the leather straps are comfortable on my shoulders.

#10. Sunglasses. Another obvious item but I can’t really write a beach packing list without sunglasses. I brought a pair of Maui Jims to photograph for an upcoming post with them as well as a pair of old faithfuls in case I didn’t like these as much. I’ve worn them both at one time or another but obviously only really needed one.

#11. Workout Clothes. I brought my favorite sports bra, running shorts, and tank top to run in along with my running sneakers. I was able to fit in a couple morning runs on the boardwalk so I’m glad I had them.

#12. Miscellaneous mentions. Once I got my clothes and beach gear squared away, I threw in a bag of makeup, a travel hair dryer, my Olay Daily Facials, my favorite sunscreen, and other essential toiletries.

I carried a tote with all of my purse essentials, but I also threw an off-white crossbody into my suitcase, and I’m glad I did because that’s what I’ve been carrying when we go out to dinner and to the boardwalk.

I think that about covers it! What did I miss?

It’s hard to believe it’s almost time to pack up and head home. We’ve had a nice week. Although the weather could be better, it hasn’t precluded us from being on the beach, which is all that really matters I guess. I really like having a house to ourselves. It’s been a good experience and I’m sure we’ll do it again sometime!

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58 Responses

  1. I always start with the shoes too, Jo-Lynne. Since they take up the most space, it seems like the smartest choice!!
    I also tend to take another purse or clutch depending if we’ll be going out to dinner (because since my hubby loves food, we usually do)!!
    We were just talking last night with the neighbors about packing, and they were saying that they always roll their clothing. I’m lazy and usually just take the hangers so I can hang the things easily when we get to the place. I may have to try rolling my clothes next time, but it seems like more work.

    1. I roll mine. Definitely makes packing easier. I never bring hangers but that’s a good idea. I hate it when I get where I’m going and there aren’t enough hangers.

      1. If you pack wire hangers from the dry cleaners, you can either leave them for the next guest or toss them and have a bit more room for souvenirs on the way home.

          1. We cruise and with 4 in a cabin storage is tight. I always pack 40 wire dry cleaner hangers then toss them when we leave. They take up no space in my luggage and fit better in the closet than those 5 bulky wood hangers that they provide.

  2. I am literally packing today for my beach week. THANK YOU. I overthink everything so at least I can use your list as a guide. Did I say THANK YOU?

  3. Perfect timing! We leave next week fir the beach. I always over pack also, without apologies but usually only end up wearing about half of what I take. I am really going to try to be more realistic this year. I am embracing the casual dress as a beach staple. Comfy, doesn’t wrinkle and looks put together. I have 3 I plan to take.
    Thanks for some great ideas.

  4. Packing now for a long weekend of activities in Orlando, not Disney, cause this trip is just for my husband and I to celebrate me finishing school with a GPA of 4.00, so I like your quote If in doubt, throw it in. And I am the same way with bathing suits so I wear a lot of tankinis and a couple of one pieces that tuck you in where you need to be tuck in, depending on where we are at to which suit I wear cause I am like you about swimsuit they either make you look matronly or they are too revealing. My husband will pack his bag but I go back and repack it, can not stand tee shirts and that seems what he wants to pack so will repack nice polo shits without him knowing it and once we get where we are going oh well he has no choice but to wear them. 🙂

    1. That is hilarious! My husband always throws in a polo shirt, but he has this habit of throwing dirty clothes into the suitcase. I’ll go to pack his stuff and find a stain on his shirt or something. Drives me bananas – so of course I swap it out for something clean. I am weird – I like to pack only things that are fresh from the laundry.

      1. I think that is funny also, if my husband owned something beside tee shirts with concert logos or bike week tee shirts I guess I wouldn’t mind them so much, but hello if I am going to dress nice he better also. And definitely it better be clean 🙂

  5. I never, ever leave home without a pair of jeans lol! Ever!! I tend to be cold natured and know I’d be miserable if I was even a tad bit cold.

    Like you, I am an overpacker and love having options. That said, I don’t think I have ever worn everything either!

    1. Same here with the jeans. I don’t know WHAT I was thinking. It was just SO hot and humid the day we left Philly, I assumed it would be that way here all week. Dumb. Usually I WEAR my jeans because a) it is what I’m most comfortable in and b) they are heavy so it helps lighten up my suitcase and make room for more options. 😉 This time I wore that dress b/c I had it on from a photo shoot that morning and it was cool and comfy on a hot day. But it would have made more sense to pack it (it is so lightweight) and wear jeans in the car. Live and learn!

  6. I’m a chronic over packer too…just ask my husband, ha. He claims I’m high maintenance, but I really just like options too. I hate getting somewhere only to suddenly not be in the mood to wear the only outfit I brought. Or have a wardrobe malfunction and be stuck.
    Your week at the beach sounds awesome. Hope you’re getting plenty of unwinding and downtime!

  7. Once again, what sets you apart from even my other favorite bloggers is that you let us in on your thinking process…..this is why I take this…this is why I DON’T take that….this is what I wish I had taken. What we end up with is a loose formula we can apply to our own packing, AND a very entertaining post! Thanks!

  8. Perfect beach wardrobe! Curious….you have a great selection of tees, do you shop for specific ones, in certain colors, or just buy what you like when you see it? I never feel like I have the wardrobe I want, I like my clothes, but don’t really have the right things for what I do.

    1. For the most part I buy what I like, but sometimes I realize I have too much of one family of color (this year it is blue) and I intentionally go looking for something in a pink or coral (for example.) That’s the main reason I bought that magenta twist front top. I realized my whole closet was grey, blue and white, and I wanted a bright pink or coral to wear with denim and white.

      But I think you hit on something when you said, “I don’t really have the right things FOR WHAT I DO.” It is really important when building a wardrobe to do a lifestyle audit and make sure you’re buying clothes that make sense for your lifestyle rather than just things you’re drawn to.

      I am at home 90% of the time and while I love putting together dressier, edgier outfits, my reality is jeans and t-shirts (summer) or sweaters (winter) so I have to be careful to not buy too much dressier stuff.

  9. I so like that you pack options! I hate the idea of “sink washing” the same tops on vacation, and after a day of hot weather mine tend to need it ???? Thanks for the great guide!

    1. I know, it is ridiculous. I discovered it when I was staying at a resort and needed something, and I love how it smells and how it goes on. I tend to buy the pricier mineral sunscreens for the kids b/c I think they’re healthier but those go on really white so they love this b/c it’s so easy.

      1. Assuming you use the pina colada scent, not the unscented. I also like to get the mineral brands, but hate how they turn white too!! This sounds like the solution!

  10. Your description of yourself overpacking made me laugh out loud. Totally me. My husband always rolls his eyes on how much I pack but I keep telling him a girl needs options! In summer I always hum and haw about a long pair of jeans and invariably talk myself out of it and then regret it because weather is so changeable at times. I bought a couple pairs of jammies at Costco that had a tee (or tank) and both a long pair of pants and shorts. Perfect! And this year I am sold on the casual dress option!

  11. I always enjoy your packing posts. For beach shoes, my favorite brand is Reef. They’re so comfortable. Now is a great time to stock up on sandals at summer sales. Shoes.com has 25% off right now.
    Hope you have a great vacation!

  12. Love this! I used to be the absolute worst packed! I am getting better but it’s really neat to see what others pack for the beach. I am heading to the shore in 3 weeks and this may help me pare my down. Maybe …. enjoy the rest of the week. Hope the forecast for tomorrow is wrong ????

  13. We are headed to Disneyland next week from Texas, and I am always an over packer too. No apologies for it here either!

  14. The only thing I didn’t see is the jewelry you took. Because all of my clothes are on hangers at home, I pack them on hangers. It sure makes the packing & unpacking easier, and I don’t have to worry about not having enough when we get to our destination. I love wearing sweatshirts, so I usually throw one in for the unexpected chilly evenings. After the many years of business traveling Larry did, he packs for himself. I have noticed he packs more knit, very baggy pants now, which I’m trying to break him from that habit. He doesn’t have a backside, so it looks like he’s pooped in his pants. My biggest challenge is all of the toiletries (for my body and hair) I use daily. So, for car trips, I have all of them in a carrier that is also used for cleaning supplies. I can see everything and it’s easy to transport. I just grab it and my makeup bag and off I go. My next two trips are to go back to Emory hospital for Larry, so more presentable clothes are required.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip! Your skin looks a little pink in some of the pictures. I hope the kids are having fun and haven’t gotten sunburned!

      1. I use felt hangers which are thin. When putting my clothes in the suitcase I alternate the direction they face to keep it more even. I think it’s worth a try.

  15. Did you fit your toiletries into the 24″ suitcase? I have a pretty good size toiletry bag plus a small separate make up bag so they take up a good chunk of space. I think fitting those in a 24″ suitcase with clothes for a whole week would be a struggle for me!

    1. I did, but they take up the other half. Haha! One 24″ suitcase for me, the other 28″ suitcase for the rest of the family. That is generally how we roll. 🙂 I did also have my husband’s dop kit in that side as well.

      It is hard to pare down toiletries. I mean, you need what you need, whether it’s one night or ten. I use a couple gallon Ziplocks for bigger bottles, hair stuff, lotion, etc. And then I have a cloth makeup bag for makeup and another one for my skincare products. Plus hair dryer and big round brush.

  16. I love that you said “I am a chronic over-packer and make no apologies for it.”…. that made me smile!!!! You are so awesome and hope you enjoy the rest of your beach time! Hugs, Karen

  17. Great post and thanks for the shout out to my packing tips once again. Me an expert? Ha, I think not. I’m just “experienced”, aka as OLD. I always love to read others’ opinions about packing and really learn something every time.

    Anyway, I think a beach vacation is by far, the easiest to pack for because summer clothes are lightweight and all the activities involved are casual by nature. It’s challenging to pack when the weather is different than your home weather, especially going from warm to cold. I love how you included the joggers this time. I’m going to order myself a pair of these since they are less confining than yoga pants. I believe a pair “Comfy Pants”, as they are known in our household, are essential for any trip. I use them for morning trips to get coffee or after a long day of sightseeing. If pinched for space, I sleep in them and use a camisole or T on the top. Even though I try to pack light, I always, always bring something home that I didn’t wear.

    Enjoy your last couple of days at the beach.

  18. Your comment about the straw hat being dramatic made me laugh out loud. I know exactly what you mean – I want to love them on me (I do on other people) but I always end up wearing my ball hat. More ‘me’ I guess…haha!

    I ordered the Metro Joggers – love them! I’ve been looking for something exactly like them and forgot about Athleta. I don’t shop there often because they are not in Canada, but sometimes it’s worth the extra shipping 🙂

  19. I found this post interesting and informative. I am glad I am not the only one who gets cold in the summer. Some A/C in hotels make me want to grab a sweatshirt! I also have some of those metro joggers and love them! Thanks for this post! ????

  20. Did your daughters or son or husband bring jeans? I was really surprised that you didn’t throw in a pair of your white ones. You always look so upbeat and relaxed in them. Does the beach house have a washer/dryer? Thought that might be taken into consideration in how much you packed. So what was the final count of friends your son invited? Smart toss-in on the cross-body bag and am intrigued with your sunscreen. I will have to do some Amazon shopping today. And I owe you a nice big thank you for the kind shout out for my “5 Favorites” idea. Was so tickled to see my name.

    1. Nope, no one brought jeans. My husband brought a pair of khakis tho – but no sweatshirt, lol. So same concept. I really didn’t imagine I would want jeans AND a sweater, but I did!

      Yes, we have a washer/dryer which is awesome – mainly for towels.

      My son had 2 sets of 2 friends. It worked out well. 🙂

  21. This is a random question but what socks do you wear with your Converse? My no show socks always slide down my heal when I walk. I’ve tried nike and the loft.


  22. Thanks for helpful post. We leave for the beach in 2 weeks. I underpack usually and my husband overpacks for himself. I usually only wear 1/2 of what I pack. I am going to try rolling my clothes this time. I also wish to be a beach straw hat kind of girl but alas I end up a baseball cap Mom. Haha My beautiful straw hat always blows off.

  23. I don’t think you overpacked at all; a girl needs options right? 🙂 Seriously, just a couple of pairs of most of your items. The only things where you have more than that are your tops. How can anyone say that you overpacked? You did good! A lot of people would’ve had a pair of shorts for everyday of the week.

  24. Jo-Lynne, can you tell me what size you are wearing in the Caslon Shirttail Hem Tank Dress? I think we are about the same size and it really helps when you include the sizes you picked for a reference point. Thank you!

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