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How to pack for the beach when flying – List of essentials

Packing for a beach vacation typically brings to mind oversized beach bags stuffed to the brim with towels, coolers, foldout chairs, and beach umbrellas. That’s well and good if you’re traveling by car, but it might be challenging to plan how to pack for the beach when flying if you are limited to one piece of hand luggage. Our tips will certainly help you on how to travel light but have all the necessary items with you!

Anett Victoria - Author of SeaSpiration

Written by Anett Victoria

When it comes to a beach vacation, Anett is the person who certainly has tips on where to go and what to do no matter it is a luxury tropical holiday, a romantic seaside getaway, or a fun family trip to the ocean. As a world traveler with years of experience in exploring tropical countries and a water sports fan, she creates this inspiring site where she writes travel guides, reviews and recommends beach gear, and gives travel tips to make planning your trip quicker and easier! Are you curious about where She wanders now? Follow her adventures on IG too!

Carry-on only packing list for beach vacation

When making your packing list, the key is to think small and pack light, while also not forgetting the essentials. Roll your clothing items to save room in your carry-on and bring versatile items that can be worn in many different ways. Minimalism and functionality are the most important factors!

Travel-sized toiletries

However you will probably find shower gel, shampoo and soap in your hotel room or apartment, it is good to have your ordinary beauty products with you so get them in travel size version. Make sure to pack typical beach toiletries too including moisturizing lotion for dry skin and a deep conditioner for sun-fried hair.

Travel size toiletries

Sunscreen & Lip balm with SPF

Just like fun, sand, and waves, sunscreen on the beach is non-negotiable. Most probably this is the first item that comes into people’s mind when thinking about what to pack in a carry-on for a beach vacation. Skip the giant heavy bottles and pick up a travel-sized bottle to pack with your toiletries. We recommend getting practical sunscreen sticks that will be less likely leaking.

We often forget our lips when applying sunscreen only to find them burned and cracking at the end of the day. Protect your lips from chapping and burning, put an SPF lip balm too in your luggage!

SeaSpiration Tip: Need more help on what to arrange before you travel? Check our beach vacation planning guide!

Beach bag

Bring a beach bag as your personal item to go under the seat in front of you, that way you save room in your carry-on and you have a tote bag for the beach once you arrive to your destination!

Sun hat

Since an umbrella is out of the picture for your carry-on, you can get some much-needed sun-relief with a wide-brimmed sunhat. Look glamorous and save room by wearing your sun hat en route!

Man in sunhat – Photo from Unsplash


Protect your eyes from sun damage and burning and make sure to bring a UV protective pair of sunglasses. For a beach vacation, the best to pack polarized ones as these types of lenses block the reflection of the water’s surface. Like this, they provide a clearer view and are more comfortable for the eyes.


With limited room, your laptop and e-reader may have to stay at home. Bring a tablet instead for your reading and streaming needs while you’re soaking up the rays.

Light and wrinkle-resistant clothing

Your accommodation might provide you with an iron, but frankly, you don’t want to spend your well-deserved vacation time smoothing your clothes. Pack clothes that are light, quick-drying (in case you need to wash them) and wrinkle resistant so you can wear them right out of your luggage!

Light summer clothing
Summer clothes – Photo from Pexels

Micro-fiber beach travel towel

Microfiber beach towels are thin and very compact, perfect for travel. But their extra absorbency means they still do the job of drying. Ditch the oversized cotton towels (it’ll take up half your carry-on!) and bring microfiber towels instead.

First aid kit

Don’t let an unexpected injury ruin your beach vacation! Prepare yourself for seashell pokes, jellyfish stings and sunburns with a travel first aid kit. You’ll be glad to have one in your beach bag if cut or scrapes do arise!

SeaSpiration Tip:
Teenage girls packing list
Beach vacation outfit ideas for women

Flip flops or beach sandals

As comfy as flip flops are, wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane and pack your sandals or flip-flops in the carry-on. Like this, you will save room for your other beach essentials.

Beach sandals
Woman in skirt holding beach sandals – Photo from Unsplash

Bathing suit(s)

Preferably pack more than one so you always have a clean and dry one. Try to pack your lightest and non-bulky swimsuits.

Reusable water bottle or thermos

While you’ll have to ditch the cooler for this trip, you still need to be hydrated on your beach vacation! Make sure to pack/bring your own personal thermos or water bottle to stay hydrated. As long as it’s empty of liquid when you’re going through security, you can easily bring a quality thermos or water bottle with you.

Just because you’re flying to your beach vacation doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared with the essentials for the sun and sand. We hope this list helped you answer the question of how to pack for the beach when flying!

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How to pack for the beach when flying?