While there are a lot of fancy gadgets out there, you really don't need a lot of stuff to enjoy time at the beach, and if you invest in good-quality items they can last for years. These larger items are still on our wish list - we've been able to use/borrow our family's gear for the most part, but hope to invest in our own set over the coming years.
*I didn't include any beach games/activities in this list, as those are dependent on group size, age, etc. I'd say these are essentials regardless of the group you are with.
Umbrella: While white beach gear may not be the most practical (hello yellow sunscreen stains, I see you), I love the way it looks. This one may not be the one we end up getting but I'd love to get something similar in the future. My friend brought this one with her on our beach trip (pictured at the start of this post) and while it was really cute, I worry that the tassels may not last very long.
Chair: I love the look of a wooden beach chair. These also have straps on the back so you can carry it like a backpack for easy transport. My friend who was at the beach with us has one of these and she seems to really like it.
Cooler: We have one of these soft yeti coolers on our wish list - they are amazing for the beach but also come in handy in other situations as well, like road trips, grocery store runs, yard parties, etc.
Wagon: We got one of these for Cary's parents beach house a year or so ago and it's been a life saver. You can fit a lot in them, and they make carrying heavy things like coolers out to your beach spot so much easier. They also fold up nicely for storage.
Like my every-day wardrobe, I like to keep things simple when it comes to beach apparel. I stick to neutral, versatile, good-quality basics that can last for at least a few years.
Swimsuit: A simple black one-piece is an essential in my book. I have a similar one from H&M, but when it comes time to replace it I think I'll get one like this from Aerie. I've had really good luck with their suits - I've had a couple bikinis of theirs for years and they are still in great shape. My favorite thing about Aerie, though, is that they have some styles of tops that come in bra sizes, which is great for me since I need a combination of a larger cup size but a smaller width. Having a bathing suit that fits you well is so important for both comfort and confidence!
Cover-up: I have a white button-up like this one that I always have with me on the beach. It's great to use as a cover-up, but I also put it on if I feel like I'm getting too much sun. I am all about sun protection these days - healthy skin is way more important than being tan (and you can still get a little tan/glow even with protective sunscreen and cover-ups!)
Sunglasses: I've been using cheap sunglasses for years since I'm known for breaking them, but this year I decided to splurge on a nicer pair. I am so glad I discovered these from Sunski - they are lightweight, polarized, made out of recycled materials, are cute, AND have a lifetime warranty on the frames. While they don't have a warranty on the lenses, they sell replacements so you can get new ones if you scratch them. They also aren't crazy expensive like some other popular brands.
Hat: I have this hat from Madewell, and it's been great, but it got wet last year and lost its shape. I still use it but next year will be in the market for a new one. I think I prefer a wider brim for more sun protection, too.
Sandals: I have always used Chacos at the beach, and while they are great for all outdoor activities, the straps tend to get a little crusty after being in sand and salt water. Next year I plan to grab a pair of flip flops like these; simple, versatile, and easy to rinse off.
Nothing life-changing here, but these few things are absolutely essential to have in my beach bag.
Rambler: These from Yeti are great for bringing water (or other cold beverages) to the beach. The ones with sealable lids are ideal.
Beach Bag: I got these mesh bags specifically for grocery store produce, however I've found that they are great for the beach, too! They barely take up any space in your suitcase when packing, the mesh allows you to shake them out easily to get rid of sand, and they can fit a good amount of stuff in them. I'll usually also pack a couple of reusable canvas shopping bags for extra snacks and supplies.
Sunglasses Case: This one is self-explanatory. Great for holding your sunglasses when you're out boogie-boarding.
Book: One of my favorite things to take advantage of on a beach vacation is reading. My mom lent me this book by Glennon Doyle this trip, and it was absolutely amazing, I can't recommend it enough. Perfect for self reflection and empowerment no matter who you are. I plan on giving it to Cary to read when I'm done.
Sunscreen: I like to have a spray-on sunscreen for my body as well as a face sunscreen, both at least 50 spf. The spray is really nice because it's ok if you're a little sandy, and you don't have to rub it in. More convenient, too, so I'm more likely to reapply if it's not too much of an effort. I like to reapply every few hours even if I'm sitting under the umbrella the whole time. Protect that skin!
Towel: While I don't like using Turkish towels in the bathroom, I LOVE them at the beach. They are thinner and have a flat weave, so they are quick to dry and don't get sand stuck in them as easily. If you don't hang them to dry after washing them the tassels do come undone sometimes, but that doesn't bother me too much, and they are easy to re-tie. I like the look of these from Turkish T, but there are lots of options on Etsy and other retailers (this shop has a ton of options!).
This post is not sponsored or in partnership with any of the aforementioned brands but the article contains affiliate links. When you shop via the links above I may make commission on a sale at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.