Adrenaline & Adventure · Backpacking and Beyond · Female Travel Hack · Hacks For Wanderlust · Solo Female Travel

A Beach Bum’s Guide To Packing Smartly

There are two types of successful packers in this world. There’s the light packers, and then there’s the smart packers. To be one of the two, there’s a bunch of rules to follow in order to achieve the perfect packed suitcases. I’d be lying if I said if I’ve mastered the wonderful art (or struggle) of packing myself. Just like many of you, I hate packing. And I hate rules. However, the fact that most of my destinations are towards the beach, which requires minimal clothing, I usually manage to hack my way around the same ol’ packing guidelines. In other words, I made my own rules.

I love the idea of packing light and bringing only what you beed. But I also like to look cute. Cute enough to confidently post the pictures on my social media, but laid back enough to go on my journey comfortably. Normally, when I go on short trips (7 days or less), I go with my wheeled pink/mint green suitcase. But lately, I’ve been all about my backpack since my adventure involves moving around. This time though, I’ll be using my small backpack/day pack. Everything else,that doesn’t fit goes in my husband’s. Hah! So, to justify myself, let’s be clear that I’m not necessarily a full-blown backpacker, and I’m not even close to being a flashpacker either. And though I’m somewhere in between, there’s no escaping the fact that packing should be well thought of. So let me guide the beach bum in you on how to do this smartly.

No packing cubes? No problem!

I’ve been meaning to purchase my packing cubes, but then the frugal toughie inside says I can use that money for a cheap weekend getaway instead. And since I’m not going anywhere long-term anytime soon, I manage to make do. There are plenty of hacks and substitutes you can use to organize your items. I personally like to use vacuum-sealed bags. Huge zip-lock bags also works wonderfully. But since I ran out of both, I have these bags from my latest bikini purchases that I’m recycling as my bikini and underwear organizers. And yes, I do pack THAT MUCH bikinis.

Extra insider hack: You know those bags that your bed sheets or curtains usually come in when you buy them? You can use them as an organizer cube too!

Carry-On Friendly Toiletries

Ideally, the orthodox packing rules tells you to skip the toiletries, and buy them when you land instead. I refuse to this most of the time because 1) when I’m going to a tourist spot, chances are, prices are sky rocketed 2) if it isn’t a tourist spot, it’s difficult to find when you need it the most, and 3) if it’s a short getaway, no one has time to waste walking around scavenging for overpriced sunscreen. Just remember to keep it under 100 ml if you’re not checking in your bag!

For my skincare which I refuse to neglect especially when traveling, I always have my travel-sized bottles ready. This is when free samples comes in handy. I personally don’t care for samples but I love when they give away travel-sized bottles instead of packets. Either way works, so next time you stock up on your products, ask for freebies for your next travel.

As much as I hate sachet packets, they’re genius for traveling. No spills, less weight, although super annoying to open in the shower. I’m afraid you can’t find them everywhere though. Extra points for Asia on this one. But don’t worry, there’s always travel-sized toiletries you can find in the store. Travel-sized bottles that you can just refill are great too. Try Target or The Dollar Store. Better yet, go to those cheap Japanese stores like Daiso.

Beach Towels and Blankets Hack

No one wants to pack an oversized beach towel. But since my preference of beach getaways is nowhere near an all-inclusive five star hotel, it’s necessary to bring some kind of substitute. Thats’ when microfiber towels comes in handy. They come in different sizes and colors and would cost you $15 and up.

Now that’s not going to work as a beach blanket, so you’re definitely going to need something else for that. Rummage your closet and you’ll never know what you can find. A light tapestry, a sarong? Who knows.  I personally like to use my Thai skirt. It’s literally a skirt, yes. But it’s multi-functional for my travels– from being my handy dandy beach blanket, bus blanket, blanket in general, a shade paraphernalia, or something to cover myself with while I change, it’s the perfect travel companion.

I also like to pack a space-friendly fabric bag that I can bring along to the beach with me. I usually do this when I’m using my day pack as my actual backpack that hold all my belongings for the trip.

What Shoes To Bring

This is completely up to you– as the rest of your packing is. Many times when I’m headed for the beach, I’m completely happy with flip flops and maybe a special pair of nice sandals or heels if I know we’re going somewhere a little fancier. But because my upcoming getaway is focused on adventures, I’m only bringing my water shoes and my Birkenstocks, which will by my daily sandals and my hiking sandals as well.

What To Wear

On this case, I’d like to turn to an ever so traditional packing rule: Pack everything you thing you’ll need, and then take out half of that. It’s simple, it’s honest, and let’s be real, it’s smart. Of course that’s not the case with my bikinis. I’m practically in my bikini day and night when I’m at the beach, so let me be. When it comes to my actual clothes though, this rule is applied.

Beach Makeup

I don’t wear makeup at the beach, but I pack my most basic needs just in case I’m feeling a little insecure and want to cover up my blemishes. That usually just includes my Bare Minerals foundation powder, my go to blush from Nars in Orgasm, and a couple of lipsticks in beach-friendly shades. But when my trip involves day tours, night outs and romantic dinners, I like to have a variety of lipstick shades so I bring one shade of red, a shade of pink, a dark lippie, and a nude one. Now for my one (or two) non-negotiable items, I always have (waterproof) mascara and eyelash curler for those mornings when my eyes could use a little boost.


I have a separate camera bag which holds most of my gadgets– my Canon Rebel, my GoPro, and all my accessories. I try to fit my essential chargers in this bag too. I don’t bring my laptop on short getaways, but I do have my iPad with me, which I usually put in my day pack.

I’m still on a lookout for a good pair snorkeling fins, but we recently purchased our own snorkeling gears because we go to the beach so much that it’s become a necessity. I’ll probably just stick that in one of our bags.

That’s it. Though we all have different packing styles, I hope this guide helps you somehow on your next beach trip. I didn’t want to make it so detailed with how many pieces of clothing and socks you need to bring because, really, who even listens to those? You’ll pack what you want and you’ll bring what you feel like. All I have to give is a little guidance on how to maximize your space and make the most of your backpack. So, good luck on your next trip and may you have many room in your luggage left for souvenirs. You can also check out this packing list for summer vacations.

Girl, Unspotted


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24 thoughts on “A Beach Bum’s Guide To Packing Smartly

  1. No kidding, that was a complete list of things to bring. I can never live/leave without toiletries! Those are my priority aside from clothes.


  2. Nice tips. And I must agree, every time I travel, I always bring toiletries with me. Because even if while on the road, you can never know what might happen so being prepared is the key.


  3. My friends tell me I’m a light packer. I always have smaller bags compared to my companions but I seem to bring a lot of essentials than they do. Re-using those plastics gave me a brilliant idea for my next trip!


  4. I am not really much of a beach person, but I would go if I am invited. Most important for me is the shorts and the sunblock. I will probably be in the sand more than the water.


  5. You’ve got some really good tips in here. I’m with you about not buying toiletries at your destination. We typically travel in the developing world, and finding toiletries isn’t always that easy.


  6. Who needs packing cubes when you can use ziplock bags? I surely prefer to save and use those too, hehe. One piece of advice you may want to consider: use lush products. They have solid shampoos, conditioners and body and face lotions. They last much longer than liquid products, they can be carried as hand luggage as they are not liquids and they are vegan and GREAT on the skin and hair 🙂


  7. Great suggestions! I am in the middle of packing for a beach vacation right now. I often save samples from Sephora and travel-sized bottles of my favorite products for traveling.


  8. I like your style. I always have a huge problem with packing. I always pack too much or I forget something. I loved when you said “Pack everything you need and then eliminate half of it” This was great advice and tips and I enjoyed reading it. Thank you for sharing.


  9. I need to study this guide ten times. I must be the worst packer ever. Arrived in Panama for a month and had about 4 complete outfits and several hodgepodge pieces with nothing to go with. I agree on the toiletries, plus if you have to buy them, you are inconvenienced to go look for them and probably pay very high rates. I love that you carry your high end cosmetics. Me, too. 😉


  10. Yep, that is about anything one may need. I find that shoes is the main issue when traveling. I try to go on carry on unless it is a week or longer but if I have to pack different shoes (because of adventure, trekking, beach, nice dinners, etc.) then I have to take a bigger suitcase. I try to avoid checking in under all circumstancess


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