Sunscreen, black swim top, black sandals

 I'm a Travel Editor, and This Is Everything I Pack for a Beach Vacation

You won't see me at the beach without these must-haves this summer
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As a southern California native, current New Yorker, and Rockaway Beach's self-proclaimed biggest fan, I'd like to think I know a thing or two about beach vacation essentials. Whether I'm headed to the seaside for a weekend or for a longer getaway, I prefer to pack light and stick to essentials I'll be comfortable in. From breezy linen shirts to long-lasting sunscreen to a spacious tote bag, these are the items I take on every beach trip (and pieces I'd recommend to anyone).

Keep reading for my top picks for beach vacation packing essentials.

A Stylish, Durable Beach Bag

Purple nylon tote and straw tote
Credit: Courtesy of Retailers as Credited

If you're going for function first (but still want a stylish look), a ripstop tote from Glob is a must-have. The brand's market-style tote with multiple pockets is spacious enough for all your beach essentials and is easy to clean if it gets sandy. But if fashion is your priority (who could blame you), a classic straw tote is also a great option. I love this version from Italian brand M.Gemi, since it features hand-woven straw with luxe leather details.

Easy-to-wear Swimwear

Women wearing blue floral and black polka dot swimsuits
Credit: Courtesy of Retailers as Credited

If you're headed to the beach, swimwear is an obvious must. Over the years, I've tried plenty of swimwear brands, and recently I've been loving the look and feel of both Kitty and Vibe and Summersalt. Both brand's suits are made from sustainable materials and include comprehensive size charts so it's easier than ever to shop for a well-fitting, flattering swimsuit online.

Beach-ready Shoes

Pairs of brown leather and black sandals
Credit: Courtesy of Retailers as Credited

If I'm at the beach for most of my vacation, chances are, I'm not going to be wearing shoes much. But for trips to and from the snack bar during the day or nights out to dinner, stylish yet easy-to-walk-in footwear is essential. Say what you will about Teva, but the brand makes seriously comfortable, durable sandals that can stand up to the elements. These sandals with leather straps and a slight platform are just stylish enough to wear nearly anywhere. For a slightly more elevated look, these slides from Birdies are chic, comfortable, and go with just about anything, from a t-shirt and shorts to a floral midi dress.

Skin-friendly Sunscreen

Various sunscreens
Credit: Courtesy of Retailers as Credited
  • La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer SPF 30, amazon.com, $20
  • Dr. Brandt Liquid Sun Shield Daily Brightening Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50, sephora.com, $65
  • Supergoop! Play Everyday Lotion SPF 50 PA++++, amazon.com, $32

SPF is a must for everyday, but especially when you're going to be spending long days in the sun at the beach. La Roche-Posay makes a great daily moisturizer with SPF 30, and when I'm headed outdoors I'll add Dr. Brandt's liquid mineral sunscreen over top for extra coverage. For body, Supergoop! Play Everyday Lotion applies easily without feeling greasy, and it's sweat- and water-resistant up to 80 minutes.

Versatile Wardrobe Essentials

Grey t-shirt, striped t-shirt dress, blue linen shirt
Credit: Courtesy of Retailers as Credited

When I'm traveling to a beach destination, chances are good that I'm going to keep it casual, but that doesn't mean I don't want the option to dress up a bit. That means I'm sticking to basics like t-shirts, shorts, and sundresses that I can easily dress up or down. As far as my favorites go, Buck Mason, a popular Los Angeles-based brand, just launched a collection of ultra-soft women's t-shirts in a variety of cuts and colors, and I can't stop wearing the Pima Cropped Slim Crew. Similarly, a linen button-down shirt is perfect for wearing as a swim cover-up or for a day of sightseeing, making it a versatile essential, and you can't go wrong with an ultra-soft t-shirt dress.

Madeline Diamond is a Brooklyn-based e-commerce editor at Travel + Leisure, and she's constantly fighting the impulse to overpack for her next trip. You can follow her on Twitter @madgdiamond and Instagram @madelinediamond.

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