The Complete Guide to Planning a Beach Vacation

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Guide To Planning a Beach Vacation

Thereā€™s a reason travel sites feature so many images of white sand, crystal clear water, and palm trees ā€” beach vacations are amazing. Perhaps itā€™s the range of activities that make beach vacations so popular. Action-oriented vacationers can snorkel, scuba dive, or parasail while their more sedate travel companions relax under a sun umbrella with a beach book.

Like any vacation, planning a beach trip ensures you have the best possible experience. Here we'll look at things that will improve your next beach vacation, from where to stay to choosing the right beach travel luggage and accessories. Weā€™ve also compiled a beach vacation packing list, so you wonā€™t forget anything important as you prepare for your trip.

Best Beach Vacation Destinations

If youā€™re not sure where to go for a beach vacation, you'll quickly discover you have an abundance of choices. There are hundreds of potential beach destinations, all with their own charm and travel opportunities. As for which is the best choice, thatā€™s really up to you, but here are five beach vacation destinations we love:

Exuma, The Bahamas

Only a ninety-minute flight from Miami, The Bahamas delights beach vacationers with hundreds of islands and hidden cays. Exuma is one of the most popular islands in The Bahamas, with flawless coastal regions and sparkling blue water. Take a boat out for a drink at the Chat ā€˜nā€™ Chill, Stocking Islandā€™s legendary bar, soak up the sun on Coco Plum Beach, or go swimming with friendly pigs at Big Major Cay.

Exuma bahamas pig beach

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Maui, Hawaii

Maui offers some of the best beaches in the Hawaiian Island chain, including Kaanapali, a three-mile stretch of white sand just north of the old whaling town of Lahaina. Watch the sun set at Kaanapali, then get up early to catch the sunrise from the 10,023-foot summit of the Haleakala volcanic crater. Molokini crater, an offshore lava crater, offers amazing snorkeling and scuba diving, and the west coast of Maui is renowned for the humpback whales that winter there from November to March.

Maui, Hawaii

Outer Banks, North Carolina

Not every beach vacation has to have a tropical destination. Just off the North Carolina coast, the Outer Banks offer sandy beaches, surfing, and hiking with no high-rise hotels or theme parks. Choose the Outer Banks for a romantic beach vacation for two at a rental cottage and a chance to escape into nature. If youā€™re a history buff, be sure to visit Roanoke Island, site of the first English settlement in North America.

Outerbanks, North Carolina

Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos

Looking for luxury? Try the all-inclusive resorts dotted along Grace Bay, on the northeast coast of the island of Providenciales. An offshore barrier reef protects the bay, which offers plenty of water sports and boating opportunities. Spend the day on the beach and the night enjoying dining and dancing at the island's 5-star resorts. Ideal for romance, grace bay also offers family-oriented resorts with plenty of activities for kids of all ages.

Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos

Destin, Florida

Destin is a family-friendly town with white sand beaches that look like sugar. Hike the dunes of Henderson State Park or take a boat tour to watch for dolphins. The fishing of Destin is spectacular, with year-round angling opportunities. Take a romantic sunset cruise together, or take the kids on an exciting pirate-themed cruise and treasure hunt. The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park on Okaloosa island gives kids and adults a chance to see local marine life up close.

Destin Beach, Florida

Palawan, Philippines

Looking for a more exotic beach location? Palawan uses a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the Philippines. The island is filled with natural diversity, including limestone cliffs, seagrass meadows, coral reefs, and even a subterranean river. The snorkeling, diving, and wreck diving is among the best in the world. The El Nido Marine Reserve Park alone offers fifty beaches, three different marine habitats, and five types of forest. Lagoons both large and small abound, and the turquoise waters of the local lagoons have to be seen to be believed.

Palawan, Philippines

Deciding Where To Stay

Youā€™ve got plenty of options for accommodations when planning a beach vacation. A beach house or Airbnb on the beach will cost you more, but you'll have the luxury of simply stepping out of your accommodations and sinking your toes into the sand. If youā€™re on a budget, consider a hotel or vacation rental close to, but not on, the beach. Youā€™ll save money but will have to take a short walk or car ride when you want to hit the beach.

Beach resorts are another option. Resorts offer on-site dining opportunities, activities for adults and kids, and swimming pools. An all-inclusive resort includes activities, meals, and amenities in the accommodation cost, convenient for budget purposes.

Beach houses offer kitchens and laundry facilities and have a ā€œhome-away-from-homeā€ feel (if your home is next to the ocean). You can prepare your meals, reducing your vacation cost, and most beach houses have enough room for a large family. A beach house is often your best choice if you're traveling with kids.

If youā€™re traveling without kids, you may want to avoid resorts and beaches filled with happy but noisy children. Smaller, romantic beach houses are available. Off-beach AirBnB accommodations tend to be quieter, and some resorts cater exclusively to adult guests.

Best luggage options for beach vacations

Planning a beach trip includes choosing your beach travel luggage. If youā€™re taking a family vacation you might need larger beach vacation suitcases to pack multiple outfits, childrenā€™s clothes, and toiletries (you can buy beach toys when you reach your destination, and gift them to other families when you leave). Consider the expandable suitcases in theĀ Travelpro Essentials collection so you can increase your luggageā€™s storage capacity to bring home souvenirs or shopping.Ā 

For couples or adults traveling alone, consider lightweight beach travel luggage. If you pack carefully, you can bring everything you need for a beach vacation in a carry-on bag. Our favorite carry-on beach travel luggage includes the following:

Duffel Bags

Duffel bags are great options for beach vacations. Larger bags that need to be checked in can be used to pack clothing and beach travel accessories, while a carry-on duffel bag is perfect for the vacationer who prefers to travel light. TravelproĀ® duffels include features such as wet pockets to contain swimsuits and fold-out suitors to keep your clothing wrinkle-free. Carry-on duffels small enough to fit beneath an airplane seat are available, or you can pack a lightweight foldable duffle in your suitcase as a backup bag if you need extra room for souvenirs and vacation shopping.

Find the bag you need in ourĀ duffel bag collection.

Roadtrip Duffel bag wth packing cubes

Tote Bags

Tote bags do double duty for beach vacations. Excellent as carry-on bags, totes can be unpacked at your destination and used as beach bags for the rest of the trip.Ā Insulated travel totes can be used as personal items during flights and then used to keep your drinks and lunches cool for those all-day beach trips. We offer rolling and non-rolling totes that you can stack on top of a wheeled suitcase for easy transportation. If you travel with electronics, consider our spinner tote with a built-in USB port for charging devices.Ā 

Travelpro makes tote bags in a range of sizes and styles. Check out our tote bag collectionĀ for more information.

Travel & Leisure Soft Tote Bag

Weekender Bags

Weekender bagsĀ are great beach vacation luggage for last-minute getaways and short trips. Pack the bag in advance with everything you need for a beach trip, and you're ready for a spontaneousĀ weekend getaway. Look for a weekender bag with wet pockets for swimwear or a TSA-compliant toiletry bag to help you get through security lines faster. Bags with drop-bottom compartments let you transform your carry-on into a smaller bag for day excursions.Ā Ā 

Need a bag for your next beach vacation? Check out our weekender bags.

Weekender bag open with shoes and clothes inside

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Keep clothing organized with packing cubes for larger beach vacation suitcases, and make full use of your luggageā€™s built-in packing spaces. If your luggage does not come with one, a laundry bag is an essential beach travel accessory, as your swimsuit and beach clothing may still be damp on your trip home.

Beach packing list for vacation

A beach vacation packing list will help you remember toĀ pack the clothing, toiletries, documentation, and beach travel accessories you need for your trip. We've put together a beach vacation checklist for you to use

Beach Vacation Clothing

Beach vacations are usually informal, so unless youā€™re planning a few nights on the town, the following should be enough clothing for your trip:

  • Jeans or capris
  • Light jackets
  • Pajamas
  • Rashguards
  • Sarongs or beach cover-ups
  • Shorts
  • Sneakers
  • SocksĀ 
  • Sundresses or skirts
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun hats
  • Swimsuit
  • T-shirts
  • underwear
  • Water shoes, sandals, or flip flops

Toiletries

Purchase aĀ toiletry travel bagĀ for your trip. Your toiletry bag might include:

  • Aloe lotion
  • Conditioner
  • Contacts or glasses if needed
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo
  • Shaving supplies
  • Sunscreen
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss

Documentation

Have all your travel documents safely in one location so that you can access them easily. Donā€™t forget to bring your:

Finally, you might want to pack some beach trip accessories. These might include your cell phone and charger, camera, snorkel gear, beach books, kids' toys, headphones, or a portable speaker. Be sure to bring a reusable water bottle, so you can stay hydrated out there on the beach.

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