Each year I head to Greece to visit my sister, to relax on the beach, soak up the sun and spend fun times with the family. On the Greek island of Zakynthos we love to try out different beaches and now I’m sharing with you my beach packing list with some of the best products I’ve tried and tested and can recommend for your sunshine holiday.
Sunglasses are an essential item on your packing list for the beach to protect your eyes from harsh sunlight, especially when there’s a lot of reflections from the water. Polarised glasses are a bit more expensive but they really do help cut down glare if you’re doing a lot of driving. I often try on lots of different styles as I’m passing through an airport to see what suits me best and my favourites are quality brands like Maui Jim or Ray-ban.
In the picture below I’m wearing my classic tortoiseshell Maui Jims which I love as they have a slightly reflective lens, while my daughter is wearing some Ray Bans I bought for something a bit more fun and fashionable when I was going to the KaaBoo Caymen festival.
You may be torn between going for something fun, fashionable and not too expensive or sticking with what’s comfortable and classic. If you are prone to losing your sunglasses then I wouldn’t invest too much as there are so many quality sunglasses that are very affordable. If you want something that’s fashionable but inexpensive, take a look at the stylish ranges from Merry’s or Duco that you can order online.
If you’re looking for the best sunhat to take on holiday there’s plenty of choice both online and on the high street. As I try to travel light I don’t often take a straw sunhat with me although I do have a battered old Panama that I bought for my father in Ecuador and have since “borrowed” back from him.
There are lots of styles that will pack flat or roll up and aren’t too expensive so if you like to wear this style of hat, take a look at the Furtalk foldable straw sun hat or the Wallaroo Victoria Fedora style sun hat, both of which can be folded up for travel.
Because I prefer something light and washable that packs flat, I normally pack a cap for the beach and go for a sporty style made from quick drying fabric. In sunnier climates like the Mediterranean or Caribbean, a sunhat really helps to avoid sunstroke which will spoil your holiday.
I also find that my cap is useful to wear while swimming to protect my hair getting frazzled from the sun overhead. You can find lightweight caps like this one from Trailheads or the quick dry, packable caps like this by Gadiemkensd.
Sunscreen is one of the essential things to pack for the beach and I normally use Factor 50 for maximum protection. If you’re a sun worshiper then go for Factor 30 but anything below is a bit pointless in my view – why risk skin cancer and skin like a prune as you get older?
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After swimming I’ll reapply, but otherwise that’s enough to stop me from turning into a boiled lobster, so long as I stay in the shade for most of the time. Is you might gather I’m more interested in a sunkissed glow than a walnut brown tan!
If you’re looking for the best sunscreen for your face, I use a Clarins facial sun cream SPF 30 or above in summer, which is light but offers great protection, so take a look at the range of Clarins facial sunscreens.
For those of you who love swimming, snorkelling and diving and need a sunscreen that protects while you’re in the water, look out for a reef safe sunscreen. The UV blocking chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate have been found to cause coral bleaching, so you’ll need to buy chemical sunscreens that do not contain these ingredients or mineral sunscreens that do not contain nanoparticles that can be absorbed by marine life.
The whole range of Nivea sunscreens is reef safe and you can also find specialist reef safe sunscreens made by companies like Sun Bum or Babo Botanicals. You can also reduce the use of sunscreens in the water by wearing a rash vest or quick dry sports t-shirt if you are snorkelling or swimming in hot weather.
Every beach vacation packing list must include a swimsuit or three so you can swim and soak up the Vitamin D. If you’re holidaying in a hot climate (think the Caribbean or the Med rather than Cornwall) I always prefer to wear a bikini or two piece swimsuit. Even if you have a few more curves than you’d like, don’t be shy!
Whatever shape or size your body you are beach ready and there are some good practical reasons why a two piece swimsuit makes sense in the heat.
A bikini is cooler under clothes, not as awkward to change into on the beach and there are styles to suit every figure. On the beach in Greece, even the grannies wear a bikini even though the younger crowd may sometime sport a fashionable one piece.
If your holiday is mainly about beach and relaxation, I’d pack a minimum of two swimsuits, or more if you know you’ll be spending all day on the beach. There’s a flattering style for everyone and I prefer to shop online so that I can try on the swimsuits without feeling any pressure in the comfort of my own bedroom. I like the swimwear styles from Seafolly, or check out a company that stocks lots of brands like Figleaves to find a style that suits you.
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Beach cover up
While I like to have a sarong with with me on holiday I’ll sometimes pack a loose beach dress or coverup like the one I’m wearing below. We often spend the morning on the beach and have a late lunch in a beach bar so it’s nice to have something loose and pretty to cover up over my bikini.
The key is to go for a beach coverup that’s floaty and loose fitting that will be cool to wear and easy to throw over your swimsuit. I also pack a sarong made of fine cotton that packs up small and can double as a beach towel if I’m really packing light.
Also on your beach trip packing list should be a colourful beach towel, whether you’re sitting on the sand or lying on a sun lounger. Because I’m always trying to save space in my case I like the microfibre styles that are absorbent, quick drying and pack up small.
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I’ve become a fan of the Dock & Bay range that brush off the sand and come in lots of colourful designs and different sizes. On holiday in Greece I tried out this pink stripe style – I’m using the Large size in the photo. It folds up to the size of a fat paperback book, and was just right to wrap around after a swim, but if you want something bigger there’s also an Extra Large and several smaller sizes too.
My favourite flip flops of the moment are these Flopz flip flops made by a UK company, which come in lots of different colours, have a thick, spongy sole and a bubble effect that massages your feet. I’ve not yet found anything as comfortable as these and I think I’m now on my third pair.
I do also like the Havaianas range, as there are so many different styles and colours and they seem to capture the spirit of summer. The key on the beach is that you need flip flops or slides that are waterproof and can withstand the sand and pebbles – I’d save the fashionable leather or fabric styles for when you’re back at the hotel.
When packing for the beach, there are so many fun beach bags to carry everything you need – why not treat yourself to something before you go on holiday? It needs to be easy to pack in your case and big enough for all your stuff but not so big you’ll lose everything in it.
Because I pack light and my bags need to multitask, I often end up with my favourite Longchamp Le Pliage bag that look as good on the beach as in the city, although my daughter teases me and tells me it’s too classic.
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Still they come in numerous fun colours and styles with different versions each season, can easily be picked up as you pass through the airport. I love how they pack up small, while also being quite waterproof and easily sponged down if they get dirty.
I also travel with one of those reusable shopping bags that pack up really small which can double as a beach bag too, if you choose something fun and colourful.
Otherwise, if you want a stylish raffia or straw baskets that takes up loads of space, it might be best to buy one locally in the souvenir shops when you’re on holiday and then pray you can squeeze it into your case on the way home.
Kindle for reading
There’s nothing like a holiday for catching up on the reading as you relax after your swim in the shade of the sun umbrella. Personally I’ve moved away from taking paperbacks and download everything to my Kindle, which means I can have multiple books to read and also download guidebooks if I need them.
For a great holiday read I can recommend my friend Rebecca’s book Girl Gone Greek, which is a fun story of a girl who arrives in Greece to teach English and all the adventures she has, with lots of insights into Greek life and culture.
For my last holiday in Greece I was searching for something to protect my hair from becoming a mass of straw in the hot sun. Unfortunately coloured hair does not mix well with chlorine, salt water or the heat of the sun! I was a bit dubious at first about Clarins Sun Care Oil Mist, but I totally fell in love with it and found it was much in demand from the other girls in our group.
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It’s a light, dry oil that acts as a sunscreen for hair and you can also use it on your body. Personally I prefer a lotion style suncream for my body and as it’s quite expensive, I found that using small quantities on my hair was better value. You do need to use it in moderation, as I found just a couple of spritzes onto a hairbrush then brushed through the hair, was enough to give some sheen and protection without looking like an oil slick.
The Clarins sun care oil mist works well as a light sunscreen for hair while you’re on the beach, it’s great protection from sea water while swimming and it calms dry hair that’s become a bit frizzy if you can’t be bothered to shampoo it.
I found that after spritzing with this a few times during the beach day, my hair brushed out effortlessly when I returned to my hotel room and was super soft and silky after I’d showered and washed my hair before going out to dinner. If you don’t want to take a big bottle to the beach, you could easily decant some of the oil mist into a smaller atomiser bottle, as you only need a few sprays each day.
On the beach I often end up with my hair in a ponytail to keep cool and prevent it being whipped into a matted mess by the wind. I was looking for some pretty and practical hair ties and came across these colourful, fat hair elastics that are kind to your hair while keeping it in place. When not in use they are pretty to keep on your wrist like a bracelet.
You can buy them in many shops and online there’s a nice range from L Erickson who sell them in sets in a range of different colourways. All the girls in our family group loved them and I ended up ‘lending’ them out on the beach but didn’t see many coming back!
Other beauty items
Other beauty items I like to keep in my beach bag include
- A small, foldable hairbrush that takes up hardly any space, so that I can brush my hair through after a swim or apply the Clarins sun care oil mist that I mentioned.
- A tinted lip balm like the inexpensive ones made by Burt’s Bees – it keeps your lips from drying out and just gives a sheer veil of colour, but not so much that you need a mirror to apply it. I went for the darker shades like rose or hibiscus.
- A small pack of wet wipes to clean sandy, salty hands before you eat anything.
Depending on where you’re heading you might want to pack some water shoes to protect your feet on rocks and pebble beaches. I love this kind of swimming as the water on pebble beaches is a lot clearer than sandy ones, but my feet are a bit too sensitive to hobble into the sea over pebbles.
Having a pair of water shoes with you definitely reduces the Ouch! factor. You can easily buy them locally on holiday – mine were from my trip to Paxos or you can order a brand like Vifuur water shoes online before you go.
Mask and snorkel
Similarly it’s easy to pick up a mask and snorkel locally if you like to swim around rocks and see what sealife is down there. But if you’re really keen you might want to have something a bit higher quality that you take with you.
I’m a big fan of packing cubes when I travel to keep clothes organised and help me to pack light. If you use them for your packing while you travel, they can also double up as beach organisers so that your beach bag doesn’t become a jumble and you can find what you need. They are also useful for keeping sandy towels and damp swimwear separate from the rest of your stuff.
Eagle Creek are a great source of packing cubes, especially if you are in the USA where they are a market leader. There are some other brands that make great styles and I discovered these Gonex packing cubes which I bought for my recent trip. They are well made with a handy hanging handle, come in lots of different colours and can be compressed or expanded with a second zip depending on how much space you need.
Staying hydrated is important when you’re in a hot climate and although I’ll often order drinks at the beach bar, I like to keep a water bottle with me on the beach.
In the past I used to just buy a bottle of water whenever I needed one, until I realised that all those millions of plastic bottles are just going into landfill and probably polluting the very oceans I was swimming in.
These days I try to minimise my purchases of bottled water on holiday and instead fill up my water bottle from the tap or from a kettle I’ve just boiled, then keep it cool in my hotel room fridge until I’m going to the beach.
I’ve tried out a Nomader collapsible water bottle on holiday in Greece and I’m now a big fan as they come in lots of different colours and have all the features I’m looking for. The silicone bottle feels soft and tactile and it can be rolled up for packing but then pops back into shape as a sturdy bottle.
You can fill this bottle with hot liquids which is useful if you want to boil your water before drinking or even freeze it and the wide neck means it can be easily cleaned. The other bottle elements are BPA free and the spout has a screw on cover which prevents leaks and protects it from sand on the beach.
Waterproof phone case
If you’re travelling alone or don’t have anyone to watch your things when you go swimming, it’s a good idea to pack a waterproof phone case, maybe one that’s bit enough to keep a credit card and a bit of cash in.
Portable battery to charge your phone
If you’re going to be on the beach all day and like me take a lot of photos and video, you may find your phone needs recharging. In this case, a small portable battery is always a good idea.
I tend to use my smartphone for photography but I wouldn’t risk it for swimming or underwater photography. If you want to take your camera into the water or do a lot of snorkelling and diving then a waterproof camera is a good investment to capture the world underwater or fun shots of your friends jumping into the water. GoPro is the best known brand but there are some cheaper alternatives like AKASO if you’re only looking to use it occasionally.
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