How to Pack Light for a Beach Vacation

Get our top tips for streamlining your packing list and minimizing the weight in your suitcase.

A woman travelling to a beach destination with just a carry-on

4min read

Published 2 May 2024

Flight Centre Author

By

Kaitlyn Funk

Copywriter


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Get our top tips for streamlining your packing list and minimizing the weight in your suitcase.


There are two types of people in this world: under-packers who have perfected the art of travelling with a small carry-on and over-packers who struggle to streamline their packing lists. 

If you’re part of the latter group and are always bringing more than you need, take note! We’ve rounded up some tips and tricks that will help you pack light for beach vacations — whether you’re taking the family to Mexico, embarking on a cruise to The Bahamas or jetting off to Jamaica for your honeymoon.

Packing light not only prevents you from incurring an additional cost (don’t pretend you haven’t been scared of the scale at your airline’s check-in counter!) but also gives you more freedom. With just a carry-on bag, you can easily maneuver through crowds and breeze right past baggage claim. Sounds like a dream, right?

It’s easier to achieve than you think. Follow the below advice, and you’ll be well on your way to being an under-packer for life.



A traveller packing their suitcase for a beach vacation
A traveller packing their suitcase for a beach vacation
A traveller packing their suitcase for a beach vacation

Invest in the right luggage or carry-on bag

Luggage makes all the difference. Whether you’re packing a check-in bag for an extensive Caribbean cruise or a carry-on bag for a quick weekend getaway, you’ll want to look for luggage that features a durable, lightweight shell to help ensure you won’t go over your airline’s baggage limits. 

It should go without saying that carry-on bags are the best option (they can only fit so much), but it is possible to travel light while checking a smaller suitcase, too. All it takes is a little extra upfront planning, which we’ll get to in a minute.

Pro tip: Resist the urge to bring a large personal item. Your backpack, purse or tote should be used for carrying your travel documents, cell phone, book and headphones for the plane — not a whole other outfit.

A group of five friends on a beach
A group of five friends on a beach
A group of five friends on a beach

Check the long-term weather forecast

Looking up weather forecasts and trends can help ensure that you’re bringing clothing that’s suitable for your destination. What you pack for a beach trip to the Dominican Republic will look slightly different than what you pack for a sunny escape to Thailand. Likewise, you’ll need different clothing depending on when you travel. Will you be visiting during your destination’s high, low or shoulder season?

Take a look at the forecast two weeks prior to your departure and then double-check the weather 24–48 hours before you leave. This will allow you to make any last-minute adjustments, such as swapping a lightweight cardigan for a rain jacket.



Make a streamlined beach vacation packing list

This one may seem a little obvious (or even silly to some), but we swear it works! Just like how making a grocery list can keep you from going down the chocolate aisle, a packing checklist can prevent you from putting unnecessary items in your suitcase — and ensure you don’t forget things.

Starting with the 1-2-3-4-5-6 rule is a good place to start. Add one hat, two pairs of shoes, three pairs of pants/shorts, four shirts, five pairs of socks and six pairs of underwear to your packing list. You can then start customizing and building on the list for your specific trip, adding beach essentials like a bathing suit, cover-up and water shoes.

Feel like you went a little overboard? Separate the items on your packing checklist into needs and wants, and then try to reduce the wants by half. If you absolutely don’t need something, don’t take it. You can make it through your entire beach vacation with just one pair of flip flops.

A woman standing on a beach; she's wearing a neutral outfit from the capsule wardrobe she packed
A woman standing on a beach; she's wearing a neutral outfit from the capsule wardrobe she packed
A woman standing on a beach; she's wearing a neutral outfit from the capsule wardrobe she packed

Plan your outfits in advance

A lot of people are against minimalist packing because they like to have options while on vacation — and that’s totally fair! But it’s also a common misconception. Your travel wardrobe can be exciting and dynamic and small. All you need to do is bring multi-use items that can be combined to create many different outfits. 

Here are a few tips for creating a capsule wardrobe and packing light:

  • Stick to neutral colours: White, grey, tan, navy and black are easier to mix and match than orange, pink and green. Reserve brighter colours for accent pieces or items that you can wear for a specific activity (say, a vibrant floral-printed dress or shirt for a fancy à la carte dinner at your all-inclusive resort).
  • Embrace your dark side: Darker colours tend to look cleaner for longer, so keep the lighter tones to a minimum — or at least try to avoid wearing them in situations that may get them dirty quickly. In other words, don’t wear your favourite white tank top for a beach yoga experience or zipline adventure.
  • Choose lightweight fabrics: Merino wool and synthetic fabrics (nylon, polyester, rayon) are not only breathable, wrinkle resistant and quick drying, but can also be easily folded so that they take up less space.
  • Bring multi-purpose footwear: Shoes take up so much unnecessary room in a suitcase! Select pairs that can do double duty (e.g. sandals that are comfortable enough for walking around downtown during the day and dressy enough for dancing at night).


Save space with packing organizers

Okay, yes: packing cubes and compression bags technically help to maximize space in your suitcase or carry-on, meaning they should enable you to pack more. But you’re not going to fall for that trick — you created a minimalist packing list and you’re going to stick with it!

If you’re committed to travelling light, use these accessories only as a means to keep things organized (not as a sneaky way to pack additional stuff). Packing cubes are great for dividing your undergarments from your tops, bottoms and shoes. Plus, if you avoid overstuffing them, you’ll have more room in your bag to bring home souvenirs. Now that’s what we call a win-win.

A woman sorting through her toiletry bag in her hotel room
A woman sorting through her toiletry bag in her hotel room
A woman sorting through her toiletry bag in her hotel room

Pare back on beauty products and toiletries

Especially if you plan on spending the majority of your time in the ocean or at the swim-up bar, it’s likely that you’ll have a pretty minimal makeup routine throughout the duration of your beach vacation. Just the basics (a tinted moisturizer with sun protection, concealer, highlighter, mascara and coconut oil lip balm) should do you.

When it comes to toothpaste, shampoo, bodywash and other personal items, you have a few options:

  • Choose travel-size toiletries: These are a must if you’re travelling with just a carry on, as the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority restricts liquids, gels and aerosols to 100ml (3.4oz).
  • Use the resort’s toiletries: If you’re not picky about brands, this is one of the easiest ways to keep extra weight out of your bag.
  • Try more sustainable toiletries: Toothpaste tablets and shampoos bars not only take up less room but are also way less annoying to deal with in the event of a spill.

Are you the type of traveller who always has a supply of hand sanitizer, band-aids, allergy pills, insect repellent and motion sickness tablets? Source small packages and containers of these items, where possible, so that you only need to pack a small first aid kit.

 

Whether you’re ready to start packing or are just starting to plan your next beach vacation, get in touch! Our travel consultants can help with everything from booking flights and hotels to recommending sightseeing tours, outdoor activities, restaurants and more.

Flight Centre Author

By

Kaitlyn Funk

Copywriter


Share



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