How to pack a beach bag that can double as your carry-on

Summer is coming, and we all know there’s nothing better than soaking up some rays with a tropical drink in one hand and your favorite book in the other. We also all know the struggle of packing a beach bag full of vacation must-haves only to realize they either don’t all fit in your carry-on or, worse, they aren’t allowed on board your flight without checking your bag. And don’t even get us started on coming home with a water damaged iPhone thanks to passing out during high tide or a sunburned nose because you refuse to pay $40 big ones for the resort sunscreen (guilty).

So, to save you some time (and sunburns), we’ve rounded up the best carry-on friendly beach gear to bring on board your next flight. From waterproof speakers to a solid sunscreen stick, you’ll be happy you have this check list when you head off on your next beach vacay.

Beach tarp

couple holding beach towel

No sand on board Shever, BY 2.0

Let’s start with the basics. Whether Miami or Ibiza, what’s the number one thing you want at the beach? Something to lay out on to protect yourself from the molten hot lava-like sand. Lugging around a towel in your carry-on is far from ideal, and the Grand Trunk Parasheet Beach & Picnic Blanket is a lifesaver. Its 100% parachute nylon and 100% awesome, covering seven square feet to protect your beach bum and increase your tanning time — plus it’s compact, making it a breeze to pack.

Packing pro tip: This tarp rolls up into its own little built-in pouch making it easy to stuff in your carry-on pre-flight.

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The sun can be brutal, so protection is a must. But packing liquid or aerosol sunscreen in a carry-on can be a plane fail, depending on the size of the product. The All Good Sunstick SPF 30 is perfect for your face, nose, ears and really whatever. This little guy has big powers, infused with natural ingredients like Zinc, which help protect you from the sun without as many health concerns as some other sunscreens on the market.

Packing pro tip: This product is sealed tight and unscented, so no need to worry about it getting all over your bag. Plus, because it’s a solid, it’s TSA-friendly.

Beach hat

cat under a straw hat on beach

She meows how to relax Kitten on the Beach via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Finding the perfect beach hat only to have it destroyed in your checked bag on the way to paradise is an all too common reality. The Wallaroo Scrunchie Hat is designed to defy the odds. Packs up into a ball – check. Built in SPF protection up to 50+ – check. This hat is worth every penny with its recommendation from the Skin Cancer Foundation and overall rave reviews. Most travel hacks suggest wearing your sun hat on the plane to save its shape, but who wants to find a comfortable sleeping position while wearing a wide-brimmed beach hat?

Packing pro tip: Crush this hat into a ball and throw it in your carry-on. It’s nearly indestructible.


woman dancing on the beach

The beach effect Matteo Staltari, via flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

The Goal Zero Solar Powered Speakers are portable and everything you’ve ever dreamed of with a built-in solar panel. Its outer shell is tough and water resistant, and your phone hides on the inside of the case out of harms reach. Don’t let the size of the speakers fool you – they’ve got super powerful sound so you can even hear Jimmy Buffet playing over the wind and waves.

Packing pro tip: Ditch the batteries, but make sure you let this lay out in the sun so you’re charged up for your next day at the beach.


woman's paddleboard selfie

Selfie-sticks encouraged leah fowler, via flickr CC BY 2.0

You’ve probably seen the videos or heard the name GoPro before, and for a very good reason. These tiny waterproof adventure cameras are reliable and unique in their capabilities. Take videos of you ripping some waves and capture crystal clear images above or below water with high resolution. And with it in your carry-on you can capture Instagram-worthy take-off and landing videos, as well.

Packing pro tip: It’s teeny tiny and can 100% fit in your carry-on, so you don’t have to worry about it breaking in your checked bag.

Pint glass

glass of beer on beach table

Drink up Gary J. Wood, via flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s always nice to sip a cold one on the beach, but there’s nothing worse than a lukewarm beer you just opened 10 minutes ago. If this problem has ever plagued you then you need this insulated Avex Pint Glass. Not only will your ice stay cold for up to 24 hours, but it’s also got a built-in bottle opener in the bottom of the cup and it’s nearly indestructible, making it a carry-on dream.

Packing pro tip: Don’t forget to stop for beer once you get near the beach or even test out the glass during your flight, just don’t BYOB.

Beach bag

interior of packed beach bag

Are floaties in there? Rob, via flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

You probably need a bag to fit all of these beach essentials. Target has canvas weekend bags that are perfect for your all-in-one carry-on and hit-the-beach bag. They’re affordable and zip shut, which keeps out sand and makes tossing it into the overhead bin a possibility you only dreamed of with an ordinary beach bag.

Packing pro tip: These bags have an inner pocket to store your plane tickets, passports, etc., for easy access.


Main image: istockphoto/annebaek

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