8 must-pack accessories for your next beach vacation
Whether you're planning your first beach getaway or your fifth, there are a few accessories you should pack every time. From items to help you photograph underwater to clothing that will protect you from the sun's harsh rays to a fun (but practical and packable) beach tent, here are a few of our favorite things:
Underwater drone camera
If you're traveling somewhere special with incredible underwater sights, you may want to bring along a true underwater camera. Consider an underwater drone camera. The investment can be especially worth it if you're snorkeling somewhere astounding (we're thinking places like Belize, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Maldives). These submersible, waterproof drones are better known as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). They're equipped with a camera, of course, plus propellers so they can navigate under the water. Some models also have sensors to help avoid obstacles and even lighting to capture images in dark scenarios. Underwater drone cameras require a tether to a buoy on the surface, so it can take a bit of effort to learn how to operate them. Gear like this is pricey but can be a fun splurge.
This Genuine Poseidon model, at $899, comes with a 50-meter tether, or you can upgrade for an extra $100 to the 100-meter tether model. If your pockets are a bit deeper, look at the Geneinno Underwater Drone Camera that's outfitted with a 4K camera, six thrusters (four vertical and two horizontal), red and purple filters to assist with color correction as you capture images, and a dive depth up to 492 feet. The 100-meter tether version costs about $2,000.
Waterproof cellphone case and camera float
Of course, not every trip requires a super-duper underwater drone camera. In fact, these days, you don't have to buy a purpose-built underwater camera unless you're really into photography or spend so much time underwater that it will make the expense worthwhile. Instead of a standalone camera, you can pack a waterproof floating case for your smartphone. Just put your phone in the case and activate the seal at the top. You can still manipulate your phone through the clear PVC plastic screen. These types of cases are usually rated to be waterproof underwater to a certain depth, like 100 feet.
While these cellphone cases do float, you might want to pair yours with a colorful wrist-strap camera float. If the camera does get away from you in the water for a few seconds, you can easily spot it due to the large and bright puffy strap.
Lightweight beach tent
If you've got little ones to protect from the sun's strong rays, traveling with a lightweight beach tent is a good idea. You can purchase a spacious tent that provides up to UPF 50+ protection from the sun. We've seen versions that fold up into a compact package weighing just two or three pounds. The Venustas Beach Tent ($33.99) folds up to just 16.9 x 3.9 inches and says it can accommodate up to four adults or children. The four-sided tent has mesh windows for ventilation on three sides.
If you'd prefer a tent that's functional but also super kid-friendly, try something like this pop-up shark tent that retails for around $40.
Or, look at the Hoomall Baby Beach Tent ($27.99) which has a built-in pool. This is an ideal option for toddlers who are still a bit too young to get out in the ocean's waves but still want to splash around. (Just remember to bring along a collapsible sand pail so you can fill the pool with water from the ocean.)
TPG staffers are basically full-time travelers, so we're always on the lookout for the perfect bag for every situation. For beach totes, we prefer options that have a zipper closure so all of our small items, like sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses, never fall out and get lost. It's also nice to have one or two exterior pockets that can fit a water bottle. The bag itself should be sturdy, waterproof and have an interior zippered pocket to stow money, keys, phones and more. Finally, long shoulder straps will help make the bag easy to carry.
This basic nautical-themed waterproof canvas tote from Truebest does the trick for just shy of 30 bucks. Its dimensions -- 22 x 15 x 6 inches -- make it easy to bring along a beach coverup, towel, sunscreen supplies and more.
If you're traveling as a family, you may need a larger bag with plenty of pockets. The extra-large Ricdecor beach bag (about $27) has seven exterior pockets where you can store flip-flops, sunscreen, snacks, goggles, water bottles and more. It has a zipper closure at the top of the bag, which measures 28 x 15 x 7 inches, and an interior zippered pocket for keys and phones.
Finally, if you're looking for something large yet super lightweight, look to the Gotdya extra-large mesh bag for $13.99. We love that this 24 x 18 x 8.7-inch-bag is breathable, so those wet towels you're carrying back from the beach have a chance to dry out a bit. The bag's four outside pockets are deep and there's one interior zippered pocket.
Are you the type that seeks out the deserted beaches that are tucked away from the more touristy areas? If so, you can't count on any amenities like beach chair rentals. Instead, carry a packable, waterproof beach blanket. We love the 60 x 55-inch Oceas Outdoor Pocket Blanket ($24.99) since it folds up into a carry case that fits into the palm of your hand and weighs just 7.2 ounces.
If you're not used to spending time in the sun, you'll be surprised by how fast it can wear you out -- and it doesn't take long for those rays to cause skin damage if you're not careful. Liberally applying sunscreen helps, as does wearing a sun hat.
There are tons of cute options for kids like this wide-brim adjustable hat with a removable chin strap that provides UPF 50+ protection ($12.98). It comes in fun patterns from sand crabs to dinosaurs, fish, whales, sharks, octopuses and swans.
If you think your kids need a bit more protection than a wide-brim hat, look for one with a visor in the front and an extra-long flap in the back like this YOBAAF swim hat ($18.90).
Kids aren't the only ones who should protect themselves from the sun with a hat. For adults, look at packable options like Nickanny's reversible "crusher" sun shade beach hat ($19.99) or even specialty products like Muryobao hats that have a ponytail hole ($15.99).
For men and women, we like the Columbia Unisex Bora Bora II Booney hat (from about $19–$30) that's made of a fabric that wicks moisture away to keep you cool. It's got a chin strap that makes it a good choice for when you're out boating.
Packing a pair of water shoes always makes sense for a beach vacation -- especially if you're unsure whether the beach might be rocky or strewn with shells that could hurt your feet without some protection. You can find really affordable (about $10 per pair) water shoes online like these unisex quick-dry aqua/yoga socks.
While traveling light is always a great goal, packing a few of these must-have beach accessories is worth it. What are the items that you always toss in your beach bag? We'd love to know. Respond in the comments section below.
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of Jan. 29, 2020, and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.