Against all odds — I am a fair-skinned blonde northerner with high sensitivity to the sun — I have become a bit of an expert on beach holidays and all-inclusive resorts, having seen my fair share after years of being a freelance travel writer. Yes, I’m well aware that my job has rather pleasant perks! But perfecting the art of the beach bag is no simple feat and is, in fact, much more complicated than it looks.
Because who wants to have to go all the way back to the room to fetch a vulgar bottle of sunscreen, uh? I did the legwork for you and, after having been to half a dozen resorts, here is what I think are absolute essentials for spending a few leisurely hours on the beach, whether you are in Mexico or Thailand.
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What You Should Take In Your Beach Bag
1. A straw beach bag
One thing I realised over time is that not all resorts have beach bags for guests; most of the very high-end ones do but it’s a bit of a guess when it comes to middle-range hotels. I have had to take my leather tote to the beach once because I had forgotten to pack a beach bag and not only did I look utterly ridiculous, it was also incredibly impractical. Straw woven bags are great for packing everything you need, including a beach towel, and are the ultimate beach chic. I got mine at Rae Feather, which is handmade and monogrammed for a luxe, custom look.
Protect your eyes, people! There comes a point in life where cheap high-street sunglasses — that break in half at the slightest drop and that dishonestly profess to protect your eyes — just can’t cut it any longer; investing in proper, quality sunglasses is, in and of itself, an investment in the health of your eyesight*. Ensure you get the kind of sunglasses that come with a rigid case so they don’t get scratched by your straw beach bag.
As far as brands go, it’s just a matter of preference and fit but I find that Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein and Burberry have a wide range of classical, enduring options if you want sunglasses that will stand the test of time. For the best deals, check out the sales at your local department store or enjoy tax-free shopping at the airport.
* Although if I’m honest, I mostly like sunglasses because I get to guiltlessly people watch without the slightest worry of getting caught. Sorry not sorry.
3. Reading material
Although most beaches now have Wi-Fi (what is this world we’re living in?!), I’m a bit of an old-school dude when it comes to beachside entertainment. Nothing, not even Snapchat or Candy Crush, can beat the cliché of reading a sentimental novel while sipping a Pina Colada and listening to the soothing sound of crashing waves. A few of my favourite finds of last year:
- The Neapolitan Novels, by Elena Ferrante
- The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
- The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson
- Us, by David Nicholls
- Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
- Talking as Fast as I Can, by Lauren Graham
4. Bathing costume
A rather obvious one, ain’t it? But if you’re going to venture in the water at all, you’ll want something more than a stringy bikini that’s not going to be washed away at the first powerful wave — and yes, I’m speaking from experience. I recently came across Everyday Sunday, a Montreal-based beachwear company and I’ve wholly fallen in love with their collection, including this stylish one-piece (ultimate proof that you don’t need a sports bathing costume to swim in the ocean!) and this comfortable midi dress that acts as a suitably chic transition between the beach and the restaurant.
Hats not only shield the delicate, sensitive skin of your face from direct sunlight, they protect the top of your head as well — because heat strokes are a very real thing and no one wants to get one while on vacation. Whether you opt for a fashionable straw hat or a sporty cap doesn’t matter, as long as you ensure your face and head are both protected from the evil sun rays.
Sarongs are great options for when you just want to lay on your long chair or grab a cocktail at the bar and want a little bit of coverage. Any sheer, thin, lengthy fabric could technically do but I suggest you opt for one that dries quickly and that is compatible with salt water.
Again, beware of the sun, guys! He is not your friend. You might enjoy the look and feel of tan skin in your twenties but you won’t like it so much when you’re an exceedingly wrinkly 60-year old with disgraceful brown spots and skin cancer. The lightweight sheer sunscreen lotion Vichy sunscreen offers broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection with white grape polyphenol antioxidants and vitamin E; it’s also thankfully absorbed rapidly by the skin for a dry-touch finish. My oily skin is naturally shiny enough as it is, thank you very much, so needless to say that this sunscreen is a permanent fixture in my beach bag. The Idéal Soleil after-sun care oil is also great to refresh and rehydrate your skin after an afternoon at the beach.
Number one rule of beach holidays: stay hydrated! Free cocktails are certainly enjoyable but alcohol is incredibly dehydrating. If you’re visiting a country where the tap water is safe to drink, cut town on unnecessary plastic waste and shove your Swell bottle in your beach bag. It’s a compact phthalate- and BPA-free stainless steel bottle that keeps water cold for hours on end and that’s also vacuum sealed, meaning that it will not condensate and potentially damage your books or electronics.
The only downside of having a straw bag as a beach means that there are no secret compartments to store your room key, lip balm and other similar smaller items in. That’s where this cute pouch comes in!
Whether you’re the kind of girl who lounges by the pool or who dolls up at night, these vivid pinata tassel drops are an essential item for a well-rounded outfit that screams “dinner in the Caribbeans”.
11. Slip-on sandals
Consider this my PSA: flip flops are over. Do not even think of packing them in your suitcase. They’re practical, sure, but they look awful in addition to being flimsy. For maximum versatility, opt for chic leather slip-on sandals that you can dress down during the day (with a sarong and a bathing costume) or up in the evening (with a dress and dangly earrings).
* Disclaimer: some of the links above are part of affiliate programmes, from which I get a small commission to help cover the costs of running this blog. Rest assured that I would never endorse a product I don’t personally use and truly believe in.