13 Beach Bag Essentials for Every Traveler

Each of these beach bag essentials will help make sure you have a great day relaxing by the pool or in the sand.

Whether you're heading out on a summer vacation or a mid-winter break, if you're spending the day in the sun, you'll want to consider popping these items in your beach bag.

beach bag essentials

But first, you'll need to choose the perfect bag to carry your essentials. There are so many great styles, from canvas or waterproof totes to wicker baskets and backpacks. These are a few of my favorite styles.

1. Sun Hat

Fedoras and floppy wide-brimmed hats are a great way to keep your head cool and prevent heat stroke. They're also imperative to keep colored hair from fading or prominent parts from getting burned. If you're sportier, visors and ball caps are also great options.

                  

         

2. Cover Up

It's always a good idea to have something to slip over your swimsuit in case you want to go to a restaurant or to keep the sun off your shoulders. There are so many great styles of covers ups to choose from. Jersey dresses, rompers, and tunics are always comfortable and provide full coverage, while sarongs and kimonos leave a little more room to breathe if you will. And each type of cover up comes in a variety of fabrics and colors.

3. Sunscreen

It doesn't matter how fair or dark your skin is, sunscreen tops the list of beach bag essentials. You simply have to protect yourself from the sun's harmful UV rays. If you're super fair-skinned and have freckles like me, Neutrogena makes 100+ SPF sunscreen that is non-greasy and absorbs quickly. If you've got tattoos, Tattoo Goo makes a specially formulated sunscreen that will help stop them from fading in the sun. The best part is that it comes in a chapstick-sized package that you can easily take with you everywhere. Sunlight is a tattoo's worst enemy—keep 'em covered.

4. Soothing Gel

So you fell asleep in the sun...for a few hours...and your sunscreen wore off. Don't be ashamed, we've all been there before. You may look like a lobster but you don't need to feel like you're boiling in a pot of hot water. Soothe your burning skin with aloe vera gel. The cool sensation does wonders to calm a painful burn.

                        

5. Sunglasses

Your skin isn't the only thing you need to protect from the sun. Be sure to pack your favorite pair of sunnies to keep them safe from UV rays (and also to help prevent crow's-feet from squinting). You can't go wrong with a class pair of Ray-Bans, but I just love having a little fun with my shades.

6. Beach Towel

If you're spending the day at the beach, you need a big, cozy towel that can double as a blanket. Boho Mandala beach throws are all the rage. The circular shape is both fun and stylish. Turkish towels are also extremely popular. They're super absorbent, fast-drying, and can double as a sarong in a pinch.

   

7. Sandals

I know, I know, you want to feel the sand between your toes. Don't we all? But you still need to have a pair of shoes you can slip on if you plan to pop into the local burger joint. Birkenstocks are a great option if you want something a little trendy or that has some solid arch support (I like mine with a little glitz so I can dress them up at night). And of course, there's always the comfortable, versatile, and affordable flip flop. Havaianas are a great brand with lots of style selection.

8. Swimsuit

Even if you don't plan to take a dip in the water, it's customary to wear a swimsuit for a day at the beach or poolside. There are so many great styles that it's hard to choose just one. From classic one pieces to itty bitty bikinis, you can keep it modest or flaunt your best features. Tankinis, retro remixes, and sexy silhouettes ensure there is something that will work with your personal style.

9. Books

It's always good to have something to read while lazing around. An eReader, like Kindle, is an ideal option, especially if you get tired of any one book too easily. You can store a ton of different types of books all in one device, giving you lots of great choices. And if you just want to stare at pictures and skim short stories, you can even subscribe to magazines on your eReader. I've got a Kindle Paperwhite. I love its anti-glare features, the fact that it lasts for hours and hours, and that it's super lightweight for travel. If you're like me and you enjoy the feel of a book, add a cover to your eReader.

10. Music

There's nothing like kicking back with some good tunes. Rather than waste space on your phone or use up your precious battery power, why not kick it old school with an MP4 player? Call me old school, but I still love my iPod shuffle best. Simply clip it to your swimsuit strap and enjoy. It's super lightweight so you'll barely even notice it.

     

11. Wallet

You need a place to stash your cash, and it's not likely you've got pockets in your swimsuit. A waterproof wallet you can wear around your wrist or neck is a great option. Alternatively, a secret pocket scarf is the perfect way to add a splash of fashion to your beach attire, and no one will suspect you've got precious cargo hidden inside.

      

12. Snacks

Let's face it. Lying around doing nothing all day makes us hungry. It's a fact of life. So snacks are one of the top beach bag essentials. And don't forget to pack some bottled water to keep you hydrated throughout the day. Dasani is my personal favorite.

13. Toys

A day at the beach simply wouldn't be complete without a beach ball, floaty, or other fun toys. C'mon, you know you want to be the girl lounging around on the unicorn.

What are your beach bag essentials? Leave a comment to share them.

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Riding the Tourist Train in Albufeira: A Wanderlust Experience

Albufeira, Portugal, is bigger than you’d think.

And the main attractions are spread out over a fair distance. This makes walking a less-feasible mode of transportation. Luckily, there is a fun and affordable alternative⸺the Tourist Train.

You’ve probably seen similar tourist trains on your travels. I’ve personally taken them in a variety of cities, from Key West to Paris and everywhere in between. But who knew they would have one in this quaint seaside city? It’s certainly not heavily advertised on traditional tourism sites, and you likely won’t find a brochure for it at your hotel. You just need to stumble upon it, which I very fortunately did as I was walking through the Old Town.

For just 4 Euros you can get a day pass aboard the train, which makes four stops throughout Albufeira. There are other options available for a lower rate⸺it’s just 2 Euros for a roundtrip ticket, for example. But for the extra couple of bucks, it’s worth it to be able to hop on an off anytime you like.

The train moves in one direction along the main street, Areias de São João. It departs every 20 minutes during the day and every 40 minutes after 7 p.m. from The Strip, Old Town at Fishermen’s Beach, Town Hall, and Brisa Sol Hotel. I caught the train at Brisa Sol and did a full circuit, which took about 40 minutes. After a quick poke around the area, I hopped back on the next train and headed for Old Town, where I was staying. Later that night, I took the train to The Strip and back. It saved my feet a ton of walking, and I didn’t have to shell out a ton of cash for taxis.

Pro Tip: The last train departs The Strip at 10:40 p.m., so if you plan to party til the wee hours, you’ll need to find another way to stumble home safely.

There’s not a lot of sightseeing to do on the train itself. It’s simply a quick and easy way to get from one place to another. Just kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride through town.

Have you ever taken a tourist train? What was your experience like? Share it with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

Swimwear: What to Wear Poolside on Vacation

Choosing the right swimwear for a week away is a daunting task.

 

No matter how much you work out or how body-confident you are, everyone gets anxiety over swimwear. Amplify this anxiety tenfold when you go on a beach vacation. Follow these easy tips to know just what you need to pack for a week anywhere there’s water.

swiwear

  1. Lazy Days

Will you be spending most of your vacation on the beach or poolside on a cruise ship? Then, swimwear should feature prominently in your suitcase. You’ll need several swimsuits in various styles. For a lazy week sunning yourself, it’s completely reasonable to pack three to five swimsuits. Keep in mind you can change-up the look by adding accessories, such as fun flip-flops, statement necklaces and cute kimonos, to a few neutral swimwear styles.

swimwear kimono

2. Bikini Babe

What’s your personal style? Are you at home exposing a little extra skin? Go for it! Just be sure to consider your surroundings when deciding how much skin to bare. If you’re on a family beach, opt for swimwear with a little more coverage. Try a brief-like bottom and fuller bra top. But if you’re on a beach in Rio, anything goes. Break out the thong, and have a blast.

swimwear bikini

3. Pretty One-Piece

At one time, one-pieces were considered a major faux pas. But not anymore. These days, comfort is king, so if you feel at home a little more covered up, fear not. There are so many options available, it’s almost impossible not to find one that flatters your figure. Fifties vintage swimsuits are adorable, but you can also get super sexy styles with cut outs and plunging necklines.

1 piece swimwear

4. Keep It Covered

Regardless of where you are, most places want you to cover up inside eateries. All this means is that you’ll need to shop for a few cute cover ups to throw over top of your swimwear. There are dozens of styles, from kimonos and muumuus to rompers and tunics. For evenings consider something with a little sparkle. Glittery stripes or an embellished neckline are a nice touch.

Keep in mind that cover ups offer a big benefit. Under the scorching sun, they add an extra layer of protection. Not to mention, if you’re feeling self-conscious about being half-naked in front of strangers, they can help you feel a bit more relaxed.swimwear coverup

5. Other Options

Not everyone wants to wear a swimsuit around the pool. And that’s okay. There are plenty of other outfits you can sport. Leggings and an oversized tee, cutoffs and a tank, or a flirty skirt with a cold-shoulder blouse are just a few fun options. The key is to be comfortable in whatever you wear.

swimwear shorts

Regardless of what you wear by the pool, your best accessories are sunscreen, a hat, and a trashy magazine. It’s all about finding your style and having fun with it. Do you have more swimwear advice? Use #wanderlustwayfarer to share your pictures on Instagram.