What I Pack for a Beach Vacation | My Sun & Surf Must-Haves

Empty Nest Blessed by Suzy Mighell

woman wearing pink dress sitting on arm of chair at table with blue umbrella

I am a beach lover, through and through! Oh, I have nothing against the grandeur of the mountains, but for me, there’s just something about the ever-changing nature of the beach that delights my heart! If you’ve been hanging around here for a while now (And if you’re new, welcome! ????), you probably know that one of the first things Bob and I did when we became empty nesters was to buy a condo on Sanibel Island, off the southwest coast of Florida. We saved for a long time to be able to afford it, and it is our favorite place to be together! We get there as often as we can.

Last week while we were there, I got a couple of questions from some Empty Nest Blessed readers about what I pack for a beach vacation, so I thought it would be fun to share with you my tried and true must-haves! (As usual, click on any of the pink text links or the images in this post for more information.)

woman on beach vacation wearing pink dress sitting on arm of chair at table with blue umbrella

woman sitting on stairs wearing cabi suit and easy spirit loafer pumps

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Strong Sunscreen

Since I have an auto-immune disease that’s exacerbated by sun exposure, I’m crazed about sun protection! I do common sense things like sit under an umbrella, and I try to stay out of the sun completely between about 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., which is when UV rays are at their peak. I also try to wear SPF clothing when at all possible. (See below!) When it comes to sunscreen, I’m fiercely loyal to EltaMD’s entire line of sun protection products. They’re broad-spectrum, meaning they protect against both UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays, and they’re formulated with transparent zinc oxide. Also, their products are noncomedogenic, sensitivity-free, fragrance-free, and paraben-free. (More on this brand HERE.) When I’m at the beach, I use their universally tinted facial sunscreen instead of foundation and their non-tinted ones on my body. They even make a spray-on sunscreen, which is great for quick touch-ups. They’re one of the only mineral-based sunscreens that don’t make you turn white! #honestlyandtruly


Cute Suit

woman in two piece bathing suit on a beach

I guess it’s because I’ve been coming to Florida all my life, but I’m just not ready to give up my bikinis! With the advent of the high-waisted two-piece, I haven’t had to! I bought the retro two-piece in the photo above for just $17 (yep, both pieces), and got so many compliments on it that I decided to pick up the companion floral suit (also $17!) for our next trip! If you’re looking for a new bathing suit, you’ll want to check out the post I wrote on the Best Bathing Suits for Beach Babes Over 50. In it, I let you in on the specific styles (and a few secret things) to look for when you’re shopping for suits as a woman over 50 and I also let you in on the secret tricks to posing if you’re wearing a bathing suit and someone has the audacity to pull out a camera! ???? (Hint: I used all the tricks in these two photos!) Click HERE to check out that post.

woman in two piece bathing suit on a beach

Retro Two Piece High Waist BIkini |Two Piece High Waist Floral Bikini


And don’t forget a cover-up! The ones by Cabana Life are UPF 50. If you want a monogrammed one, it’s hard to beat the cuteness of this one from Marley Lilly!


UPF Clothing

woman on beach vacation wearing pink dress standing under table with blue umbrella

Columbia Freezer Dress | White Sneakers | White Acrylic Monogram Necklace | Faux Pearl Earrings  | Sunglasses


Do you know the difference between SPF & UPF? SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, and it’s used for sunscreens and other sun-protective products. It measures the amount of time it takes for sun-exposed skin to redden. UPF measures the amount of UV radiation that penetrates a fabric and reaches the skin. #aha #nowyouknow ????

As I’ve shared before, my favorite brand of UPF clothing is Cabana Life. I love their happy, colorful designs and commitment to sun safety. I just ordered this Santorini Shift Dress and this Coral Dress, so look out for photos of those on my Instagram and Facebook pages later this summer. Cabana Life makes beautiful clothing, but I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to spend a fortune on UPF clothing! I bought the dress I’m wearing in this post right on Amazon! Columbia makes it, and it’s an Amazon best-seller! My pattern is sold out, but it comes in multiple colors and patterns. They even make a maxi style.


Happenin’ Hat

A good sun hat is a must on a beach vacation! I like one with a wide brim that shows a little, well, personality! The one I usually wear is similar to this one, but I also have some with wider brims all the way around that I wear if we’re in the water fishing or on the water floating.


Bangin’ Beach Bag

Now that I’m not toting a bunch of beach toys or kid stuff, when it comes to my beach bag, now I just go all-in on cuteness! ???? #praisehands


Cool Cooler

One thing we love having with us on the beach is a cooler to keep all of our beverages, um, cool! I bought a Lilly Pulitzer-inspired one last year that’s no longer available, but it’s similar to these. (We like a soft-sided one because it’s easy to pack.)


Sweat-Proof Makeup

When I’m at the beach, I use different products than my everyday ones. I gravitate toward products that are more sun-protective or are water/sweat-resistant.


As I mentioned earlier, I use EltaMD’s UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 Sunscreen instead of foundation. It’s universally tinted, oil-free, and chemical-free. If you like a setting powder, there are some great mineral ones that will provide additional SPF protection. My dermatologist recommends Brush on Block, and I have several friends who love Supergoop’s Sunscreen Setting Powder. If a setting spray is more to your liking, lots of people like Coola’s SPF 30 Makeup Setting Spray, which I’ve never tried. I use Supergoop’s Defense Refresh Setting Mist. It’s great for setting your morning makeup, and it absorbs oil throughout the day. I also use it to refresh my facial sunscreen throughout the day weightlessly, and I love the way it smells! #beachmusthave



I’ve tried a couple of blushes at the beach, and I’m currently using Charlotte Tilbury’s Beach Lip & Cheek Stick, which I really like. In the past, I’ve also used Sugar Rush Beach Cheeks Cream Blush and CARGO Swimmables Water Resistant Blush It’s the one the U.S. Olympic Synchronized Swimming Team uses, and it doesn’t budge, lemme tell ya’. ????


I don’t use eyeshadow or undereye concealer when we’re at the beach. Instead, I use lightly-tinted SkinCeuticals Physical Eye UV Defense SPF 50. It evens skin tone and moisturizes the delicate skin around my eyes. (And since it’s mineral-based, it won’t sting your eyes!) #ihateitwhenthathappens

I’ve tried lots of waterproof mascaras! Without a doubt, the very best is Lancome’s Hypnose Drama Instant Full Volume Waterproof Mascara. I won’t use anything else when I go to weddings, funerals, the eye doctor, or the beach! (Hahaha!) #suzyisacrier ????



I use Revlon’s Kiss Balm Lip Balm with SPF 20. It comes in several sheer shades, and it’s under $5. Another one that I’ve never tried but lots of people love is Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment SPF 15.

Cell Phone Protection

I cannot tell you how many times this handy-dandy waterproof cell phone pouch has kept my phone out of the water and sand! It has a clear window on the front and back sides, which means you can use it without removing it from the pouch! It’s got excellent product ratings, and it comes in a boatload of different colors and even some cute camo designs. (Mine is pink, of course!) Click HERE to see them all!

Fun Stuff

Another beach vacation must-have is a fun float! Floats are just one of those things that we buy new almost every year because they’re not built to last! Luckily, there are so many cute ones available inexpensively right now! Finally, we love to shell, and Sanibel Island is known as the Sea Shell Capital of the World! (In fact, the National Shell Museum is located right on the island!) These shelling nets are must-haves for all of our beach vacations on Sanibel.

Are you headed to a beach this summer? What are your beach vacation must-haves? I’d love to know! Leave me a comment and fill me in, okay?






P. S. Have you shopped the Empty Nest Blessed Father’s Day Gift Guide yet? If not, you’ll want to check out the fun and unique gifts I’ve included! Click HERE to browse.





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