How To Pack For A Beach Vacation: 5-4-3-2-1 Method

Over the past few years, I’ve done my fare share of packing guides and lists. They’re a ton of work to put together, but oh, so worth it.

Personally, I’ve always found a visual guide helpful when I’m putting together my own suitcase — no matter what the destination. When I can see the pieces all laid out on my desktop (vs. scattered across my bed, or scrawled on a notepad) it clearly becomes evident that I really don’t need all the stuff I originally thought I did. Combinations come together effortlessly and before I know it, I have 7 days worth of outfits at the ready.

In my quest for efficient packing, I came across a method (thank you, PINTEREST!) that just made sense to me. If you stick to the 5-4-3-2-1 packing method and follow the formula, you’ll consistently end up with a tight collection of vacation favorites that can be combined in any which way. Your suitcase will also be noticeably lighter, leaving you enough room for all those great vacation shopping finds that will be coming home with you!


5 Tops

The types of tops you should include in this category should be varied, yet tied together in color. Make sure to include foundation pieces (these TANK TOPS are the best!), stand-alone blouses (I love this affordable OFF-THE-SHOULDER style!), top layers (cardigans, sweaters, hoodies, etc.) and a lightweight outerwear option (DENIM JACKETby far, my favorite).

4 Bottoms

Again, your selection of bottoms should include various options — shorts, skirts and jeans. I always throw a pair of my favorite DENIM CUTOFFS in the bunch — they’re easy to dress up, yet perfect as an easy beach coverup. No matter the destination or climate, a pair of jeans is also recommended. They’re great for travel days and can be dressed up for dinners at night. For a beach vacation, obviously WHITE DENIM is my first pick!

3 Dresses

As far as dresses go, I’m pretty straightforward. I like to have one nicer dress for dinners or cocktails, one comfortable “throw on” dress for hanging around or as a coverup (I live in my BLACK RIBBED MIDI DRESS) and one fun short and flirty style — in this case a WRAP ROMPER (which happens to currently be on sale!) There is less mixing and matching involved, so your accessories will be crucial in making these dresses stand out.

3 Shoes

Shoes are a suitcase hog, so this method is a great way to keep your footwear from overtaking your packing. My general rule of thumb for packing for casual beach vacations is to keep it casual! Ditch the strappy heels and stilettos for more wearable (and comfortable) slides and wedges, like these MARC FISHER ADALYN sandals. I can’t get over how comfortable they are! One pair of casual sneakers is a great add on for sight seeing and travel days — ADIDAS GAZELLES will be the style of the summer.

2 Swimsuits

This method only calls for 2 swimsuits. However, I won’t object if you decide to throw in 2 more! They’re small and lightweight and ultimately what you’ll be spending most of your time in. So go ahead, I give you permission to add to this category. Also, try swimsuits that can coordinate and mix-and-match for the most bang out of your packing buck! These are just two of my favorites.

2 Bags

My go-to formula for handbags involves one large tote to serve as your beach bag and airplane carry on, and a smaller evening bag — either a cross body or clutch, to use at night. Make sure that both work with the color palette you have planned out and coordinate nicely with your shoes. Unfortunately, my SHIRALEAH TOTE has since sold out, but I linked to a few similar options below. Also, the CULT GAIA ARK BAG is truly gorgeous in person — I love mine (I have the small).

1 of Each: Statement Earrings, Sunglasses, Scarf & Hat

I generally find jewelry on vacation a bit fussy, but in this case I’m all for a pair of lightweight and colorful statement earrings that will give even the most basic outfit all the personality it needs. Remember when I told you about MY FAVORITE ETSY RETAILER — ST. ARMANDS DESIGNS? Kristina has restocked some of my favorite colors, as well as some gorgeous new designs — check out these under $40 OMBRÉ BEAUTIES!

Don’t forget to use your scarf — as a sarong during the day and as a wrap once the sun goes down. SOLE SOCIETY makes some beautiful and lightweight scarves at a great price point. Obviously, sunglasses are a must on any beach vacation — they’re also great for concealing any evidence of your late night escapades!

Here’s my mom beach vacation advice: make sure to keep your face protected with a hat — that tropical sun can really do a number on your skin, even if you don’t burn! I wear my J.CREW PANAMA HAT on the plane and literally do not take it off until the sun goes down each night. Just fighting the good fight against skin damage and wrinkles.

Do you have any unique methods or tricks to keep your packing (and suitcase) light? I’m always up for learning something new!

5-4-3-2-1 packing method

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