How to Pack for a Weeklong Getaway in a Beach Bag

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How to Pack for a Weeklong Getaway in a Beach Bag

Pare it Back to the Bare Essentials, What to Take, What to Leave Behind

I am a snowbird who readily admits traveling light is not my thing. I overpack -- mostly on purpose -- because I'd rather have "it" and not need it than wish I had packed it. I dislike having to take the time and spend the money to buy yet another article of clothing when all I had to do was throw it in to begin with.  Our first few years of being snowbirds involved moving ourselves, our Golden Retriever and our business in a sedan. Then we purchased a Lincoln Navigator because it has soooooo much more space. As you can imagine, I packed smart, but not light. No thanks.

When the opportunity arose to stay at the beach for a week, I didn't hesitate to go for it. It would be just me, solo, for a Saturday to Saturday week in paradise. My husband and dog would stay behind largely due to my dog's physical restrictions from a recent knee surgery and also because of the remaining portion of our kitchen reno. The reno was already scheduled with our vendor and contractor and the dog was absolutely not able to travel. My husband could not leave, but he was very supportive of my decision to get away. For me, this would be a workcation combining deep cleaning our vacation rental in the middle of peak season with leisure time enjoying the beach service reading a book under an umbrella.

Driving to the beach for two days is out of the question for me and airfare was extremely reasonable from Indianapolis, Indiana to Fort Walton Beach, Florida. For a price, upgrades such as a reserved seat and extra luggage could be purchased, but that defeats my low, low, low budget trip. So I challenged myself to pack a week of stuff into one beach bag that would fit into the specifications of the airline's one allowable "personal item" that doesn't incur additional charges. For $166 round trip I was determined I could do it! A challenge for sure, but one that I felt was worth the effort.

The object of my trip was not to pack light enough to get to and from my destination and then go berserk while at the beach. The goal was to pack light and live for a week with only the bare essentials. I did not rent a car. I did not take an Uber or Lyft or any other mode of transportation other than the professional driver I hired to get me to and from the airport. That's it. No help. No deliveries from grocery stores, Door Dash, local friends or anything else. This was purely a pedestrian workcation. Exercise, live light and haul it myself. That's the game and that's my challenge. I seriously wondered if I could actually do it. Could you?

There are a few adjustments I would make, but overall it was a success and I could and would do it again. The key is to utilize what I call "zone" packing. I do this with our extended snowbird stays and on a micro level, I did it for my weeklong stay. Assign yourself however much space to fit everything into it and if you have too much, edit and refine. You'll get there. The TSA and/or airline will be the ones to allocate your space for liquids and take the cues from the airline of what they allow for the dimensions a personal item. If I can do it, you can do it! 

What I packed in a beach bag for a summertime week at the beach

Multi-functional items are the name of the light packing game. Everything needs to serve an intentional purpose and preferably dual purposes.

When I refer to "zone" packing, that means TSA has already decided how much space you can have for liquids and that is no more than one quart sized plastic bag. Liquids are very clearly defined, so that means lip gloss, deodorant, contact disinfectant, makeup remover, liquid makeup including foundation and eyeliner and anything else you need for your toiletries.

The airlines decide how big a personal item is. For me flying on Allegiant, that means my free personal item must be no larger than 18" high X 8" deep x 14" wide or you can be charged as a carry-on item and not as a free personal item. Plus the item must fit underneath the seat in front of you. My actual beach bag dimensions are 16" high X 6" deep X 22" at the widest point. Allegiant permits one personal item, one jacket, one collapsible umbrella, one book or newspaper and one small bag for prescription medication if needed. I was nervous that my beach bag would not be accepted as a personal item, but I had no problems on either leg of the trip.

Below is a list of what I packed into my beach bag. I don't know how much it weighed on the way to my destination, but it was 19 pounds when I arrived at home. That's a lot!

T-shirts X 4 + 1 more souvenir t-shirt for return trip

Sports shorts X 2 (shorts double for sleepwear with a t-shirt and swimwear as desired)

Yoga pants X 2

Socks X 3 pairs

Flip flops X 1 pair

Undies X 4

Cell phone cord X 1

Quart size bag of toiletries, liquid such as lip gloss, liquid makeup and eyeliner, deodorant, contact lens disinfectant, makeup remover, shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, etc.

Quart size bag of toiletries, non-liquid such as cotton squares, 3" square mirror with magnifier on one side, tweezers, eye shadow, eyebrow pencil, contact lens case, eye shadow brushes and so forth

Brimmed sun hat X 1

Baseball cap X 3 + 1 additional souvenir

Sunglasses X 1

Prescription glasses X 1

Reading glasses X 1

Hardback book X 1 (did not bring home to save space)

Magazine X 1 (did not bring home to save space)

Kids coloring books X 2 (I left these in the condo for guests)

Wallet, compact style with driver's license, cash, three credit cards and nothing else

Canon camera with lens X 2

Camera battery charger X 2

Kindle X 1 (did not bring home to save space)

Small compact green cloth backpack X 1

Small yellow compact micro canvas beach bag X 1

Snack sized bag with dried apricots X 1 (consumed during my stay)

Snack sized bag with peanuts X 1 (consumed during my stay)

Snack sized bag with 3 oz dried pasta X 1 (consumed during my stay)

Car keys

Small amount of OTC meds in case they were needed

Digital thermometer X 1 just in case

Plastic bags X 4 or 5

Plastic grocery sized bag X 1

Backpack cooler (orange and white) that I purchased while at the beach (return trip only)

What I wore/carried on the plane

A note about my strategy to layer a tank top under a zip up top: I was NOT prepared to be asked to remove the zip up top for the airport security screening. TSA considers it a "jacket" and I will not do that again because the tank was never intended to be worn solo. For the return trip home, I wore a t-shirt for the airport screening check and then changed into the zip up top prior to boarding the plane.

Yoga pants X 1

Zip up top X 1

Tank top X 1


Walking shoes X 1 pair

Socks X 1 pair

Cell phone X 1

Jacket X 1 that I carried onto the plane which is allowed per airline policy. The pockets were stuffed with socks and undies and that created a special check by TSA. I definitely won't stuff the pockets as much for the next trip.


What I left behind

Collapsible umbrella

My strategy: don't go outdoors or head indoors if rain is imminent. It rained while I was at the beach, but I could see the storms rolling in and planned accordingly.


I bought all of my meals from local restaurants and walked back to the condo with half of my meals to eat for a second meal of leftovers. Planning ahead was super important. The closest restaurant was half a mile each way and the furthest I patronized was a mile each way. Walking to the restaurants was not fun in hot weather with a 104 degree heat index. Walking back in 104 degree temps was much worse because I was carrying my purchases in the orange and white back pack that I purchased at the tasting room the first day of my stay. I made sure I was back in my condo before sunset in most cases except a couple of evenings where it was after dark when I walked back. Not the best idea, but I took a calculated risk.

There was no snack vending machine on site, so that didn't work out as planned. There were times I was hungry for a snack or dessert, but that inspired me to buy an $8.00 bag of gourmet palm tree pasta from the tasting room so I could eat it for breakfast or a snack. I ordered a take-out bowl of gumbo and it included several packs of saltines which was a much appreciated snack. I also chased down an ice cream truck one afternoon to devour an ice cream sandwich, so good!

Fresh fruit was not readily available anywhere so green salads had to replace fruit during my week at the beach.


I purchased beverages from restaurants, an on site vending machine and a local tasting room. I love filtered water, but gave that up and settled for beachy gulf tap water on lots of ice.

Bulky attire

Making a fashion statement when packing a week of clothing in a beach bag isn't ever going to be my number one priority. I left bulky, heavy articles of clothing at home. No jeans, casual cropped jeans style pants or bulky sweatshirts for me. However, IF you prefer jeans or dressier clothes pack them or wear them on the plane if you like. A jacket is perfect for cooler evenings and/or sit under a beach towel if you just need a little warmth in the evenings.

Portable phone charger

My husband questioned not taking a portable phone charger and I didn't think it was necessary because there are charging ports in the alarm clocks at the condo. I admit I regret not taking the portable charger and won't make that mistake again. I spent many hours in the airport not using my phone so I wouldn't drain the battery. Next time, bring the portable charger!


"Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light."

-- Harbhajan Singh Khalsa, Yoga Guru, American Entrepreneur, Spiritual Teacher


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