Heading to a Beaches Resort? Here’s what you should (and shouldn’t) pack

Beaches Turks and Caicos waterpark (Photo: Beaches Resorts)
Beaches Turks and Caicos waterpark (Photo: Beaches Resorts)

A stay at one of the three all-inclusive Beaches Resorts in the Caribbean is the ultimate stress-free family vacation. All you have to do is show up and just about everything is taken care of for you. Don’t bother packing things like snorkel gear, beach towels, or extra snacks, because those are included too. In fact, you could probably get away with bringing nothing but a swimsuit, some toiletries, and a change of clothes.

But your vacation be even more fun with some strategically packed items. When my family stayed at Beaches Turks and Caicos, there were a fews things I was glad I thought to pack—and a few others I wish I’d brought along. Based on my own experiences, here’s what you should and shouldn’t pack for your Beaches vacation.

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The Key West Village at Beaches Turks and Caicos (Photo: Beaches Resorts)
The Key West Village at Beaches Turks and Caicos (Photo: Beaches Resorts)

1. Swimsuits

My family pretty much lived in our swimsuits during our Beaches vacation. We wore swimsuits from the moment we left for breakfast until we changed for dinner. Most nights we changed back into our swimsuits for evening swimming. I packed two swimsuits each for everyone in my family, but I wished I’d packed more. It’s no fun getting into a damp swimsuit in the morning, and some variety is nice when you’re wearing your swimsuit for days on end. Next time, I’ll bring at least three or four.

2. Swimsuit coverup

The sun can be very intense at any of the three Beaches Resorts. It’s nice to be able to soak up the rays even in the dead of winter, but it’s important to be prepared. Sunburn can ruin a tropical vacation very quickly. For those who are a little more modest (like me) it’s also nice to have something to throw on over your swimsuit while walking around the resort or taking a break from the beach for lunch. A coverup is a key clothing item to throw in your bag. I recommend one that’s light but has long sleeves. 

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3. Life vest for weak swimmer

My youngest son was not yet a strong swimmer during our Beaches vacation. There are life vests available for water sports at the resort, but I never saw any by the pools or elsewhere on the beach. Bringing a life vest for my son put my mind at ease in the pools and the ocean.

4. Sunscreen

It’s almost impossible to have too much sunscreen at Beaches. My family went through about a full-sized tube a day. I wish I had packed more. The easier to apply, the better. I also brought a few facial sunscreen sticks to make re-application easy. The gift shop at Beaches sells sunscreen in a pinch, but it’s always better to pack tried-and-true sunscreen that I know my kids will use.

5. Rashguards

Since so much of a Beaches vacation involves being in the water, it’s a smart idea to bring along a rashguard, or swim shirt, for protection from the sun while in the water (and when out of the water if you aren’t wearing a coverup). Young children and anyone with fair skin can burn easily without one—and that’s a fast way to ruin a vacation. My kids were reluctant to wear a rashguard at times but I insisted whenever the sun was at its strongest. 

6. Insulated cups

I didn’t pack an insulated cup on my Beaches vacation, but I noticed that many people had them and I wished I’d brought one. Beaches offers unlimited drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. They’re served in reusable plastic cups, which are fine but don’t keep drinks cold for long. That’s not a problem most of the time, but anyone who likes to nurse their drinks might want to throw an insulated cup into their suitcase. This also helps cut down on waste.

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Another reason to bring an insulated cup is that Beaches’ plastic cups all look alike. There were times I put my cup down by the edge of the pool only to discover I couldn’t tell which of the many identical drinks by the pool was mine. If I’d brought my own insulated cup, my drink would have been easier to identify. 

7. Water bottle

Drinks are very easy to come by throughout the resort, but I still wish I’d brought a reusable water bottle, especially for the beach. Although my family didn’t go on any excursions off the resort, when we return we might decide to see more of the island. A water bottle would be useful for any time away from the resort. 

8. Beach bag 

I was glad I had a beach bag with me at Beaches. It was a nice dry place to stash my family’s phones and room keys while at the pool. It was also great to have on the beach to carry around sand toys and stash our hats and various items. I saw a lot of people at the resort carrying a beach bag sold at the resort’s store, which led me to believe that a lot of people don’t pack a beach bag and regret it.

View of water park at family friendly all-inclusive resort Beaches Ocho Rios
View of water park at family friendly all-inclusive resort Beaches Ocho Rios

9. Waterproof watch

Most of you day at Beaches will be spent in or around water. Although it would be nice to live completely on “island time” and not worry about the hour, I still liked to keep track of the time. Some days there were activities my kids wanted to participate in, and we had dinner reservations most nights. I wear a waterproof watch even when not on vacation and I was surprised at how many people at Beaches stopped to ask me the time because they weren’t wearing one. I wouldn’t go back to Beaches without a waterproof watch.

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10. The right clothes for daytime activities

Even though Beaches visitors live in swimwear most of the day, it’s good to have some “regular” summer clothes on hand. On my first trip, I realized I did not pack correctly. I had wrongly assumed I would be in t-shirts and shorts most of the day. I packed mostly the type of clothing I wear at home on summer days hanging out with my kids. As a result, I hardly wore any of the clothing I packed.

When I did wear “regular” clothes, it was usually to go to restaurants in the evening, where many people were dressed a little more nicely than jean shorts and T-shirts. While most restaurants at Beaches don’t have a dress code and I was never turned away, on my next trip I will pack differently.

It also would have been nice to have a dress or looser clothing to put on over my swimsuit during the day when I didn’t want to stick to just a cover-up. Next time, I’m going to concentrate on clothing that’s a little nicer and dresses that I can throw on over a swimsuit. 

11. The right clothes for nice dinners and family photos

Many people dress up every night just for the fun of it, and because it feels good to put on nice clothing after washing off the sand and chlorine. My kids and husband weren’t really on board with dressing up, but it’s a fun option to make vacation even more special. One restaurant at Beaches does require long pants for men. For women, it’s nice to dress up for at least one dinner too.

I was glad that I brought one nicer dress with me and will bring a couple more on my next visit. Although my family didn’t have photos taken at Beaches, the resort offers a photo session to all guests. Anyone who thinks they might get photos on the resort’s gorgeous beach should pack some nice outfits. 

12. A small purse

One thing I hadn’t anticipated needing at Beaches was a small purse. This would have been very useful to carry a few items around the resort at night. I needed a place to stash my phone, backup charger, key card, and some other essentials. I usually didn’t have enough pockets. I’m adding a small purse to my list of must-haves for my next trip to Beaches. 

13. Hats 

Protective hats are essential at Beaches. I had one on almost the entire time I was at Beaches, including most of the time I was in the pool. Opt for a sun hat can could be put in a suitcase without being destroyed.

14. Waterproof sandals 

Sandals are the footwear choice around Beaches. I did more walking than I expected when I arrived and my flip-flops didn’t cut it. I also liked having something more substantial to slip on for walks on the beach and for going to restaurants for lunch. 

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15. Pajamas

Normally I don’t think too much about pajamas. However, at Beaches I often went onto our room’s balcony while the kids were asleep at night and in the morning. Not only did I not want to be embarrassed about my pajamas, but I was glad that I had some that kept me warm inside our heavily air conditioned room that I could also wear outside without overheating. 

16. Pool floats 

At the last minute, I threw a deflated pool float in my suitcase and I was really glad I had it at Beaches. I used it when I’d enough of playing with my kids in the pool but wanted to stay in the water. My float was perfect for relaxing in the pool with a mocktail while still being able to keep a close eye on my children.

A float is something that is definitely an “extra” but I plan on bringing one to my next trip to Beaches. The staff at Beaches can inflate floats for you so you don’t need to worry about having enough lung power to blow one up yourself. 

17. Pool toys

I was glad I brought some small pool toys for the kids to play with. It was nice for the kids to have a ball to throw around and some toys to dive for. Other kids at Beaches were really great at sharing their pool toys, but I will probably pack a few more on our next trip to ensure some variety and so that we have some to share. Pool toys are a surprisingly great way to make new friends at Beaches. 

18. Beach toys

My son would be happy doing nothing but digging in the sand for hours at a time. Since Beaches resorts are located on some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, I was happy to join him. I always try to pack light, so I didn’t pack any beach toys. We were fortunate that another family left us some beach toys they’d purchased, but next time I won’t chance it and will bring my own.

Lazy river at Beaches Negril (Photo: Beaches Resorts)
Lazy river at Beaches Negril (Photo: Beaches Resorts)

19. Book or Kindle

Even the most die-hard beach bum needs a break from the sand and surf. There will be lots of opportunities to lounge with a good book at Beaches. While I saw plenty of people reading paper books, I prefer my Kindle because it’s so portable and light. With a good case, Kindles can also withstand a few drips of water. Some models are waterproof.         

20. Ear buds

I left my earbuds in my room on my first day at Beaches, but I realized pretty quickly that they’d be a nice addition to my pool bag. I liked being able to listen to music on breaks from the pool. I occasionally caught up on phone calls while getting snacks for my kids, and the ear buds were nice to have then as well.

21. Power strip

The rooms at Beaches are nice, but my family found that they didn’t have enough outlets for all of our devices. This is easily solved by bringing a power stip.

22. Back-up battery

One of the great things about Beaches is that you’re never too far from your room. Nevertheless, no one wants to miss out on time at the beach to go back to their room to charge a device. I was glad I had a couple of backup batteries to throw in my bag to use throughout the day.

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23. Waterproof phone case

I take a lot of photos on vacation and at Beaches that meant bringing my phone in the pool and to the beach. My waterproof phone case was a lifesaver. I usually use Otterbox phone cases because they’re sturdy and have saved my phone from getting damaged after more than one fall. I was happy to have one of their waterproof cases on my phone during my Beaches trip and I’m happy to report that my phone stayed in great shape.

My kids don’t have waterproof phone cases (yet). On our next trip they will use Chum floating phone protectors to keep their phones safe from water and sand while at the resort. I might use one myself for an added layer of protection.

24. Packing cubes 

I’m a huge fan of packing cubes for all trips, and that includes Beaches. Not only do they help compress clothing so I can fit more in my suitcase, but they really help my family stay organized in our room. Even my youngest can be fairly independent if his clothing is organized and sorted into packing cubes in the room.

25. Sweater or sweatshirt

It can get a little cool in the evenings at Beaches. I found myself wearing the ratty sweatshirt I brought for the plane almost every night. I wished I’d brought a nicer layer to wear at night.

26. Somewhere to stick your dirty clothes

I hate when hotel rooms get messy because my kids aren’t sure where to put their dirty clothes. This is especially true at places like Beaches where we have sand stuck to our swimsuits. I like having designated “dirty” bags, one for dry clothes and one for swimsuits. This was especially helpful for our late afternoon flight returning home from Beaches when we didn’t have time to let our swimsuits dry before heading to the airport. 

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Sweetie's Ice Cream at Beaches Negril (Photo: Beaches Resorts)
Sweetie’s Ice Cream at Beaches Negril (Photo: Beaches Resorts)

27. Hair protection

My daughter and I both have thick, curly hair. The chlorine and saltwater at Beaches made our hair noticeably drier and brittle in just a couple of days. While Beaches provides nice hair conditioner in their rooms, my daughter and I both found that it wasn’t enough. Next time I will bring a hair serum to keep our hair more hydrated so it’s in better shape when I return. 

28. Airport comforts

I was surprised by how small the airport at Turks & Caicos was and how few amenities were there. Several people recommended getting to the airport well in advance of our flight because it can get crowded, especially during peak travel times. Although another night at Beaches would have been nice, I didn’t want to miss my flight and took that advice. That meant my family was at the airport for a couple of hours without much to do and no Wi-Fi access. 

Having our Kindles was essential at the airport. I was also glad to have my ear buds at the airport because it got very loud at times. When we return, I will bring a small game like UNO to help pass the time.

29. All-terrain strollers and beach wagons (for babies and toddlers)

Beaches takes care of almost everything you need, and that includes for the tiniest guests. The resort has fully stocked nurseries with strollers you can borrow for walks around the resort, high chairs, and more. Beaches can also ensure there is a crib and other items your baby might need waiting for you in your room. There were a lot of babies staying at Beaches during my visit. I talked to some of their parents and they all seemed to have what they needed. Parents don’t need to pack much for their little ones except for diapers and clothes.

I did see some babies and toddlers in all-terrain strollers and wagons on the beach that they’d brought from home. While not strictly necessary, this is a good option for parents of little ones who plan on going for longer walks on the beach, taking excursions off-property, or who want to ensure a safe space for their babies to nap outside. I also saw a couple of babies lounging in wagons at Beaches which I thought was brilliant. Wagons with canopies are also useful for poolside naps in a safe space. 

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Jamie Davis Smith
Jamie is a mother of four and a freelance writer. She lives in Washington, DC, but can more often be found wandering with her family and writing about their adventures near and far. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Fodors' Travel, FamilyVacationist, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Yahoo, and many others. She is a USA Today "Top 10" travel expert.