The Ultimate Guide for Planning Your Hilton Head Vacation


Living at the beach is probably one of the greatest things ever (I mean, besides having pizza for dinner 4 nights a week) I grew up in the Navy so I’ve been fortunate enough to live on coasts all around the world. I’ve lived on the East Coast, West Coast, and European Cost. Fun fact about me: I hate seafood. Frozen fish sticks are the extent of my seafood consumption and even then, it’s barely seafood.

If you’re not from the coast, traveling to the beach might be intimidating and you might not know what to pack for your beach vacation. I’m here for you!

What To Pack

If you’re staying in a rental, chances are it will have a lot of things you’ll need. But if it doesn’t, the grocery store is only a hop skip down the road and there are plenty around here. These are some of the things I’ve found rental houses to be lacking, and me being the semi-high-maintenance girl that I am was a little disappointed. Depending on if you’re flying or driving will determine if you should bring these things with you. If you bring them, you’ll probably have room to take them back with you. But if you’re flying and have to leave them at the rental house, I’m sure the next guest will be forever grateful!

  1. Oversize towels. If you’re a germ-o-phobe like me and are also picky about the size of your towel (who actually likes laying on a small towel on the sand??) I recommend bringing your own.
  2. Tissues & wipes. (See above and below references about being a high-maintenance germ-o-phobe). There’s nothing I hate more than scratchy tissues. Also, flushable wipes and Lysol wipes have never not come in handy when I’m traveling.
  3. Comfortable shoes. We basically live in sandals year-round here in the south. Make sure you find a pair that have good support and are comfortable to wear during the entire day. These ones from Target are my favorite! If they’re out of stock, just be patient – they’ll come back.


What NOT To Pack

  1. Chairs & Umbrellas. The rental chairs and umbrellas that beaches offer are well worth their daily rate in my opinion. If it’s one less thing I have to lug down and back I’m all for it. The chairs are already set up for you, and you don’t have to worry about the umbrella blowing away. Trust me. I’ve been that person. You don’t want to be that person. Just make sure you read up on where they’re available and when you should make your reservations. For more information you can look at the official Shore Beach Service website
  2. Food & drinks. There are plenty of grocery stores here and most of them offer delivery or drive up services so you don’t have to waste much time at the store. If you’re going to use one of those services though, I recommend ordering / setting it up a week or two in advance. During peak season (June, July, Aug)  I’ve heard the availability becomes limited.

Beach Vacation Outfits

  1. Leggings (with pockets) are a staple when I travel. Especially if I’m going to be doing a lot of walking. Especially in the summer, I can’t stand the thigh rub.
  2. Photoshoot outfit. Whether you booked a session with me or another amazing beach photographer,  you don’t want to wait till the day before to plan your outfits. This blog post can help take the stress out of planning for you!
  3. If you’re young, you’ll want a draaanks outfit or two. (Have you seen the meme where it’s like, “are we going out for drinks or draaanks, I need to dress accordingly”?) There’s not much of a club scene on Hilton Head, but “The Triangle” (Reilley’s Plaza)  is definitely the spot to hit.

Beach Essentials

  1. Extra towels. Maybe it’s just because I’m high-maintenance, but I like to have 1 extra towel as a pillow (and I also put my phone inside it so it isn’t sitting in the blazing sun) and I have somewhere to wipe my hands if they get sandy.
  2. Cooler with ice, not ice packs. That way you can dump the ice when you’re done and it won’t be as heavy on the way back.
  3. Water bottles & Liquid IV or other electrolyte hydrator because the sun really zaps your energy. I swear I get drunk faster when I’m on the beach.
  4. Alcohol in cans (glass is forbidden on the beach). I never bring more than I think I’ll need. I usually plan out how many hours we’ll be there and give myself 2 drinks / hour (I swear I’m not an alcoholic, I don’t usually drink them all) but it makes more sense than bringing an entire 12 pack.
  5. Koozies (because alcohol also isn’t allowed on the beach but as long as you’re being responsible they won’t yell at you)
  6. Snacks that are single serve. Nobody likes when an entire bag of chips gets ruined by the toddler sticking their sandy hand inside it.
  7. Trash bag. One is all you’ll probably need and you can just drop it in the trash can on your way off the beach.
  8. Beach wagon to carry all your crap. Or a cart or stroller. Something with wheels so you don’t have to dread the trek back to your car after a long day getting scorched by the sun.

Traveling With A Baby?

Pinterest has so many “baby beach hacks”. Have you seen the one with a twin fitted sheet? That just seems like a nightmare waiting to happen.

You definitely need some sort of convertible wagon or pack n play that will keep them occupied, out of the sun, comfortable, and serve as a nap spot.



Curious what the best photo spots on the island are? Check out my exclusive Lowcountry Photo Spots website!

Do you have a photo session scheduled? Check out my post on how to make your beach photos a breeze!

March 2, 2022





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