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What I Carried on My Summer Vacation: Beach Bag Review

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A great beach bag is a summer staple. Packing for the beach means being prepared so you don't have to run back to the car or your hotel room to resupply. A beach bag of the proper size means you will always have everything you need -- throw in a cooler full of cold beers and your day on the beach is complete.

The right beach bag will fit all of your necessities -- sunscreen (body + face), sunglasses, cover-up, books, a change of clothes, magazines and a few snacks -- with room to spare. Whether you are playing hooky and slipping off to Galveston for the day, or taking an extended vacation in the sun, here are some of our tips for selecting the best bag for your getaway -- and a few of our favorite options.

A truly excellent bag will not only be perfect for the beach, but should be the right size to double as your carry-on, should you be flying to your sandy, sunny destination. Packing light is one of the true joys of proper vacationing, so you shouldn't have to pack a bag in a suitcase; that space and weight is better put to use smuggling drugs packing an extra pair of shoes.

If you are choosing a beach bag to double as your carry-on, it should fit comfortably under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin. (We channeled our inner flight attendant just then -- so great, right?) If you plan to stash the tote under the seat in front of you, consider a zip-top bag or at least a snap closure to prevent your stuff from falling out. Bags with flat, weighted bottoms stay upright to prevent spillage as well.

Interior and exterior pockets are also ideal for beach bags, so you can zip in things like your phone, keys and cash/identification. If you mocked your mother mercilessly for the Eagle Creek packing organizers she got you for Christmas, you are not only mean but wrong -- they are amazing. Use the breathable organizers to stash your gear: one for your toiletries, sunscreen and comb, another for your wet clothes après swim, and a third for all those things that get lost at the bottom of an endless tote, like money, driver's license and debit card.

Look for the little details that matter: a key ring to clip your keys, a mirrored fob, and strong, water-resistant materials. Your beach bag is going to be sitting on the sand and in the sun, and should also be washable -- or at least cleanable. When in doubt, visit the dry cleaners to see if they can clean up your battered beach bag.

Start your search for the perfect beach bag here:

Unisex Option: The classic Lands' End tote comes in a variety of sizes and accent colors; you can (and should) opt for the preppy monogram. Made of heavy, washable canvas, the Lands' End canvas tote has been updated for modern life with key fobs, inner and outer pockets, and "tip proof" reinforced seams. • Classic Straw Tote: This beautiful tote from Anthropologie may be the most affordable item in the store at $38. An ombré effect gives the bag a modern look, and a button-front closure keeps things relatively secure. • Trendy "It" Bag: This Charlotte Ronson tote ($150), available at Everything But Water, kind of screams "summer" in yellow-striped canvas.

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