Many folks think of traditional winter months as the time to be a homebody and summer as the time to travel — especially when it comes to taking beach vacations. But why wait until the middle of the year to head to a sandy shore? The off-season often comes with cheaper rates and smaller crowds, meaning you don’t have to wait an hour to get into the most popular beach restaurant or browse through some shops.

This is especially the case for travelers heading to a beach that’s not super warm year-round, like Myrtle Beach or the Hamptons. While winter weather takes some traditional beach activities off the table (and may mean some local attractions or stores are actually closed), it can be relaxing and exciting to enjoy a near-empty beach, especially if you’re able to snag lodging with a view.

Then again, heading someplace tropical to defrost from the dead of winter also has obvious appeal. Hawaii, Punta Cana, Cancun, and other beaches are warm and wonderful any time of the year.

Either way, this packing list for a February beach vacation has you covered. Regardless of which category your destination fits under, you’ll want to make sure you have these items in tow.

1. Summer colors.

Travelers heading to traditional tropical locations in February will undoubtedly need to bring along their summer wardrobes and all its festive colors. But considering the point of any vacation is to get a much-needed break from reality, beach-goers in colder climates should still bring their favorite summer tops and fun prints to get into the vacation spirit. Ever heard that the beach is a state of mind? Some bright summer colors will be sure to get you there.

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2. Strategic layers.

That doesn’t mean to just bring tank tops and boardshorts if you’re heading to colder climates, though. Instead, bring a variety of neutral layers, so you can stay relaxedand warm. Layering is necessary in tropical climates, too. Cabo and Puerto Vallartacan approach 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night time, for example, and it often feels a bit cooler right on the water. Plus, those layers will come in handy for travelers leaving from and returning to winter temperatures.

3. Your own entertainment.

Thinking ahead with regards to entertainment can be crucial since, once again, popular attractions are sometimes closed during non-peak season. One way to stay entertained regardless of latitude is to focus on activities than can be done in just about any temperature. For example, a great book can be enjoyed whether you’re actually sunning on the beach or if you’re indoors snuggling under a blanket and enjoying views of the water. Similarly, travel games are great for their fun and versatility; they can be enjoyed in transit, in your hotel or beach house and even on a beach blanket.

4. Skin protection.

If you’re heading someplace tropical, hopefully it’s obvious that sunscreen, sunglasses, a beach cover-up and a hat are must-haves. Sunburn isn’t just a surefire way to make a relaxing trip miserable; it’s a major health concern. But even if travelers off to someplace a bit chillier should have similar skin protection on the checklist. Winter weather doesn’t mean there won’t be sunshine, especially if there’s any snow around to reflect the sun’s rays. Plus, an even bigger concern in cold locations is the possibility of windburn, especially along the water. Windburn comes as a result of cold temperatures and low humidity, but can be prevented with minimal exposure and moisturizing sunscreen. Plus, sunglasses will naturally protect your eyes from any painful gusts.

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5. The beach basics (with a few additions).

All the standard travel items still apply for a winter beach vacation of any kind. Grab your GoPro, digital camera, and favorite photo-editing apps to make sure you capture the crashing waves in all their glory. Also, bring music speakers to set the mood, your favorite snacks to fill your stomach and a bag to lug everything around. Finally, beach games like frisbee, football, Spikeball, and Kan Jam are a great additions for destinations that are warm enough for hanging outside, but not quite warm enough for taking a dip in the water. With all these items, February will feel like summer vacation in no time.

This post was posted by The hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on 25 January, 2016.