How to Pack the Perfect Cooler for the Beach


How to Pack the Perfect Cooler for the Beach | Williamson Realty Vacations

For the beach loving family there are few things as important as the cooler. That magic box filled with snacks and drinks. The scent is the most powerful memory one can have. To this day when I smell the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and gold fish crackers, I think of the beach and my family. Of course, a lot has changed over the years and coolers today are a whole lot better than those cheap squeaky Styrofoam ones we had when I was a kid. This week we dive into the art of packing a cooler for the beach and give a few other helpful tips for meal planning. 

Pick A Cooler

There are all sorts of coolers to choose from on the market today. However, if you are going to be on the beach for a long time and need to pack a lot for a big group, there is really only one way to go and that’s the trusty hard shell chest cooler. We understand there are times when a small cooler might be right for an individual or a couple, however, today we are concentrating on that big family outing. So toss that bag cooler aside. This is serious cooler talk.

Tip: Forget the fancy colors and get a white cooler. The white helps reflect light and gives your cooler an advantage in the heat. 

The Pre-Chill

Before you pack your cooler give it a head start by pre-chilling the cooler overnight before you head out the next day. The easiest way to do this is by sacrificing a bag of ice. Fill the cooler, (it doesn’t need to be packed) close the lid, and keep it in a cool place in the house.  By doing this you will give the cooler walls time to chill giving you a head start on chilling its contents. 

cooler full of drinks and ice | Williamson Realty

Layers are key

Sure you can just toss things in the cooler, but you’re a serious beach goer prone to hours of fun on Ocean Isle Beach’s pristine beaches. To get the most cooling power out of your cooler you need to pack in layers. The first layer should always be ice blocks, not ice cubes. The blocks tend to last longer (larger mass) and give you a nice cold base which to build.  In the bottom of the cooler you’ll want to put the items you will use later in the day. Then build from there in order of need.

Tip: Put a piece of cardboard over your ice blocks at the bottom of the cooler to help them retain their temperature. A piece from a case of soda or beer works well

🍉 Prep the food 🍉

A little preparation can go a long way especially when it comes to saving space in the cooler. Slice items like fruits and veggies to save space. Fragile foods can also be placed in containers to protect them. For things like deli meats or cheeses, take them out of their original packages and use flexible sturdy packaging like freezer bags.  For drinks like juice boxes and sodas, put them in the freezer a few hours before placing them in the cooler this way, they are already well on their way to staying ice cold for the day.

For condiments consider what you need and transfer them into small containers. No need to drag a giant jar of mayo to the beach if you only need enough for a few sandwiches. 

Help your cooler out

You can’t put sunscreen on your cooler but you can do a few things to help it stay cooler! Try and keep it out of the sun. If you have a beach umbrella go ahead and put the cooler under the umbrella. Don't have an umbrella? Use a blanket or towel to keep it covered. One clever (albeit extreme) tip we saw was to bury the cooler slightly in the cooler sand if you are near the water's edge. Hey, the things folks will do for a cool drink. However, it will help if you can keep the sun off the cooler.

This one may sound obvious but you need to keep the cooler closed and sealed. Think of your home and insulation around the windows or doors. Or consider when the power goes out and how you limit the time you open your fridge (which is basically only a cooler at that point), and do the same with the cooler. 

Where to shop

Need to fill your cooler with delicious goodies for a day on the beach? Here are two of our local grocery stores and farmer’s markets that will have everything you need to keep everyone in the family fed and hydrated. 

Lowes Foods

Lowes Foods is located near the entrance of Ocean Isle Beach and is a full-service grocery store offering a deli, featuring Boars Head products, fresh sushi, an extensive wine selection, ready-made meals, salad bar, seafood, meats, and any other grocery items you may need for a day on the beach.

6278 Beach Dr. SW, Ocean Isle Beach, NC 28469

Phone: (910) 579-9311


Holden Brother's Farm Market

Just down the road you'll find the Holden Brother’s Farm Market. This market boasts fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. The Holden Brother's Farm Market supplements their supply with out-of-season produce from other local farms, so the selection is always varied and delicious.

5600 Ocean Hwy W, South Brunswick, NC 28470

Phone: (910) 579-4500


There is still plenty of time to plan your late summer Ocean Isle Beach vacation. We have lots of great vacation homes to choose from. Looking for something with great amenities and an amazing location? Why not try one of our lovely condos. Condos offer a great value for families. Give one of our reservationists a call today at 800-727-9222 and discover the joy of an Ocean Isle beach condo. 

How to Pack the Perfect Cooler for the Beach | Williamson Realty Vacations

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