12 Beach Tips for Making the Most of Your Water-Bound Vacation

These recs may seem boring and tedious, but trust us -- they'll keep you healthy and happy when you're docked in the sand.Read More

Beach vacations are the best. Just make sure you're prepared for them! (Source: iStock / bennymarty)

Ahhh, the glorious beach. There’s nothing quite like soaking in the rays while sipping an adult beverage and, just occasionally, diving into the crisp blue beyond. As idyllic as this sounds, there are definitely some dos and do nots that go along with beach-bathing. To ensure you enjoy yourself while staying safe and courteous, take these beach tips to heart:

Beach tip 1: Wear lots of high-octane sunscreen.

There’s been a fair amount of banter in the news and popular media about the complete lack of efficacy of high-SPF sunscreens. But, no, it’s not all a marketing ploy. Dermatologist Dr. Steven Wang makes it clear that the SPF debate is complicated but, generally, it’s better to go for a higher SPF with UVA and UVB protection (otherwise known as “broad spectrum”). Also, consider chilling your sunscreen of choice so it soothes you when applied in the hot sun. Lastly (and perhaps most importantly): Re-apply every two hours.

Beach tip 2: Bring a pair of sunglasses and wear them whenever you’re not in the water.

Sunscreen may protect your skin (to an extent), but don’t forget that your eyes also need protection in high-UV settings. As always, it’s good to consult your ophthalmologist for the best sunglass options for you, but we recommend polarized lenses as they reduce glare. Just make sure they block 100% of UV rays. (And no, the color and tint of the lenses do not determine the level of UV filtering.)

Beach tip 3: Be sure to pack water so you stay hydrated.

When beach fun times are around the corner, it’s easy to pack what you like to drink – juices, beer, wine, and so on. Or, it can be tempting to sip on a piña colada under an umbrella all day, secured from a nearby beach bar. Keep in mind, however, that prolonged sun exposure will dry you out, so it’s important you continue to drink water – alongside whatever else you’re imbibing.

Beach tip 4: Bring an extra T-shirt.

We can’t tell you how many times we’ve packed a single shirt and then watched it get soaked by a pranking sibling or goofball friend. You never know when water (or sand or dirt) can muck up your dry shirt, so pack an extra and keep it in the car – away from beach contaminations – so you have something to wear home.

Beach tip 5: Check for tides and rip currents.

This may sound like a no-brainer, but few people actually think of how the ebb and flow of tides and the pull of underwater rip tides will affect their beach getaway. Most beaches have a website or social media account where you can research high and low tides and any details about dangerous underwater currents; review this information carefully and come prepared so you aren’t recklessly endangering yourself and/or others.

Don't forget your umbrella – and blanket. (Source: iStock / daboost)
Don’t forget your umbrella – and blanket. (Source: iStock / daboost)

Beach tip 6: Bring several blankets and an umbrella.

Another misnomer: Not all beaches come stocked with shade and seats. Play it safe and bring at least a towel, though if you can dig up an umbrella of some kind (or at least a wide-brimmed hat), bring that along, too. Not only will this ensure you’re comfortable, but it will give you a much-needed respite from the sun.

Beach tip 7: Watch for people and sand structures.

Unfortunately, there aren’t traffic signs on beaches, so you’ll have to pay close attention to others to ensure you don’t collide with them, knock over umbrellas, or unwittingly crush sandcastles. When you first arrive, scope out the beach to see where most of the traffic is, then determine the best path for traversing the beach. Use this whenever possible to minimize collision with others.

Beach tip 8: Park yourself up the beach so you’re not near water or regular pedestrian traffic.

Speaking of traffic, set yourself away from the worst of it by parking up the beach. Most people will be interested in the water, so there will likely be plenty of folks lingering right at the edge or coming in and out; steer clear to ensure you’re not trampled by over-excited beach-goers.

Beach tip 9: Bring flip-flops in case you discover rocky patches.

Don’t assume that the beach will be made up of soft sand for as far as the eye can see. That’s seldom the case. And sure, you’ll arrive in proper shoes you can slip on, but you don’t want to get those sandy and wet tromping all over the beach. Instead, grab a pair of flip-flops and wear those when things get rocky. You may even need to wear them in the water, depending on what the sea bed is like.

Beach tip 10: Invite a friend.

I mean, who else is going to apply that every-two-hour sunscreen? Seriously, it’s always a good idea to bring a buddy to ensure there’s someone looking out for your safety. Many things can go wrong at a beach – fainting from dehydration, a water injury, a bad sunburn that makes it painful to walk or drive – so bring someone along to help. If they’re a really good friend, they’ll keep these bad things from happening in the first place.

Make the kids happy – bring toys to play with, especially those that let them build sandcastles. (Source: iStock / Isaac74)
Make the kids happy – bring toys to play with, especially those that let them build sandcastles. (Source: iStock / Isaac74)

Beach tip 11: Bring a brush for cleaning off.

When fun times are at an end and you’re ready to hop back in the car, you’ll need something to help get excess sand out of cracks and crevices. Using your hand could take a while and is seldom all that effective; to help, be sure to have a brush of some kind on hand. A dustpan brush works well (that’s well cleaned, of course).

Beach tip 12: Bring plenty of toys and snacks for the kiddos.

If you’re bringing little ones, make sure they’re well lathered with sunscreen, are watched carefully the entire time you’re at the beach, and they have everything they need to keep them entertained. This includes sand shovels and pails, fun snacks to preclude whiny hunger pangs, and drinks to keep them hydrated. It’s also helpful to create a landmark that they will recognize – a uniquely colored umbrella or funky chair. That way, they’ll always be able to spot “home base.”