We are incredibly lucky to live in a beach community. Our house is about 2 miles from our favorite beach, and, except for days when the cursed marine layer brings cool temps and cloudy skies, we absolutely love where we live.
It gives us the opportunity to head over for an afternoon at the beach whenever the mood strikes, and the mood strikes on a fairly regular basis, even in the winter months. Because we spend so much time at the beach, I’ve been able to learn a few lessons over the years that have made our beach adventures a fun and painless process.
With the arrival of Spring Break and the upcoming, much anticipated, arrival of Summer recess, I think it’s safe to assume that more than a few of you are in the process of planning beach vacations. So after Grandma has been notified, or your hotel or campground reservations are made, you can start planning the fun stuff. Hopefully the tips I’ve put together will help make your beach vacation as relaxing, fun and stress free as possible! Because whether it’s the ocean, a lake, or the side of a river, there’s nothing quite like spending a day by the water.
Check out my tips below and then tell me, where are you planning to vacation this year? What’s your beach must-have?
Choose The Right Beach Bag For Your Needs 1 of 12I feel about beach bags the way some women feel about shoes. I love them. Because I think that choosing a beach bag is up to many individual opinions, I'm only going to offer a few pieces of advice. Pick one that's roomy, you're going to have a LOT of stuff to put in it. Try it on and make sure the straps are going to be somewhat comfortable. Chances are good that you're going to end up lugging that thing all over the place, and you don't wan to curse your decision by the middle of the first day.
Now, keep reading for tips about what to keep in your awesome beach bag, and for things that you're going to need to carry around along with your beach bag!
Photo Credit: ComÃ¹nicaTI via Flickr
Bring a Beach Blanket 2 of 12One of the most important things to consider when planning a beach trip is the blanket on which you will sit. Towels are too small and if you're going to use them to dry off as well, you'll end up with a sandy mess. I've heard people recommend using a bed sheet, it offers more space and you only the need to secure the corners so it doesn't fly away.
I settled on a waterproof blanket that I honestly couldn't be happier with. Spills and messes are easy to wipe up, sand just falls right off, and at the end of the day I just fold it up and it's ready for our next trip. We use it away from the beach, too.
Apply Sunscreen Beforehand and Pack the Spray-On 3 of 12It seems obvious enough, right? But it's so easy to overlook this step when you're in the middle of a beach adventure. Lotion up 30 minutes before you're going to hit the sun so it has a chance to absorb into your skin. But then don't forget to reapply every few hours. I keep a spray bottle that works on wet skin in my beach bag so I can douse my kids as they run by.
And take it from me- don't forget the easy-to-forget areas...your ears, the back of your neck, the tops of your feet, that tiny triangle area behind your armpit that's hard to reach, and behind your knees. You can thank me later.
Photo Credit: loop_oh via Flickr
Invest In An Umbrella of Some Sort 4 of 12I realize that the purpose of a beach vacation is to spend time in the sun, but it's important to have some shade that you can retreat to, especially if you have a child who will need a nap. A beach umbrella or a portable beach shade cabana are great options. Many "touristy" spots have these items available for you to rent, so you won't have to store it or lug it to and from the beach every day.
Photo Credit: Snappy Bex via Flickr
Bring A Bag of Toys 5 of 12Don't expect that the water will entertain your children all day long. They're kids, and their attention span is probably pretty short. I've started keeping a few shovels and buckets in my car at all times, but if you don't want to spend money on sand toys, plastic cups and food storage containers will also work as shovels and buckets. And as temporary homes for hermit and sand crabs if your kids are anything like mine.
Frisbees are always popular, and, of course, balls are another great beach activity. Beach balls, footballs or even exercise balls are fun to toss around and chase on the sand. If your kids are older, try burying an exercise ball 3/4 of the way in the sand and let them bounce around on it. But be careful and keep an eye on them, if they get to bouncing too high they could end up hurting themselves.
Photo Credit: Tom Chandler via Flickr
Pack Snacks in Individual Containers 6 of 12The beach that we frequent has a snack shack, but we only utilize their services for ice cream treats. If it's not something that has to stay frozen, I pack it myself in an effort to save money. Snack shack trips can add up quickly.
I like to pack a variety of snacks like crackers, chips, fruit, small sandwiches and cheese sticks. If possible, I put items into smaller groupings in reusable containers. If each kid has their own container of chips, there's no screaming from the group when one of them sticks their sandy little hand in and ruins the entire bag. Also, the reusable containers can do double duty as sand toys later.
And don't forget beverages. Water is a must. Juice, soda and adult beverages, if your beach allows them, are other obvious choices.
Photo Credit: Rich Brooks via Flickr
Forget the Freezer Packs 7 of 12When packing your cooler, you're going to need something to keep your food and drinks cold. Instead of taking up space with ice packs, plan ahead and freeze some of your snack items. Water bottles, juice packs and grapes are a few of my favorites. By the time you're ready to enjoy them they'll have thawed a bit, but will still be icy cold and refreshing.
Photo Credit: Hainbachkar via Flickr Hainbachkar
Bring Eye Rinse 8 of 12One of the most annoying aspects of a beach vacation is sand. Sadly, it's something you can't get around. If you're going to spend a day at the beach with kids, it's almost guaranteed that someone is going to end up with sand in their eye. And having sand in your eye is an incredibly uncomfortable experience. I've started keeping single use applications of eye rinse in my trusty beach bag. It has saved the day on more than one occasion. In a pinch, a bottle of water or contact solution has also come to our rescue.
Extra Clothes Are a Must 9 of 12For some reason, it took me a very long time to learn this lesson. I always thought that a quick walk on the beach would be just that. But even if my kids were fully dressed and it was cold out, they would inevitably end up soaking wet. And I never had a change of clothes with me. So, my advice is this: If you're going to take your kids to the beach and they're not going to wear swimsuits, always, always, always have a change of clothes available for them. And for you, because I *might* have fallen in the water once while trying to rescue a child from a tumble into the water. You just never know what's going to happen.
Store Baby Powder in the Car 10 of 12There is nothing I hate more than watching my kids get into my car at the end of the day with sandy legs and feet. Someone suggested a few years ago to keep a container of baby powder in my car. Before the kids get in the car, dust them with the powder. It will help to absorb the extra moisture, and you can then brush the sand right off. It obviously doesn't work on super wet sand, though.
Photo Credit: Nessman via Flickr
Explore Your Surroundings 11 of 12Don't be afraid to get up and move around. Walk under the pier and see how the light changes. Inspect the mussels attached to the pier pilings. See what creatures you can find in a tide pool. What plants are growing in the dunes? What birds are making their nests nearby? The ocean is big and beautiful, but there are so many other things that make up the beach...don't pass them by!
Take Advantage of a Cool, Cloudy Day 12 of 12Even if it's not warm enough to take a swim, don't rule out a visit to the beach. My boys and I have been known to take beach excursions in jeans and long sleeve shirts. We spend those days combing the tide lines for shells and rocks and paying extra close attention to the animals around us. It's made for some of our most fun days.
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