Margaret Schindel has traveled for business and pleasure for 40+ years. She shares travel tips to help others make the most of their trips.
Have a Great Time on Your Next Beach Vacation!
Do you love spending time at the beach? Proper preparation can mean the difference between having a blast in the sand and sea and being miserable because of things like sunburns, bug bites, bad weather, etc. These ten tips will help you have a fabulous time, whether your oceanside stay will last a month, a week or two, a weekend, or just a day.
A great beach vacation requires planning and packing for both good and bad weather activities, bringing essentials like sunglasses and suntan lotion with broad-spectrum UV protection, picking up a few things to make your stay easier, safer and more enjoyable, and—most importantly—bringing along a positive attitude and your sense of humor. Follow these tips to make sure you have a great time in the sun, sand, and surf!
1. Choose the Right Beach for the Type of Vacation You Want.
Do Your Research
Start by deciding what type of experience you want from your stay.
Do you enjoy lively crowds or would you rather read a book and to listen to the lapping ocean waves in relative quiet? Are you traveling with young children or would you prefer mostly adult company? Do you want to bring your dog along or would you rather be somewhere that doesn't allow pets? Do you want to avoid biting insects? Do you plan to spend most of your time on the sand or in the water? Do your research first to find a beach that has the type of environment you'll enjoy most.
Check the Rules Regarding Your Favorite Activities
Do you require a location that is accessible by someone with limited mobility? Do you want to be able to bring a grill and have a cookout? Stay out after sunset for a romantic moonlight walk or swim? Bring your Jet Ski or WaveRunner? Collect sea shells? Find out in advance whether whatever you need or want to do is allowed.
Try to Vacation at a Beach With at Least One Properly Trained Lifeguard on Duty
Statistics from the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) over a ten year period show that the chance of drowning at a beach without lifeguard protection is nearly five times that of drowning with lifeguards. The association also says the chance that a person will drown at a beach protected by USLA affiliated lifeguards is only 1 in 18 million (.0000055%).
How Do You Feel About Beach Vacations?
2. Bring a Comfortable Place to Sit or Sunbathe.
An oversized, plush and thirsty beach towel and/or a comfortable portable chair or folding recliner will give you a comfortable base for your fun in the sun.
Do you want something close to the ground or would you be more comfortable in something with a higher seat? Do you want something with a drink holder? Something that's lightweight or has a strap that makes it easy to carry? If you're not going alone, what would the others traveling with you prefer? Will you be bringing a toddler or young child along? What type of seating would make them most comfortable?
Are the beach chairs or portable loungers you have in good shape, or have they started to rust? Are they comfortable?
Are your towels large enough to keep you sand-free when you lie down on them after swimming in the ocean? Are they colorful and distinctive enough so it's easy for you - and others - to identify which towel is yours? A little pre-trip planning will ensure that you'll be able to sit, recline, or lie back in comfort while you enjoy the sand and surf.
A Gravity-Free Folding Recliner Is a Great, Versatile Beach Companion
One of the main reasons for taking a vacation is to relax. A gravity-free folding recliner with a built-in sun shade is a much more comfortable option than a regular beach lounger or chaise lounge.
I visited a friend who lives two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean and tried out her Bliss Hammocks Zero Gravity Folding Recliner With Sun Shade and Drink Tray. It was my first experience with this type of portable lounger and it was a real treat. It was roomy and extremely comfortable. I especially appreciated its supportive, ergonomic design and the adjustable, cushioned head rest that could be positioned to support either my lower back or my neck.
Reclining was effortless with this zero gravity lounger. After leaning back until I found the most comfortable angle, I locked it in that position until I was ready to get up. Leaning back far enough to take the maximum stress off my joints felt a bit odd initially, but I got used to the unfamiliar position quickly and found it very relaxing.
I love to read and was able to adjust the angle of the sun shade during the course of the day as the sun's angle changed. With a snack on the handy side tray and a refreshing, cold drink in the cup hole, I was able to read, nap and enjoy looking at the ocean in comfort all afternoon.
Just one caveat: This is sturdy, well built seating, so don't expect it to be lightweight.
3. Protect Yourself
Nothing can ruin a beach vacation faster than a sunburn, itchy bug bites, or a cut on the foot! So be prepared to deal with them so they won't spoil your trip.
Protect Your Skin From the Sun’s Damaging UVA / UVB Rays
Buy a new bottle of sunscreen to pack to make sure you won’t run out, and be sure check the expiration date. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using a broad spectrum sunscreen formula for UVA and UVB protection with an SPF of 15 or higher. For extended outdoor activity, they recommend a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Consider using two different sunscreens, one for your face and another for your body – especially if your skin is sensitive or prone to acne breakouts. More and more brands of sunscreen are offering a variety of sensitive skin formulations for both face and body.
Chemical Sunscreens Vs. Mineral-Based Physical Sunscreens
In a 2018 pilot study conducted by the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research and published in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) in 2019, researchers learned that four active ingredients commonly found in chemical sunscreens, avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule, were absorbed through the study participants' skin into their bloodstream. The agency emphasizes that "These results do not mean that the ingredients are unsafe. Rather the results support the need for further absorption testing and other safety studies of these ingredients for repeated use."
In January 2020, the FDA published a second sunscreen absorption study, "Effect of Sunscreen Application on Plasma Concentration of Sunscreen Active Ingredients: A Randomized Clinical Trial," in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). This study, which tested the effects of six active ingredients in lotion, aerosol spray, non-aerosol spray and pump spray formulations, found that all six were systemically absorbed in concentrations high enough to support the need for additional studies to determine the clinical significance of the findings.
Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide currently are the only sunscreen active ingredients that meet the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) criteria for a product to be considered "generally recognized as safe and effective" for its intended use, based on the agency's proposed rule to update regulatory requirements for over-the-counter sunscreen products in the US. Sunscreens whose active ingredients are only titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or both are considered physical sunscreens, AKA mineral sunscreens, because they sit on the surface of the skin rather than being absorbed into the skin and are not absorbed into the bloodstream.
Whether you choose a chemical sunscreen or a physical sunscreen, the most important thing is to wear one whenever you're outdoors.
Apply Sunscreen Generously and Frequently
According to skin cancer experts, you need to applying at least 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside (and presumably more if you're larger than average) and reapply every two hours, or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating. If you plan to spend a lot of time in the water, look for a waterproof sunscreen (and don't forget to reapply it immediately after you come out of the water). Also, the water acts like a reflector, increasing the amount of exposure to ultraviolet rays, so use a waterproof formula with SPF 30 and remember to come out of the water every hour or two, dry off, apply more sunscreen and wait another 30 minutes before going back in.
Before going on a recent vacation to Fort Myers, Florida, I researched high-SPF formulas with UVA/UVB broad-spectrum protection. I wanted a mineral-based, physical sunscreen that was reef safe, rather than a chemical formula, and that was tinted so it wouldn't leave the typical white cast of most physical formulas. And I wanted it to be free from PABA and parabens and to be water-resistant for 80 minutes (this was a beach vacation, after all!). My favorite was Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen Tinted Face Mineral Lotion SPF 50. In addition to meeting all my above-mentioned criteria, it also has several attributes that have made it a real winner for me.
- It dries down fairly quickly to a matte finish.
- On my light-medium skin, this tinted lotion adds a nice, healthy glow (and I didn't look so pale on the beach, which was a bonus). The tint is great for light, medium or olive skin tones. Unfortunately, it probably wouldn't look on deeper skin tones. (What brilliant marketer decided that "one tint shade fits all?")
If your skin is a bit oily, you'll love how dry this is. Since my skin is dry, I've found I needed to apply moisturizer first and let it soak in a bit before applying the Australian Gold, and then it's perfect.
Because I have both dry and and sensitive skin, I use EltaMD UV Physical SPF 41 Facial Sunscreen on my face and neck.
- It's sheerer and less matte than the Australian Gold sunscreen.
- It evens out my complexion, like a BB cream.
- It work very well a primer underneath foundation (on days when I wear it).
- It's oil-free, so it doesn't cause breakouts.
I also use and highly recommend Colorescience Total Protection Face Shield Flex SPF 50, a newer, more pigmented, tinted all-mineral sun protection product with a thinner consistency that is similar to a liquid foundation with medium, buildable coverage. It comes in a choice of Fair, Medium, Tan and Deep shades with "tone-adapting pigments" that will work for a wide range of skin tones. I have a light-medium complexion and use the Fair shade, and have been impressed with how well this formula, which looks pale straight out of the bottle, quickly adapts to match my skin tone. Some of my friends with deeper complexions who have tried this "flex" formula (which refers to what the company calls the "flexible" shades) also say the color gradually "blooms" to match their darker skin tones.
Get a Faux Golden Glow
You don't have to give up a gorgeous, glowing tan in order to protect yourself from cancer-causing sun damage. Today's self-tanners and bronzers can give you a natural-looking faux tan that looks nothing like the fake-looking, orange faux tans of the past. Look for ones that offer streak-free application and don't have a strong or unpleasant scent.
Stay In the Shade Between 10 AM and 4 PM
Choose a chair with its own built-in shade or bring your own beach umbrella and/or pop-up nylon tent so you can enjoy the sun and sand while protecting your skin. Broad-brimmed hats not only provide built-in shade, they also can protect your scalp (and your hair color, if you color your hair) and make a stylish fashion statement.
Wear UV Resistant Clothing
Companies like Coolibar make clothes and accessories from lightweight fabrics and fibers that keep you cool while protecting your skin from damaging UV rays.
At a minimum, a lightweight, wide brimmed beach hat with UPF 50+ ultraviolet protection is a smart accessory to pack in your suitcase.
Note: I brought one with me on a trip to Montego Bay with my husband and it made a huge difference in my enjoyment of our vacation. As a result, I was able to sit out under the hot Jamaican sun even in the middle of the afternoon without the extremely fair skin on my face getting sunburned.
Protect Yourself Against Insect Bites
Itchy bites can take all the fun out of your vacation, so do some research ahead of time to find out whether you need to protect yourself from mosquitoes, ticks or other biting insects. If you do, don't forget to pack insect repellent!
This informative U.S. Environmental Protection Agency article on the use and effectiveness of insect repellents includes a lot of helpful information including tips for choosing the right insect repellent for your needs and for using insect repellents safely, and a terrific insect repellent search tool that lets you search for the most effective insect repellents based on how long you need it to protect you, whether you need protection against mosquitoes, ticks or both, products with a particular active ingredient, and more.
You can get information on how to avoid bug bites and specific insect-borne (and other) diseases such as West Nile Virus, including prevention, symptoms and treatment tips, from the Center for Disease Control website.
Protect Your Eyes With Good Quality UVA / UVB Sunglasses
The sun's UV rays can do serious damage to your eyelids, cornea, and other parts of the eye! It's important to look for sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays for effective eye protection. Read the labels carefully and don't buy sunglasses that don't provide details about the UV protection they provide. For the best UV protection, choose a style with larger lenses; a wraparound style provides maximum eye protection.
Protect Your Feet With Beach-Friendly Water Shoes or Sandals
Burning the soles of your feet on hot sand or cutting your foot on a sharp rock, broken shell or piece of debris can really spoil an otherwise great vacation. Flip flops are inexpensive, but they can be uncomfortable, often provide little to no arch support and often don't last more than a summer or two. So it's worth it to invest a little more to get sandals or water shoes that provide more comfort and arch support and will give you much more wear. Look for nylon webbing straps that provide a snug but comfortable fit, lightweight, breathable and fast drying materials, cushioned insoles that provide comfort and arch support, and outsoles with non-skid treads that will protect your sensitive soles from broken sea shells or broken glass and make you more sure-footed if you step on a slippery rock.
For years, I've had a terrible time finding water shoes that were comfortable, fit well, gripped well on slippery surfaces and had a thick enough sole so I couldn't feel every stone or shell fragment I stepped on! Shortly before my trip to Fort Myers, Florida, I bought a pair of Shusox Barefoot Water Shoesthat were extremely comfortable, not only on the beach but also walking to and from our hotel room. They stayed on snugly while I was swimming and kept me sure-footed on wet rocks.
Protect Your Valuables From Being Lost, Stolen or Damaged
Leave whatever valuables you can at home. For those you take with you, put them in a safe in your hotel room whenever you're not using them. But sometimes you'll want to take some money, keys or other valuables with you to the beach, so be prepared by bringing a small, wearable, waterproof case where you can stash them safely.
4. Be Prepared for Mishaps and Emergencies.
Remember Ben Franklin's famous saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." You've armed yourself with an effective, high SPF sunblock and are applying and reapplying it liberally throughout the day. You've checked about the biting insect situation, brought an appropriate insect repellent, if appropriate, and are following the package directions carefully. You're protecting your eyes with sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays whenever your outdoors. You've bought and are wearing appropriate sandals and/or water shoes to protect your feet. And you've stashed any keys and valuables you want to take with you to the beach inside a waterproof, airtight, crush-proof dry box. You're definitely a smart cookie! It's evern smarter to expect the unexpected and be as prepared as possible to handle any mishaps.
Know How to Relieve Sunburn Pain
Few things can spoil your fun in the sun faster than a painful sunburn. Even if you apply sunscreen as directed, you still can get burned if you happen to miss a spot when you're applying it, or if you don't know (or remember) that you can get a very bad sunburn even on a cloudy day (something I can attest to from experience!). Even some medications can make you more susceptible to sunburn, so be sure to ask your doctor whether any of the medications you are taking fall into that category. If so, take extra precautions to protect your skin. According to the Mayo Clinic, "Once you have sunburn, the damage is done — although it may take 12 to 24 hours after sun exposure to know the full extent and severity of sunburn, and several days or more for your skin to begin to heal. In the meantime, the most effective sunburn treatment simply helps ease your discomfort."
Read the Mayo Clinic Health System's tips for relieving sunburn pain.
Be Prepared to Treat Insect Bites
If you didn't bring along an insect repellent, or if a mosquito or other biting insect manages to get to you even after you've applied it, bug bites can make you miserable. Be prepared to relieve the itching and swelling so they don't spoil your vacation.
- Bring along an insect bite relief treatment to reduce the itching. Mosquitoes and other biting insects seem to find me as delectable as chocolate cake for some reason, and I also am mildly allergic to their bites - not a good combination. So I never go on vacation without bringing After Bite, a clear liquid itch reliever in a roll-in applicator. I keep it by my bedside and in my beach bag so I can reapply it frequently; it really does help.
- Take along an antihistamine. Antihistamines can help relieve the swelling and itching associated with insect bites. I usually bring two types - a non-drowsy antihistamine like Zyrtec for daytime and one like Benadryl (which makes me quite drowsy) to take at bedtime.
- Try not to scratch bug bites. It can be very hard to keep yourself from scratching an itchy bite, but scratching it will just make things worse by opening it up to infection and making it take longer to heal (and possibly leaving a scar). To help you resist the urge, dab on more After Bite anti-itch liquid as soon as the bite starts to itch again. (That's why I always keep an After Bite applicator in my purse and next to my bed when I'm on vacation.)
- Know how to deal with severe reactions to insect bites quickly and correctly. Most people don't have severe reactions to the venom injected into them by an insect bite, but for those who are severely allergic, their allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) can be dangerous or even deadly if not treated quickly and properly. Symptoms of anaphylaxis can include nausea, facial swelling, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, and/or deterioration of blood pressure and circulation (shock). Please read and print out the Mayo Clinic's expert advice on first aid for insect bites and stings and bring it with you. If you already know that you are badly allergic to insect bites, ask your doctor about whether you should carry an EpiPen or similar epinephrine injector with you.
Bring an Over-the-Counter Analgesic (Pain Reliever and/or Anti-Inflammatory Medication)
On a beach vacation, it's fairly likely that you will find yourself joining a game of volleyball or Frisbee, or taking a long walk along the shore (and not thinking about how much more of a workout it is to walk on the shifting sands than on a hard surface), or lugging enough stuff with you to and from the shore to make your shoulders or back hurt.
Maybe your plane was delayed or you have trouble during your hotel check-in. You'll be glad you brought along some aspirin and/or ibuprofen (or a similar analgesic) to provide pain relief for stiff or sore muscles or the occasional headache!
Pack a Small but Well-Stocked First Aid Kit
It's smart to bring a compact first-aid kit with a few bandages, first aid ointment, sterile gauze bandages and tape, alcohol wipes, etc., with you, preferably in a waterproof case.
One that has a pair of tweezers and an elastic bandage to wrap a sprained ankle or wrist is a good choice.
Tip: Be sure to check the expiration dates of all the contents and replace any items that are close to their expiration dates.
Keep Your Mobile Phone With You and the Battery Charged at All Times
Unlike you, emergencies don't take vacations. They can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Keeping a charged cell phone with you at all times can save your life, or someone else's, if you need to call for help.
It also can give you peace of mind to know that you can be reached by a family member, caretaker, etc., if there's an emergency back home.
I strongly recommend getting a waterproof, crush-proof, airtight case for your mobile phone - and an extra, fully-charged battery - that you can take with you into the water in case you get injured, stuck, or are otherwise in trouble.
Important safety tip: Bring an external charger to keep your smart phone (and other electronics) charged at all times so you can make or receive phone calls in an emergency.
Know How to Escape From a Rip Current / Swim Out of a Riptide
According to the United States Life Saving Association Rip Current Survival Guide, "Rip currents are the leading surf hazard for all beachgoers. They are particularly dangerous for weak or non-swimmers. Rip current speeds are typically 1-2 feet per second. However, speeds as high as 8 feet per second have been measured--this is faster than an Olympic swimmer can sprint! Thus, rip currents can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea."
Knowing how to escape from a rip current can save your life. If you ever find yourself caught up in a riptide, you're going to have to fight your body's natural fight-or-flight response. That's why it's so important to read and memorize the important rip current safety tips found in the United States Life Saving Association Rip Current Survival Guide (see link, above) in case you ever need to escape from a riptide.
5. Bring Beach Bags, Ziploc Bags, Trash Bags and/or An All-Terrain Mesh Cart.
Help beautify the beach by taking away more than you came with.
Bring Zippered Plastic Bags in Several Sizes
Protect your book, towels, camera, and whatever else you carry in your beach tote by tucking in one or two large Ziploc food storage bags (or whatever brand you prefer) for your wet sandals or water shoes and for your wet swimsuit (if there's a cabana or other changing area). Sealing your sunscreen lotion, lip balm, bug repellent, adhesive bandages, etc., into small or medium zippered bags can keep the sand out of them and also prevent any leaks from ruining the rest of the stuff in your beach tote or bag. Rinse them out each evening and let them dry overnight so they're ready to reuse the next day.
Bring Along a Trash Bag for Litter
I'm always amazed at how often people who never would dream of littering on a sidewalk don't think twice about littering on the beach. Please don't be one of them! Carry a trash bag with you for your own litter, and take it with you as you walk along shore so you can leave the area a little cleaner than it was when you arrived. If every beachgoer picks up just a few extra pieces of litter each time he or she visits the shore, our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy these beautiful spots, too.
Bring a Large Beach Bag(s), Tote or All-Terrain Mesh Cart
It's easy to find yourself carrying more stuff to or from the beach than you had planned to on at least one day (and usually more) of your vacation. So it's a good idea to pick a bag or tote that has more room than you think you'll need (especially if you think you might want to pick up a new hat or other souvenir on the boardwalk, for example). It's also smart to pack a thin, lightweight nylon tote bag that weighs practically nothing and folds into a small, compact pouch that you can toss into a larger, lightweight tote or purse. That way you'll always have an extra tote bag in case you go on an impromptu shopping trip or pick up some beach glass.
Straw totes look pretty and summery, but they're not really practical for this purpose. Instead, look for a bag or tote made of a more sand-proof and waterproof material, such as nylon, Teflon, plastic, or rubber, or a fabric bag with a waterproof lining. One with a zipper closure is great for preventing the contents from spilling out onto the sand. Try to find one that is distinctive enough to identify easily among a sea (so to speak) of other bags and totes when you come back from a swim or stroll. Before our most recent vacation, I purchased two totes that came in extremely handy. One is an extremely large, striped, waterproof tote bag with a tight weave that kept the sand out of whatever we put inside the bag (mostly our oversized towels). The other was a large mesh beach bag with a built-in insulated cooler at the bottom, complete with four fitted ice packs that kept our bottled water, fruit, yogurt and other snacks nicely chilled The rigid bottom of the lower section (the cooler) kept the bag stable and upright when we put it down on the sand. We kept our mobile phones, room key and my Kindle in the handy waterproof pocket. These two totes made carrying our stuff to and from the shore so much easier than usual!
You also may want to look at large diaper bags. Many of them are large, lightweight, waterproof and stylish. Who says they can only be used for diapers?
If you plan on carrying a lot of large and/or heavy things with you (folding chairs, a cooler filled with food and cold beverages, etc.), and especially if you're traveling with kids, consider a large, sturdy folding beach cart with all-terrain wheels designed specifically to navigate over sand and bumpy or rocky paths.
6. Plan Fun Activities For Both Good and Bad Weather.
A little advance planning will let you enjoy your vacation even if you get a few days of cold, windy, rainy or stormy weather during your stay!
Plan Fun Activities for Your Time on the Sand
- Bring enough to read. Bring along a good supply of light beach reading. If you're an avid reader, bringing enough paperback books to keep you entertained throughout your vacation will be heavy and cumbersome. An e-book reader (e-reader) such as a Kindle Paperwhite or Nook is a good option as long as the screen is easy to read in bright sunlight (not all models are), and a tablet such as an iPad, Kindle Fire or Samsung Galaxy Tab will provide lots of additional functionality.
I love bringing audiobooks that I've downloaded from Audible or the public library and loaded onto my iPhone 5 (obviously any MP3 player or smart phone will work for this purpose). This type of player is lighter and easier to carry, takes up less room in your luggage and your beach bag, and only needs to be readable enough in direct sunlight to allow you to navigate your audiobook and create a bookmark. Whichever type of electronic device (or devices) you bring, make sure to get a waterproof, sand-proof case to protect it. Also, consider getting waterproof, sweatproof sports headphones or earbuds.
- Bring beach toys. As long as you're taking a vacation from adult responsibilities, why not enjoy yourself like a kid? Consider bringing a kite or a child's pail and shovel for building a sandcastle.
- Bring some sports equipment. Initiating any type of sports activity is a great way to meet people and make new friends. If you'll be driving, consider bringing a volleyball and net to start up a game of beach volleyball - always a popular favorite. Of course, if you'll be staying at a resort that offers golf or tennis, you may want to bring your golf clubs and/or tennis racket with you. A football or Frisbee can be lots of fun, too.
- Bring portable travel games. There are electronic games, of course, but I also recommend bringing a deck of playing cards (preferably waterproof) and a travel game board set. Look for one with a magnetic game board set so the small playing pieces are less likely to get lost in the sand or be blown away if the wind kicks up. For example, Yikerz is a fun board game for older kids and adults that can be played by one or up to 4 players, and even more people can play by creating teams. You can use any of 20 board layouts or create your own, and with all the possible variables and variations the game never gets boring. This intriguing game comes with its own zippered travel pouch, and you won't have to worry about the magnetic playing pieces getting lost in the sand or blown away if a refreshing breeze comes along.
Plan Fun Ocean / Water Activities
- Bring (or rent) a surfboard and/or bodyboard. Make sure to leash your board with a breakaway leash, which will prevent you from being separated from your board (which can serve as a flotation device) but will allow you to break away if the leash becomes entangled in any underwater obstructions.
- Bring aquatic exercise and fitness equipment. Exercise and fitness training under water increases the resistance, making your workout more efficient and effective. It also can minimize the risk of injury due to stress on your joints. And it certainly makes fitness exercises more fun! There are many different types of aquatic exercise equipment you can bring with you, including an underwater jogging belt, aquatic dumbbells, ankle swim weights, wrist swim weights, water fan paddles, and fitness swim fins.
- Bring a snorkel and/or swim fins. Especially if you're going to vacation in a tropical destination, snorkeling can add a whole new level of enjoyment to your time in the ocean water! In many beach locations, the underwater vistas are even more stunning than the ocean view. And whether or not you're snorkeling, swim fins can improve your kick strength and ankle flexibility and help you move faster through the water.
Bring Tools to Build a Sandcastle or Sand Sculpture
This traditional, fun beach activity isn't just for kids! If you search online for photos of sand castles, you'll be blown away by the magnificence, artistry and intricacy of some of the sand sculptures, especially at competitions.
Fortunately, you don't need to build a fairly elaborate sandcastle like the one shown above. Even the simplest sand castle can be a lot of fun to build...and you don't need to be a kid to enjoy it! You can find beach toys for building sand castles in toy stores or large discount stores (at least during the summer months) and on Amazon. If you're driving to your vacation destination you also can improvise sand castle building tools: small garden tools, recycled empty cans in different sizes, a watering can — use your imagination!
The terrific book Sandcastles Made Simple: Step-by-Step Instructions, Tips, and Tricks for Building Sensational Sand Creations will show you how to make both simple and elaborate sandcastles. Author and well known sand sculptor Lucinda Wierenga provides step-by-step instructions and professional tips for building individual architectural elements (staircases, balconies, roofs, etc.) into impressive sandcastles. Both adults and children will find this book fascinating and helpful.
Plan Enjoyable Indoor Activities
When you're planning your vacation, find out in advance what type of weather to expect. Very few beaches can boast perfect weather all day, every day, so it's smart to think about how you can enjoy your vacation if you get rain, cloudy days, or even storms.
- Bring more books than you plan to read. If the weather turns bad (or if you have to stay indoors for a few days because of a sunburn, sprained muscle, etc.), you'll be glad you brought extra reading material. Also, even if your normal literary diet consists of books on Jungian psychiatry or astrophysics, consider bringing some lighter reading as well - a science fiction, murder mystery or summer romance novel, or anything by Dave Barry or your favorite humorist. (Personally, I'm addicted to the Discworld fantasy novels by the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett, which I find both thought provoking and hilariously funny.) If you end up with a stomach bug and are cooped up indoors, you'll feel better faster if you have some light reading to help lift your spirits.
- Bring a Kindle Paperwhite -- even if you're also bringing a tablet. When you're going on vacation, small, lightweight and easy to carry are three of the most important attributes when deciding what to pack. Bringing more books than you plan to read is only practical if you bring them digitally. With a Kindle Paperwhite, you can bring thousands of books on vacation with you in a compact, lightweight, 6.7" x 4.6" x 0.36" format. So whatever you're in the mood to read, you'll have it at your fingertips. I bought a Kindle Paperwhite ebook reader just before my husband and I took a beach vacation to Montego Bay, Jamaica and it was such a pleasure being able to read on a chaise in the bright sun without any glare or reflection. It's one of the best gifts I ever gave myself.
- Bring playing cards and a travel board game set. If you're vacationing solo on a remote island beach where you don't know a soul (and want to keep it that way), a game of Solitaire can help entertain you if the weather turns bad and you're tired of reading. If you're traveling with one or more companions, a small, portable board game set designed for travel can help you while away a few hours when the weather turns bad (or even when it's nice out).
- Bring stationery, pens and postage (and buy postcards as soon as you arrive). Everyone loves to receive a handwritten letter or postcard, especially now that real letter writing (i.e., handwritten notes and letters) is fast becoming a lost art. Even if you don't have time during your normal busy schedule, there's time during your vacation to write a personal letter or two to friends and family. The identical letter handwritten on stationery or a postcard and mailed with a stamp will mean so much more to the recipient than if you had sent it electronically as an e-mail message or attachment. Think about how much you would enjoy receiving such a personal and thoughtful message, and then promise yourself to write and mail at least one postcard each day, and at least one full-length letter some time during your vacation. It's the perfect occupation for a rainy day!
- Bring upbeat and/or relaxing music (and a device to store and play it).If you're stuck indoors for whatever reason, remember the (often misquoted) opening lines of William Congreve's 1697 play, "The Mourning Bride":
Musick has the charms to soothe a savage breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
Having your favorite music with you will help you enjoy even rainy or stormy weather, which can be beautiful to watch from your hotel room window or balcony (just check with the hotel manager to make sure it isn't dangerous). Consider making a digital "mix tape" of upbeat tunes with summer and beach themes to help you stay in a vacation frame of mind regardless of the weather. Beach Boys anyone?
7. Keep Yourself Cool and Well Hydrated, Especially During and After Exercise.
It's essential to drink lots of water when you're out in the sun and heat to avoid dehydration.
Drink Plenty of Water Throughout the Day and Keep Yourself Cool to Prevent Dehydration and Serious Heat-Related Illness
The human body is made mostly of water, which is necessary for it to function. Eating salty foods or snacks, sweating, and engaging in physical activity can lead to dehydration. Dehydration, in turn, can impede the body's ability to regulate its temperature, which could result in heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Drinking water constantly while you're out in the sun, heat and/or humidity is essential to keeping you adequately hydrated. I highly recommend the Thermos Vacuum Insulated 18 Ounce Stainless Steel Hydration Bottle. I and my husband have been using these for many years, and they're far and away the best of the many we've tried. They keep water cold for a very long time. In fact, I fill mine with ice cubes and water before I go to bed so I can have cold water at my bedside if I get up during the night. In the morning, the water is still ice cold! This hydration bottle is that it doesn't "sweat" (i.e., moisture doesn't condense on the outside), even if you fill it with lots of ice and water and take it out to the beach on a hot, humid day. Best of all, it doesn't leak a drop, even if you lay it on its side in your beach bag, so you don't have to worry about anything else in the bag getting wet. We love ours and use them all day, every day. And, of course, we always take them with us on vacation!
To learn more about how much hydration you need and tips on preventing dehydration, read the article "Healthy Hydration" from the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
Drink Even More Cool Water When Exercising in Hot Weather
Doing exercise in hot weather puts extra stress on your body. Both the exercise itself and the hotter air temperature will raise your core body temperature. According to doctors at the Mayo Clinic, under normal conditions, your skin, blood vessels and perspiration level will adjust to the heat. But if you are exposed to high temperatures and humidity for too long, you sweat heavily, and you don't drink enough fluids to replenish what you've lost, your body's natural cooling systems may fail, resulting in one of several heat-related illnesses. Even if a heat-related illnesses starts out mild, it will get worse if left untreated.
Types of heat illnesses (in order of severity, from least to most severe):
- Heat cramps. These are painful muscle cramps that mainly affect the calves, quads and abs. The cramped muscles may feel firm to the touch, and your body temperature may be normal.
- Heat exhaustion. With heat exhaustion, your body temperature rises to as high as 104°F (40°C). You may experience nausea, vomiting, headache, fainting, weakness and cold, clammy skin. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke.
- Heatstroke. Heatstroke is a life-threatening emergency condition that occurs when your body temperature is higher than 104°F (40°C). Your skin may be hot, but your body may stop sweating to help cool itself. You may develop confusion and irritability. Seek immediate medical attention to prevent brain damage, organ failure or even death.
Warning signs of heat illness and hot to avoid heat-related illnesses:
- To learn more about the warning signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke and how to avoid heat-related illnesses, read the second page of the excellent Mayo Clinic article, "Heat and exercise: Keeping cool in hot weather."
Helpful Videos on Hydration and Keeping Yourself Hydrated
According to Dr. Gene James, most people are dehydrated and don't even realize it! And the likelihood of becoming dehydrated increases on a hot, humid beach - especially if you're being active.
The following videos will help you learn more about how your body takes in and loses water, the importance of maintaining a constant intake of water to avoiding dehydration, and other steps to help you replenish your body's essential fluids and maintain the necessary levels of hydration in the heat and during exercise and other activities that cause water loss.
You don't need to drink 8–15 glasses of plain water every day to get your required daily fluid intake. Did you know that up to 20% of your daily fluid requirement can come from high-water foods like bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe, regular (not Greek) yogurt, and gazpacho? Or that you can make your own fruit and/or vegetable infused water (like they serve at many spas) by putting slices of lemon, orange and/or cucumber into a pitcher, filling it with water and refrigerating it overnight? The following video will give you some great ideas for getting the fluids you need every day, and especially in the heat and/or during exercise.
Staying Hydrated Is Even More Important as We Age
Perspiration is our body's automatic cooling system that kicks in when our internal temperature gets too hot.
But as we get older, we don't begin to sweat until our internal temperature is higher than the temperature that used to trigger our bodies to start to perspire.
In addition, as part of the aging process our kidneys function less efficiently and they require more water to help them process bodily waste.
The following video explains these processes and the increased importance of staying hydrated as we age.
Learn More About Your Body's Water Requirements
I highly recommend the free online video course on hydration on TheVisualMD.com. This mini-course consists of a series of thirteen fabulously-produced, easy-to-understand videos about topics ranging from "What is Hydration?" to "How We Acquire & Lose Water" to "Dehydration." You can watch one or all of the videos in the series, depending on your interests. (Hydration is just one of the many topics of fantastic free online video courses on TheVisualMD. I highly recommend bookmarking this site so you can explore them when you have time.)
8. Bring Your Own Food, Snacks, and Water and Other Beverages.
With very few exceptions, most beaches either have no food at all for sale or provide only a very limited choice of unhealthy and overpriced burgers, salty hot dogs and potato chips, and sugary soda drinks. If you're staying at a friend's house or renting a beach house that has kitchen facilities, bring your own tastier, healthier and cheaper meals, snacks, and beverages (and, of course, lots of cold, refreshing water and ice in a stay-cool thermos or insulated hydration bottle).
If you don't have access to a kitchen while you're on vacation but your hotel room contains a small refrigerator, consider making a quick trip to a local grocery or farmer's market to buy fruits, vegetables,breads, cheeses, crackers, sandwich fixings, bottled water, juices, and/or snacks so you can pack a cooler to take with you to the beach each day. You'll save money and eat a lot better, too!
9. Capture Your Vacation in Photos and Videos.
Bring a digital camera and/or videocam — one that shoots underwater, if possible.
Share Your Beach Vacation With Family and Friends, and Preserve Those Memories for Yourself
It's fun to look back on a wonderful, relaxed trip to the shore and relive those good times...especially when you're shivering in the middle of winter! So make sure you don't forget to pack a digital camera, film camera, and/or videocam. You can capture some incredible shots with a high-quality underwater camera, especially if you plan to do any snorkeling or scuba diving.
For digital cameras and videocams, be sure to bring extra batteries, removable storage and a charger. If you're also bringing a laptop or tablet, remember to bring the right cable so you can transfer your photos and videos to it each night so you won't run out of storage space. And if you're traveling to a foreign country, bring a universal power adapter.
If you're bringing a film camera, make sure to pack plenty of fresh film (check the expiration dates on the film canisters or packaging).
Regardless of which type of camera or videocam you decide to bring, make sure you also bring a waterproof storage case to protect it.
10. Bring (and Maintain) a Positive Attitude.
I Saved the Most Important Tip for Last
Make a commitment to yourself to enjoy your beach vacation regardless of whatever happens, and you probably will. Deciding in advance to have a good time no matter what (and reminding yourself not to let forces beyond your control spoil your enjoyment of your vacation) is the best way to make sure you will have a great beach vacation.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Margaret Schindel
Did You Pick Up Any New Beach Vacation Tips in This Article? Do You Have Any Others to Share?
Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on July 12, 2019:
Thanks so much, Barbara! I've found that planning (along with flexibility and a great attitude once you arrive) makes a huge difference in how much we enjoy our travel and vacations.
Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on July 12, 2019:
I was just saying to my son about his camping trip (where there's a beach as well) that planning is everything. Gave him many of the tips you outlined here - safety and all. Excellent compilation of points for planning.
Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on July 07, 2019:
Thanks very much, Cynthia! Yes, these tips are geared toward planned beach outings for those who are not fortunate enough to live near a beach and can enjoy it mostly during vacations and long weekend getaways. Thanks very much for your visit and your thoughts!
Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on July 07, 2019:
We love the beach! For decades our family met and vacationed together at the beach. Truly some great memories. The suggestions and precautions you have offered here are more necessity when you plan a trip to the beach. Is is wise to plan ahead.
Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on July 06, 2019:
Thanks so much, Elf! I appreciate the kind words, especially from someone who knows this topic so well.
Wednesday-Elf from Savannah, Georgia on July 06, 2019:
I spent 13 years living 3 blocks from the beach (Tybee Island, GA), so am well versed on beach day tips. You have covered them all very well and will prove most helpful to anyone planning a beach vacation. Well done.
Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on May 17, 2019:
Thanks, Ms. Mouse! More recently I've started packing my beloved Thermos stainless steel hydration bottle, which keeps water cold for a very long time, has a nice, wide drinking spout and a wide enough mouth to fill with ice easily, can be opened and drunk from one-handed, doesn't leak (even when tossed haphazardly into a purse or beach bag) and doesn't "sweat" with condensation if you fill it with ice water. (I've written a review of it on HubPages.) Thanks for your visit and your comment!
Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on May 17, 2019:
I do love the beach, but you are absolutely right. There are definitely some considerations and preparations before venturing out for a day on or around the beach. I tend to forget taking bottled water and it is absolutely essential as you have noted.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 17, 2018:
This is a very comprehensive guide to a beach vacation. I love beaches adn we are n one right now but on the lake. Summer has started and we need this guide.
Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on April 04, 2018:
Thanks so much, Barbara! Maybe you can share this article with your son and his girlfriend. She may be more receptive to suggestions about sensible precautions like applying and reapplying sunscreen with a sufficiently high SPF, especially in a tropical climate like Hawaii. And your son might find it easier to accept recommendations from someone other than his mother. ;)
Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on April 04, 2018:
Margaret, excellent advice here. One of my sons is heading to Hawaii with his girlfriend for a holiday and I'm on him like a fly on you-know-what about sunscreen - he's never been in a place that warm. Am trying to pound into him just how dangerous the sun can be - his skin is so fair - and to apply and reapply lotion. Sure hope he's listening.
Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on February 16, 2018:
Thanks, Peg! We were able to eat well and save a lot of money by bringing our own food. And it always pains me to see trash on a beach. I appreciate your feedback and your visit!
Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on February 16, 2018:
Looks like you covered it all when it comes to beach vacations. My friend and I vacationed on Gulf for many years together until we had it down to a science. Some of your best tips were to bring your own food and take trash away with you. Nice photos!
David Stone from New York City on August 08, 2014:
I have friends who love beach vacations, but not me. I still find this interesting, observing the masterful way you create full-bodied lenses. This covers it all and is consistently engaging.
I'm a fan. But I still won't be seeing you at the beach.
josephchen on July 29, 2014:
Great article and information. Thanks for sharing. I was just planning to scan it when I realized that the content is very interesting! I can't help but sat down for a while in front of my computer and read it. :D
Renaissance Woman from Colorado on June 28, 2014:
My main tip would be to select your travel companions with care. Someone really compatible can make the trip a pleasure. Congrats on your honors and features for this excellent beach vacation article.
Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on June 27, 2014:
Never, ever turn your back on the ocean. My friend was nearly swept away while tide-pool watching one year. The waves had not come anywhere near her location for over half an hour. She felt totally safe and was nearly swept out to sea. Only a miracle saved her. She was alone at the time. None of us would have known what happened to her.
Glenda Motsavage from The Sunshine State on June 18, 2014:
Living in Florida we find ourselves at the beach quite often. Your guide was very thorough, and written with great care and completeness. We put into practice most of what you have mentioned here, with the exception of the trash bag for litter. Really love that tip. Many years ago, my best friend taught me to "always leave a place better than you found it." The garbage bag would enable me to do that at the beach! Thanks so much for the travel advice.
Dawn Romine from Nebraska on June 02, 2014:
I've heard a compress of brewed (and colled) Earl Grey Tea relives and makes sunburn go away.
Rhonda Albom from New Zealand on May 12, 2014:
Wow, this sure is comprehensive! I am headed off to Samoa soon for my next beach holiday. I can't wait.
Stephanie from Canada on March 12, 2014:
I'm a frequent visitor to the beach and these are some great tips!
Treasures By Brenda from Canada on September 04, 2013:
Protecting your valuables is always of concern to me. When you are at the beach you want to be in the water but how do you look after your possessions? I agree minimizing what you take with you and using a waterproof pouch while you are swimming are good ideas. You could write a whole page on that subject.
Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on August 22, 2013:
Wow, this is filled with some great information and tips for a beach vacation. We haven't been to the beach in a couple of years and I really, really need to go.
Rosanna Grace on June 27, 2013:
I think you've covered just about everything. The biggest hazard where I live is deadly jellyfish and of course the odd shark but I am in the Southern hemisphere and have grown up on the beach. We learn about hazards early here! Mostly our beach holidays are fun.
Wednesday-Elf from Savannah, Georgia on June 17, 2013:
I live 10 miles from the beach (and spent 13 years living 3 BLOCKS from that same beach), so 'forgetting' anything or running into bad weather is no big deal, as I can always return another time. :) But you have included some terrific hints and tips for those choosing a long-term vacation at the beach. Well done.
Ruthi on June 14, 2013:
I live a block from the beach here in Carrabelle, Florida, so every day is like a beach vacation for me! My favorite daily activity is a walk along the deserted beach with my dog Tidbit.
Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on June 12, 2013:
Excellent advice, tips and suggestions for a beach vacation! I do love the beach and I did smile when I saw the sunburn photo. It happens to someone in our family on every vacation!
Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on June 11, 2013:
This makes me want to stroll along the beach. I love picking up pretty shells and sea glass.
Jennifer P Tanabe from Red Hook, NY on June 11, 2013:
Wow, you've put so many great tips on enjoying the beach I'll just have to come back to read more of them!
Aunt-Mollie on April 29, 2013:
I live very near the, so am there often. The only tip I have is pay attention to swimming warnings and take them seriously. Oh, and you might add something about jellyfish stings - which can be a real problem.
anonymous on April 02, 2013:
I'd say just go where you love and you will love it! What amazing tips and detail you have for every possible concern....all that is left is....ENJOY! I have had sunburns that were pretty miserable years ago and remember putting wet towels in the freezer for some relief. Excellence by you as usual! :)
Brandi from Maryland on January 25, 2013:
This is a beautiful page! The beach pics make me long for sunshine! :)
David Edward Lynch from Port Elizabeth, South Africa on November 20, 2012:
Thanks for this informative lens; in the old days we always used to take our reclining beach chairs to the beach with family, it's something I must start doing again.
DebMartin on July 27, 2012:
Great lens with some very thoughtful tips. My only suggestion would be that we honor the beach and the body of water it surrounds by leaving disposable plastic (sandwich bags, water bottles, etc) at home. Even if we are responsible and pick up after ourselves, the beach is one place we can raise consciousness about how much disposable plastic is killing our oceans and lakes and the wildlife that they support. Thanks, d
montanatravel52 on July 22, 2012:
Wow! I think you covered about everything - I love the beach as a vacation, nothing more relaxing and exciting! I just wrote a lens on travel tips and used your lens as a resource - thanks!
apnatai on July 18, 2012:
Great advice for beach vacation! Many things most people don't even think about! Congratulations for this excellently helpful work!!
Ashly Rain on July 17, 2012:
I'll look here for reference the next time I go on a beach vacation. Great lens.
rt8ca on July 01, 2012:
Well you pretty much covered everything here, thanks for sharing!
Especially good info on 'Rip Currents', very important to remain calm and not fight them!
Jillynn on June 27, 2012:
I am heading out to Maui soon so this lens provided helpful information as i prepare for my trip. Thanks!
KandH on June 26, 2012:
I think this is amazing - thank you for all this useful information - it's great for those of us who can make it to the beach every weekend too :)
irenemaria from Sweden on June 22, 2012:
The beaches on Fuerteventura are amazing and many. There you can find a place where you are almost alone. I made a lens about this island in the sun. The Canary islands have more beaches too.
julieannbrady on June 20, 2012:
I honestly always dreamed of beach vacations when I lived in Cleveland, Ohio. During Spring break, many of the kids would go on beach vacations and come back all tanned. My tip? Move to Jacksonville, Florida and you can enjoy the beach nearly every day of the year.
davecurrtis on June 14, 2012:
Great points here, being prepared for a beach vacation is definitely important especially preparing for any kind of emergency.
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on June 13, 2012:
Awesome! Great resource for a beach vacation. My additional tip is to be prepared for wind on the beach, especially if you're camping. It's pretty hard to anchor a tent in the sand. :)