8 Beach Tips for New Beachgoers

8 Beach Tips for People Who Didn't Grow Up Near the Ocean

There are some things you can only learn from spending years living near the beach. Luckily, I'm here to share them with you.

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I've lived almost my entire life in a small town on the west coast of Florida. Most of my weekends are spent on the beach, so I've learned all there is to know about beach travel. I know exactly what it takes to spend a perfect day in the sand and ocean. Now, you can know too. Make sure you're prepared for your next beach vacation (Spring break, I'm looking at you). Here are 8 essential beach tips for people who didn't grow up in beach paradise.

Choose the Right Beach

Do you want a tourist experience, or do you want to live like the locals? Where I'm from, all of the tourists flock to Clearwater Beach because it's consistently ranked as the best or one of the best in the country. But little do these tourists know, there are beaches just as good and far less crowded just 15 minutes down the road. Now, some people may want to have a tourist experience, which is great. Just expect much larger crowds and worse traffic before you go. At the less touristy locations, you'll be around locals and have fewer crowds to deal with, even on nice days. Also, you'll want to consider the beach's restrictions before going. For example, if you have a dog, make sure you pick a beach that is dog-friendly.

Bring the Right Seating

When visiting the beach, you should have either a beach towel or a beach chair (or both) to relax on. I usually opt for a beach towel because I prefer to lay down in the sand, but you can't go wrong with a nice beach chair either. The number one rule on bringing a beach towel to lie in is it needs to be large. You don't want to get a small towel that you can't even fit on unless you enjoy being completely covered in sand. I personally bring a huge towel that could fit two people, so I can spread out or share with a friend without it being too small. If you're bringing a beach chair, make sure it's comfortable and sturdy, because you'll be sitting in it for hours.

ALWAYS Wear Sun Protection

I don't care if you never sunburn. I don't care how much of a tan you need. If you follow any of my beach tips, it should be to always wear sunscreen or sunblock. Spending hours in direct sunlight can severely damage your skin without the proper protection. And you can still get a tan if you use a lower SPF sunscreen on your skin. Make sure you reapply the sunscreen every hour or two to prevent getting sunburned. Also, be sure to bring a hat and sunglasses to further protect your face from the sun. You can also bring a large beach umbrella to give yourself some cool shade during the hottest hours of the day. If you do get a sunscreen, aloe vera will be your best friend. Apply it generously all over your burn for pain relief and to allow the burn to heal more quickly.

Bring Bags

If you don't bring bags that can protect your items at the beach, you'll be picking sand out of your phone and wallet for the next month. You should always bring a large beach bag and several Ziploc baggies to protect your items from both sand and water. Only remove your items from the bags when you're using them. Trust me, this tip is a lifesaver. There's nothing worse than trying to get all of the sand out from the cracks of your phone case.

Have Plenty of Food and Water

If you're going to spend an entire day at the beach, you'll need a ton of water and beach food. Bring a large cooler and stuff it with as many waters as you think you'll need, plus some extra. Then, pack some sandwiches, chips, fruits, veggies, and whatever else sounds yummy to you. My favorite thing the eat at the beach is a big turkey sub and sour cream and onion chips. Remember: many beaches don't allow alcohol. So check with the beach to see what restrictions they have. If you are able to bring alcohol, make sure it's not in a glass container.

Go at the Right Time

In peak beach season, any beach you try to go to is going to be absolutely packed by 11 a.m. It's super important to get there before all the crowds pile in if you want to get a good spot on the beach. I usually aim for 9 a.m. at the latest, but try to get there even earlier if you can. The weather is so perfect in the morning, and you won't have as many people around you. Also, the traffic getting to the beach will be much lighter than it will be around noon.

Bring Fun Activites

The beach isn't just about laying out in the sun and getting a tan or going swimming in the ocean. It's a place to kick the soccer ball, throw the frisbee, ride a boogie board, or read a good book. Bring things that will make you want to stay at the beach all day. I personally always bring a water-proof speaker, a soccer ball, a football, and a book or two. That way I can be active when I want to, or I can lay back and read a book or listen to music when I feel like relaxing. The beach wouldn't be the same without some fun activities to fill up your day.

Large Groups Should Plan Accordingly

If you have a large group going to the beach, type up the ultimate beach vacation checklist so each person can volunteer to bring something. It's best to bring a ton of shareable foods and drinks for everyone to share. Bring a long, beach-friendly table and a big canopy tent to hang out under. Also, bring plenty of plates and silver wear for people to eat.

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The Burning of Notre Dame

As the world looked on in horror, the 800-year-old cathedral threatened to burn to the ground, but I felt a different sort of fire igniting.

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It's unlikely that this is the first article you've ready about the burning of France's Notre Dame Cathedral. It's a national landmark that has stood, in some form, for 800 years and we, as a world, were forced to watch it burn for nearly a day and a night. It was devastating to a multitude of people, not only the French nation.

I was watching a live stream of the cathedral's burning, stuck between horror and disbelief, when another feeling entirely began to creep over me. I read the headlines sprawled across the top of the screen, "Notre Dame Burns", "Gothic Structure Nearly Lost", "Will They Rebuild?" and started to wonder where we place our value in everyday life. I understand and appreciate the fact that Notre Dame is a treasure from a different time entirely, it holds more history than the whole of younger lands like the United States and Canada combined, but still, doubt circled in my heart and mind.

After the spouting flames had died to their last embers, a torrent of posts began to flood multimedia platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and everything in-between. People began to communicate their relief that the inner sanctuary was unharmed, that the fire hadn't damaged the twin towers, etc. They touted that God had spared dear Notre Dame in her darkest hour. I disagreed, but not for the reasons you might think.

We, as a culture, as a world, place too high a value on historical religious items whilst we shun the Power to which we owe their creation. The historical value of a place like Notre Dame is unmistakable, I pray that the French government will make every effort in her restoration so future generations can understand her place in history. But...I pray, more so, that the tragedy of the burning of Notre Dame serves a higher purpose; to bring those who have fallen away from Christ back from the brink.

We need to understand the value of our religious history, but not allow it to control us. Some might say the burning of Notre Dame was the conflagration of a dying era. Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn't. I think God used the pillars of fire that emerged from the cathedral's center as a beacon to bring our eyes back to him. Disasters unite nation to nation, people to people, and He wants us to unite in our adoration of Him.

I'm amused when people describe Christ as a softy, a push-over, a weakling. Because I know better. The flames that wreathed Notre Dame were a testament to His strength. Through them, He was shouting, "Come back to me! I am here! Forsake your sinful ways and find redemption in Me!"

I think John the Baptist had the right of it in Luke 3:16, "...I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."

Christ is the fire.

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3 Ways to Save Money on Utilities During Winter

As college students or young adults, we're always looking for ways to save some extra money each month. Here's how you can keep your house warm without spending a fortune on heating this winter.

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Don't leave your heater blasting for the next two months and pay a ton of money to the utility company. Here are three ways to keep warm and save money.

Make Sure Your Heating System Is Performing Optimally

Your heating system is what will keep your house warm throughout the winter months, but don't pay a ton of extra money because your system is working harder to heat your home. If your heating system is working at its best, it will save you a ton of money during the winter. If you think your system isn't working properly, you can have professionals come out and take a look.

Keep Your Home Insulated

Insulation helps to keep your home warm without using extra heat. By keeping your home insulated, you can save a fortune on utilities because your heating system will be doing a lot less heating. If you don't want to pay for insulation, you can do small things around the house to keep it warmer. Keep the curtains closed all the time to hold in heat. Have the fans turn the opposite way to circulate warm air. These small things can really make a difference.

Bundle Up

Instead of jumping straight to turn the heater on when it gets a bit cold in your home, bundle up with a sweater, sweatpants, and a blanket first. Keep yourself warm using comfy clothing instead of paying money to heat your home. You'll still feel just as toasty, and you'll see a big drop in your monthly utility bill from not using the heater as much.

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