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.
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.