There are as many things to do at the beach as there are people, but there are some ways to maximize your beach time and make sure you get in everything you want to do. I sometimes feel like I grew up in the water and that it wasn’t summertime till I’d put my toes in the sand and taken a midnight stroll down the beach. My family has gone to the Gulf Coast for our beach vacations for as long as I can remember, but since no beach vacation is the same I’ll go over my highlights.
Bring a Book
Not a magazine. This is very important because you need a visual reminder. Every chapter turnover, reapply sunscreen, or get in the water. The beach is great for getting your tan on, but making sure you don’t overheat and are actually enjoying the water are essential to a good beach trip.
A Good Beach Book
A good beach book is something light and fun, maybe a book you’ve read before, maybe a book of short stories. Make sure it has chapter breaks not just a blank page or a line break. It’ll be easier to remember where you left off without worrying about a bookmark if there is pronounced break between two chapters/sections. Leave the classics at home. Austen and Tolstoy make for good reading, but they are verbose and sometimes depressing. You can’t really know what a book will bring unless you’ve read it, but often the summary will help with content ideas.
Here’s why, they gets sandy and sticky and the pages have a strange glare in the bright afternoon sun. Make sure it’s not a Nook, Kindle, or iPad because sand, water and electronics don’t mix, and when it comes to your stuff, it’s better to leave the Kindle for relaxing in your hotel room.
This is super important. If you want to tan, that’s great, but make sure to do so with a protective layer of sunscreen—burning and skin damage is neither healthy nor pretty (you will still get dark with sunscreen on!). Re-apply to your face every hour, and use a higher SPF. If you spend most of your time in the water don’t wait an hour, every time you wipe the water off your face you are wiping the sunscreen. Just because the sun is hiding or it’s overcast doesn’t mean you can’t be burned. Bring sunglasses and if you are really cool a hat. If you can rock a hat, you can do anything, and it’s better to not get as much sun than to get burned. Since we all know you’re probably going to ignore that advice, at least bring some aloe along so you can get some relief after your sunburn.
I know it sounds strange, and that floats are for children, but if your beach doesn’t have many waves a tube can get you water and a tan at the same time. You can usually buy them for $5, blow them up and leave them there when you leave. Reminder to turn over every hour because no one wants a sunburn on one half of their body. The long rafts are also good, but harder to get onto and easier to be thrown off of.
Know What You Want
If you are revisiting your beach spot you already know what’s around, but if you are exploring a new town, get a guidebook, ask a local, or do some Internet research. No one knows better than you what you want while on vacation: shopping, activities, sightseeing, or just beaches and pools. If you are revisiting try new activities, but don’t try so many new things that you forget your favorites!
Good Food is Everywhere
Yes that restaurant with a line out the door and down the street is probably really good, but while in a beach town you’d be hard-pressed to find truly terrible seafood. So don’t go where everyone else goes—try something that looks like a hole in the wall, because I guarantee that place has got the best food, although probably not the best service.
Do it Yourself
If possible. When all else fails you can make your own dinners. I know sometimes the point of vacation is so you don’t have to cook, but sometimes it’s the most fun. Go to the grocery store to buy spices, plates, and such. Get some seafood from a local fisherman or catch it yourself and make in the the hotel/condo kitchen. If your condo doesn’t have a kitchen use the hotel grill by the pool, they almost always have one (usually charcoal) and you can make a delicious dinner.
Showers are Important
I know you’ve gotten in the pool/ocean 10 times and you might want to rough it, but seriously a shower is super important ALL THE TIME! Rinsing off in the pool is not the same and eventually you will smell. The salt water might be giving you a great hairdo, but seriously, once a day, minimum. Be sure to apply some moisturizer after so your skin doesn’t get too dry. No need to blow dry, style, or put product in your hair; you’re at the beach and for a few days doing the least possible is a great idea. (Plus you are wasting precious beach time blow drying your hair!)
SIDE NOTE: Shave your legs before you go to the beach and once you are there do it as few times as possible. Salt water burns cuts and scrapes. Make sure you have a great razor, not brand new and not old, and shave with lotion or conditioner for the best experience.
My sister doesn’t feel like she’s been to the beach unless she hits the outlet mall. I find it’s a drain on my money and my time while I debate buying something I sorta love just cause I’m getting a deal. If you and your girlfriends/family want to hit some stores, keep in mind that you don’t have to buy anything to have a good time, and just because you are getting a discount doesn’t mean you have to have it.
Souvenirs are FUN.
But not important. If you find something you absolutely adore then by all means get it, but magnets and postcards are for 12-year-olds with an allowance. Many beach towns have an outlet nearby or in the next town. Go to a regular mall and look. Buy yourself something at the outlet or at a small boutique. And unless it’s an outlet, DO NOT go into stores you have at home. Yes, they might have a slighter different selection, but you can see that stuff online. Go explore.