Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 20 July 2010

Reflections on a beach vacation

So, I finally had a week off. No work, no school, a complete week to myself. When we were contemplating how to best use this week off, a lot of things came to mind… traveling, museums, beach. The beach has always been my favorite spot to relax, so I said we don’t need to travel far to get to the best beach we know and museums are for bad weather. Therefore, beach it was.

I don’t know about you, but for us, going to the beach takes preparation and careful assessment of all things needed. Grabbing a towel and a bottle of water won’t do for us. Therefore, here are some helpful hints to consider when planning a beach vacation.

1. Know your beach!

This may also be the most important rule. It’s important to know which amenities do you want/need at the beach. Do you need showers, restrooms, snack bars, picnic areas, playgrounds, life guards? Or do you need a quiet place far from the aforementioned stress factors (not to mention hoards of kids and towel by towel crowds)? If you decide for the latter,

2. Scout the crowd!

This is essential if you want to enjoy your stay at the beach. Know who’s set up around you. Are they families? Tourists? Are there kids? Do you want kids around you? Do you want to be where the locals are? Does your beachwear fit in with those around you? Seriously, if you can’t get out of your cover-up, don’t lay among people who wear g-strings or pouches. You’re likely to be more embarrassed than the others. Go back to an area where people are more covered up and you are more likely to fit in and be comfortable.

Scouting the crowd is also important if you have kids and don’t want them to see certain things. Don’t set yourself up with your kids next to the g-string/pouch crowd if you don’t want your kids to see people wearing less fabric than you are.

3. Bring enough sunblock!

Make sure you apply sunblock liberally if you plan to be at the beach every day for a whole week. There is no reason to ruin your beach vacation by getting sunburnt the very first day. Start out with a high SPF and apply often. Plan for at least 4 oz per person, per day. This ensures you’re protected, tan but don’t burn.

4. Bring drinks & food!

This goes back to #1, if you know you’ll be far away from snacks & drinks, bring your own. A snack car may drive by but don’t count on it. At the same time, if you don’t want to pay for snacks & drinks, bring your own. Count on bringing (and drinking!!) at least a gallon of water per person. Also make sure you have either a drink containing electrolytes or some salty food (potato chips or such) to regain the salt you lose while sweating. You could of course drink the ocean water, but I prefer Gatorade or chips.

Also bring enough food so you’re not left starving. We found 5-6 peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, 4-6 pieces of fruit & 4 granola bars sufficient to last for 12 hours at the beach.

A gallon of water is stored in a cooler (after having spent the night in the freezer) and the other gallon (equally chilled) is used to cool the food. The other drinks (cooled in the refrigerator) will join the water in the cooler.

5. Don’t forget bug spray!

Once again, this reverts to #1. Know if there are bugs at the beach or on your way to and from the beach. Getting eaten up by mosquitoes on your way to the beach can ruin the whole day, especially knowing those beasts will wait for you to leave the beach eventually and are waiting to go for seconds. At the same time it can be equally annoying wanting to eat something only to find out that ants have gotten to your food before you did. Therefore, bring bug spray. Save yourself, your food and your mood.

6. Think about shade!

Some people enjoy laying in the bright sun all day long. Personally, I enjoy walking in the sun, laying in the shade. We therefore have a little canopy we bring to the beach. It is adjustable and provides enough shade for us and the cooler. Much better than the umbrella we used before… but many people still bring their umbrella. If you decide on umbrella, just make sure you don’t get one that tilts. They’re great for the pool or the backyard but not the beach.

7. Pack Smart!

Another small but important aspect before heading to the beach is to think about how to pack your stuff. Decide whether it’s worth it to bring a cart or whether you want to carry everything yourself. I find a cooler packed with ice and drinks just a bit too heavy to carry for a mile, a beach cart makes things much easier. Make sure you know what you’ll need first once you park. This means: a bottle of water and the bug spray belong on top!

Now you have an idea of what it takes for us to go to the beach… at least pretty much.

Of course I’m incredibly lucky to have someone who enjoys the beach just as much as I do and is very easy to please. All we need are the things mentioned above, plus a couple of floats that can be easily anchored, so they don’t float away. That way, when we get too hot, we can just go out into the water, relax and not worry where on the beach we may end up and how many miles we may have to walk to get back to our beach spot.

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