10 Savvy Travel Tips to Make Your Next Beach Vacation Perfect
Have a Great Time on Your Next Beach Vacation!
I love spending time at the beach! I've learned from experience that vacation preparation makes the difference between having a blast and being miserable because things like sunburn, bug bites, lost or stolen valuables, bad weather, etc. So I've put together the 10 best beach vacation tips to help you have a fabulous time, whether you're going for a month, a week or two, a weekend getaway, or just a day of swimming, surfing or sunning.
Having 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.
10 Great Tips for a Perfect Beach Vacation
A beach vacation (or just a day at the beach) should be about fun in the sun, sand and surf. Follow these tips to ensure that your stay by the sea or ocean is everything you want it to be!
- Choose the Right Beach for the Type of Vacation You Want.
- Bring a Comfortable Place to Sit or Sunbathe.
- Protect Yourself and Your Valuables.
- Be Prepared for Mishaps and Emergencies.
- Bring Beach Bags, Ziploc Bags and Trash Bags.
- Plan Fun Activities For Both Good and Bad Weather.
- Keep Yourself Cool and Well Hydrated, Especially During and After Exercise.
- Bring Your Own Food, Snacks, and Water and Other Beverages.
- Capture Your Beach Vacation in Photos and Videos.
- Bring (and Maintain) a Positive Attitude.
1. Choose the Right Beach for the Type of Vacation You Want.
Do your research to find a beach you'll love, then check the rules about your favorite activities.
Start by deciding what type of experience you want from your beach vacation.
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.
Do you need a beach that's accessible by someone with limited mobility? Do you want to be able to bring a grill for a cookout? Stay out after sunset for a romantic moonlight walk or swim? Bring your jet-ski? Collect sea shells? Find out in advance whether whatever you 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 the chance of drowning at a beach with lifeguards. And according to the USLA, the chance that a person will drown at a beach protected by USLA affiliated lifeguards is only 1 in 18 million (.0000055%).
Research Your Beach Vacation Destination Options
- Popular Beaches & Sun Vacations (TripAdvisor)
This TripAdvisor page is one of the best places to start your vacation research. It provides links to information about the most popular beaches and sun vacation destinations around the world, and you can narrow the list by geographic region.
- Travel Channel: Beaches
This section of the Travel Channel site provides terrific information, tips and advice for choosing your beach vacation destination. Find articles on the Best City Beaches, Best Budget Beaches, Best Beaches for Wheelchair Users, and more.
How Do You Feel About Beach Vacations?
Have You Ever Taken a Beach Vacation?
2. Bring a Comfortable Place to Sit or Sunbathe.
Beach towels, beach chairs and/or beach recliners - whatever you find most relaxing!
An oversized, plush and thirsty beach towel, a comfortable beach chair, and/or a relaxing beach recliner will give you a comfortable base for your beach adventures.
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 beach 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 beach 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 Well Made, Gravity Free Folding Recliner Provides Stress-Reducing Comfort
One of the main reasons for taking a beach 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/chaise lounge.
I visited a friend who lives near the beach and tried out her . It was the first time I had tried this type of beach lounger and it was a real treat! It was both roomy and extremely comfortable, and as someone who has back problems, I really appreciated its supportive, ergonomic design and the fact that the cushioned head rest could be adjusted to support either my lower back or my neck. Reclining was effortless with this zero gravity lounger! I just leaned back until I found the most comfortable angle and then locked it in that position until I was ready to get up. I actually discovered that I could lean much farther back than was comfortable initially, but once I got used to it, it was very relaxing and took all the stress off my joints. Bliss Gravity Free Folding Recliner With Sun Shade and Drink Tray
I'm very fair-skinned and also love to read, so it was great to have the sun shade and be able to adjust the angle during the course of the day as needed. I relaxed in complete comfort that afternoon, with a snack on the handy side tray and a refreshing, cold drink in the cup hole.
Just one caveat: This is sturdy, well built seating, so don't expect it to be lightweight.
3. Protect Yourself and Your Valuables Against Loss or Theft.
Nothing can ruin a beach vacation faster than a sunburn, itchy bug bites, a cut on the foot, or lost or stolen valuables! 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 plus some combination of the following UVA-screening ingredients: stabilized a avobenzone, ecamsule (also known as Mexoryl™), oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide. 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.
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. If you're going to a beach in a hot, humid, tropical climate, consider buying a sweatproof sunscreen formula. Note: Children younger than six months should be kept out of the sun entirely. Kids 6 months old and older should wear sunscreen.
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 beach chair with its own built-in shade or bring your own beach umbrella and/or pop-up beach 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 beach 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 beach 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, information on 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 about 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 sunglasses with larger lenses; a wraparound style provides maximum eye protection.
Source: Mayo Clinic web site
Protect Your Feet With Beach-Friendly Sandals or Water Shoes
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.
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, and 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 Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D. of 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," and that "the most effective sunburn treatment simply helps ease your discomfort." Here's an excerpt of his tips for relieving sunburn pain (read the original article for more detailed advice):
- Keep it cool. Apply cold compresses (e.g., a towel dampened with cool water) to the sunburned area or take a cool bath.
- Keep it moist. Apply aloe or moisturizing cream to the burned skin and avoid products containing alcohol, which can dry out skin even more. Dr. Gibson advises against using sunburn treatment products containing anesthetics, such as benzocaine. (I hadn't heard about that before reading his article.) Instead, he recommends that you...
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. If needed, take anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen until redness and soreness subside, following the dosage instructions on the label.
- Leave blisters intact. Dr. Gibson explains that breaking any blisters that may form will only slow the healing process and increase the risk of infection. He advises covering blisters lightly with gauze, if needed.
- Treat peeling skin gently. A few days after you get a sunburn, the burned skin is likely to start peeling, which is the body's way of getting rid of the top layer of damaged skin. Dr. Gibson advises that you continue to use moisturizing cream while your skin is peeling. Other than moisturizing it, try your best to leave it alone and let it peel naturally. (If you try to help it along, you'll likely damage your skin even more.)
- Consult a doctor for sunburn treatement in any of the following situations: If severe sunburn covers a large portion of your body with blisters, if your sunburn is accompanied by a high fever or severe pain, or if a severe sunburn doesn't begin to improve within a few days.
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 beach 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 / Anti-Inflammatory)
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 the beach 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 beaches, 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 beach 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 the beach. Instead, look for a bag or tote made of a more sandproof 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.
When you're shopping for a new beach bag or tote, take a look at large diaper bags, too. Many of them are large, lightweight, waterproof and stylish - perfect for carrying all your stuff!
And if you plan on carrying a lot of large and/or heavy things with you (beach chairs, a cooler filled with food and cold beverages, etc.), and especially if you're traveling with kids, consider a large, sturdy folding cart with all-terrain wheels designed specifically to navigate over sand and bumpy or rocky paths, like this Rio Brands Wonder Wheeler Wide Beach Cart that has 15 cubic feet of storage, can carry as much as 100 pounds of beach gear including your beach chairs, beach umbrella, cooler and more, and has an extended push or pull handle with a comfortable, non-slip neoprene grip.
6. Plan Fun Activities For Both Good and Bad Weather.
A little advance planning will let you enjoy your beach 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. Personally, 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 on the beach. 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 on the beach. 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 beach 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 on the beach.
- 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 on the beach 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! Some of them will take your breath away.
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 the beach toys section of nearly any toy store, large discount store, 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, Too
When you're planning your beach 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 went on our last 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 beach 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 Hydration Bottle. I use mine every day and wouldn't leave home without it. If you want to know more about the features and benefits of what I consider to be the perfect water bottle, read my in-depth product review of this Thermos Hydration Bottle.
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 if you're exercising in hot weather to help prevent serious heat-related illnesses.
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 this excellent article on "Heat and exercise: Keeping cool in hot weather" by the staff of the Mayo Clinic.
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 Beach 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 beach vacation 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.
Bonus: Links to Other Great Beach Tips and Resources
This "Beach Tips" article from the May 2010 issue of San Diego Magazine features 10 tips for being a considerate beachgoer.
Download and print out this Beach Packing List checklist from SmarterTravel.com to help you remember to bring all the essentials for your beach vacation.
© 2012 Margaret Schindel