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Beach bound? Beach activities to keep you sane (and safe) this summer.

I love summer! To me there's nothing better than spending a day at the beach. The beach activities, the sun, the sand, the surf, the bugs, the burns, the "Mom, I'm hungry," and "I don't want to wear my hat!" It's so peaceful. Sigh. Well, I've got tips to get the most of your day at the beach, whether you are solo, with friends, or with kids. Because summer should be fun!

Plan ahead: Yes, a lot of what makes summer great is spontaneity, but unless the beach is out your front door, you probably need to drive there and want to ensure you have everything you need so you can stay as long as you want. If you're going with friends coordinate who's bringing what. This way you each carry less and don't do double duty. One person can bring a jug of water, another some chips, another a blanket, another some beach toys, an umbrella etc. Then everyone just needs their own sunscreen, some lunch and reading material. Score! Now, if you're going with your family or kids, this still holds, but instead of divvying up who brings what, give everyone a chore of what they need to put in the beach bag and haul to the sand. Let the kids pack the sand toys, hubby make the lunch, you get the sunscreen and bug spray, etc. And to put off any arguments of "This is too heavy!" get one of these.

Do shots: Ok, not really. Drinking alcohol in the sun is a bad idea, but did you know that the right amount of sunscreen to apply to an adult body is the equivalent of a shot glass? That's a lot of sunscreen! But most of us use less, and this is why we burn. You also need to reapply every 2 hours or so, even if you don't sweat or go in the water (but more so if you do). The suns rays break down even 70 SPF so be sure not to skimp on the white stuff. And a tip for frugalistas, the lotion sunscreens last a lot longer than the sprays, although I bring a spray to get my back when I'm solo. Or you could just ask the cute guy or girl on the next blanket over to apply it for you.

Tune up: A lot of beaches now frown on radio playing, but some of them are more lenient than others, especially if you keep the volume low. You might want to invest in a waterproof speaker case if you plan to listen to jams in a group, or get a smaller waterproof case for your iPod (sand gets everywhere!) if you want to plug in and tune out. I also recommend a playlist for your beach activities, maybe something mellow to fall asleep to or something livelier if you're afraid of drifting off and burning!

Feed your face: Oddly enough, while we wear almost nothing at the beach, resulting in most to be self-conscious, we also tend to want to eat a lot! Planning your beach food is hugely important, mostly because you don't want to have to go to the snack shack for $9 nuggets. I like to bring a cooler chock full of healthier fare: baby carrots, fruit (grapes, cut up watermelon, peaches, cherries), a turkey sandwich or salad, etc. Of course you need to bring snacks like pretzels, potato chips, popcorn, and if you want to splurge you can always do a picnic-type feast complete with baguette, cheese, pasta salad, etc. Whatever you bring, be sure to put ice packs in the cooler (not ice, unless you bag it, otherwise you'll have a lot of soggy food) and keep the chips in a separate bag so they don't get stale from the cold. If you've got kids, also try toting some fruit snacks, granola bars and snack size puddings or jell-o. Don't forget napkins, baby wipes, cups and utensils! You can also freeze juice boxes the night before so they stay cold.

Occupy your time: Whether you plan to read, throw the Frisbee, play paddle ball, or dig in the sand for shells, be sure to bring something to occupy everyone's time. Beach activities like these are key: Download that book to your e-reader or throw in the latest summer novel; bring pails, shovels and other sand toys for the kids; if your kids like to ride the waves, consider a boogie board for better riding; if you have open space, you might want to try flying a kite (I don't recommend a beach ball as they tend to get blown away - for good!); also try these great VelcroR paddles and ball, good for any age.

Heading to the beach this season? What's your best beach tip?



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