As a native Michigander, I’ve spent time almost every summer of my life at the beach, enjoying the long sandy shoreline of Lake Michigan.
Over the years, I’ve developed an arsenal of strategies to maximize the fun of these trips while minimizing any potential inconvenience. However, even I found some new tips and tricks while writing this article.
Whether you’re heading to the ocean, the Great Lakes or a local watering hole, here are 15 beach hacks to try this year:
1. Use a fitted sheet instead of a beach towel
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OK, you need a couple of things to make this work correctly. The first is four heavy objects to act as anchors. The second is no kids.
Lay the fitted sheet upside down on the sand. Put your four anchors in the corners and pull the sheet up and taut. When you’re done, you should have four short walls around you to prevent blowing sand from invading your space.
Kids will quickly turn this area into a sandbox, so I would skip the aggravation and save this hack for when they’re older, or you’re alone.
2. Hide your valuables where they’ll never be found
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It would be nice if people would keep their hands off your stuff, but the reality is that thieves can be anywhere.
To avoid someone taking off with your valuables while you swim, hide your cash and keys somewhere they won’t be found. If you have a kiddo in diapers, put your valuables in a diaper and wrap it up so it looks like it’s dirty.
You can also clean out an empty sunscreen container and put cash, cards and keys in there.
Some people recommend rolling up cash and storing it in an old, clean lip balm container. However, I worry that it would be so small it would easily be misplaced.
3. Put your key on a cork
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I wish we had thought of this hack for all the times our keys fell out of the pocket of my husband’s swim trunks, and we ended up searching the bottom of the lake for them.
Make an extra key to your vehicle, attach it to a wine cork and lock all your other keys in the car. If the car key falls into the water, the cork will help make it visible and more easily found.
Yes, there’s a chance it could float away if you don’t notice it right away — but hey, no hack is perfect. If you’re worried, use hack No. 2 to hide your key rather than keeping it in your pocket.
4. Use baby powder to help whisk away sand
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Nothing is worse than wiping off wet sand, right? I’ve heard that if you sprinkle on some baby powder, it will absorb the moisture and make it easier to leave the sand at the beach rather than hauling it home with you.
I can’t vouch for this one personally, but if you’ve tried it, tell us how it works by leaving a comment below.
5. Store your phone in a plastic baggie
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If you need to bring your phone to the beach, keep it sealed in a plastic baggie to protect it from sand and water. If the bag is thin enough, you may find you’re able to use the touchscreen without even taking it out of the bag.
6. Search for wayward kids downwind
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In a perfect world, you would have eyes on your kids at all times. But I have five kids and am painfully aware of how easy it is to make parenting mistakes.
So no stones from me if you have a child wander away from you on the beach. However, I will give you this advice: When you start frantically searching, your best bet is to start by looking downwind.
Unless there is something really tempting upwind (like that huge dune your older child was eyeing), kids typically take the path of least resistance.
7. Keep a balloon handy to clear your ears
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When my ears need to be cleared at the beach, I typically hold my nose while trying to blow out of it. I’m sure that’s super attractive, right? If you’d rather use a different way to clear your ears, bring along a couple of balloons.
Trying to blow up a balloon is an easy — and possibly not so “goofy” looking — way to clear your ears. It might also be an easier concept for little ones to grasp.
8. Put on your cheap sunglasses
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If there is one truth about beach trips, it’s that you’ll always leave something behind. Or it’s just as likely that someone will step on or sit on something and break it. You certainly don’t want that something to be your expensive sunglasses.
Head to the dollar store and buy a cheap pair for a buck. It’ll get the job done. Besides, if the glasses are lost or stolen, it won’t break your heart.
9. Hit the dollar store for all your beach needs
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Actually, get whatever you can from the dollar store.
Kids’ beach toys are particularly prone to getting lost or lifted by another kid at the beach. Sure, a dollar store bucket is cheap and flimsy, but it only needs to last a few hours at the beach for a day trip. If you have to buy another one for the next trip, don’t worry: It won’t break the budget.
10. Highlight your hair as you soak up the rays
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You ’80s girls know all about this, right? That seems to be when the spray-on product Sun-In was all the rage. While you can still buy highlighting product in the store, you can get the same effect by squeezing some lemon juice into your hair and combing it through before you hit the beach.
The acid in the juice can be harsh and damage some hair, so try a little to start and see how it goes before drenching your hair in the stuff.
11. Eat a big breakfast to avoid sandy snacks
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Every time I take a cooler to the beach, I regret it. It’s a pain to drag or carry over the sand. Then, the food gets sandy and my kids usually pick it over so it goes to waste.
Nowadays, I make sure we eat a big meal before heading out for the day. I might pack some drinks and a light snack — granola bars or packets of fruit snacks — but I never bother with sandwiches or something more substantial.
If you’ll be at the beach all day, consider leaving your cooler in the car and heading to the parking lot for a midday meal. No need to be eating at the water’s edge, in my opinion.
12. Flip your steering wheel when parking
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The beach parking lot can be brutal on cars. As a child, I remember crying because I sat too quickly on a searing hot vinyl seat.
Fortunately, vinyl is no longer standard issue in most cars. But a hot steering wheel can make the first few miles home painful. Minimize the problem by turning your steering wheel all the way around when you park. Then, the bottom of the wheel will take the brunt of the heat, and the top will be cooler when you flip it around to leave.
13. Make your own cooler ice packs
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Maybe you’re not going to take my advice, and you’ll bring the cooler. In that case, hack your own ice packs.
Don’t use the reusable ones –that’s just more stuff for you to haul. Instead, fill sealable gallon plastic bags with water and freeze them. Use those for ice packs. When the ice melts, or when you’re ready to go, dump out the water and remaining ice and use the bags to store suits and other damp items until you get home.
14. Cover the kids with clothes, not sunscreen
At the beach. (Photo by Blue Orange Studio / Shutterstock.com)
I like to think every parent has had the experience of realizing later they missed a spot on their kids when applying sunscreen, or that they forgot to reapply after their child got out of the water. At least, I hope I’m not the only one.
A better option than obsessing over sunscreen is to buy swimsuits that cover more skin. You can get swim shorts and rash guards for both boys and girls. Many offer extra sun protection built in, and the less skin that’s exposed, the less sunscreen you need to worry about applying and reapplying.
15. Corral little ones with an inflatable kiddie pool
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This final hack is intended for those of you with just-mobile babies. You know the little darlings: They can move just enough to get away from you if you’re not careful, but not enough to easily climb over obstacles or walk away.
Your day at the beach will be much more enjoyable if you bring a small inflatable kiddie pool with you. It helps if you have someone with a lot of hot air handy to blow it up.
Once inflated, plop your baby in it with a few toys or maybe some water, and you’ll keep your kiddo both contained and entertained.
Do you have secrets for savoring the beach? Share them by commenting below or on our Facebook page.