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10 Family Beach Day Hacks

A day on the beach with the family can be a chaotic mess with sand and sunburns, towels and tears. Or, it can be a day on the beach! The difference is in the planning.

Next time you pack up the kids for a trip to the shore, follow this beach guide. You'll still have to deal with sand and towels, but you should be able to avoid sunburns and tears.

1. Think ahead

Whether you're planning for a single day on the beach or a legitimate vacation on the beach, do some advanced planning. Scrambling at the last minute is a recipe for stress, so do some prep work in the days leading up to your excursion. Make sure the kids' swimsuits still fit, stock up on sunscreen, double-check the status of sand toys and prep snacks.

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2. Stock up on the cheap

Beach towns know people are willing to pay a premium for flip-flops, Frisbees and other fun diversions at surf shops located right next to the shore. Save money and shop before you leave home or stop by a dollar store once you reach your destination. If you don't want to haul all these goodies home on the last day of your beach vacation, hand everything off to another family.

3. Pack the essentials (and we mean booze)

There are myriad packing lists out there with reminders to stuff sunscreen, lip balm and towels into your beach bag. But if you really want to relax, sneak a bit of booze onto the beach as well. Freeze beer into ice cubes, toss a shot of whiskey into your iced coffee, make an iced slushy out of wine or tuck a beer can into a fountain soda cup and pop in a straw.

4. Use your own towels

Beach resorts often provide towels, which sounds good in theory—but then your stuff blends in with everyone else's. If you are visiting an established resort for vacation, bring your own colorful towels to differentiate your patch of sand from everyone else's. Use the ones offered by the property to dry off.

5. Arrive early, leave early

You don't need to hit the beach the moment the sun rises, but arrive mid-morning. It is exponentially easier to find a parking spot and claim your patch of sand before everyone else shows up. Early bird bonus! The sun is also not nearly as intense (though, of course, you should sufficiently slather up with SPF). Once others start to show up, if you begin to feel crowded out, at least you've already had several hours to play.

6. Create a landmark

It's a good idea to keep an eye open for everyone in your family and even establish occasional check-in times. Even so, the beach is littered with families, so set up a colorful umbrella near a recognizable landmark where everyone can find their way back to—even if they end up wandering a bit down the shore.

7. Store your valuables

Everyone knows you probably hide car keys and loose change in your shoes—even the people most likely to steal them. Instead, tuck your valuable items in an opaque water bottle or even into an unused baby diaper.

8. Stay sand-free

It's inevitable that when you leave the beach, at least a bit of the beach will leave with you. You can keep the damage to a minimum, though. Use the zippered compartment in your beach bag for small items and keep snacks in Zip-Loc baggies. Before you leave the beach, sprinkle baby powder on your skin—the dry, clinging sand will fall right off.

9. Take only pictures

Avoid the temptation to take seashells home. Collecting live shells—sand dollars and sea urchins, for example—can result in a fine, and leaving them behind means other visitors can appreciate them too. (And, let's face it, those you take home will eventually end up broken or in the trash anyway.) Consider giving each of your kids one disposable camera (and only one) for your beach trip instead. This is a practice in patience as they decide when and how to take each photo. As for your camera, make sure you protect it properly from invading sand.

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10. Let your teen bring a buddy

As fun as the beach may be, many teenagers loathe the idea of hanging out all day on the beach with their parents. Let yours invite a friend along for the day, and everyone is likely to have a better experience.

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Image via Twenty20/nikmok

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