The best perk when we moved to Florida (besides the weather!) was close access to some of the world’s most famous beaches.
Needless to say, I'm a huge fan of beach days!
Whether you're a yearly vacationer or a full-time coastal resident, a beach day is the perfect way to relax. It's also a great pick-me-up before getting back into the routine of the real world!
Lounging on a soft towel, listening to the waves as you lose yourself in a riveting fiction novel sounds like heaven, doesn’t it?
Under a large umbrella, of course. A sunburn is the last thing you need!
We spent almost six years in the Sunshine state and got to visit many beaches up and down the east and west coast. Along the way, I gathered a list of my absolute favorite tips to help you plan the perfect beach day without forgetting a thing.
You can use these tips to upgrade any beach experience, but for the sake of this post, I’ll give specific hacks for those visiting Florida beaches. But no matter where you go, I promise you’ll have so much fun you won’t even worry about getting a little sand in your car!
Because it’s near impossible to avoid. 😜
1. Choose the Right Time to Visit for the Perfect Beach Day
The time of the year and day of the week can make or break your beach experience, especially if you’re visiting Florida.
- November through January are some of the coldest months out of the year with temps reaching into the high 60's or low 70's. The water is pretty chilly too…not that Northerners seem to care as much, but Floridians find that downright cold!
- February thru April are probably your best options to plan the perfect beach day if you don't want it to be too hot, but be aware of college students on Spring Break (mid-March), and choose a more obscure beach if you'd like a quiet place to relax.
- May through October is rainy season, so be prepared to have to abandon your spot to make way for afternoon showers and thunderstorms.
Saturdays and Sundays can be terrible to find parking, or even a spot to spread out on the beach itself! So if you can visit the beach on a weekday, definitely opt for that.
2. Research Your Preferred Beach
Whether it's a quiet place to relax, or big waves to surf and bodyboard, each beach will have different characteristics you should consider before you book your flight or pack up the family for a weekend visit.
You'll definitely want to do some research ahead of time to make sure you choose the right beach!
- The Atlantic Ocean has colder waters, but better waves for surfing.
- The Gulf is much warmer and more calm, and can be really fun to wade in or snorkel.
- Barrier islands will have much stronger currents and areas for shelling and watching wildlife
- Man made beaches will have super soft sand that might be preferable for families with kids.
Don't forget to check the amenities too!
Some beaches have nice public restrooms with showers, while others have only porta johns or nothing at all. Parking can also be hit or miss, so bring some cash to park in a private lot if all of the public parking is completely full.
Psst… want to know what my favorite beach is? Henderson Beach State Park in the Panhandle. Gorgeous sand AND water!
3. Always Keep a Beach Bag on Hand
No beach day is complete without the perfect beach bag! From the actual tote, to sunscreen, beach reads, extra towels and more, you want to make sure you have everything accessible and organized to make your perfect beach day a reality.
So rather than have these items strewn all over the house and gathering them up each trip, buy extras and keep everything together in one or two bags that allow for easy grab-and-go.
Here are the basics:
- Sunscreen (obviously!). I prefer 50 SPF or higher and grab a Sports version that won’t dissolve as easily.
- Swimsuits & Cover-ups – Along with a change of clothes!
- Extra large beach towels – These are easier to lie on and will cover an entire lounge chair rather than ¾ of it.
- A wet/dry bag for drippy swimsuits.
- Reusable storage bags for electronics and small items that might get lost (Fitbits, chapstick, credit card, etc.) It’s also a good idea to add a few bandaids and tube of antibiotic ointment just in case you have a run in with a sharp shell or rock.
And of course, you need a large tote to carry it all. These are three of my favorites:
I think I might have an obsession with stripes!
For a more extensive list of supplies, download the free printable beach packing list below. You might not need everything, but it will help you get started!
NEVER FORGET YOUR BEACH UMBRELLA AGAIN!
4. Plan for Drinks and (the Right) Snacks
When packing a cooler or meal tote, smaller IS better. (This is my favorite bag—so stylish!)
If you need something bigger, keep in mind that wheeled coolers are fine for hard packed sand, but fluffier, softer sand will be a struggle that is just not worth it. Trust me on that one!
- Sandwiches are easiest to pack for a beachside picnic, but if you'd like to cook out, make sure there is a grill available, then gather all the necessary supplies.
- I also suggest buying individually wrapped snacks like granola bars and small bags of chips or portioning out food on paper plates. Sand gets everywhere and you don’t want someone to reach their gritty hand into a bag of chips that everyone shares!
- And always take lots of clean, fresh water, as the sun and salt water can dehydrate you pretty quickly. Plus, you don't want to rely on outrageous water bottle prices at the snack shop!
When you’re finished, collect everyone’s garbage in a plastic grocery bag, then tie tightly and drop off in a designated bin before you leave.
5. Limit Big Gear to the Essentials
It’s super tempting to bring all your snorkel gear, umbrellas, beach chairs, body boards, beach blankets, shovels and buckets! But the more you bring, the more you have to cart back.
And some of those boardwalks from the parking lot to the beach are long!
Work beach rentals into your budget if you're an out-of-towner, or invest in a few select pieces if you're a local resident.
Also, you may want to encourage children to only bring a few toys to the beach at a time. Extra playthings tend to get lost, left, or stolen by other kids, not always intentionally, but just because more toys equals more “sharing” to go around.
FYI: The dollar store offers plenty of fun choices and you won't feel so bad if those toys don't make it back home.
I know that for me, it can be really easy to get frustrated when I'm setting up our area and realize I forgot something important, especially since I pride myself in my planning.
But you know what?
As long as you have fun, and enjoy your time with friends and family, that's seriously all that matters.
Your perfect beach day is truly how YOU make it!
Besides, you can always pick up a bottle of sunscreen at the drug store to join the other three you have back home.
You'll use them up…someday. 😉
What helps you have the perfect beach day?
Share your favorite tip or must-have product in the comments!
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