beach toysI love the beach ... in theory. That ocean smell, the beauty, the happy sounds of children playing, a trashy novel, and a cold drink ... ahhh. Alas, while a day at the beach is one of the most thrilling things a kid can imagine (and a week's vacation there is pure nirvana!) ... it's not always all fun and games for us parents. If "beach" to you also conjures up visions of roasting in the sun, schlepping millions of pounds of STUFF across the dunes, and fending off hot, sticky sand from everything and everywhere, fear not. There are some great ways to cut back on the muss and fuss so you can concentrate on getting your husband to build sandcastles with the kids while you finish your book. (Ha!)

1. Baby wipes are your friend. You can use them to wipe off your hands after a sticky round of sunscreen.

2. Bring a spray bottle filled with non-ocean water. If you can, pop a few ice cubes in it! A few spritzes of cool, non-salty, non-sticky water is really refreshing.

3. Put sunscreen on BEFORE you head out. Yes, you'll have to reapply after a while, but at least the first round can be done in the comfort of your sand-free, air-conditioned home (or hotel room!).

Speaking of sunscreen ...

4. Spray-sunscreens rule the earth. I don't like them for my face, but for everywhere else, and for kids who are moving targets, they're indispensable. You can layer everyone up without having to rub sand into skin. Win, win!

5. Leave a towel in the car just for wiping off sandy feet. It's hard to wipe off sandy feet with a wet, sandy towel. Trust me. I know.

6. Pack empty plastic bags for carrying home wet, sandy suits and shoes.

7. Invest in a toy carrier. This doesn't have to be anything fancy; a big plastic tote will do. That way you can dump all the toys in your toy bag and rinse them -- and the bag -- off when you get home.

8. Oversize beach towels are better than both giant blankets AND those silly kid-size towels! Big blankets can be hard to get the sand off mid-beach day, especially if you're in a crowded area, while little towels just disappear into the sand.

9. Pack baby powder or cornstarch along with a big makeup brush for when you want to get skin sand-free. Just brush a little on, let the powder absorb the wetness, and brush it off along with all that sand! (Just be careful if you have a really little one at the beach, because inhaled baby powder can be dangerous to baby's lungs.) 

10. Water shoes. Yes, they're totally weird looking. But they make walking on sand and in the water so much easier. Flip-flops are great but they stink for trudging along in the sand!

11. Indispensable: a big beach umbrella to give you an oasis of shade.

12. A beach chair is worth the money you'll pay for it AND the effort of carrying it down to the beach (though it's easy to find super lightweight beach chairs). It's so much more comfortable to sit up, out of the sand, than to be on your towel. (Unless of course you're taking a delicious nap ... but then again, this is a trip with kids, right? Not gonna happen!)

What are some of your tips for enjoying yourself at the beach?


Image via HeyDanielle/Flickr