How To Enjoy The Beach When You Don’t Really Like The Beach

In my mind, I am someone who can float through life, all free-spirited like, taking impromptu trips and just going with the flow. I envision myself as the type of person who can truly make it through the weekend with only a weekender bag. I’m the girl that can grab a towel and a bottle of SPF and head to the beach for a day of fun and sand. In reality, nothing is further from the truth.

I tell myself a lot of lies, it would seem. Until recently, I was under the impression that I enjoyed the beach. I would get super pumped for beach days only to arrive and realize that I don’t really like sand, people, or sun. I like the water though, so at least I have that.

I’ve had to accept that I’m neither free-spirited nor beach-loving. Alas, living in Florida means that a lot of socializing happens al fresco, and I’m not going to miss a party just because sand is aggravating. In short, I am going to have fun in spite of myself because, while I do not enjoy the beach, some of my friends and family do. I’ve learned, though, that tolerating the beach is not something I can wing. Preparation is key, as is setting realistic expectations for oneself, and knowing that I need to plan has helped me create a kit for enjoying the beach even though it’s not really my thing:

The most boring thing you have to bring  — your  water — is also the most important: It’s all well and good to have a Tory Burch beach towel, but that won’t keep you hydrated. The best choice for hydration is obviously water. However, there is nothing worse than a bottle of 85-degree water after coming out of a body of 85 degree water. To keep your water cold as long as possible, I fill a water bottle halfway, laying it on its side, and freezing until solid. This results in a solid block of ice that extends down the entire bottle and, since it’s so big, melts very slowly. (Or you could just lug a cooler onto the beach, but those things are annoying to carry.)

Put on sunscreen and then put on even more sunscreen: One of the worst things about hanging out at the beach all day is how often you have to reapply SPF. (You have to. There’s no way around it.) The first application is fine, but by the time you need to put more on, you are inevitably covered with sand, and rubbing a mixture of sand and sunscreen around on your skin is gross and irritating. To combat this, I like to start with a water-resistant cream formula, and bring an aerosol for reapplying; the cream sets a good foundation (it’s easier to tell if you’ve missed spots), but the spray lets you reapply without having to grind sand into your hide.

Additionally, I like to invest in a separate, fancy sunscreen or BB cream for my face and chest. Those are the prettiest parts of me, so they deserve extra protection.

Lean-to tents are much, much better than beach umbrellas: There’s no denying that if you do not like being at the beach, you will need some shade to make the whole thing bearable. (And anyway, direct sunlight all day is just a bad idea.) However, a regular old beach umbrella is at the mercy of sun’s position. A little lean-to tent is not. It’s a perfect sanctuary that provides you with shade no matter where that big ball of fire is located. And, if it all gets to be too much, you can just lower the flap down and ignore the beach entirely.

Opt for individual servings: You know who everybody hates? The person who doesn’t clean their hands properly before diving into the Pringles, filling the tube with sand. That person is going to be there, so it’s best to guard your delicious snacks by dividing them into individual servings, keeping your portions sand free. Oh, and wet wipes for dirty hands — those are good, too.

Alcohol to soothe your nerves: Booze makes every social situation more enjoyable and I’m a firm believer that there is a flask for every occasion. These plastic ones are lightweight, reusable, and cheap. If you’re worried about a flask being a little too conspicuous for some beaches, I suggest hiding booze in those Vita-Coco boxes — they are the perfect size for cocktails and coconut water makes a pretty good mixer.

Bring your own tunes: Inevitably, there will be some dude who insists on playing either Dave Mathews or Phish ALL THE LIVE LONG DAY. Fight his sonic oppression with music of your own. Spend some time making a beach friendly (but jam band free) playlist on Spotify, and then use a wireless speaker or iPhone amplifier  be heard! (If you become the person who is sonically oppressing others around you, then just play your songs inside your lean-to tent.)

Bring a pillow: You know what’s great? Neck support! Sure you could use a rolled up towel, but why bother when you can bring an actual pillow? There are a ton of outdoor friendly options. Having one makes it so much easier to read or nap. (No napping in the sun, though. That’s how you get sun poisoning.)

Ladies leave your shades at home: At least your nice ones. There is no faster way to ruin a day at the beach than by losing or breaking your expensive sunglasses. Don’t let this happen to you! Buy a cheap pair of sunnies at Tar-jay.

Get there early: I knoooooow. Getting up early to go somewhere you don’t want to go is the worst, but hear me out. One of the worst things about the beach is ALL OF THE PEOPLE. When you get there early, there are less of them. There are also more parking spaces, and when you get there before the rest of the great unwashed, you are able to snag a closer space, preventing the necessity to lug all your junk for a million miles. And if you’re tired from waking up early, you can just nap when you get there. (But, again, don’t nap in the sun.)

Bring way more towels than you think you’ll need: You may think that you only need one giant beach towel. FALSE. You need at least three: One for drying off after a swim, one for laying on (this can even go on top of a blanket), and one for laying down on the car seat to collect errant sand. You may even need a fourth one for emergencies or wrapping yourself in on the way back to the car, but you should be safe with three.

Get a wagon: You know who are always prepared? Parents. You know what they have that makes their beach days better than yours? No, not children: wagons! Wagons are great because you can pull all of your awesome gear behind you, eliminating the need for multiple trips and carrying things. Carrying things is a drag, man.

Relax, dude: Finally, realize that if the worst thing that happens to you is that you’re forced to hang out with friends and loved ones at a location that is not completely to your liking, your life is alright. Treat yourself to a popsicle for your good sportsmanship!

But seriously, put on sunscreen — that’s the most important part.

[Image of a crab via Shutterstock]