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It’s summertime…or near the end of summer time for a lot of us. That means last minute hauls to the beach with friends & family in tow. Spur of the moment beach trips are always fun & rewarding, but your bag shouldn’t reflect that. So I’ve compiled a list of things that are essential to any beach outing, planned or not. Don’t have time to pack the bag every time you head to the beach? Keep most of the essentials in the bag and toss in what you need the hour before.

TWO towels. Why two? Have you ever tried to sit comfortably in the car after a day at the beach? Leave an extra towel in the car so that when you get ready to go home, you have something dry underneath you. No one likes wet car seats.

Sunscreen. This should be obvious. It may seem like a waste of time, but after you get out of the water, make sure to re-apply. Unless you want to risk getting skin cancer or looking wrinkly at the age of forty, do this. Don’t forget to also bring sunscreen for your face! Aveeno makes a great SPF 30 for the face.

Hats and sunglasses. Again, this should be obvious, but I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to the beach with friends who’ve forgotten these things. You don’t need to bring your best sunglasses or hat either, I usually bring my cheap $3 sunglasses because they’re bound to get sand on them and they could possibly get smashed by running children.

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Extra baggies and napkins. It’s pretty obvious you should pack your lunch & some snacks for the beach. However, packing some large Ziploc bags can keep the trash sealed and away from pesky seagulls who want the ends of your bread or apple. Also, if you’re like me, you can easily collect some crazy-looking seashells to display in a glass case at your house. This will keep them from moving around in your bag, either breaking or spreading sand everywhere.

Camera, phone, money (all in a Ziploc bag). What’s with the zippered bags? Well, for one they keep the sand out of those tiny crevices in your phone or camera that would completely ruin them. Second, it keeps all three important things in one place, so when you grab the plastic bag to grab a snack at the vendor, you know you have all the important things with you.

Entertainment. Let’s face it, you can only do so much people watching at the beach, so bringing something like a book, iPod or magazine will help keep you entertained. I usually bring my ipod, an easy read book, and a magazine so that I can choose what I want to do. I do keep the iPod in the same baggie as the aforementioned camera/phone/money, so that it is kept away from the sand.

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Baby powder. Say what? Why baby powder, without the baby, you may ask. Well, you know how you’re running around in the sand all day? Forget showering your feet off at the outdoor showers after you’re done & ready to go home. Just before you hop into the car, sprinkle some baby powder on your feet & rub it off. The sand will come off automatically and also help keep your feet fresh. Keep a travel size bottle in the car for late night beach walks as well.

Water, water, water…in a cooler. You may be surrounded by water, but that doesn’t mean you need to skimp out on bringing water. I suggest each person bringing a cold water, then one that is frozen. Halfway through your day at the beach, that frozen water should be melted enough to drink up, keeping you cooled down.

Beach blanket or mat. Some people use their beach towels to sit out in the sun (with sunscreen on, of course), but then those towels get really wet & who wants a bunch of wet towels? I usually bring an old blanket or a beach mat (a simple bamboo one works great). They’re larger, so you can sit more than one person on them, and they easily dry & roll up.

Blanket ‘chomps’ or clamps. You can find these anywhere during the summer, like <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/Sand-and-Wind-Clips-Blanket/dp/B007AYRSR2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342454809&sr=8-1&keywords=blanket+stakes”>these</a> at Amazon. They keep your blanket or towel anchored to the sand despite toes or wind kicking them up. If you live in the New England area, head over to your local Christmas Tree Store, all of which usually have a variety clamps at half the price.

Mini-first aid kit. Every lifeguard does have a first aid kit on their stand, but having a baggie with just some band-aids and aspirin is a lot easier than getting a lifeguard. Long exposure to sun can give people sun headaches and if you accidentally get cut by anything, those band-aids will come in handy.

Headband & extra elastics. Even if you go to the beach with your hair up, it’s helpful to have these two floating around in your bag. On more than one occasion, I’ve lost my elastic in the ocean while horsing around, so having one or two extra in my bag was extremely helpful. I also have a thick headband, like the no-sweat/no-slip wide bands, like Sweaty Bands that stay in place even in the water. Thick, colorful headbands will keep those wisps out of your face and help tame the frizz after you get out of the water.

Chair & umbrella. If you don’t want to bring an umbrella, or don’t have room for one, that’s fine. Just make sure you still have a hat to keep the sun off your face. A chair is pretty essential & I love the ones that come with their own bag and you can slip over your shoulder. In fact, I just spent a bit of money on a new one, a Sport-Brella chair. I bought the beach one, which comes in around $40 (but if you buy with a friend, it’s currently buy one, get one half off so it can be split $30 each way). These chairs are great, as they come WITH the umbrella that can be positioned any way you want. It may be a bit expensive, but it’s an umbrella & chair in one bag.

Cooler to keep all those snacks & drinks in. Bring one big enough to comfortably hold all the snacks & with outside zipper pockets to hold napkins, forks, & other utensils. Stuff a couple plastic shopping bags in there to toss the trash before you leave as well.

Bag big enough to keep everything in. I’m not talking a small tote bag that will easily get wet. Go out and buy an actual beach bag, one that is waterproof & large enough to hold all the aforementioned stuff (except the cooler, which you can carry separately). If you have a waterproof backpack, you can also bring that as well, which will help keep your hands free. Look around for a bag that will fit your style, as well as all your goodies.

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And last, but not least, enjoy your beach day! Summer only comes around for a few months, so make sure to get the best of it! 

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