Summer has arrived and it’s time to hit the beach.
Maximizing your fun in the sun is the goal and a little pre-planning is what you need to make that happen. You’re relying on your car to get you there, so make sure it’s packed with everything you need for a happy worry-free beach day. Here’s our list of tips for making your car beach ready.
Step One: Make a List
You know your family (or beach buddies) better than anyone. Some will spend the entire day lying on the beach soaking up the sunshine. Others—like the kids in my family—will be looking for something to do in and out of the water. Make a list of their favorite games and beach toys and use a large storage bin to haul them in your car’s cargo space.
Beach chairs, towels, a large blanket, and a cooler for snacks and drinks are standard. If your family is anything like mine, sand toys, buckets for shell collecting, footballs, frisbees, and any other sport that doesn’t require set up will go on the list of “must have.” If you’re planning to fish, be sure to include all your fishing gear and stop by a bait shop on the way.
Step Two: Decide if you’re walking or driving
Before packing up that car and heading to the nearest beach, decide if you’ll be driving on the beach or parking and walking through the sand to your favorite surfside spot.
If you’re planning to park and walk, a wagon with wheels equipped to pull through sand will make that trek a breeze. It will also save you from taking ten trips back and forth to get your stuff. Consider buying a collapsible wagon for stowing in the trunk or cargo area when not in use.
If your beach allows driving on the sand, be sure to pick a spot with hard packed sand. Sure, a beach with soft fluffy white sand sounds great, but that soft sand can be a problem when it’s time to leave…you could get stuck.
I grew up in Florida where people famously drive up and down Daytona Beach. Enterprising teenage boys would keep a piece of plywood in their cars to help get unsuspecting tourists out of the sand hoping to collect a few tips for their good deeds.
Follow their lead by keeping a piece of plywood at least 5/8” thick in your car to place behind the tire and help you dig out. This small board will make you the hero of your family while all the other cars are stuck in the sand.
Step Three: Stock the car with necessities
Let’s talk necessities: They’re the difference between “Uh Oh!” and “I’ve Got This.” Necessities are the things that don’t sound fun but not having them on hand can quickly ruin your day. Sunscreen is always at the top of the necessity list. Buy this before you go. The closer you get to the water, the more expensive the sunscreen. Bug spray should also be included in your packing list. Some beaches have more insects than others and a beach day full of bugs isn’t fun for anyone.
A first aid kit will come in handy if there are any fishing-related injuries or sharp rocks in the water. Make sure to have Benadryl in case of bug bites or stings. Also, a bottle of fresh water that isn’t intended for drinking is a good idea. If you get stung by a jellyfish, pouring fresh water on it relieves the sting faster than anything else.
Plastic bags are extremely useful at the beach for storing phones and/or cameras to prevent water or sand getting on them. Let’s face it, there are probably 10,000 other uses for plastic bags, so you should always have those on hand.
Step Four: Get ready to combat all that sand!
Playing in the sand all day is a blast—taking buckets of it home in your car, not so much. It’s a beach, sand is EVERYWHERE. Here’s are two easy ways to ensure you bring more memories than sand home from your day at the beach.
Of course, you’ll want to rinse off as much sand as possible. But if there aren’t any showers or fresh water readily available, you’ll need a plan b. Before you head out, fill up a few empty laundry detergent jugs with fresh warm water to use as a portable shower for washing your legs and feet. Bonus points if you bring along an AstroTurf doormat to stand on while you rinse off.
Hopefully rinsing off will keep most of the sand on the beach and out of the car, but trash bags will give you another layer of protection. Not just any trash bags, I’m talking about building contractor trash bags that can be found in any hardware store. These bags are extra thick and very large. They can be used to store beach chairs, sand toys, wet towels, swimsuits, etc. Placing them under the cooler is also a good idea in case there are any leaks. We’ve even used the bags as seat covers to keep wet swimsuits from damaging the car’s upholstery.
If all else fails, keep a small car vacuum on hand for after beach clean-ups.