The Best Beach Hacks Recommended to Us by Experts

What to know about the tides, how to avoid a sandy beach bag, and more

Beach Accessories On Table On Beach - Summer Holidays
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We're dedicating our July features to the world’s most beautiful and unique beaches and islands. With many travelers finally able to take the coveted beach vacation they’ve had to put off for over a year, there’s never been a better time to celebrate the sensational coastlines and calm waters that nab a starring role in our dreams. Dive into our features to learn more about off-the-radar beaches you should consider for your next trip, how one Spanish community came together to save its coastlinean ultra-exclusive Hawaiian island you might not have heard of, and game-changing beach hacks recommended to us by the experts.

It’s official: beach season is here and it’s in full swing. During a summer in which it’s perhaps never felt more liberating to plan a dreamy beach vacation, we think it’s wise to brush up on the basics for beach safety and tips before jetting off to your next sandy destination. Whether you’re heading to a lakeside cabin in New England, exploring the white-sand beaches of the Caribbean, or driving along the Golden State’s varied shores, you’ll want to be prepared beyond just packing a swimsuit and a water bottle. Of course we all know to wear lots of sunscreen, bring a hat and a good beach read, and wear life jackets on boats—but there’s a lot more that goes into crafting the perfect day at the beach. 

Below, you’ll find our curated list of tips, tricks, and hacks from all kinds of beach and water professionals to ensure the smoothest of trips to the shore this year. We spoke with dozens of experts from surf and scuba instructors to tide experts and marine professionals, and the founder of an app just for beach planning. So read up, pack your favorite beach tote, and bon voyage—don’t forget to bring extra sunscreen!

Always carry water shoes

Nikki Webster, travel expert and creator of the Brit On the Move blog, recommended packing water shoes no matter what type of beach day you’re planning. “There are a couple of reasons why: most of us tend to hit the beach in flip-flops. This seems rational until the sand is unbearably hot,” she said. “I can't tell you how many times people get their feet burned from the sand! Also, you never know what is under the water; it could be rocky.” Webster also noted that water shoes double up as great walking shoes, which is good to keep in mind if you’ve got a short hike after your day in the sand.

Make a water safety plan

“If on a boat, kayak, or paddle boat, wear a life vest,” said Alex Fogg, Coastal Resource Manager of Destin Fort Walton Beach in Florida. “Besides this being a smart idea, in many cases, it’s the law. Whether you are going boating, swimming, snorkeling, or diving, make sure you let someone know what your plans are so they can help in the event of an emergency. This is called ‘filing a float plan.’”

When surfing, know the tides

Stacey Marmolejo who created Florida Beach Break (the most comprehensive guide to Florida’s space coast) noted that those interested in surfing should take time to learn about the tides. “The transition from low tide to high tide is about six hours,” she said. “If you're surfing at an unfamiliar beach with a sandy bottom, your best chance of catching a wave is to plan a session at low-mid to high-mid tide. This way, if the surf breaks best at low tide, you’ll catch the tail end of it and if the surf breaks best at high tide, you’ll catch the beginning of it.” Of course, if you’re a beginner surfer, it’s definitely best to work with an instructor as you begin to learn how the tides work.

Learn scuba diving hand signals

For those interested in a scuba vacation, whether it’s your first time or your fifteenth, keeping diving hand signals top-of-mind is crucial. “Scuba diving is a very fun activity, but it’s risky unless you know what you're doing,” explained Torben Lonne, a scuba instructor and founder of watersport gear guide DiveIn. “While underwater, you have to properly communicate with the rest of the team or with the instructor. There is not much space for improvisation—scuba divers have a very distinct list of hand signals they use to exchange information. Also, it’s interesting that some signs are different underwater and on the surface. For instance, saying ‘okay’’ under water is done when you form a letter O with your thumb and index finger. However, when you’re out, you touch your head with an arm and form a much bigger letter O.”

Keep your beach bag sand-free

One product expert had a tip for how to avoid bringing sand home with you. “Keep your beach tote sand free by hanging it from rails, fences, café tables, and bar counters,” said Trish Sweeney, Vice President of Topcor, an innovation company. “Try using a bag hanger like this one, which holds up to 33 pounds.” 

Stash valuables carefully 

It’s important to keep your belongings safe at the beach, and that can be especially tricky when traveling alone. Cristal Dyer, a solo travel expert and the creator of Tofu Traveler , recommends hiding your items before taking a dip. “Take either a plastic bag or ziplock bag and stash your important items like phone, keys, and cash in it. When you're ready to go for a swim, subtly bury the bag under your beach towel so it's easy to find when you need it again.”

Take a sunrise walk

Hailey Dunn from Hilton Head’s new Beach Ambassador Program tends to opt for spending time by the ocean when it’s a little less-crowded. “I like to encourage visitors to take a sunrise walk on the beach,” she said. “The views are priceless and if you’re lucky, you’ll see the fresh tracks of a mother turtle who has come back to the island to lay her eggs.”

Consider early fall for a prime beach experience  

“If you’re looking for a lot of action, the best time to go to the beach is on weekends and over holidays,” noted Randall Kaplan a.k.a. Mr. Beach. His app called Sandee helps travelers plan the perfect beach vacation, and happens to be the world’s largest database of beach information. “If you have kids in school, there aren’t a lot of choices. But if you don’t have kids and want something quieter, it’s better to plan trips at other times. Over the years I’ve found that early September is a great time to plan a beach trip—the weather is still great and kids are back in school. The prices of hotels are much lower, and the beaches are much less crowded.”

Invest in reef safe SPF

Jennifer Saul, SVP of Marketing for C’est Moi Beauty, emphasized the importance of clean, environmentally-friendly sunscreen for skin protection, but also for ocean protection. “Clean, non-nano zinc mineral sunscreen is one of the hardest formulations to get right. We knew we wanted a physical sunscreen that was not only reef safe but also blends well into the skin without a white cast,” said Saul. “Zinc oxide is really one of the few active ingredients that is reef-friendly that we are proud to be formulating with.” In addition to choosing the right sunscreen she noted that continuing to apply throughout the day is of the utmost importance. “Reapplying while traveling and on the go is a must, especially while in direct sunlight and when you are jumping in and out of the pool or ocean.”