In his island-escape anthem “Margaritaville,” Jimmy Buffett laments, “I blew out my flip-flop, stepped on a pop top, cut my heel, had to cruise on back home.” However, had Jimmy known that a square plastic bread-bag clip could have repaired his flip-flop in a pinch (just push the toe strap back through the hole and secure the clip around it on the sole), perhaps instead of heading home, he could have cruised on back to the beach. It’s often the little things that can make or break a beach day, which is why we’ve culled the internet for the most common, useful, bargain-basement beach hacks that will have you wondering, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
A LINE IN THE SAND
Most of us have a love-hate relationship with sand. We love to sink our feet in it but don’t want it everywhere else on us, on our blankets, or in our cars at day’s end. What’s a beachgoer to do? Use a fitted sheet as your beach blanket. Simply turn the sheet inside out, anchor weighty items—a cooler, beach bag, etcetera—in each of the four corners, and fold up the sides until the elastic is taut to create a barrier that keeps encroaching sand at bay.
What about getting the sand off your body? While applying traditional baby powder and then dusting it off is a well-known hack for sand removal (the powder absorbs the moisture that causes sand to stick to you, making it easier to brush the sand from your body), there are potential health concerns surrounding the use of such powders. Instead, consider an organic, talc-free alternative, or simply use a cool, dry washcloth or even an oven mitt to brush off the sand before leaving the beach. And to avoid bringing sand home in children’s toys, store them in a mesh bag, mesh hamper, or even a laundry basket so that sand sifts through to where it belongs: on the beach. Stowing a broom in the trunk of your car also comes in handy for sweeping off sand from beach chairs, coolers, and the like.
Along with protecting your belongings in a waterproof beach bag, keep your cell phone, car keys, and money dry by placing them in a sandwich or freezer bag or even in an empty, cleaned-out plastic jar. Also consider attaching a flotation device to your keys; a wine cork with an eyehook twisted into it will do the trick, say the experts at the Travel Channel. Want to go for a swim or take a walk along the ocean, lake, or river without exposing your valuables to theft? Many a mom has deterred would-be thieves by wrapping valuables in a baby diaper (a clean one, of course). A baby wipes package also works well. Leaky lotion bottles are also unkind to your beach bag. To prevent spillage, those in the know at Choice Hotels recommend putting a piece of plastic wrap over the opening of the bottle and then reapplying lid. And if you ride your bicycle to the beach, protect the bike seat from the elements by tying a towel or plastic bag over it.
COLD AS ICE
No big bag of ice? No worries. Freeze plastic bottles of water or other noncarbonated drinks to serve as space-saving ice packs in your cooler. (It’s best to fill up the bottle halfway, freeze and then fill the remainder with water for a drinkable beverage that doesn’t require a major meltdown.) Frozen sponges in sandwich or freezer bags can also serve as slim ice packs; when they defrost, use them to wipe down your cooler. Another fun alternative: freeze water balloons that double as cooler ice, suggest the folks at New Jersey’s Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce. Once the ice melts inside the balloons, the kids will have all they need for a water balloon fight when you get home. Just be sure to pick up any balloon pieces that go astray and dispose of them properly; you certainly don’t want to litter or pose a health hazard to any wildlife.
Another kid-pleaser, suggested by our friends in Ocean City, is a sponge lei. Before heading to the beach, cut colorful sponges into fun shapes, and with a large needle, thread them onto string or yarn. When the kids want to cool off, simply wet the sponges for an instant cool down. Kids can also chill out with frozen juice boxes that make for delicious slushies once they begin to thaw. And if you’d like to enjoy a sugary drink without sharing it with gnats or attracting yellow jackets, use a cupcake liner as a cup cover, punching a hole in the center to accommodate a paper or reusable straw (remembering it’s important to protect wildlife).
UNDER COVER, OVER THE TOP
How many times have you gone for a swim or a walk on the beach only to return to where you thought your base camp was but, instead, found your sense of direction off or your stuff obscured in a sea of people and beach paraphernalia? We’ve been there, done that. To make yourself stand out in the crowd, stake your claim in the sand with a bright, bold-print beach umbrella or tent that doesn’t look like everyone else’s, and add unique decorations to it that serve as your personal beacon. Setting up your stuff near a lifeguard stand is also helpful to provide not only a landmark but also added safety in and around the water.
Of course, getting that umbrella or tent, along with all your other gear to the beach, can be cumbersome. If you don’t have one of those beach trolleys with the special wheels designed to traverse sand, consider the wagon-sled combo: place your stuff in a plastic sled, and then put the sled in a wagon. When you arrive at the beach, park your wagon, and then take your sled and slide it through the sand to your base camp.
And if you ever find yourself with a busted flip-flop, do one better than Jimmy: bring a bread bag clip.