A summer day at the beach can be super fun - and safe - if you protect yourself from the sun.

How to Plan a Perfect Beach Day

Beach season is here, and whether you live near the coast, have a favorite lake escape, or are planning an island vacation, you’re feeling the tingle that tells you it’s time to feel sand between your toes.

But the sun can burn, accidents really do happen, and kids can get whiny without proper planning (and snacks.) Use this guide to plan a healthy – and safe – day of beach day fun.

Bring the Right Sunscreen. What does that mean? It means choose a sunscreen that’s labeled “broad spectrum,” with an SPF of at least 30, preferably 50. See more information on the best sunscreen options here.

Plan your picnic. Nothing’s more fun than lunch or dinner on the beach, and nothing’s less fun than grumpy hungry kids or feeling famished after a long beach walk. If you’re thinking of depending on food purchased from a beach shack or stand, check ahead of time that it’s open and be aware of the hours.

Obey signs. This may sound obvious, but every year people are seriously injured or killed when they ignore surf warnings. Don’t be one of them.

Don’t swim alone. Even if you’re a strong swimmer, you want someone else there when something unexpected happens.

Never turn your back on the ocean. Waves may look gentle one minute then turn to crashing surf the next. And on many beaches, undertow and “sleeper waves” pose serious dangers.

Pay extra attention to older adults or those with infirmities.  Even in shallow water, wave action can cause seniors or anyone with balance problems or weaknesses to lose their footing.

Be alert for beasties. Depending where you are, jellyfish, stinging shellfish, and even sharks may pose a danger; find out about any potential risks ahead of time and keep watch.

Protect children. Keep a close watch on little ones and consider having anyone who can’t swim wear a life jacket. But don’t depend on flotation devices to keep children safe. And remember, children are light, which means it doesn’t take nearly as strong an undertow or wave to knock them down or drag them under.

Other beach safety tips from the American Red Cross include:

  • Check local weather conditions
  • Always swim sober
  • Don’t dive headfirst

Finally, though, don’t let worries keep you from enjoying your fun in the sun. With the right precautions, a day at the beach offers all the relaxation of a mini-vacation.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.