7 Beachy Buys for Sunny Days
What’s an afternoon at the beach without the right supplies? We found the gear to make the most of the summer's sun, sand, and waves, including the must-pack essentials and fun add-ons that’ll make your day more dynamic—all for $80 or less.
(Courtesy L.L. Bean)
First things first: You need a proper beach bag, and L.L. Bean’s classic Boat and Tote is a sturdy option that won’t go out of style. It’s practically indestructible, and that’s no exaggeration—my family has one that’s almost 30 years old, and it’s still going strong. The large version is roomy enough to hold a blanket and a day’s worth of towels, toys, and provisions without being too unwieldy, with long handles that make it easy to throw on your shoulder and go. It’s a bit cavernous, so for more organization, take a tip from my super-smart mom and hit the hardware store for a small canvas waist apron to tie to the handles. For just a few bucks, it’ll provide a couple of internal pockets for those things (sunscreen, lip balm, tissues, phone) you want to keep within reach at all times.
Large open-top Boat and Tote with long handles in dark green, $35; llbean.com.
(Courtesy Dock & Bay/Emma Sailah)
Banish thoughts of thick, fluffy terry cloth. This microfiber number from Dock & Bay may not have the same cushy feel as a regular cotton towel, but its powers of absorption are remarkable—it’ll get you dry in no time and won’t stay damp for long. And even though it’s plenty big, clocking in at 63 by 31 inches, it folds away to practically nothing. Stash it in the 10-by-6-inch pouch that comes with it, or toss it in your bag on its own; either way, you’ll hardly know it’s there. Plus, the company donates 10 percent of all Rainbow towel sales to Twenty10 (twenty10.org.au), an Australian organization that supports the LGBTIQA+ community, so you can show some pride all summer long.
Rainbow Skies microfiber towel, $25; dockandbay.com.
(Courtesy Slowtide/Willie Kessel)
Sure, this one is a little on the pricey side, but between the Instagram-bait pattern, the extremely plush cotton-velour fabric, and the fun fringed edging, it’s worth the splurge. At five feet in diameter, it works well as a personal beach blanket, though it'll accommodate two people too, especially if they’re exceptionally friendly and/or pint-sized. It not only looks good and feels good, it’s also pampering in the best way: Its materials have been independently tested to meet the guidelines set by the Oeko-Tex Standard 100, so you're free to lounge around and towel off without apprehensions about harmful ingredients.
Radiant Round towel, $80; slowtide.co.
(Courtesy AO Coolers)
As far as soft coolers go, Yeti’s Hopper line is hyped as the gold standard, but with a starting price of $200 for the smallest model, it comes with some serious sticker shock. For those who don’t want to spend that much to transport snacks and frosty beverages, this one from AO Coolers is an excellent option. Thanks to a thick layer of foam insulation and a water-resistant exterior, it’ll keep a case of beer and 14 pounds of ice cold, without leaking, for 24 hours. If you really load it up, though, it gets pretty heavy, and its short, non-padded strap doesn't lend itself to comfortable carrying, so you’ll want to make sure someone with strong shoulders is hauling it, especially if you have a long way to go. (And if you happen to have a nicely cushioned backpack strap lying around, swapping it in here would be a smart move.)
AO Coolers 24 Pack Canvas Cooler in navy, $70; amazon.com.
When you're hanging out on a crowded beach, your fellow sunbathers might not appreciate your loud tunes, so this inexpensive little speaker is ideal: Its sound is great if you’re nearby, but it doesn’t really travel far, so you can put on your Mexican death metal or favorite ‘90s boy band without worrying about who’s going to hear it. Bonus: Its design is super-cute, too.
Polaroid PBT530 Wireless Bluetooth Portable Retro Speaker in blue, $20; amazon.com.
(Courtesy Into the Wind)
Forget building sandcastles—the best seaside activities take to the skies. Thanks to the constant winds coming off the water, the beach is an ideal environment for kite-flying: You’ll barely have to work to get airborne, and the steady breezes give you more room to play, particularly on an empty, open stretch of sand. Traditional Delta or glider-style kites are as low-maintenance as they come (once they catch the right draft, you can even tie them to your chair and let ‘em coast on their own), but stunt kites are much more fun. This colorful little ripstop-nylon number from Into the Wind is easy to maneuver and awesome for beginners, with a light frame and Kevlar enforcing at the nose and tail in case of crashes. Strap on the wrist bands, and you’ll be doing combination turns and backflips in no time.
Prism Jazz Stunt Kite in Rainbow, $55; intothewind.com.
The Insurance Policy
When you drop your phone as often as I do, certain situations are fraught with danger. Giant ocean with currents and waves and splashing children in the shallows? Check, check, and check. A waterproof case can prevent calamity. This one from PunkCase has a slim profile and a built-in screen protector, and it’s not only waterproof, it’s also made to withstand drops of nearly seven feet. Before you go and toss it in the deep end, though, be sure to test it out with a paper towel or a bit of cloth before trusting it with your phone—if there’s any moisture inside when you open it back up, you’ll know there’s a problem. It’s worth taking the time for that extra step, because once you’ve gotten the all-clear, you can go forth and shoot without a care in the world.
PunkCase waterproof Crystal case in teal, from $35; amazon.com.
Though we often talk about the importance of staying fit, eating well, and monitoring our sleep when we travel, we don't always give as much attention to our largest organ: our skin. "Skin is the house that you live in. You need to protect it and keep it healthy because healthy skin is gonna be beautiful skin," says Allison Tray, founder of Tres Belle Spa in Brooklyn. We checked in with a few experts to learn the do's and don'ts of skincare when you're on the go. YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. AND DRINK. With fresh air often pumped in to maintain oxygen levels, not to mention recycled air and high altitudes, cabin air can be a recipe for dehydration. When moisture is depleted, your skin's barrier function is impaired, making it feel dry, look sallow, and become red and irritated. The simplest solution isn’t to slather on moisturizer, but to feed your skin from the inside—all the fancy beauty products in the world can’t come close to the importance of water. (Pro tip: Bringing an empty water bottle through security and filling it before you board your flight makes it easier to stay hydrated than looking for a flight attendant for each four-ounce pour. In a perfect world, you’d drink a liter of water for every four hours in the air.) There are a few basic things you can do—or not do—to prevent your skin from losing too much moister at 35,000 feet. First: don’t drink alcohol on the plane. Do pack fruits or vegetables, Allison suggests, because they naturally contain water. Also, take a break from makeup. It'll help your skin breathe. And when you're on the ground, don't forget to keep sipping. “Be sure to drink lots of water throughout your trip, whether embarking on day-long tourist adventures, hiking through woods or relaxing poolside,” says Donna Regii, a beauty expert who’s worked with brands like Stila and Bliss Spa. “It’s the best way to help your skin behave, and look its radiant, glowing best.” MOISTURIZING: IT GOES DEEPER THAN YOU THINK But the skin cannot hydrate by water alone. Just remember these three words: moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Even when it doesn't seem necessary. “A lot times when skin feels oily, it’s that it’s dehydrated underneath,” Allison explains. “Glands that produce oils work overtime to protect and hydrate. A lot of times your skin feels oily, and you break out because there’s not enough hydration to balance everything out.” Donna recommends looking for a face moisturizer with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or sodium hyaluronate, which help bind moisture to your skin. Water-based moisturizers feel lighter and more refreshing on the skin during the summer and in warm or humid climates. Ingredients like shea butter are ideal for dry skin types and during cooler weather, she says. Whatever you do, though, don't use the moisturizer in your hotel room on your face. It's typically body lotion. Before any moisturizer can work its magic, though, it has to have a clean canvas. The day before you fly, exfoliate with a gentle facial scrub, then apply a hydrating mask. The exfoliation gets rid of the dead cells, which allows the moisturizing ingredients from the mask to penetrate deeper in the skin. BEAUTY SLEEP Just like our bodies, our skin needs sleep to rejuvenate. “During the night, your skin undergoes repair, renewal, and detoxification, but if you don’t get proper sleep, these processes aren’t rescheduled. That’s why you get dark circles and sallow, dehydrated skin when you’re sleep deprived," says Donna. From crossing time zones to sleeping in unfamiliar surrounds to perhaps a little more eating and drinking than we’re used to, travel can mess with sleep in big ways, wreaking havoc on our skin performance. Donna turns to aromatherapy to help her sleep. A lavender-infused pillow spray is a natural fix for falling asleep faster. Brands like This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray come in 2.5 fluid ounce bottles so you can take it in your carry-on. Just a spritz can help ease you into slumber. PACK IT IN As any seasoned traveler knows, less is more when it comes to packing—how else to ensure you have room for everything you buy? Your own moisturizer should be as necessary as your passport and phone charger. “It’s best not to change up your usual regimen too much when you're on the road, because your skin may get stressed out from travel and not respond well to unfamiliar products,” Donna says. But there’s one major exception: Add sun protection if it’s not already part of your daily routine. When Allison travels, she packs products that do double-duty to minimize her load. Many brands make moisturizers with sunscreen, and if you opt for a tinted product, it multitasks three-fold as a light foundation. She recommends sunscreen by SkinCeuticals, which has a universal tint. An exfoliating cleanser is also on her list of necessities. A hydrating skin serum with hyaluronic acid helps hold onto water, and you can also dab it under your eyes and onto your lips as a light moisturizer.
Read This Before You Book a Vacation Rental
A summer vacation rental gives you the chance to live large. If you’re traveling in a group or with a family, it’ll save money over hotel rooms, deliver the amenities of home (kitchen, laundry room, backyard), and give your brood a little elbow room. If you're browsing last-minute summer vacation rental deals, it may be tempting to grab the first great-looking property you find. But there are some important steps you should take, questions you should ask, and details you should button up before hitting "book." Whether you're headed to the beach, a cool small town, or the big city, the essential steps every renter must take to ensure a safe and comfortable stay. 1. ASSESS THE STAIR SITUATION If you're traveling with in-laws or infants, be sure to ask how many stairs are inside (and outside) the house. Taking a tumble isn't a great way to start—or abruptly end—your dream trip, so be sure to get all the details: Are there steps to the bedroom? Bathroom? Back deck? Are these areas well lit? If not, pack a night-light to ensure that sleepwalkers both small and tall don't go bump in the night. 2. PLAN AHEAD IF YOU HAVE A BABY ONBOARD Is the house equipped with a crib, high chair, baby gate (see stairs, above!), and other baby essentials? Many times they are, and if you can avoid hauling a portable nursery, you'll free up space for souvenirs on the way home. As an alternative, ask the owners to refer you to a local rental service, or check out Traveling Baby or Baby's Away before you go. 3. GET THE LAY OF THE LAND (LITERALLY) Expecting a flat lawn for football, Frisbee, or general frolicking? How big is the property? How close is the next house? Is the lawn level or sloping? Is there a stash of sports stuff available for your use? Is your dream rental a brisk walk away from the beach/lake/town/restaurants/parks/museums/etc.? If so, find out just how far that walk is. One person's "gentle stroll" is another's walk from hell, so be sure get clarity on proximity to local attractions. 4. FIGURE OUT THE BATHROOM AND SHOWER SITUATION Is an outdoor shower essential? Do you need a tub to bathe the tots? Would a glass door on that tub be a hassle? Are you used to a massaging showerhead, and nothing else will do? The devil's in the details here, so if what you're looking for is an oversized Jacuzzi but what they have is an old-fashioned soaking tub, it may be best to leave the bath salts at home. 5. LINENS: TO BRING OR NOT TO BRING Many rentals, but not all, include sheets and bath towels but not beach towels. Some include beach towels but not the others. If you ask me, vacation means a break from washing sheets and towels and making beds. If you feel the same way, be sure to ask so that sweet dreams await when you arrive...rather than chores like making your bed and lugging a pile of dirty linens home. There's no quicker way to lose that vacation vibe! 6. ASK IF GEAR IS INCLUDED There's an excellent chance that a full supply of summer entertainment awaits in the basement or garage; many rentals come with the use of a beach umbrella, chairs, coolers, bicycles, and more. Also ask about books, blocks, and board games; discovering someone else's favorites can be a great part of the rental experience. In case you or your kids are hooked on Wi-Fi (who isn't these days?), be sure to ask if the house has it and what the code is. 7. LEARN THE GARBAGE PICKUP SCHEDULE This may not be at the top of your dreamy summer to-do list, but you've got to know: Who's responsible for your garbage? What gets tossed versus recycled? Where should you put it? When is the weekly collection? Do you take it to the curb, or do they take it to the dump? Or, heaven forbid, are you expected to take it with you?! Smelly trash will certainly put a dent in your summer fun, so sort this out in advance, and you won't spend your downtime sorting cans and bottles. 8. MAKE SURE YOUR PETS (OR YOUR PET ALLERGIES) WILL BE ACCOMMODATED Whether you can't stand to leave Fido behind or the mere thought of him makes you itchy, it behooves you to ask about pets. If you plan to bring your pooch (or other animal friend), ask where you can walk him, where to dispose of his "droppings," and if the local beaches, parks, restaurants, etc., are open to having him tag along. If allergies are your issue, ask if the owner has a pet or has allowed other renters to bring theirs. If the answer is yes, you may want to keep looking. 9. INVESTIGATE WHETHER YOUR HOUSE WILL BE AN OVEN OR AN ICEBOX Some like it hot... and some don't. Depending on where you're headed, ask if the house has air conditioning and/or window fans. If a cabin in the mountains is more your thing, ask if there is a fireplace; if so, are you allowed to use it? And is firewood supplied? Are campfires allowed? Is there a grill? That's a flame you just may want regardless of the temperature...and be sure to ask if it's gas or charcoal so you can plan accordingly. 10. READ THE FINE PRINT Before you get swept away by the majestic photos on the rental listing, look into the nitty-gritty: How much is the security deposit, and how quickly will it be returned if there is no damage? If there is damage, how will those fees be handled? Is there a minimum? Is there a cleaning fee? Asking these questions up front will eliminate any disappointment or surprises when you vacation is over. 11. EXTRA TIP FOR COFFEE DRINKERS If you like to start your day the caffeinated way, be sure to ask if the kitchen has a Keurig or classic drip brewer. That way you'll know whether to pack the K-Cups or the beans, and you'll be able to enjoy a warm cup of your preferred morning brew as you take in your vacation view.
OMG! My Hotel Has Bedbugs!!
When it comes to vacation buzzkill, the word bedbug is near the top of the list. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. is seeing a serious increase in bedbugs—and it's not just in homes but also in restaurants, hospitals, schools, and, yuck, hotels and cruise ship cabins. HOW TO STAY SAFE Our BFFs over at the American Academy of Dermatology have shared some good advice for keeping yourself and your family safe from bedbugs while you're on vacation. Seemal R. Desai, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in private practice in Plano, TX, notes that bedbugs usually do not require serious medical attention, but acknowledges that they cause anxiety. TELLTALE SIGNS OF BEDBUG INFESTATION Dr. Desai shares the following tips for finding the little pests. When checking in to a new hotel, conduct this quick search for these telltale signs of bedbug infestation before opening and unpacking your bags or letting kids sit on the furniture or beds: A sweet, musty odor. Bedbugs produce chemicals that some people (but not all) can smell. Specks of blood on bedding, mattresses, and furniture. For a variety of reasons, of course, specks of blood are never a good sign in a hotel or cruise cabin. But especially along seams of bedding and upholstered furniture, they could mean bedbugs have bitten previous guests. Exoskeletons. Bedbugs shed an outer shell and leave it on mattresses and under couch cushions. Tiny, blackish specks. Two words: bedbug poop. Eggs. Tiny white, oval eggs in cracks and crevices. WHAT TO DO If you find signs of bedbug infestation at your hotel, don't panic. The good news is that bedbugs can't jump from beds onto your clothes or into your suitcases. Notify the hotel manager immediately, and based on the hotel's response (which could range from abject apology to irritating denial), consider accepting a new bedbug-free room or switching hotels (our hotel-booking page is good for such last-minute emergencies).
BT on the Weather Channel: Hurricane Season Travel Tips
Hurricane season officially arrives in June, and sticks around like an unwanted house guest till November. To minimize the impact of storms in your vacation, especially to the Caribbean and southern coastal regions, Budget Travel Editor in Chief Robert Firpo-Cappiello shares common sense safety tips on the Weather Channel’s morning show, AMHQ, on Saturday June 2 at 7:40 and 9:40 Eastern. Here's what you need to know before you go: DOUBLE CHECK YOUR RESERVATIONS First, double-check the cancellation and refund policies of the airlines, hotels and car rental companies you are booking for your trip. UNDERSTAND TRAVEL INSURANCE Make sure your travel insurance policy covers delayed flights and weather-related trip disruptions and cancellations. BE PROACTIVE If the hurricane happens before your trip, you'll want to make sure that your travel insurance plan includes trip cancellation for hurricanes and natural disasters and that it will refund you any pre-paid non-refundable trip expenses if you have to cancel before your scheduled departure due to a hurricane. READ THE FINE PRINT Read the fine print. The policy has to be purchased pre-hurricane in order to cover for the hurricane. CONSIDER ‘CANCEL FOR ANY REASON’ OPTIONS You can purchase “cancel-for-any-reason” insurance, which lets you decide whether you want to risk travel when a storm is being predicted. PACK FOR SAFETY AND COMFORT If you do head off to the Caribbean in the midst of a hurricane warning, pack an emergency kit: cash, a radio and batteries, a flashlight and batteries, non-perishable food and water for three days, rain gear, bug repellant, sunscreen, and any prescription meds you need. (Yes, this will all take up space in your luggage, but you’ll appreciate it if/when the time comes that you need it.) WATCH THE WEATHER CHANNEL And, of course, always keep your eye on the experts at The Weather Channel (weather.com) for up-to-the-minute forecasts and breaking news.