We made it! The cold winter and the rainy spring are behind us and now we can look forward to a sunny summer of vacation time, trips with the family, going to the beach and much more. But just like everything else in life, going to the beach does have its downsides. Make sure to check the tips below to ensure you have a fabulous time instead of a hospital bill to pay.

Proper Preparation is Key

Though the idea of a spontaneous trip to the beach might sound appealing, proper preparation ensures having a good time more than the unexpectedness of it all. First, make sure to check the weather forecast. Not only will a storm ruin your experience, but it can lead to a very bad outcome – you know how water and electricity (lightning in serious storms) don’t mix, right?

Make sure to pack a proper beach bag with towels, water, life jackets for those who can’t swim, sunscreen and a hat. You will definitely need all of those things while baking and bathing so a checklist might not be a bad idea.

Sunburns and Heat Stroke are Dangerous

Staying long in the sun can be quite dangerous. You can get a bad sunburn, heat stroke, or sun sickness, none of which you want to have. Make sure to buy good sunscreen (always SPF 15 or higher, 50 for children), don’t sunbathe during the peak hours of the day (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.), wear a hat and stay under an umbrella. If you feel any dizziness, fatigue, weakness, confusion, or nausea, you might be experiencing heat stroke so get out of the sun, get a cool shower and hydrate. Yes, having a tan is great, but the melanoma risks mean you tan slowly and safely, not within just a few hours.

There are Good and Bad Places and Times to Swim

You’ve made it all the way to the beach so you probably want to take a swim, right? Well, first off, only do it if you are a good swimmer and/or have a life jacket. A drowning accident does not a happy holiday memory make. Also, try to stay within shouting distance of your family/friends and a lifeguard. If there are strong winds on the day in question, keep in mind that the water currents and the waves are probably strong too, so you will need even more skill to navigate the waters.

Don’t go swimming right after having a meal or downing a few Pina Coladas. Give your body the proper amount of time to process food and alcohol so as to ensure you actually have enough strength and clarity of mind to do it.

Nature Can Be Dangerous Too

No, we don’t mean shark attacks. Those really do happen very, very rarely. Smaller creatures like crabs and jellyfish, however, are quite fond of beaches and can become anything from a mild nuisance to the cause of a serious medical issue. Make sure to be careful where you step and if anything bites you / stings you / pinches you, seek medical assistance as fast as possible.

Yes, You Need Shoes

Yes, feeling the sand between your toes is a magnificent experience and one you should not miss while on vacation, but precautions still need to be taken. There might be something sharp from a broken object or a creepy crawly waiting for you in the golden heap so only take off your shoes (flip-flops, sandals, whatever you are wearing) when you are sure the sand is clean. Also keep in mind that sand can get extremely hot (enough to cause blisters, actually) so test it with the tip of a toe before you go all in.

Beach vacations are incredibly fun, but a lot of things can happen. Keep your cool and your common sense at the ready to avoid any unpleasantness and have a great time!