The Perfect Beach Bag

30 June, 2009

No, this isn’t a handbag review. Far from it, actually. But being a lover of the beach, who goes at least once a week when the weather allows, this is a good way to see just how I get around, and what I feel the absolute essentials are.

We start off with the bag itself. The bag of choice for me is typically the VS Pink tote, which runs about $20 and is a basic, cotton tote with a tie at the top. It’s big enough to hold a towel as well as all of my accessories, or when I was working, a full change of clothes and shoes. I love pockets, but they aren’t absolutely essential as much as having a lot of space is. Especially because I take the bus everywhere, it makes it harder. If you have the luxury of driving, you can almost get away with using one of the reusable tote bags that the grocery stores have. I know Fred Meyer does a larger size, which would be perfect for short hauls. And we can’t forget the towel! While I love Egyptian cotton for the bath, the more important thing for me with a beach towel is that it is big. Preferrably at least 66″ long, so I have room to stretch out. As far as beauty stuff goes, I’ll break it into two categories-makeup and skin. First, for makeup, I take an abbreviated version of my normal makeup bag-a few single shadows, an eye palette, my brushes, a couple cheek products, and then several lip products. I find that for the beach, especially if I am tanning, I prefer to wear lipstick because if it’s windy and I’m wearing Dazzleglass, it’s not fun. Although now that my hair is a lot shorter, no worries-the parts closest to my mouth don’t even get down that far. Then, for skincare, I have three main essentials: face screen, tanning oil, and body lotion. The face screen is my beloved Clarins, and I use it because my face has accelerated damage from the sun, and it feels amazing on my skin. Tanning oil is essential, it not only deepens my tan (my oil does have SPF in it) but it helps to condition my skin. Finally, before I leave the beach, I always make sure to lotion up my body with a nice, lightweight lotion, in order to lock in moisture and keep my skin from drying out too much. If I am going anywhere after the beach, I like shimmer lotion as well, because it really helps give my legs that perfected look that I want.

I also have to keep entertained-so I have three main things: a book, my iPod Nano, and my Nintendo DS. The DS has Animal Crossing in it, which is about the only video game I will play. The iPod is mainly for walking to and from the bus stops. Then the book is typically a fun, frothy, light read. The heavy reads are more for at home, and I want something that will make me laugh. Of course, I need to have my cell phone and my wallet with me, too.

Finally, you have to have your food. Typically, I get the munchies as I am leaving the beach, and it’s quite pricey. What I do to help stave off the hunger for bad things is I’ll have some better-for-me snacks. I love Luna’s White Chocolate Macadamia bars; they are my favourite sort of cookie and in this case, it’s like a candy bar but way better for you, with all sorts of vitamins and everything. I literally need one every single day, to help fill some of the gaps. Another thing I like is a bagel with almond butter spread on it. I absolutely hate peanut butter, but I love almonds, and I figured getting some almond butter that was just that-nothing but almonds-would be a good spread on bagels to help sneak in some extra protein. If I have any berries or veggies from our garden on hand, I love those as well. Finally, I have to keep hydrated. A water bottle is absolutely essential to have, and in that heat, even the most hardy soda addict (me) runs for the water fountain. I have quite a few Nalgenes, being a Seattleite and all. On the water note, I also keep a 2 ounce spray bottle (you can buy empty ones at any store with travel goods-think drugstores, beauty supply stores, et. al.) to fill with water, so that I can lightly mist myself off when I am getting uber-sweaty. I wouldn’t mix essential oils, though, because it could definitely attract the bees.

Finally, I love fragrance, but toting a large bottle of perfume around is kinda gauche for the beach. (Yes, I have done it) The easiest thing to do is to take those little spray vials of perfume that you get from the stores and toss a few in your bag, so you can get all the goodness of the perfume without the weight. Many brands also have travel fragrance atomizers, which are a very good way to go. I currently have minis of VS Supermodel, Dream Angels Desire, Dream Angels Wish, and then vials of Viva La Juicy (way better now that I’ve gotten to spray it on), Jean Paul Gaultier Ma Dame, and Hanae Mori (my standby).

So that is my beach bag, in a nutshell. A very heavy one, mind you. Now onto my suggestions for a great beach bag-the items that I feel to be essential for anyone!

First, besides the bag and the towel, you need your sun stuff. I use a tanning oil with SPF, and if it’s early in the year or I haven’t tanned in a while I put on sunscreen at home. If you plan on doing anything involving water-be it swimming or waterfights-you need to bring sunscreen and reapply every 2 hours or so. Tanning oils are good to have though, especially since many have SPF. Hawaiian Tropic used to do an amazing one that was a dual fusion, so there was an orange part and a purple part and you shook it together and you sprayed on. If you’re reading this, Hawaiian Tropic people, please bring back the Dual Fusion oil. I’ve been forced to use straight-up monoi oil since then. Back to sunscreen though-you want to use a higher SPF on the face and shoulders as they are the most-exposed areas to the sun.

Makeup-wise, you honestly can skip it if you need to. If I would bring anything, it would be a shimmery bronze shadow, a bronzer that matches your face tone, and a gloss. Maybe toss an eyeliner in, for good measure. Mascara can be more trouble than it’s worth, since many don’t stand up to tanning, I’ve found. You don’t have to be as crazy about the makeup as me, that’s for sure. One thing I forgot though in this? Hair. If you have hair that can be pulled back, bring a couple of elastics, as you’ll find that you’ll want to pull your hair back too.

Finally, you gotta have three other things-food, drink, and a book. It’s always fun to read at the beach, no matter how painful it may get. You need to keep hydrated to avoid dizziness, and you need food to keep your blood sugar up!

Happy beaching! I’m headed to a new beach today.

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