MEMORIES OF THE BEACH are often clouded by our time spent there as kids, when a fun day of bodysurfing and sand-sculpting was marred by the final trek back to the car, dragging what seemed like 50 pounds of sand-caked equipment for our cranky parents, all the while puzzled by the crotch full of sand in our bathing suits. It’s enough to turn the casual sun worshipper off the beach forever. But it doesn’t have to be that way. This summer, leave behind the clunky beach chair with attached umbrella and keep it simple with one bag that holds all the necessities for a day by the sea.
When it comes to the bag itself, look no further than L.L. Bean’s Boat and Tote Bag ($24/large). Imitations abound these days, but few compare to the durable original. Plus, Bean’s improved on its own design: the Tote is also available with a zipper ($31) to keep everything that’s inside secure and sand-free. If style points count, check out Jasmine’s natural-straw Girl’s tote ($42) lined with gingham, or the bounty of beach bags large and small ($9.99–$17.99) at Target.
You can screw around this summer, but sunscreen is still mandatory. Pack light with products that serve more than one purpose. Origins sells Sunshine State ($22.50), which has an SPF of 20 and can be used on both the face and the body, while the Body Shop’s SPF 30 shea stick ($12) works for both the face and the lips. To play it extra safe in the sun, bring along a hat. Jasmine has hats for every taste and budget, from the solid cotton bucket ($18) to the banded, Palm Beach–style straw ($42).
Leaving behind that beach chair means having to commune with the sand — the better to hear the roar of the surf, we say. Stretch out on a Tutti Fruitti Towel for Two ($29.99) from Bed Bath & Beyond. Urban Outfitters and Old Navy both sell fabric-trimmed straw beach mats ($12 and $8.50) that roll up small but unfold to about three-by-six feet.
Finally, stay hydrated with plenty of water. Keep it cool in a thermos, like the pink or green floral Chinese thermos ($8) from Urban Outfitters or a stainless-steel Briefcase bottle ($19.99) from Target. It might be a good idea to throw a journal in that bag as well. Urban sells sturdy leather-covered journals ($24), and the Art Store has lined and unlined blank books ($7–$50), many with an elastic closure to keep out the sand. Don’t forget a pen; with the beach now simplified, there will be time to wax philosophical and maybe even jot down a childhood tale about that fateful day by the shore ...
Where to find it:
• Art Store, Landmark Center, Brookline Avenue and Fullerton Street, Boston, (617) 247-3322; www.artstore.com.
• Bed Bath & Beyond, various locations; www.bedbathandbeyond.com.
• Body Shop, various locations; www.bodyshop.com.
• Jasmine, 329 Newbury Street, Boston, (617) 437-8465; 35 Brattle Street, Cambridge, (617) 547-3173.
• L.L. Bean, (800) 441-5713; www.llbean.com.
• Old Navy, various locations; www.oldnavy.com.
• Origins, various locations; www.origins.com.
• Target, various locations; www.target.com.
• Urban Outfitters, 361 Newbury Street, Boston, (617) 236-0088; 11 JFK Street, Cambridge, (617) 864-0070; www.urbn.com.