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Beach etiquette to keep the frowns at bay

Beach days are a rare commodity for most, so it's always a drag and a half when someone else puts a damper on your chill time.
Image: Sunbathers crowd the beach during the Assumption day, a national holiday, in southern Rome
Any room for fun?Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters
/ Source: Independent Traveler

If you haven't noticed, the rush to the beach is on. The final two weeks of July and first two weeks of August are traditionally the busiest for the nation's beaches, which means that your little piece of sun comes at a premium. For 15 years, I went to North Carolina's Outer Banks and always made a point not to go during these doggiest days of summer.

Still, there's no denying the siren call of the surf when the temperature soars and the cheesy paperback beckons. It's been a brutal summer for millions, so any solace near a body of water has come as a great relief. Dr. Beach, the self-proclaimed "America's Foremost Beach Expert," (hey, I want that job!) named his top 10 U.S. beaches for 2011 a while back, and I was happy to see that I've been to two of them: Cape Hatteras, N.C., and Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne.

But here's the rub: Beach days are a rare commodity for most, so it's always a drag and a half when someone else puts a damper on your chill time. I was at Delaware Beach State Park a few weeks ago for a lone day (sigh), but it was nearly perfect: sunny and temperate, packed but peaceful, water cool but refreshing. Though it seemed as if there were more people underfoot than grains of sand, the place was eerily quiet mid-afternoon while everything from tots to seagulls were napping.

It could have gone the other way, of course. Here then are my five tips for beach etiquette, though it all comes down to just having a little respect for your fellow sunburn victim:

1. Don't smoke upwind of me. Yes, you're outside, but I'd rather smell the salt air than something akin to a bingo hall. (Yeah, I'll go there: Bravo for outdoor smoking bans.)

2. Don't play Frisbee (or football, or volleyball or fill-in-the-blank-ball) over my head or inches from my chair. You may be having a good time, but I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for something to whap me on the noggin.

3. Drag your blanket to that empty stretch of beach where no one is near the dunes and shake it out. Nothing's worse than unwanted Lasik. And, while we're at it, I'd prefer you walk around my towel and not over it and on top of my lunch.

4. Keep your music to yourself. I beg of you.

5. This one's for you boogie boarders: Watch out for the little ones (and the big ones, for that matter) when you're, uh, boogie-boarding. You're not the only ones in the water.

Not so hard, right? But don't worry about your kids laughing and screaming as they run in and out of the waves — at the beach, that particular sound is music to the ears. What bad beach behavior irks you?

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