Beach Vacations


All beaches are not equal.

There, I said it.

All of the usual sunscreen/hats/sunglasses/drink water stuff, I think you already know. What merits careful consideration is the type of beach that appeals to both you and the kids.

What’s in a beach….

Depending upon your childhood memories (or how effectively the travel marketers have gotten to you) a beach vacation may mean all sorts of different scenarios to different families:

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  • Clambering around on rocks, poking into tide pools and jumping into clear, chilly water in Maine
  • Clambering around on rocks, but this time on one of the Greek islands in the Mediterranean
  • Getting up on a surfboard in southern California
  • Lazing on the sand in a resort in Thailand
  • Running across the dunes at a freshwater Great Lakes beach on Lake Michigan
  • Building castles from sugar-white sand on the Florida Panhandle

Before making plans, sit down with the kids and talk about expectations.

They may give a rat’s patootie about your fond desire for a beachside lobster roll in Maine. They may be quite perturbed to discover that sunny, “surf’s up” Southern California has some rather brisk seawater (OK, doggone COLD, for me at least.) If they are already spoiled by the gorgeous white beaches of the Florida Panhandle, they will not be impressed with the brownish sand and bathtub-warm water at South Padre Island in Texas, whether you used to have great college Spring Breaks there or not.

Swimming safety

The age of your children matters, in terms of beach swimming safety.

Babies and toddlers don’t seem to really enjoy bracing jumps into cold salt water, and they can easily be knocked over and frightened by a lot of wave action. Do a little research on the baby-friendliness of your prospective beach destination; the Gulf of Mexico side of Florida, for example, has warmer water and gentler waves than the Atlantic side, so St. Pete Beach might be better for your baby than Daytona Beach.

Where’s the good stuff?

For an annual ranking of the top 10 beaches in the U.S., the go-to guy is Dr. Stephen Leatherman, also known as “Dr. Beach.”

The UK’s Guardian newspaper lists top 10 beaches of the world, and the Telegraph hunts down best beaches in Africa, Indian Ocean, Middle East, Asia and Australasia.