Summertime, and the livin' is easy... or at least it will be once you've worn the kids out, and we reckon there's no better way to exhaust your motley crew than a beach trip.
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, it's more hip than ever to be staging a staycation. Time to dig out the ol' bucket and spade, dust off your floppy hats, and drink in the sunshine on one of the UK's most marvellous beaches. But what do you need to consider before departing?
What to take with you?
It's better to be safe than sorry, and always best to be prepared. We've compiled a handy list of items that we think you and your family will benefit from on your seaside saunter.
-- Mask, or other face covering. You'll obviously be spending the majority of your time outside, but it's best to be ready for any circumstance, and masks should be an everyday item in your day bag during this post-lockdown period anyway.
-- Hand sanitiser. This is critical, because toilet facilities may be scarce at your chosen location, depending on the policy and practice of the beach's management.
-- Tissues are therefore also advisable, in case of sticky fingers and sneezy noses.
-- Contactless cards in your wallet, in case you decide to purchase an ice cream or other refreshment from local shops. Most places no longer accept cash. You may also be able to set your phone up to make payments.
-- Food and drink. Shops surrounding beaches may be closed, or only offering limited supplies, but your kids (and yourself) will definitely get hungry and thirsty, so bring supplies. Picnics are part of the beach experience, right?
-- Rubbish bags. Our natural environments are precious, and litter is dangerous to wildlife. Packing rubbish bags makes it easy to keep everything messy in one place for you to take home with you.
-- The usual suspects, such as sun cream, swimming costumes, towels, sun glasses, sandals, a book, hats, parasol for shade, wind break, rash guards, beach chairs, etc.
As mentioned above, certain facilities may not be available. Toilets may be temporarily closed as they are high-contact, high-risk facilities; shops and cafes may also be shut, or have less stock on offer. Many beaches now have water taps, but these may be unavailable too, for the same reason that toilets might be closed.
Social distancing is, of course, still important to follow, even on a beach. Remember to advise your children that they must respect a minimum of 1m distance (preferably more) between themselves and other households, including when swimming, in car parks, or on narrow coastal paths.
There may also be restrictions on access to beaches. If the beach is more rural, it may only be accessible via car, and parking spaces might be limited or restricted to pre-booked slots only, so take care to check whether the beach you've got your eye on has such precautions in place.
Similarly, check government guidance on public transport. At the time of writing, people are now free to use trains and buses whenever they like, with masks. However, that may change or be locally tweaked.
As they say, where there's a will, there's a way...
-- Think about visiting the beach on a day that will be less busy, maybe because the forecast is cloudy, or on a weekday.
-- Plan to head to a less busy beach. Sure, the old favourites are great, but they'll always be there, and are more likely to be crowded. Who doesn't love exploring a new place anyway?
-- Check if the beach you're looking at has options to park via apps like Ringo. That way, you can pay in advance and remotely, without worrying about queueing at ticket machines, or any other crowd-dense activity.
-- Remember, too, to check if lifeguards are in place. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) may have reduced lifeguard cover as a result of coronavirus restrictions, so it's absolutely worth checking ahead if they will be onsite at your chosen beach. Safety precautions must always be followed when near water, especially with young children, and it's worth being extra vigilant in case lifeguard services are not available.
-- Most of all, have fun. Sun, sea, sand, salt, shells, sandcastles... who doesn't love a trip to the beach?!
Don't forget to check out our advice on keeping the summer holidays feeling fun and free -- and if you decide a trip to the seaside doesn't quite tickle your fancy, you can always get a burst of fresh air at Kew Gardens.
Alice grew up in London where she's now based, but she's happiest by the sea, or reading somewhere snuggled up with her 5 dogs. She has two younger sisters who keep her on her toes, and is passionate about all things art, literature, and culture - she's written a short collection of poems and continues to edit scripts for theatre, tv, and film on a freelance basis.