4 Beach Tips for Tourists in Central Florida

1. Bring Extra Money for Parking

Some beaches in Central Florida, particularly those that are south of Tampa Bay (closer to Sarasota) often have free parking. In fact, some of the nicest beaches around, like Lido Beach, have free parking that’s extremely convenient and almost always available. However, this is not always the case and, sadly, not the norm.

In areas of higher tourism, such as Clearwater, beachside parking can range from a maximum fee of $10 at Clearwater Beach (and you’d have to be there for 5 hours to have to pay that much) to $3.00 + $1.25 per hour (with no maximum) at Indian Rocks Beach. Because beach parking can differ by season, location, and even the daily weather, it’s best to take a few more dollars than you think you’ll need, just in case.

2. Bring Only What You Need

It really is no fun making two trips from the car to the beach, especially on the sunburned return trip. A good rule of thumb is to take only what you can comfortably manage (a 35-pound backpack is not comfortable) in one trip. When we go to the beach, my family and I will pack 1 cooler, a beach chair for each person, and 1 backpack for every 2 people.

Make a list before leaving of essentials and nonessentials. Essentials would include sunscreen (you wouldn’t believe how easy it is to forget this, nor how expensive it is at beachside shops), some finger food, water, and a shirt and hat that you can throw on in the event that you start to burn.

Nonessential items would include blow-up floating toys, chairs, intertubes, etc. You are extremely buoyant in salt water and remember that beach balls blow away very easily. Instead, take a Frisbee or paddleball set if you want something entertaining and active to do on the beach. Also, don’t bring any glass (it’s against the rules at every beach I’ve visited in Central Florida).

3. Don’t Leave Your Things Unattended

Friendly, decent, law-abiding citizens are not the only people enjoying a day at the beach. Thieves make easy work out of unattended items left when otherwise unsuspecting tourists swim in the water or go searching for seashells. Unless you want to file a police report during your vacation, pay close attention.

Make sure that at least one person is left with your things at all times, no matter how many people are around. Conmen are very deceptive and can appear completely casual as they are looting your goods.

Take shifts when going into the water or out for a stroll. If you have to leave your stuff alone, make sure you don’t have anything valuable enough that you’ll miss it should you come back to an empty plot of sand (don’t forget about your car keys!).

4. Watch Your Alcohol Consumption

If you’ve heard the rumor that Florida beaches are surprisingly lenient when it comes to alcohol consumption on the beach and are curious to know if it’s true, well, it is to an extent. Remember: there is no glass allowed, so leave the beer bottles (cans are usually ok), wine bottles, and liquor bottles at home. Mix your drinks beforehand and bring them in plastic containers that are beach-friendly.

When you do mix your drinks, make them much weaker than you would normally have, and have a full glass of water between drinks. The weather is very hot in Florida and the sun and the salt together can do a number on your body’s hydration. Since alcohol is a natural diuretic, you will be losing water faster than you realize. Never, ever forget that it is extremely easy to get drunk on the beach.

Besides making you look like a foolish tourist, getting wasted on a public beach is very risky. You can be robbed, kidnapped, taken advantage of, and arrested (sometimes all in the same day). Always drink responsibly.

It goes without saying, of course, that you should NOT be drinking unless you are at least 21. Florida laws are very strict and the police do not play around. Fake ID’s are spotted easily and in areas of high tourism, lying about your age is taken very seriously.

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