The fourth of July ushers in the official start of summer. Visions of frolicking at a sandy beach and dining on backyard barbeque fills our heads. This is one of the least stressful holidays of the year. The sun is shining, there's no pressure or guilt to entertain crazy family members you haven't seen in years, and you can literally hang in your leisure wear all day. The mantra is to sleep in late and wake up with a smile. The last thing anyone wants is to be bothered by trivial annoyances that can eat away at our good attitude. To ensure you are not a bum at the beach or an out-to-lunch host, here are our top etiquette tips on how to make fireworks, not friction this Independence Day.
- Dress Appropriately for the Occasion. Topless and nude sunbathing are frowned upon here in America, and in some cases is considered against the law. Unless you’re on a private yacht in the south of France or vacationing in Brazil, kindly keep your bathing suit PG-rated. Private parts should be sufficiently covered. The beach is for families and they are especially in tow on a big summer holiday.
- Come Ready with Your Own Supplies. Everyone has their “must have” list of necessities for the beach. Most importantly, the list is to help you be prepared so that you do not have to constantly bother others with your requests for items you forgot at home. The bare minimum: sunscreen, hat, bottled water and towel. Kicking it up a notch: beach chair, umbrella, tunes, books or magazines (old school style), games, a cooler fully stocked with an incredible feast. Recommended for parents: full day supply of diapers and wipes, a Pack N’ Play or tent for shade, sand toys (BTW, don’t forget to write your name on them so you leave the beach with the same toys you came with), ample sunscreen, snacks, and beverages.
- The Early Bird Gets the Worm. If you are one of those people who perpetually arrives fashionably late, don’t expect to have first dibs on prime real estate at the beach. There is plenty of space and no one is entitled to a reserved spot. To ensure you do not encroach on another person’s space, maintain a 15-foot distance between you and your neighbor. When selecting your spot, don’t forget to take into consideration high tide. Look for a high water mark, consult a tide chart or ask a lifeguard before settling down for the day.
- Setting up Shop. If possible, organize your items so that you only have to take one trip on the sand to your spot on the beach. Walking back and forth is exhausting and will tucker you out before your day even begins. Before laying your towels down and inserting your umbrella, check to see which way the wind is blowing so that you don’t blow sand into your neighbor’s direction or block their view. Make every effort to consolidate your items into a small area that will not take valuable beach front away from others.
- Keep it Down & Watch Your Language. We are well aware that the beach is outside, but that does not give you carte blanche to blast your latest iTunes mix on your giant speakers or shout profanities to your buddies. On the flip side, parents should monitor children and make sure little Mikey and Susie aren’t running amok hurling sand toys and fighting over the last Cheeto while adults are trying to enjoy a little peace and quiet or read the latest best-seller. Being outside entitles everyone to use their outside voice and have fun, just be mindful of how loud and crazy you get and keep it all in check.
- Fun in the Sun. Game playing is great but keep it away from others. First of all, it is obnoxious to play ball over others heads while they are trying to relax and secondly, it can be dangerous, especially if there are little ones around. This extends to water playing as well. Look out for others in the water before you engage in spirited splashing, dunking, and other horseplay. Maintain control of boogie boards and other water toys so that everyone has a safe day in the sun. A special note to parents: keep an eye on the children. Organize plenty of activities like building sand castles, playing Frisbee or searching for the most unusual seashell to keep them busy so that they do not wander off or, more importantly, wander into the water without your supervision.
- Clean Up After Yourself. If only there was a Smoky the Bear symbol to protect our beautiful beaches. I recently recall swimming at a beach just north of Santa Monica and seeing plastic bags, soda cans, and straw wrappers in the ocean. It was disgusting! Please take a garbage bag or paper bag with you to the beach and have the decency to collect all of your trash (that includes food wrappers, diapers, newspapers and whatever else you bring) and then deposit it into one of the large trash receptacles located everywhere!
- Don't Bring the Beach Home with You. Carefully shake all items and sufficiently clean off anything with sticky sand before leaving the beach. Watch your neighbors to make sure you are not blowing sand dust in their wind. There is nothing worse than dust particles of sand found in the car, on the floor or in your bags when you return home. Shake off towels, clean dirty feet, wash out bathing suits and dump all bags before settling into your car or entering the house.
- Give it One Last Look. Before making your final exit, patrol the area one all around your beach party scene one last time for any lost items, leftover food or litter.
- Be Prepared. There is nothing worse than being invited to a barbecue and arriving when your host is wiping away the cobwebs from the grill or has to run out to the market to purchase the food. If you are hosting a barbecue, plan your menu and purchase your food items a day or two before your event. Clean your barbecue well in advance of your guest's arrival and make sure your barbecue tools are handy and in good working condition. You don't want to be flipping burgers with your fingers!
- The Hotter the Better. Preheat the grill and allow plenty of time for it to reach the appropriate temperature so that cooking time is efficient. Generally, guests come hungry and they will not be very patient waiting for an extra half hour for the grill to heat up.
- No One Wants to Be Eaten Alive. Everyone knows that outdoor barbecuing means you have to put up with an assortment of bugs invading your space, especially pesky flies, and bees. Arm your backyard with insect repellents such as citronella candles and an electric bug zapper. Purchasing food domes will also not only keep food warm but will dissuade bugs from hanging around the table.
- The Grill Master is King. Every household has their designated grill master who is king of their domain and not does want to be told what to do. He or she is confident they can grill anything to perfection. Show them respect by letting them do their job and be supportive by helping in any way you can. No backseat grilling, please!
- Finger Lickin' Good. The best tasting foods at a barbecue are the ones that happen to be super messy or difficult to eat. Think ribs smothered in sauce, buttery corn on the cob or watermelon juice running down the chin. Not only do these foods require a ton of napkins, but they also tempt us to want to suck the sauce off of our fingers at any given time. Provide cleansing wipes for sticky foods and toothpicks to remove kernels of corn from teeth.