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While I’ve never been in the ocean, I’ve spent time almost every summer of my life at the beach, enjoying the long sandy shoreline along Lake Michigan.

Over the years, I’ve developed an arsenal of strategies to maximize the fun of these trips, while minimizing potential inconvenience. However, even I found some new tips and tricks while writing this article.

Whether you’re heading to the ocean, the Great Lakes or a local watering hole, here are 12 beach hacks to consider trying this year.

1. Use a Fitted Sheet Instead of a Beach Towel

You need to have a couple of things to increase your odds that this will work correctly. The first is four heavy objects to act as anchors. The second is no kids.

Lay the fitted sheet upside down on the sand. Put your four anchors in the corners and pull the sheet up and taut. When you’re done, you should have four short walls around you to prevent blowing sand from invading your space.

Kids will quickly turn this area into a sandbox, so I would skip the aggravation and save this hack for when they’re older or you’re on an adult-only outing.

2. Put Your Key on a Cork

I wish we had known about this hack before we had to search the bottom of a lake for the keys that fell out of my husband’s swim trunks pocket.

Make an extra key to your vehicle, attach it to a wine cork and then you can lock your other keys in the car or leave them at home. If the car key falls out in the water, the cork will help prevent it from sinking and also make it easier to find.

Yes, there’s a chance it could float away if you don’t notice it right away — but hey, no hack is perfect.

3. Let Baby Powder Whisk the Sand Away

Nothing is more challenging than wiping off wet sand, right? Apparently, if you sprinkle on some baby powder, it will absorb the moisture and make it easier to leave the sand at the beach rather than hauling it home with you.

I can’t vouch for this one personally, but if you’ve tried it, tell us how it works by leaving a comment below.

4. Store Your Phone in a Plastic Baggie

If you feel like you need to bring your phone to the beach, keep it sealed in a plastic baggie to protect it from the sand and water. You may find you’re able to use the touchscreen without even taking it out of the bag.

5. Keep a Balloon Handy to Clear Your Ears

When my ears need to be cleared at the beach, I typically hold my nose while trying to blow out of it. I’m sure that would look strange to anyone who didn’t know what I was doing, so if you’d rather use a different way to clear your ears, bring along a couple of balloons.

Trying to blow up a balloon is an easy — and possibly not-so-goofy looking — way to clear your ears. It might also be an easier concept for little ones to grasp.

6. Put on Your Cheap Sunglasses

It’s not unlikely that you may leave something behind on a beach trip or that someone will step on or sit on something and break it. You certainly don’t want that something to be your expensive sunglasses.

If you don’t need a prescription, you can head to the dollar store and buy a cheap pair. It’ll get the job done and won’t break your heart if the sunglasses get lost or stolen.

7. Hit the Dollar Store For All Your Beach Needs

Actually, get whatever you can from the dollar store.

Kids’ beach toys are particularly prone to getting lost or lifted by another kid at the beach. Sure, a dollar store bucket is cheap and flimsy, but it only needs to last a few hours at the beach for a day trip. If you have to buy another one for the next trip, don’t worry: It won’t break your budget.

8. Eat a Big Breakfast to Avoid Sandy Snacks

Every time I take a cooler to the beach, I regret it. It’s a pain to drag or carry over the sand. Then the food gets sandy.

Nowadays, I make sure we eat a big meal before heading out for the day. I might pack some drinks and a light snack — granola bars or packets of fruit snacks — but I never bother with sandwiches or something more substantial.

If you’ll be at the beach all day, consider leaving your cooler in the car and heading to the parking lot for a midday meal. No need to be eating at the water’s edge, in my opinion.

9. Flip Your Steering Wheel When Parking

A hot steering wheel can make the first few miles of the drive home painful. Minimize the problem by turning your steering wheel all the way around when you park. Then, the bottom of the wheel will take the brunt of the heat, and the top will be cooler when you flip it around to leave.

10. Make Your Own Cooler Ice Packs

If you do decide to bring a cooler with drinks or snacks, consider making your own ice packs. To do this, simply fill sealable gallon plastic bags with water and freeze them. When the ice melts, or when you’re ready to go, dump out the water and remaining ice and use the bags to store suits or other damp items until you get home.

Do you have secrets for savoring the beach? Share them by commenting below.

[Editor’s Note: If you find yourself in credit card debt as a result of your beach getaways, you may want to consider using a tool that can help you figure out how long it may take you to pay it off, like this credit card payoff calculator. You may also want to check your credit scores regularly to see how your debts could be affecting you. You can get two of your credit scores for free, updated each month, on Credit.com.]

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