Sun Protection 101

Sunshine, it’s what we live for here on Emerald Isle! Unfortunately these days, its damaging effects on our fragile skin & eyes are all too known. The sun’s intensity seems to grow more powerful as each year passes, making it all the more important to protect yourself and family. I understand you may not want to hear my lecture about sun safety, but seriously, heed my words people, this is no joke! You will get burned, it will hurt, there will probably be some tears…

Take it from me, nothing will ruin your vacation quicker than catching a wicked sunburn on the second day of your trip. (A bad burn put me in the E.R. a few years back… I know about these things!) The pain you’ll suffer with during the rest of the week will be a reminder of every bad choice you’ve ever made in your life. Yes, of course there are topical products to help cool the burn, but those won’t change your ghastly new lobster look. Oh, and all that peeling skin… sign me up, not! Seriously folks, we’re adults now. Let’s practice some self-care!

Sun Babies, Not Sunburned Babies

Anyone excited for a few sleepless nights? That’s another joy of sunburn you’ll enjoy, especially if you allow the little ones to get crispy. Kids don’t know anything besides sandcastles and waves, so make absolutely sure to cover them well. They want to enjoy their vacation pain-free, too. When I say protection, I really mean it. I’m talking UV clothing, hats, and lotion on any exposed body parts, including their ears and tops of their little feet (remember to do yourself, too.) Avoid the anguish of it all and take simple precautions to keep that skin safe!

Your children are not sea lion pups… cover them up!

The Burn: It’s not even cute…

…Neither is a smear of lotion across your nose. There are, however, modern & more sufficient methods of sun protection. Consider the options! What exactly are the options? Well, that brings us to the most important question of your beach vacation. How exactly do you protect yourself and still enjoy your fun in the sun? Let’s explore the options, shall we?

Yea, it is that serious…

Clothing is your friend on a sunny day. Period. Nowadays, there are fashionable and effective UV blocking clothes to keep you covered while still looking beach-savvy. Sun-related skin damage is completely preventable, and you can look great while protecting yourself. UV Skins has taken sun protection to the next level, offering 50+UPF apparel for the entire family. Swim shirts, cover-ups, and clothing for the kids are just a snippet of their selection. There are many companies offering UV protective clothing, so take a look and gear up!

Remember to protect the tops of your feet and ears also!

It Puts the Lotion on the Skin…

So, anyone who knows that reference knows that you’d better put the lotion on the skin… but with so many products out on the store shelves, it’s hard to know which are the best (and safest) sunscreens for your family. Let’s start with reading some labels and avoiding sunscreens containing the following:
oxybenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octinoxate, octocrylene, avobenzone, dimethicone, parabens, BHT, nanoparticles, propylene glycol, synthetic fragrances, retinyl palmitate, cocamide dea, & phenoxyethanol.

Yes, it is a long list… but do you realize some of these chemicals and preservatives are hormone disruptors and carcinogens?! People cover themselves with whatever they grab off the shelf, with little or no regard to the toxins being absorbed into their skin. Let’s be safe, and smart… Look for products containing non-nano zinc oxide (or titanium dioxide)! And for goodness sake, apply your products evenly…

Word to the Wise

I bet he did’t say that after 5 hours in the sun…

I’m finished preaching. It is now your responsibility to keep yourselves safe from the hot, hot sun. Whether you chose safe sunscreens, UV protective clothing, or a combination, you’re doing something good for yourself and your family. Just like the ocean, the sun makes no promises to anyone. Have respect for these awesomely powerful natural forces and your next trip to Emerald Isle should be fantastic! Have fun, be safe, and as always…

Stay Salty!

Christine B.

Best Cooler Packing Tips

There are quite a few blogs that claim to have the best cooler packing tips. Very well… I can agree that many do have valid points about prechilling the coolers, layering, and whatnot. The problem I’ve noticed is that most of these tips and tricks are targeted towards campers, not beachers. (Folks that go camping vs. those who go to the beach… I’m sure you were able to figure that out 😉) As you can imagine, there is nothing so disheartening as reaching into your cooler mid-day only to find its contents lukewarm. It is a sad state of affairs, I know,  but so avoidable! With a little preplanning, you will have the coldest, most well-stocked cooler on the beach! And, you know I’m going to teach you how!

Chill Out!

best cooler packing tips

There is a popular misconception that loading your pack down with bulky ice packs and pounds of watery ice is the only way to achieve maximum chill factor. This is simply not true. From my experience, ice packs and ice are only a third  of what keeps coolers coldest all day long in the summer heat. Packing techniques are, of course, another key element. Freezing food and drinks is the final key. Check out this list of freezable foods that will thaw just in time for lunch:

  • Fruits like grapes, peach slices, apple slices (tossed in a little lemon juice to prevent browning), cherries, & strawberries.
  • Yogurt tubes
  • Juice pouches (delicious slushies when they start to thaw!)
  • Water Bottles
  • This one is only for the adults in the group! Frozen bag of pre-made cocktail– This baby will help keep your cooler ice cold. If you happen to enjoy box-o-wine, remove the box, freeze the bag and voila… a lovely bag of wine cooler with a ready-to-pour spout! Or fill that bag up with any other cocktail mixture and enjoy your day in the sun. (Enjoy responsibly, especially on the beach!)


Wrap It Upbest cooler packing tips

Sandwiches or wraps? Well, wraps obviously! What is better than a full meal you can hold in one hand while tanning your legs? Nothing, that’s what. That being said, here are my reasons for supporting wraps over bread for picnic purposes. Bread gets squished very easily and has to be packed with care. Wraps hold together well  and can take a little abuse without getting  bent out of shape.

Also, anything that can be put on sandwich bread can be put on a wrap, and then some. Have you ever tried to stuff a sandwich full only to have it fall apart at the seems? (Once upon a time, I got so mad a peanut butter and banana sandwich because it refused to hold together. I picked it up and squished it between my fingers, cursing the sticky mash that oozed from my little hand… I was five years old. Took me years to attempt another one…) So yea, wraps are the way to go at the beach. Let us not forget that you only hand to have one relatively clean hand to eat a wrap! Here are just a few family-friendly wraps that will be just fine hanging out in the cooler.

Buffalo Chicken Wrap

best cooler packing tips

  • Chicken – Cooked, shredded chicken is best but frozen tenders or nuggets cut up work well too.
  • Buffalo Sauce – Use your favorite (Frank’s & Texas Pete are my favorite!)
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • Lettuce & Tomato – Optional but oh, so good!
  • Ranch or Blue Cheese dressing (Or Blue Cheese crumbles) – Gotta have ’em!
  • Large Flour Tortillas

Mix the chicken, buffalo sauce (to spice preference), & cheese. Fill the center of your tortilla with the mixture, adding lettuce, tomato, & sauces as desired. Fold in the sides, roll it up, & wrap it tight in wax paper or foil.



Asian Crunch Wrap

best cooler packing tips

  • Chicken – Cooked, shredded chicken is best but frozen tenders or nuggets cut up work well too.
  • Coleslaw mix – Cabbage and Asian food go hand-in-hand.
  • Sweet Chili Sauce – Mae Ploy… I live for it!
  • Soy Sauce – Just a splash for flavor
  • Fresh Cilantro – It wouldn’t be the same without it… so fresh & delicious.
  • Fresh Green Onions
  • Roasted Peanuts – That’s the crunch!
  • Large Flour Tortillas

For every 2 cups of coleslaw mix, toss in 1/2 cup sweet chili sauce, 2 chopped green onions, & 1 tsp soy sauce together. Lay chicken on tortilla, adding slaw mixture, & top with cilantro & peanuts. Fold in the sides, roll it up, & wrap it tight in wax paper or foil.



Cranberry Turkey Wraps

  • best cooler packing tipsMandarin Oranges
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Apple – Peeled & diced
  • Nonfat plain yogurt – Greek or otherwise
  • Mayo  – Just a little dollop
  • Lettuce
  • Turkey Breast – Grab your favorite from the deli at Publix
  • Mozzarella Cheese – Sliced thin for sandwiches
  • Pecans
  • Large Flour Tortillas

Mix a little mayo with the yogurt and spread on the tortillas. Layer on the lettuce, cheese, turkey, fruits and pecans. Then… you guessed it, fold in the sides, roll it up, & wrap it tight in wax paper or foil. Naturally, depending on the size of your group, and who wants what, all of these wraps can be tailored to individual tastes!



Pack It Up!

best cooler packing tips

Packing frozen fruits in Tupperware protects them from squish-age, and helps them act as ice packs. The sandwich wraps should be fine wrapped in wax paper of foil, and then protected in a gallon sized Ziploc bag. Chips and whatnot go directly into the beach bag or dry storage pouch!

When it’s time to assemble your goods, keep in mind that cold air settles to the bottom of your cooler. It is a good idea to pre-chill your cooler in some way, either by filling it with “sacrificial ice”, or chilling it in the freezer (if you have access to a freezer big enough, that is.) I prefer the “sacrificial ice” method.



So, this is how the pros do it:

  • Fill your cooler with ice, up to 12 hours before your beach day (the night before will work just fine.) Let that bad boy chill…
  • In the morning, dump the ice… yes, just let it go, that’s why it’s sacrificial.
  • Add a layer of block ice on the bottom – Make your own by freezing water & salt in Tupperware containers or empty milk/juice cartons. Salt keeps the ice colder, longer!
  • Add your frozen water bottles & juice pouches to the cooler.
  • Layer your picnic food – Amazing, delicious wraps in this case!
  • Top with your chilled snacks – Frozen fruits, yogurt tubes, etc.
  • Add a light layer of loose ice or a few frozen juice pouches.
  • Anything that does not require refrigeration, I say pack in a separate compartment or toss them into your beach bag. The less that cooler is opened the better!


It’s not that I’m against ice packs, I just like the fact that you can leave whatever ice has melted right there on the beach rather than carrying back thawed ice packs. Remember, keep that load light. You will thank yourself later, I promise! And for the love of all that is beautiful and natural, please leave only your footprints! Bring a small trash bag to collect any garbage and take it off the beach when you leave.  The beach will thank you!



Vacation Smart, Not Hard!


best cooler packing tipsIn my noble pursuit to provide you with the best vacation information possible, I wrote this post especially for all my beach-goers. These here are the best cooler packing tips for a day at the beach, tried and true, and they haven’t failed me yet! And you, my vacationing friends, you are above squished, soggy sandwich and lukewarm yogurt! Take it from me, these tips will save you from some real headaches (and gross lunches.)

Of course, you can always leave me comments about your very best cooler packing tips and tricks… I’d love to hear them! Like I’ve said before, “Vacation Smart, Not Hard.” I stick by this statement with all my passion for vacation pleasure, and my disdain for things being more difficult than necessary. It’s the beach, not rocket science after all. You’re here to relax… and that’s just what you should do.


Until Next Time, Stay Salty!

Christine B.

The Perfect Cooler: A Vacation Essential

Choosing the Perfect Cooler for You

What do coolers and people have in common? Well for one, they come in every shape, color, and size imaginable. They can be found everywhere, in every walk of life. They might be rugged, tough, soft, or pretty. I’ve seen them plain and I’ve seen them very colorful. Some are huge while others are tiny. And, as the saying goes, there’s someone for everyone. Ok, that’s a stretch, but you better believe the perfect cooler exists out there just for you!

the perfect cooler

So, where does one begin when selecting the perfect cooler?  Consider the function and purpose you intend for your cooler. Will you use it frequently throughout the year or just a few times during family trips and whatnot? Will you have help carrying it or do you need something portable and hands-free? These are all things to consider before driving yourself insane blindly shopping around or grabbing the cheapest thing off the nearest shelf.

“You Get What You Pay For”

Naturally, the price tag is usually where most people begin with any purchase.  That being said, I’m a big believer in “You get what you pay for,” and I refuse to pay for poor quality. Yes, I know how that sounds but I urge you to adopt the same attitude towards your beach gear. Items that can be used for a lifetime are an investment in your vacation arsenal. This goes for chairs, sun shelters, and, of course, coolers. If you’re going to do something, do it right the first time. Am I right or am I right? These coolers are not your ordinary cold plastic boxes, because, well, you’re more than the ordinary beach-goer. Let’s explore & find you the perfect cooler, shall we?!


the perfect coolerOh my goodness, the Yeti. This company is all the rage, and for good reason. The products they make are of superb quality and functionality. I seriously doubt you’ll find  coolers and hoppers built to take more hard-knocks than these! Although the sticker shock may cause purchase hesitation, it’s like I said before, you get what you pay for in quality.

Now, size DOES matter when you’re purchasing a Yeti. There is a variety of sizes available including hard coolers, soft hoppers & an assortment of other goodies. Yeti even makes a backpack cooler called the Backflip.  Did you get that? Hand-free Yeti… yaaassss!!!

the perfect cooler

Although the Yeti hard coolers are amazing, I personally  prefer the hoppers and backpack-style coolers, only because I’m all about going hands-free when possible.  Ice stays cold for about a million years, keeping everything in the coolers fresh all day long.  The zippers on these hoppers are designed like a water-proof wet suit zipper, creating a watertight seal with no leakage if the hopper tips over accidentally. Oh, and let us not forget about the incredible insulation built into these fantastic coolers. As far as I’m concerned, Yeti’s are worth their weight in gold doubloons.

Tommy Bahama

the perfect cooler

Now, this is cute… and functional. Perfect for a smaller sized family to enjoy a picnic on the beach! I like this Tommy Bahama’s Insulated Backpack Cooler because it is a breeze to carry, freeing up your hands for the more important things (like holding onto your toddler, for example.) Although this cooler isn’t monster-sized, it has plenty of room for all of your beach day edibles.  The top portion even has a spacious dry compartment and pockets galore to stash snacks, valuables and beach treasures! When you pack this baby full of cold food, your goodies will stay cold and sand-free (I’ll teach you all about cooler packing in my next post!)


I stumbled upon IceMule in my research and this brand has me completely impressed! These soft-pack, wearable coolers seem to be up to par with the quality of a Yeti but with an innovative design not seen on most coolers.

the perfect cooler

The exterior is highly durable, with a foam insulation layer and an air valve that allows you to add or remove air within the insulation layer. (Adding air thickens the insulation layer, keeping the interior colder even longer!) Best feature of all, it rolls up and stashes for easy storage! This means you can pack it in your suitcase and bring it out when your ready for your day on the sand!

The IceMule line is appealing to me, especially with their built-tough quality, watertight seals, and easy-to-carry designs. Not only is it far less bulky than a standard hard cooler, but it is also much easier to transport! You know I’m all about that!

Get the Perfect Cooler, ‘Cause You’ll Need It!

I truly care about your vacation happiness, which is why I happily do what I do! You need, and deserve (yes, you do!) to be here on Emerald Isle, relaxing with your friends and family. I’m simply here to nudge you in the direction of things that will make your vacation life much easier. When you have what you need, from the perfect cooler to the comfiest chair, it makes the entire experience that much more pleasant. Take it from me, investing in your vacation arsenal is an investment in your sanity and peace of mind. Having a wonderful time is the main focus, not worrying about if the ice is melting. In the next post, I’ll let you in on some clever tips and tricks to packing an awesome picnic suited for a sunny day on the Crystal Coast!

Until next time, Stay Salty!

Christine B.