Millions of Americans will be heading out for Independence Day, taking a well-earned respite to celebrate the holiday with their families and friends. This year, the holiday falls on a Friday, automatically giving most people a three-day weekend. Even so, not everyone will be able to go away for the extended weekend. If your plans involve a day trip to the beach, keep the following points in mind as you prepare to travel.

Leave Home Early

If you can go away for only one day and you want to travel on the 4th of July, then plan to hit the road early. Traffic will be heavy especially to popular ocean and lake destinations.

If possible, get everyone up and ready to leave by 6 a.m. This is especially important if your destination is two or more hours away. By leaving early in the morning you can make your return in the mid-afternoon, staying ahead of the traffic and giving everyone enough time to enjoy the fireworks once you have returned home.

Pack a Lunch and Snacks

Try to eat out on July 4th and you may find local restaurants and eateries are packed. This isn’t good for families with small children who simply cannot wait on long lines to eat. It will also cut into your day, time you should be spending on the beach, walking on a path or a boardwalk, or taking in amusements.

Bring with you a cooler filled with your lunch. Dry goods and other items such as plates and napkins can be placed inside the cooler as well, provided that the container holding these items is airtight. Bring an ample supply of drinks and fill the cooler with ice to keep everything safe throughout the day. Avoid mayonnaise and other foods that do not keep well in the heat and can get you sick.

Enjoy the Surf Early and Often

Arriving early at the beach means you can find a prime place to set up your area. Bring with you a blanket, towels and if desired, a beach umbrella. Ideally, you will find a place close to the lifeguard stand where your children can surf in safety. A stand is also a good gathering point for children if they should become separated from you.

As soon as you arrive at the beach, lather everyone with sunscreen then wait a few minutes to allow it to be absorbed into their skin. Then, encourage everyone to head into the water and enjoy the surf until lunch time. At about noon, have everyone wash up with your provided hand wipes, eat lunch and then take a rest.

Head for the Amusements

After several hours in the surf, your children may be ready to do something else. If amusements are nearby, one parent can go with the older children to enjoy a few rides, play games or shop in the stores. They can also use the bathrooms. The other parent can stay with the youngest children under the umbrella.

Return to the beach and give the other parent a break. Keep the other children occupied, slathering them with sunscreen once again and allowing them to enjoy the surf for another hour. When your spouse returns, set a leaving time. Serve up snacks before you hit the road.

Travel Considerations

Even with a long holiday weekend you may find that hotel rooms are available should you prefer to stay over night. Last minute cancellations almost always occur — take advantage of them and ask for a discounted rate. You may be able to strike a deal that will save you a lot of money and cover the cost of one or two meals.

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