On the beach and swimming in the sea

There’s nothing like a leisurely day on the beach. Here are some tips to help you make the most of it both in and out of the water.

On the beach and in the sea

On the beach

If you plan to go in the sea it’s best to choose a beach with lifeguards. Holiday beaches often have information boards which tell you what facilities there are, where you can swim and where to avoid. If there are flags or signs on the beach which you don’t understand, ask a lifeguard.

It’s also worth checking what you should do in an emergency such as if you get into trouble while swimming, you see someone else get into trouble or if you lose anyone in your party on the beach.

Make sure you know when the high and low tides are so that you don’t choose a spot where you could become cut off from the main beach if the tide comes in.

It can get very hot on a beach so don’t forget to take plenty of water as well as sun cream, sun hats, a sun umbrella and depending on where you are you may need insect repellent too. When the sun’s at its strongest make sure you spend some time in the shade. This is particularly important for children as they can burn easily and young babies should be protected from the sun at all times. For more on sun safety see our guide.

If you decide to take a dip don’t forget to ask someone to keep an eye on your valuables. Hiding your belongings under a towel is not much of a deterrent to thieves who are always on the lookout for easy pickings.

Children

It’s easy to lose sight of children on a crowded beach or to doze off in the sun, so you need to be vigilant and supervise them at all times so they don’t wander off or get lost. And if they want to play in or near the water a grown-up needs to accompany them.

Finding time to relax on the beach can be hard for parents. But if you’re with other adults you could take it in turns to look after the children. That way you’ll get some time to yourself and know that someone is always keeping an eye on your children. And if by any chance your child does wander off – typically when you’re caught up doing something else –tell a lifeguard immediately.

Beaches should be fun and not a trial with children so it’s worth setting down some rules in advance. These could include:

  • Don’t wander off or go in the sea without an adult
  • Don’t take inflatables into the water (these can pull you out to sea)
  • Keep away from cliff edges

And for older children:

  • If you need to cross a road such as to buy ice-cream or find a toilet, remember to take special care on the road.
  • Make sure you can find your way back – on a busy beach it’s a good idea to mark out where you are such as with a windbreak or a flag on a pole.

In the sea

Wherever possible only swim where there are lifeguards on duty and in areas designated for swimming.

Swimming in the sea is very different to swimming in a pool – it can be very cold and there can be strong currents that pull you out to sea. So it’s a good idea to stay close to the shore line so that you don’t get out of your depth and caught up in rip tides. This way you’ll also avoid any speed boats, water skiers and jet skiers that may be in the deeper waters.

Here are some more tips on swimming in the sea.

  • Never swim on your own. Always swim with someone else or have someone watching you so they can see if you get in to trouble.
  • Don’t swim near or dive off rocks, piers, coral etc.
  • If you get caught up in a rip tide swim parallel to the shore until you’re safely out of the current. ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) has produced a short video on what to do if you get caught up in a rip tide.
  • Inflatable rafts and lilos are fun in a pool but not in open water as you can end up being pulled out to sea on these.

And of course, it’s never a good idea to go in the sea at night, after a large meal or if you’ve been drinking alcohol.

On the beach and in the sea checklist