We answer everyone's most-burning question: How close is too close to another group?

A perfect day at the beach doesn't just depend on the weather: The behavior of the people around you can be the difference between a restful vacation and a stressful day out, especially as increasing numbers of travelers opt for local trips that don't require international flights. "Our beaches are going to be more crowded than ever, and I think it's really important that we mind our beach etiquette when we go," says Thomas P. Farley of Mister Manners. "We all need a break and we go to the beach to relax, not to become further stressed out." Ahead, several beach etiquette principles to remember the next time you head out for a day near the seashore.

Don't crowd the other beachgoers.

If you believe the spot you claim on the sand can make or break the success of your entire beach day, don't dawdle over coffee and then squeeze in too close to another party—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic (whether you are vaccinated or not). "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," says Lisa Gaché of Beverly Hills Manners. "To ensure you do not encroach on another person's space, ideally there should be about 15 feet of distance between you and your neighbor."

If you prefer a slow morning and an afternoon by the water, be respectful of the families who got there first. "The key consideration for those midday arrivers is to be aware of the sight lines of the people that you're sitting around," says Farley. Allow other beachgoers to enjoy the ocean view and parents to keep an eye on kids in the surf—and don't plop five or six feet away from someone when you have ample plots to choose from. "Don't encroach on the space of someone who planted their beach umbrella six hours before," affirms Gaché. Similar guidelines extend to your time in the water: While you may be forced into a smaller area so the lifeguards can see everyone, surfers, boogie boarders, swimmers, and splashers should stay in their own zones to minimize the chances of painful collisions.

Keep your voice and music volume low.

No one should head to a public shore point in the summer expecting a silent, meditative experience, but you also shouldn't disrupt the people around you with music, loud conversations, or foul language. "Beaches typically are a multi-generational experience," says Farley. "Most likely you're going to be overhead by someone if you're on a really crowded beach, so keep your conversation PG or G rated." Bringing a small speaker to provide a soundtrack for your day in the sun is fine, but keep the volume down or bring your headphones. "Make sure that you are not the self-appointed beach DJ," says Farley. "As much as you might love your own music, that does not mean that the people on the next blanket ,or the blanket beyond that, or the blanket beyond that, should be held captive to your musical choices."

Aerial view of the beach
Credit: Orbon Alija / Getty Images

Don't leave your trash.

"Bring a couple of garbage bags (plastic or paper) with you to the beach and collect all of your trash—that includes food wrappers, diapers, newspapers, and whatever else you bring—prior to departing," says Gaché. If the garbage and recycling bins at your favorite beach aren't large enough to contain the bottles and wrappers from hundreds (or thousands) of lunches and snacks, that doesn't make it okay to stack your empties next to the bin or balance them on top. "If there is no room in the garbage can, either find one that has space or bring it back home with you," notes Farley.

Pay attention to your kids (and pets).

A long, hot, tiring beach day primes every kid for a meltdown, but allowing your younger family members—whether toddlers or tweens—to disrupt the people around you is a firm etiquette "no." "It is considered extremely rude to play ball over others heads while they are trying to relax; more importantly, it can be dangerous," says Gaché. "Parents also need to monitor children, making sure they don't throw sand or walk on other people's towels." If you have true safety concerns about the behavior of someone else's kids on the beach, you can politely broach the topic with the parents—but otherwise, you're better off ignoring small annoyances. More often than not, "that's not a battle you're usually going to win," says Farley. "The same could be said for a dog."


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