Things that don't seem like mistakes at first often are when you are on vacation. I'm not talking about the obvious (just in case, don't forget the spf 50 on your face, feet, and ears).
Maybe overtanning; I've seen a lot of that. But other things that seem perfectly normal at the beach make you delete your travel photos off your digital camera quicker than a sand crab scuttling into its hole. Wearing a bright red Hawaiian shirt or a towel coiled on top of your head because you forgot your hat, for example. Or a red bikini (you're a man in this scenario).
It is incredibly tempting to collect as many seashells as you can put in a plastic bag from the Bi-Lo, which happens to have an excellent wine selection, so you might already have more bags than you can use for wet swimsuits anyway, another potential pitfall. But what are you going to do with those seashells when you get home, once you have one glass bowl full of them on the table in the dining room? I give myself the edict that I can have no more than I can carry in one hand, and when I'm over the limit, I take a picture of the shell instead.
I cheated just once when I found a large scallop shell I could use as a soapdish at home--I dropped my fragment shells into it and carried it from the top with all five fingers, which was the only way I could hold it with one hand. You can see it in the picture of Alberta's feet, next to my beach chair.
One thing you will almost certainly do is eat too much fast food when you're on the road.
Don't worry, these beaches are made for walking, and that's just what you'll do, walk, dammit, until you look good in your swimsuit. My strategy is to fix my eyes on the farthest condominiums from our boardwalk and walk till I get there, even though on the beach what I estimated a half-mile is really about three. It's excellent to fool yourself that way and burn up six times the calories, as long as your companions don't get sweaty and tired and go back to the beachhouse for a shower and lunch.
Souvenir stores affect people differently--I find the bright windows veritable sirens, while Alberta is horrified by them. Who could pass up three beachtowels for $10? But then you read the sign for a free hermit crab with every purchase and you see Alberta is right.
Of course, you can use our vacation as a warning. Or if you're especially alert and disciplined, you might have already realized the countless opportunities for screwing up at the beach. But if you're lulled by the soothing sound of the waves and the crumbly texture of sand under your fingertips as you lie under the July sun, it's only when you get home and unload the gritty towels and throw the "Myrtle Beach 2008" t-shirt in the laundry. When did I ever plan to wear 6-inch flourescent letters on my front, you wonder.Then it's too late.
But those mistakes aren't irreparable,not unless you succumbed to tattoo temptation. Even if you did that, there is a purple Jesus in Rains, South Carolina, and so be sure to pull over on the way back and ask his blessing.
Even then if you were given the choice prior to the trip, when you were thinking soberly, before you fell victim to sun and the wine selection at the Bi-Lo, wouldn't you still eat the fried shrimp and she-crab soup with probably a cup of cream in it, have the watery Happy Hour margarita,and snap up the towel bargain at Happy Jack's?
Yes you would. If you would have done it any differently, you'd be with the Outward Bound crowd or the Lonely Planet travelers in Costa Rica saving the rainforest, and it's too late for that. You and I are are not nearly that serious.
We do have some other holiday snaps; no, not the Monty Python kind of holiday snaps. Alberta, Susan, and I documented vacationers who, years if not decades past adolescence, threw ice cubes to attract each other in a public restaurant and paid for one buffet platter but got four plates of crab legs. We're saving those, however. We're sure the photos are our ticket for admission to Quantico, where we will reveal our ideas for a Special Buffet Surveillance detail, of which we will be the chief operatives.
Meanwhile, you go ahead and opt for excess. It'll be fine.