The holiday hacks to get you through the summer
Ah, the summer holiday - the one time of year when you can completely relax, right? Wrong. The annual big break is laden with stress and irritants, from the minor (sand in your beach towel) to major (sunstroke, jellyfish stings, relationship-endangering arguments).
This year, a new annoyance can be thrown into that mix, as Italian authorities crack down on tourists who want to bag the best spots on the beach by leaving their towels out overnight. Those attempting to 'reserve' space will face fines of €200, though why anyone would risk a fine that large for a €12 telo da spiaggia (beach towel) is anyone's guess.
But there are ways, both fair and foul, by which you can keep a spot for yourselves. Here, we present a range of cunning holiday lifehacks that will ensure your vacation runs as smoothly and cheaply as possible.
At the beach
Fancy a family dip in the sea but don't trust any other beachgoers to keep an eye on your things? No problemo, as they say in Rimini.
First, make sure nothing of value is stored in your beach bags, which, being eminently scoop-uppable, are the first thing that ne'er-do-wells will grab and run off with as you are all paddling.
Instead, clean out old sunscreen bottles into which you can insert keys, cash etc.
Paranoid gadget owners can also invest in fake sunblocker bottles big enough to conceal an iPhone, such as Tan Safe, which costs about €10.
Small valuables can be kept inside a sliced tennis ball: cut a slash and it transforms into something akin to a coin purse that opens when you squeeze it.
While on the beach, use the sealable plastic bags to hold liquids that are handed out by airport security (you took handfuls of them, didn't you?) to keep your phone sand-free; the touchscreen will still work, too.
Fill these bags with water and freeze overnight to cool drinks in a bucket on the beach. Freeze plastic bottles of water and soft drinks for the kids, too; even in the baking sun, they keep cool for hours.
Some websites suggest that a fitted sheet beats the traditional beach towel: turned upside down on the beach, with coolbags in each corner to keep the sides down, it creates a sand-free pit for your family. True, but you will also look like a mad person.
Buy a cheap watering can or bucket to rinse feet. Baby powder also helps remove sand from skin, though no one seems to know why.
By the pool
If you're going lay claim to a lounger, brazen it out by placing a 'reserved' towel over it.
Take an actual, physical, book with you. A paperback swollen with water and stained with suncream tells you with profound and tactile certainty that you are on holiday. Left open, spine upwards, it can also give you a few minutes' grace from would-be lounger-stealers when you need to nip to the bar/loo.
If you're thinking of buying an e-reader, wait a year: Amazon is reportedly developing a solar-powered Kindle, perfect for holidays.
With the kids
Use string bags to ferry beach toys, spare costumes, etc, so that sand doesn't accumulate.
Buy a sheet of plastic at a local hardware shop, and use it to improvise a paddling pool in a pit dug in the sand: chuck out the plastic on departure.
Freeze aloe vera cubes and use to soothe sunburn.
Alternatively, apply yoghurt to burnt areas; ditto, flannels soaked in iced tea. Warning: may attract wasps, so best attempted in the bathroom.
Take a travel Scrabble set. The one in your rented villa will have different letter values or indeed different letters. Always take two fresh decks of cards - another delightful, tactile reminder that you are on holiday. Never play Monopoly.
Before you come home…
Start thinking about next summer. Keep your eye out for a slightly nicer villa to book. Plan your final day with military precision; every hour counts. At the end of a recent holiday in France we had a 5pm flight from Nice but had to return our hire car by 1pm.
Instead, we reserved two sunloungers online at the private beach of the Beau Rivage hotel, dropped the car off early and took a taxi there, had four hours of sun, sea, salad niçoise and rosé before freshening up under the beach showers and flying home. Bliss.
(© Daily Telegraph, London)