At the risk of sounding a little bit nutso, we definitely think there is an art to packing the ultimate beach bag. If you can pack it up with essentials and still keep it light, then you've got the knack.

First and foremost is the bag. Everyone wants a bag that is durable, can be wiped out easily, and is lightweight (even when filled). Being able to carry it a long way is crucial especially if you are also lugging toys, beach chairs or a board. The bag doesn't have to be expensive. Many bargain stores like Old Navy have a great, affordable selection that leaves enough change in the pocket to buy a new one every year. Target even has a Cynthia Rowley line out right now that is under 20 bucks.

Once you've got your bag, it's ready to be filled. Here is a list of items that are crucial to the perfect pack.

• A handful of plastic freezer bags (to avoid sunscreen squirts and wet suits dampening magazines).
• An absorbent towel
• Large bed sheet (which are better than a blanket because they are lighter, easier to pin down and a breeze to shake off )
• Swimsuit, cover up, flip flops or go glam with jeweled gladiators
• A plastic water bottle (make sure your recycle it!) and a light snack that won't go bad in the heat (think grapes or a granola bar)
• A hair tie, brush and a detangler or leave in conditioner
• Sunglasses and headgear (a wide-brimmed sun hat provides the most coverage though a baseball cap or visor works; a bandana will keep sweat off of your face too)
• Dough stacks and your ID
• Reading material and electronics (cell, iPod, camera)

Before you start packing, make sure you put anything squirtable in one plastic baggie and anything that does not like the water in another. When you begin packing place the heaviest items on the bottom. Next roll your towel up and put it in vertically at one end. Last, throw in your lighter bagged items and your good to go!

Of course vacation ain't vacation without a good read. We wouldn't leave you hanging without a summer reading list now would we? According to USA Today some of the hottest titles for the beach are:

• Life's a Beach by Claire Cook
• My Summer of Southern Discomfort by Stephanie Gail
• Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand
• The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares
• Summer Reading by Hilma Wolitzer
• Still Summer by Jacquelyn Mitchard
• The Perfect Summer: England, Just Before the Storm

Now get sunnin'!

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