GET IN THE SWIM
We're deep into summer now and while it may be too early to hit the sale racks in search of cheap pool and beach gear, there are still bargains to be had. The key is knowing where to look. Cheapism.com hunted around and found good deals for everyone under the sun.
It's time to ditch the shoes and don the sandals. Old Navy is offering its perennial favorite flip-flops in a wide range of sizes and colors at $2.50 a pair, reduced from $4. As if the price could get any lower, the retailer periodically tags these beach basics for just $1 a pair, so be on the lookout. Consumers will also find an abundance of more stylish versions at reasonable prices.
Sunbathe on the sand or dry off after a swim with a fun and festive beach towel. Colorful printed towels starting at $6 are available at Kmart, while Walmart carries beach-ready cartoon- and teeny-bopper-print towels for $10. Bed, Bath and Beyond makes an appearance in this category with brightly colored beach towels starting at $10.
If your style calls for reclining on a beach chair rather than a towel, online vendor SwimOutlet is your best bet. We saw mid-height adult beach chairs in deep salmon or blue that are priced right at $17.
Playing in the sand is usually high on the summer agenda, which makes toys a necessary element of any beach-gear stash. Toys R Us features an 18-piece beach toy set for $10, and Amazon is selling a seven-piece set in a bag by Toysmith for $14 and a four-piece sand bucket set, also by Toysmith, for $6. Remember to check out the dollar store, an invaluable source for cheap sand and pool toys.
The best form of sun protection is sunscreen. Our research identified the best cheap sunscreens as Banana Boat Ultra Defense SPF 50, starting at 99 cents an ounce, and No-Ad SPF 45, starting at 53 cents an ounce. Both products win kudos for ease of application, a non-greasy feel, and, of course, the exceptional sun protection they provide.
While there's no substitute for sunscreen, it also isn't totally sufficient, experts say. Protect your scalp and provide secondary protection for your face with a cheap but stylish summer hat. A basic floppy straw hat from Walmart comes in three colors (red, white, and natural) and sells for just $8.
Finish off your safe-from-the-sun ensemble with a pair of cheap sunglasses. Our research has found that the JiMarti brand offers good quality, budget-friendly choices. Be sure to choose sunglasses labeled "100 percent UV protection" or "UV400." Sunglasses without this wording may not offer enough of a shield against the sun's harmful rays.
If your child can't swim more than 25 meters on her own, the rule of thumb says you shouldn't be farther than 10 feet away in the water. A life vest to help keep the child above water is another critical type of insurance. Colorful and lightweight Puddle Jumpers that fit over the chest and arms start at about $15 at Amazon, Target, and Walmart.
A cheap and roomy catchall is a must for hauling all your stuff to and from the beach or pool. Target sells $10 mesh totes that reviewers like for their sturdy construction, convenient front pocket, and sufficient space for a family's poolside needs.
Here is one piece of summer gear not to buy: a beach umbrella. This item isn't particularly cheap no matter where you shop, and lugging a huge umbrella back and forth from home or while traveling is a major hassle. Instead, frequent a beach or pool that provides umbrellas for free or to rent.