By David Dean
Travel Tech and Gear Expert, about.com
Planning a beach vacation this summer? Of course you are! Along with your towel and sunscreen, don't forget to pack your smartphone – these six useful apps will update you on the weather and surf conditions, ensure you don't get burned, keep you safe and even teach you how to surf!
First things first, you need to know what the weather's doing. There's no point planning a beach day if it's going to start raining ten minutes after you arrive.
There are several good general weather apps out there, but I currently use 1Weather, which has hourly and long-range forecasts, rain radar and more. I like that it can automatically adapt to your current location, without needing to change any settings – handy when you arrive somewhere new.
Sunwise UV Index
What's the first rule of a beach vacation?
Don't get sunburned! Before heading out to the beach, check the UV index with the EPA's free Sunwise app to get an idea of how long you can stay outside.
It's not very attractive, but it provides hour-by-hour information for your current location, including an explanation of what the numbers mean and how you should protect yourself from the sun.
Of course, it's all very well knowing you shouldn't spend too long in the sun, but it's not always easy to stick to the plan once you're lying on the beach with a drink and a good book. iTanSmart takes the guesswork out of things by factoring in your current location, skin type and the type of sun protection you're using.
Hit a button to start the timer (or pause it when you go inside), and you'll be warned when you hit your maximum exposure for the day, as well as 15 minutes beforehand.
If you're going to the beach to surf, Coasting provides all the info you need, quickly and easily. The app gives the surf reports for your favorite spots, showing at a glance the wind, swell and wave sizes you can expect throughout the day. It also has a nice feature where you can set your ideal conditions for each spot, and the app will score the current conditions against them.
For more detail, Surfline includes live web cams where available. If you're more concerned about staying on the board than exactly what the weather's doing, iSurfer Surf Coach is a surf school in your pocket, with videos and tutorials for novices upwards.
Even placid-looking beaches can be dangerous, especially those not patrolled by lifeguards. Beach Safety clearly explains rips and currents, why they're dangerous and how to spot them in the water, along with ways to escape from them if you get caught.
There are also tips for treating jellyfish stings and even ways to avoid shark attacks. It's an easy, free way to stay safe at the beach this summer.
Waterkeeper Swim Guide
Just want to know where the best nearby swimming beaches are? When you're vacationing somewhere new, you don't always know the ideal spots – which is where Waterkeeper Swim Guide comes in. It uses your current location to show nearby options and provide driving instructions, and also lets you know if the beach is currently closed.
The app covers beaches (and lakes) throughout the US and Canada, with thousands of photos and detailed descriptions to help you decide where you'd like to head today. It also includes information on lifeguard, changing room and other facilities, and lists both current and historical pollution levels.