It’s an annual summer rite of passage, taking the kids to the beach. It sounds great in theory – relaxing in the sand with a book in your hand and a cold drink at your side while the kids play in the water.

But reality can be much different. That chill afternoon on the beach will probably look more like this: Your kids will cover you in sand, your tropical drink will cost you more than a week’s worth of groceries, and the only thing you’ll be reading is the manual on how to properly set up that deluxe beach umbrella. Plus, your children will be bugging you hour after hour for something to eat, drink, and for bathroom breaks, and you’ll have to feed that parking meter a mile away every couple of hours.

Still sound relaxing?

But there are ways to make that trip to the beach a lot less stressful. Here are some tips:

1. Plan Carefully

Make sure that you know exactly where you want to go, how to get there, and have enough cash on hand for the excursion. If you properly plan ahead, you can save yourself untold amounts of anxiety and stress and make the day much more enjoyable for you and your entire family.

2. Make a List

You will need the biggest beach bag you can find to accommodate all the items you will need for a day at the beach: sunblock, toys, towels, changes of clothes, water, snacks, and sunglasses. Start making a list a few days before your trip and it will make everyone’s life much easier.

3. Bring Something for Everyone

Make sure that everyone in the family has something to keep them occupied at the beach. Does your oldest have her favorite book? Is your middle child bringing his headphones to chill and listen to some tunes? Did you pack enough toys and games to keep your youngest busy for several hours?

4. Leave Early, Part One

You won't be the only ones heading to that beach on that bright, sunny summer morning so make sure that you get an early start. Head out the door with enough time to beat the crowd, get a good parking space, and stake out a comfortable spot on the beach.

5. Leave Early, Part Two

If you want to beat the traffic off the beach you’ll probably have to leave earlier than the rest of the crowd. Your other option is to stay later than the bulk of the beachgoers and, if your kids are getting tired and whiny, they might not make it easy to stay. Either way, make an exit plan and stick to it if you want to beat the traffic or wait it out.

6. Have a Conversation

Before you leave for the beach or once you’re on the way, have a chat with your kids about the ground rules. Make sure they know what their boundaries are, where they can go, how much money they have to spend, and what the general game plan is for the day. Also, explain to them that when you say it’s time to go, it’s time to go.

7. Make Sure Everyone Pitches In

Also, make it clear to your kids that everyone needs to do their part at the end of the day to make your egress as smooth as possible. At the beach, things have a tendency to get lost, buried, and scattered so it’s all hands on deck as you prepare to leave.