POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 2, 2013
Question: How close can I put my beach blanket to someone else's? Last year we went to a popular beach on the East Coast, and while it was starting to get crowded, there was still plenty of room for our blanket between two other blankets near the beach access path. There was completely open space much farther down the beach, but my mother was with us.
She has difficulty walking in the sand, so we wanted to be close to the entrance/exit. The people on each side of us were swimming while we set up (except for one older man, who was asleep), and when they returned they were clearly not happy to see us. They were part of the same extended family and had counted on being next to each other at the beach.
I apologized and said had we known, we wouldn't have put our blanket between them, but we'd already taken all our stuff out and our kids were making a sand castle and I didn't want to make my mother walk any farther than necessary.
It was a very uncomfortable day -- they shouted to each other over us, glared at us and told my kids they were in the way (even though they weren't). If they didn't want anyone between them, shouldn't they have put their blankets right next to each other? Or should I have packed up and moved?
Answer: If they wanted to be next to each other, they should have put their blankets directly next to each other so it was clear that space was taken. On nice days, popular beaches get crowded, and the areas near the entrances always get crowded first.
If you want to be next to your family or friends and you don't want your blankets right up next to each other, you should walk down the beach, away from the entrance, before setting up. That will give you more breathing room. I don't think you did anything wrong. If the sleeping guy had awakened as soon as you arrived, and said the two blankets were from the same family, then I'd probably have moved, but how were you to know that?
I think the other beachgoers were out of line to be so rude to you.
Email travel etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.