Just a few things I think are essential for the beach are a good sunscreen, a generous straw tote, some light reading, and a few inexpensive but attractive accessories.
I'm also loving the idea of a beach blanket in addition to a towel - this way you have lots of room for you and your pals to cozy up on the beach for the day, and you can dry off without having to lie down on a wet towel after taking a dip in the ocean.
Everything here is $50 or less - and can you believe this bag is only $9???
J. Crew Gold Bangle Set, $29.50 * Roxy Driftwood Beach Blanket, $47.99 *
HGTV Magazine, $18 for year * Neutrogena Baby Sun Stick, $8.99 *
Flame Thong Sandal, $25.99