The 12 Essentials for Spring Break

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With spring break just around the corner, maybe you've been getting ready for the sun, sand, swimsuits and fun with some extra hours at the gym by working your abs and toning your muscles, but that's only half the preparation needed for basking in the sunshine and riding the waves. No matter where your destination is -- Hawaii, Florida, the Bahamas or Mexico -- if you want the holiday to be a breeze, don't forget to pack these 12 all-important items in your suitcase.

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You might be able to pick up other items at the outrageously priced tourist shops, but there's no quick fix for forgetting your identification. A passport is a must when traveling internationally, of course, but even if you plan to stay domestic, be sure to bring some form of government-issued identification to avoid complications should any legal matters arise. (Besides, you'll need it to get into those clubs and bars.)

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Tourists often don't bring enough cash, then have to resort to desperate ATM withdrawals or wire transfers. However, these solutions come at a cost: annoying service charges -- especially when accessing money across different banks. Avoid this problem by bringing extra cash for any last-minute expenditures or unexpected emergencies.

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Sunscreen is a necessity if you plan on spending hours in the sun, whether you're tanning on the beach or shopping in the local village. Even if you typically don't burn easily, you still need 30 SPF to protect your skin from the long-term damage of UV rays. Keep in mind that even without scorching temperatures, tropical areas are probably closer to the equator than where you live. Why spend your entire trip with a red, peeling nose when a quick application of sunscreen could prevent it?

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Bring a wide-brimmed beach hat or a baseball cap for even more protection from the sun. A hat can also cover wet or wind-blown hair, or simply make a fashion statement. If you're particular about your hats, you may be unsatisfied with the limited selection in tourist shops, so make sure to pack one from home.

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This one may be a no-brainer for those with beachfront destination plans, but even if you're not heading to the coast for spring break, bring your bathing suit. You don't want to be left sitting on the sidelines when everyone else is in the hotel pool or at a Cabo-themed bash the local club is hosting. Bring at least two swimsuits. Extras allow you to change colors or styles, and help you avoid having to wear a damp suit.

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It's surprising how easy it is to forget to pack sunglasses for a trip, but this one's a requirement -- especially for those who may be too picky to settle for those at the hotel souvenir shop or don't want to waste money on something they already own. Grab your favorite pair when you hit the road. They'll not only shield your eyes from the glare of the sun, they'll make people-watching on the beach or the street much easier.

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Create your own "entertainment package" for the car or plane ride, sunning at the beach or simply lazing around. Go ahead and splurge on that high-priced magazine you always thumb through but never buy. Create playlists on your MP3 player. Try indie songs for relaxing on the beach and dance tunes for blasting in your hotel room while you're getting ready for a night on the town.

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Comfortable Shoes

Given that spring break is a time to relax, free from the stress of school, work and other drama, why confine your feet to stuffy shoes or sky-high stilettos (at least during the day)? Comfortable shoes are a must when exploring your destination or even when you're just basking in the sun, so don't forget to pack a few pairs of flip-flops or flats.

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Beach Towel

Towels are an essential, whether they're used as a tanning mat, marking your spot on the beach while you wander, or as a cover-up by the hotel pool. Though local shops will surely not be short of beach towels, bring your own and save the money for good food or entertainment.

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Capturing memories on film is a happy obligation for most vacationing people, and sharing photos on social networking sites is routine, so be sure to pack your camera. If you're accident-prone or lose things easily, buy a couple of disposable cameras (or even underwater disposables) at the local drugstore. You won't regret taking the time to snap those photos when you're feeling nostalgic months or even years later.

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Maybe the waves aren't big enough or the water's too cold, but you still want to get your heart rate up while enjoying the beach. Solution? Bring a soccer ball for a pickup game, beach ball or frisbee to throw around, a football for a game of touch football or a volleyball if the beach provides nets. These activities will surely get your blood pumping while providing plenty of fun and laughs.

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Beach Bag

You certainly can't forget the thing that will be carrying it all: a giant beach bag. It's amazing how practical these bags are and how much they can hold. Pick one with bright colors that are easy to spot or just a simple, classic one made of straw. When you arrive at your destination, just add your spring break essentials and hit the beach!

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