Anyone who's tried to make their way to a Lowcountry beach recently knows the traffic, parking and beach blanket spaces are more packed than ever.
It used to be the beaches were crowded most weekends, then jammed on holiday weekends. Now they're jammed every weekend. A casual beachgoer is in for it on the Fourth.
Here are some tips to help you have a great day at the beach:
The usual - get there early and plan to stay late (sunscreen is not optional). County parks, Folly Beach and Isle of Palms parking lots tend to fill by 11 a.m. on the usual busy weekend. This weekend, spots will go fast. Meanwhile, traffic will slow to less than a crawl.
Don't be goal-oriented. Adjust the stretch of sand you're headed for as needed. Be extremely patient, try to enjoy the festivity of it all.
Follow on Twitter @ChasCountyParks, @ioppd for Isle of Palms police or @cityoffolly at Folly Beach to get updates on parking lot capacities or gridlock. Parking rules are now strictly (and expensively) enforced at all beach towns. Police will be out in force and don't expect any leeway because of the crowds. Know the rules.
Keep an eye on the skies. Crowds will disperse en masse once thunder rumbles.
If you can't get there early, crowds begin to disperse in the afternoon, except ...
Fireworks are a game-changer. If the beach you're headed for plans a show, a second throng turns out during the afternoon.