How do I prepare my skin for a beach vacation?
Smooth those rough areas on your elbows with an alpha-hydroxy lotion and a thick cream containing wax or paraffin.
Get some dihydroxyacetone ("tan in a bottle") preparation from the pharmacy. A few days before you leave, apply it according to the directions; twice a day for two to three days is usually enough. Be careful of the elbows, knees and ankles so they don't get extra dark and streak, and moisturize heavily before applying. You will be as brown as you want when you hit the beach, but you should still wear sunscreen.
Do not go to a tanning booth
-- you will get industrial-strength sun exposure that will eventually show up on your skin. While this makes great business for a dermatologist in your future, it is not in your best interest.