Driving on sand is easier than you would expect, although the car will feel a bit floaty (note that I am talking about driving on sand to get from point A to point B, not dune bashing), and it requires logistical preparation.
The key is you must deflate your tires, to roughly 15 psi (opinions vary), using the tire gauge you have in your car bag. If you do not deflate your tires, you will get stuck almost immediately, which is embarrassing. The “catch” is when your tires are deflated, you must not drive on rocks, or you will pop your tires. So you can’t go from sand to rocks. And, when you get off the sand, you need a way to reflate your tires pronto. Like I said, the logistics can be a challenge. (Unless you have a Range Rover that automatically reflates its own tires.)
Generally, you should stay on the flat bits and follow the tracks of other vehicles. If you look on Google Maps, using the satellite view, you can usually see these tracks, which will tend to follow the flattest, easiest route. Plus, if you are on a well-used track, perhaps someone will come along to help you if you get stuck. And, on places where a well-used track meets up with a road, there is often a tire-reflation shop waiting for you.
Unless you really know what you are doing, you should have a four-wheel drive car or truck, and if you are at all concerned about squishy bits keep it in four-wheel drive mode and run it in a lower gear than usual – you don’t want to be messing about with downshifting when you suddenly need power.
At the risk of stating the obvious, if you need to start going over dunes, that is a lot harder, and you will probably get stuck unless you have a lot of experience. I’ve never done this, and never got stuck, so I’m afraid I don’t have any advice on getting unstuck – people tell me you should put your floor mats under the wheels. A quick Google will find you lots of more complete sand-driving guides.
The easiest way to drive on sand is usually to follow the tracks. Don’t forget to deflate your tires. Photo by the author.