Top 5 things to pack for a tropical vacation

Husband and I have been on dozens of trips- we love all kinds of destinations, but I think we are both island lovers at heart. Something about that dazzling, blue green water just enchants us! I’ve learned a lot over the years on the best things to pack.

  1. Reef Safe Sunblock – We love our coral reefs! Sadly, all the terrible ingredients in most sunblocks are killing the coral and destroying the ocean’s ecosystems. But we NEED sunblock or we will burn, especially under the intense heat of the tropic sun. Mineral sunblock tends to be the best in terms of coverage… but every one we’ve tried is either sticky and leaves a silvery white residue, or is not reef safe. I was so elated when I found Tropic Sport. You will not believe how smoothly and easily this mineral sunblock goes on! Plus, it’s completely reef safe, which should make every ocean lover feel good about using it. Tropic Sport has found a magic formula that is safe, emollient, smells great and lasts for 80 minutes in the water! It has a very light scent and is not greasy at all. We even used it on our faces and it did not cause breakouts. We have never been burnt using Tropic Sport. I’ve literally searched years for the perfect sunblock- trying dozens and dozens. My search is over! Tropic Sport is my #1 choice! We like to buy the big bottle and refill the handy key chain bottles.
  2. Snorkel gear – Even though snorkel gear is relatively cheap to rent, if you snorkel often, the cost can add up. Because we snorkel so much we always bring our own gear. Our gear has paid for itself, a few times over. Plus, it’s nice to know that dozens of people haven’t used the gear before. Son and Husband prefer the traditional masks, because they love to swim far out and dive down to get a closer look. We have always bought US Divers sets and they have lasted for years! We recently bought the compact snorkel fins. They work so well, and take up very little room in your bag. Daughter and I are more casual snorkelers. We like to float along, take our time and take lots of breaks. We both prefer the new full face masks. They are so comfortable, and you don’t get that weird mouth soreness from biting down on a mouthpiece. Your face actually stays almost completely dry the entire time!

  3. Waterproof waist packs – Visiting beautiful beaches is the best part of any tropical vacation. The problem is, what do you do with your gear? You want to bring it with you to capture all of the great moments you’re having. Most of the time, gear left on the beach will remain where you left it, but that’s always a risk. We usually take turns keeping an eye on our things, but sometimes we like to go out into the water together. We have never been stolen from right off the beach, but our car did get robbed once. We thought it was safer to leave our gear in our locked and alarmed vehicle, than unattended on the beach. We were wrong. We got thousands of dollars of equipment taken when the thieves broke into our car. They took every thing. It was devastating, to say the least. What saddened me most was not losing our things- it was the memories that the thieves stole from us. Priceless to us, and worthless to them- my hundreds of pictures and hours of video -wiped out in seconds I’m sure, when the crooks when to resell our gear. The first time Son and I went snorkeling together and saw sea turtles, gone. My baby girl hiking up to see waterfalls for the first time, gone. Why couldn’t they leave the memory cards? Because they don’t care! Ever since that horrible day, we are extra vigilant.  Not only do we back up our photos every day, but IF we choose to leave our equipment unattended, or in the car, we pop out our memory cards and take them with us. Memories cannot be replaced. Equipment can (insurance helps). These waist packs are fantastic for storing small important things, like your cell phone, ID and credit cards, cash, perhaps a car key and the memory cards. They do not rise up or tangle in the water, and you almost forget you are wearing them. They’re great for just about any water sport!
  4. First Aid Kit– This is a necessity to have on you, or near you at all times. I can’t tell you how many times my first aid kit has helped my family or somebody else! Even a tiny one can save you from a bad situation. I have been cut by coral numerous times. I’ve never been infected because I’ve always carried triple antibiotic ointment with me, and slathered it on my cuts, just as soon as I could get clean and dry.
  5. Rash guards– In addition to an amazing sunblock, rash guards really help protect you from the sun’s harmful rays. Time flies when you’re having fun in the water. It’s nice to not have to worry so much about getting burnt. We always have these in our day packs. We prefer to snorkel without them at first- then after a few hours go by, we put them on. This saves us on having to reapply sunblock on our whole bodies. I have this one in purple and I just LOVE it. I’ve worn it several times and it has not faded. I like that it scrunches up or down- so it can be worn as a mini dress or a shirt.

I’m totally guilty of trying to bring EVERYTHING. It’s taken me years to learn to pack lighter and smarter. Now, we almost always do carry-on only. This saves us on bag fees and the hassle of waiting at the luggage carousel. One trick I love, is to lay everything out, and then get rid of half of it. Trip after trip of packing things I never even unpacked, has taught me to streamline. You’re really going to want to be as comfortable and practical as possible. Packing cubes are AMAZING at condensing! You won’t believe how much you can cram into one cube. Rolling your clothes and putting them into a packing cube will save you so much space!

Here’s some things to leave at home:

  • Going out makeup- If you’re like us, you’re going to want to do and see all the great things that the island has to offer. This means being pretty active. Full face makeup will feel heavy and it’s really not worth putting on because you will sweat it off, or it will come off badly in the water. Pack the very basics, unless you are going to a fancy dinner- even then- a little blush, and lip gloss can do wonders. I rarely wear foundation on holiday. I use a BB cream that does multiple duties- it moisturizes, protects and covers. This saves me a ton of space in my toiletry bag. My very favorite is Hydroxatone Anti Aging BB Cream, with an SPF of 40! It is tinted and gives you great coverage, while still feeling light. It is also build-able, so you can get more coverage out of it by layering. I actually use it daily (not only on holiday). One tube of this stuff lasts me ages!
  • Heavy shoes- Oh how I love my shoes. I used to try and cram in 4-5 pairs, but that literally can take up so much room. Then I would end up not even wearing them because I chose comfort over fashion, every time. There is really no need to pack fancy heels. Opt for some cute strappy sandals instead! On the last trip we took to Tahiti, I wore my Crocs Isabella sandals almost the entire time. I even wore them in the water because they actually stayed on better than my cheap water shoes! Husband called them my “everything shoes”. The only other pair of shoes I had were a pair of low hiking shoes. Travel tip: Always wear your heaviest pair of shoes to the airport.
  • Bulky clothes – Think light layers! Tank tops, tees, light windbreakers. I adore those long thin scarves that can be used as a light blanket, skirt, and swim cover up! They fold down to almost nothing while packing, and they are so versatile. I usually pack a few of these in addition to more than one swimsuit. Always pack at least 2 swimsuits, so one can dry out completely. Wet swimsuits are a terrible pain to put on! I usually have 1 pair of long lightweight athletic leggings, even on tropical trips- this is so you can be prepared for anything. If you go horseback riding, you’ll want those long pants. Hiking in the dense jungle? You’ll be grateful to have full leg coverage. Travel tip: wear those athletic leggings as part of your airport outfit. They will keep your legs warm on the plane and offer some compression.

What are your top things that you pack on a tropical getaway? I’m always open to new ideas that will save me space, time or money! Leave me a comment below. Related: How to Prevent Being Stolen From

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