What do you pack for a tropical holiday?

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If you’ve ever read one of my blog posts before, then you know that I try to never check a bag (call it impatience at airports, or paranoia about losing it…). I’ve gotten a lot of questions recently asking for tips on how to pack for a longer trip in just a carry-on. After all, clothes and shoes take up an enormous amount of space, so how do you prioritize what you need? What do you pack for a tropical holiday besides the usual bikini and coverup? In this post, I’ll share with you all the items that I always pack for a tropical vacation.

1. Sunscreen

The most important thing for me is sunscreen, for a lot of reasons.  For one, I hate overpaying for sunscreen when I get to hotels but also, I never know the quality of the sunscreen that I will find on a vacation and don’t want to risk not finding any at all.  I never leave for a sunny vacation without a stock of COOLA products with me. That way, I can immediately go sprinting into the ocean or pool the second I get to my hotel and not worry about getting burned.  I always pack this first because it’s also something I will allllways forget about if I don’t.

2. Mosquito Repellant

If you’re headed anywhere tropical, the chances are that there will be bugs and lots of them.  The worst thing in the world is getting to paradise and sitting down for a romantic dinner and being eating alive at the same time.  Some hotels will provide free repellant at restaurants, but often they do not. We always try to pack a small bottle of it to take with us to try and limit how many bug bites we’ll get.  Trust me, you won’t regret bringing it.

2. Swimwear…plural

This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how hard it is to pick swim suits.  I have a serious system worked out for what I bring on trips. I always pack a few different types of bathing suits, depending on the activities I’m doing. If we are scuba diving, I pack something a little sportier. However, if I plan on tanning all day, I always want something that’s easy to maneuver to minimize tan lines, like my new swimwear from Lively (where you can get $10 off with AMB-voyagerguru2).

If I go for a hike or do an activity like that, I always find myself wearing a sporty bikini top, since it’s much easier to clean than a nice workout shirt, especially since I rarely do laundry while on a trip under two weeks.  It’s easy to throw a bikini top in the sink when it’s muddy, sweaty or dirty and wash it off.  Not as easy with a cotton shirt.

3. Toiletries

While I’m sure you can find a number of things in local shops, I always pack my own toiletries to bring because I have my favorites. I always pack my own face cream and wash, but if you’re looking for space savers, leave the shampoo and conditioner at home. Not only are shampoo and conditioner bottles usually far too big for a carry on, but this is typically a guarantee at hotels or in local shops.  If you’re running low on space like I usually am, I try to bring the essentials. This includes things like my face cream, face wash and makeup. I’ve also realized in the last several trips that it’s incredibly important to organize my toiletries.  Otherwise, they seem to either end up lost or taking up way too much space. I recently received a couple amazing cases from PurseN and I’m obsessed. It’s seriously changed my packing game. I use this case for my carryon (and this for larger trips) and it’s been a godsend.  It saves time, space and it’s cute.

4. Day bag

I always use a day bag as my “personal item” when I go on tropical holidays because it sucks to not have a beach bag when you need one. Lugging all your sunscreen and miscellaneous items by hand is annoying.  This also applies if you do any activities and need to bring water, a towel, your phone, etc.  Therefore, I tend to leave my purse behind and use a day bag, like this Lo and Son’s Weekender, as my personal item which doubles as my beach/activities bag during my trip.

5. Rain jacket and sweater

We all want the perfect vacation, but nature’s not always on your side. You don’t have to let mother nature ruin your vacation. If the weather turns, Max and I plan activities where the sun doesn’t really matter. For example, in the rain, you can go canyoning! Canyoning is essentially swimming and jumping off waterfalls and arguably, it’s my favorite bad weather activity.  We always bring a rain jacket and 1 sweater to tropical places because it’s great to be prepared and still have fun if bad weather hits.  Similarly, ziplining is great if it’s cloudy because it really doesn’t matter if there’s sun when you are flying between the tree coverage.

6. GoPro

The most versatile camera on earth that is pretty much indestructible is a great addition to your carryon. It works in rain or shine and fits in a small pocket. We have the Hero 5 and the quality is incredible and we can take it virtually anywhere. You can get the Hero 5 Black now for between 250-300 USD so it’s worth the splurge if you’re looking for a versatile camera that fits in your carryon.

7. Cash

Cash is king, especially in less developed countries.  It’s important to remember that you cannot rely on credit cards because a lot of places won’t accept credit cards. We typically bring a few hundred US dollars with us and either exchange or use the cash. This is especially important when you get the airport and have to take a cab.

8. Hat and sunglasses

The second you get close to the equator, the sun burns a lot hotter and a hat can go a long way. I love a big brimmed hat and pair of sunglasses to protect myself from the sun when I’m tanning.

9. Water shoes

I’ve been there.  My feet have been destroyed by rock and coral and I’ve regretted not bringing some water shoes. If you plan on doing any water-based activities, I’d recommend a pair.

10. Kindle

Is anyone else as into beach reading as I am? If so, I’d definitely recommend a kindle.  I used to carry two books with me on every trip and a kindle has made my life a lot easier. Not to mention, the new ones are fancy and let you listen to audio books via bluetooth.

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