In all the hustle and bustle of packing and making pre-vacation arrangements- like who will feed your cat, Fluffy, or who will make sure your spider plant doesn’t wilt over and die- it’s easy to forget the essential vacation must-haves that every island traveler needs.
Sunblock. The most essential- and most important- travel item to take when heading to the islands, make sure you grab the block and not the screen. Users beware, because sunscreen allows certain rays to penetrate the skin, and its ingredients break down faster than sunblock, requiring more-frequent application. Sunblock protects against both UVA and UVB rays, the guys responsible for sunburn and skin cancer, and requires less-frequent application. Either way, make sure you load up before you leave home- that stuff can get pricey, especially if you’re staying at a chain resort- and slather it on religiously. Don’t worry; you’ll still return home golden brown, making all of your friends and co-workers jealous. You’ll just avoid the painful sunburn and slightly snake-like peeling stages.
Swim-suit. You would think this would be the most obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people get to their destination only to find they forgot to pack a bathing suit. Which never ends well. Momentarily panic-stricken, those swim-suit-forgetting holidaymakers will soon find themselves in a conundrum, stuck between not having a suit and buying one of those dreadfully-tacky, ill-fitting and over-priced bathing suits from the hotel gift shop. So don’t be one of those ninnies; check and double-check that you’ve packed at least one swim-suit. Although I recommend bringing at least two. You never know what could happen to the first one. If you lose it or it rips, you’ll find yourself back to square one, staring at the limited selection of tacky suits in your hotel’s gift shop…
Sunglasses. You might be one of those people who reject the idea of sunglasses, opting to squint and suffer through the blinding glare, for whatever reason. But unless you want to welcome premature wrinkles and eye damage, sunglasses should go with you everywhere you travel on the island. Sunglasses can be a fashion statement, so get fun with it if you’re concerned about wearing something unstylish or ugly. And just remember, while you’re busy looking good, you’ll also be protecting yourself against unnecessary damage. Your eyes will thank you.
Flip-flops. The epitome of laid-back and easygoing. Going to the Caribbean means leaving the office drama behind, and trading in the stuffy business shirts and ties for sunglasses and shorts. And, of course, flip-flops. There is nothing like the feel of grainy, white sand on your bare skin. The tiny crystals that get stuck between your toes and, no matter how hard you wipe at them with a towel, won’t come off until you shower. The sand gets in your hair and sticks to your skin and clings to your clothes and it’s the most sensational feeling because it reminds you of where you are: the Caribbean. Kick these babies off frequently and enjoy being barefoot on the beach. But make sure you keep them around for the times you’ll need them.
Hat. The sun is a lot brighter and a lot hotter in the Caribbean. Because the islands are so close to the equator, the sun is a lot more powerful- one of the main appeals of going there. But the big ball of fire can be very unforgiving when it comes to your delicate, little head, and scalp sunburns are one of the most painful- runner-up only to armpit burns, back-of-the-knee burns and bottom-of-the-feet burns. Especially necessary if you’re bald (picture your head as one giant, red ball, kind of like a tomato or cherry), hats can make or break your vacation by keeping your head nice and cool and sunburn-free. It’s understandable that you’ll want to leave it off to give your face some color, but throw it back on when you take a walk on the beach or find yourself out enjoying one of the many activities of the islands.
Camera. Who can go on any vacation without a camera? Memories last a lifetime, but pictures last even longer. These days, everyone has a phone with a built-in camera. But leave the cell at home, and invest in a nicer, digital camera. You’ll want to frame those pictures of your kids swimming with dolphins or the pictures of you and your significant other looking deliriously happy one evening at sunset. Whether the pictures become forever trapped in the cyber world of your desktop, having pictures of your vacation, print or digital, allows you to reminisce and feel inclined to visit again. And don’t forget the throw-away underwater camera, too. Especially if you like to snorkel or dive, because you’re going to see some beautiful sea life that’s definitely picture-worthy. And just think, the more pictures you take, the more you can show off to your friends when you get back home.
A good book. With the fast pace of everyday life, it’s often hard to find time to sit down and enjoy a good book. Usually leisure reading gets pushed to the bottom of the list of things to do, coming in last after more important things, like work, childcare and sleep. But when you travel to the islands and find yourself basking in the warm glow of the Caribbean sun, there’s nothing more relaxing than enjoying a good read under a palm tree or curling up on a cozy couch in the hotel’s lobby with your favorite book. Though there’s plenty to do in the Caribbean, there’s always a moment for some downtime. And if you get too busy having a great time, there’s always time to read on the next vacation. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or…
Money. This is a no-brainer. Credit cards are handy, and will serve their biggest purpose for those pricey excursions you just have to go on. But unless you book everything through your hotel, or decide to eat nowhere but the resort’s café, you’re going to need some paper money to get you through your trip. Some local shops and eateries will be able to process plastic, but you will likely stumble across the coolest souvenir or the tastiest sandwich and not have the cash to get it. The best adventure tours are usually the ones least likely to have a handy-dandy credit card machine, so you’re also going to need some cash to book certain things. Not to mention having cash helps you spend only a designated amount of money. This is handy if you’re on a budget, in which case, leave the plastic at home.
One fancy outfit. You’ll most likely never wear it while you’re on vacation, because who wants to make the effort to get all dolled up when you don’t have to? But you definitely want to make sure you bring along one stunning ensemble, just in case the mood strikes you to hit the fanciest restaurant or have a more formal outing. The one time you don’t is the one time your husband is going to surprise you with dinner reservations or your girlfriend is going to beg you to take her to the comedy show on your cruise ship. Either way, it’s better to be prepared. Don’t worry about carefully packing it. It’s going to get wrinkled no matter how hard you try to keep it from doing so. But as soon as you check in to your luxury-suite or eco-cabin, get that thing out of the suitcase and onto a hanger. You’d be better off in cut-offs than wrinkly dress clothes. Depending on your personal style, go business casual or all-out glam-star, but either way, have an option in case the need arises.
You might be one of those people who make a mental checklist of items to pack, or you might be someone who literally writes out a checklist. Or you might just throw a bunch of stuff into a suitcase minutes before you leave and call it a done deal. But despite how overly-obsessive or completely indifferent you might be when it comes to packing for a trip, try and drill these essentials into your brain, and double-check your luggage before you set off to your destination. You’ll be glad you did.