I like to travel, and while I’m sure most blog communities offer naritives from people who’ve traveled a good deal more than I, I feel like I’ve done enough to offer some advice on a handful of travel related topics. I’ve seen dozens of lists concerning what to pack and what not to pack for vacation, zeroing in on a variety of locations. What I do not often see however are break downs of what’s beneficial to commit to schlepping around with you all day while you’re out exploring on your trip.
When traveling, I specifically love beach locations. Growing up on the Jersey Shore has left me feeling like if I can’t go to the beach, what’s the point? This all being said, I am not terribly crazy about the hotels and resorts in most tourist centric communities. What they offer in amenities and luxury they lack in a cultural experience. So most often I’m Airbnbing it in a spot where I can easily jump on a bike, or grab public transportation to beaches and cultural attractions. I get out early and jam as much as possible into every day. So when I leave my rental in the morning, usually I’m not returning till it’s time to wind down and hit the pillows in the evening. That makes what I pack in my day bag super important. I want to be prepared to go from the beach, to a museum or some ruins, and then probably right out to dinner… all in one bag. But I also don’t want it be too cumbersome to carry around all day. I usually travel pretty casually, so a backpack works great for this.
To be clear, these pack recommendations are specific to the type of traveling I personally do. I’m outdoors a lot, I love the water so I’m in and out of it all day. I’m also very into more casual restaurants that are representative of a more authentic local experience, so this isn’t geared toward someone who is planning on a five star evening out. I like to keep moving and to keep things low key. If this sounds like you, I hope you find some of this helpful.
1. Water Bottle:
We all understand the importance of staying hydrated, but it’s something that often falls by the wayside on vacation. If you’re like me, on vacation you’re probably way more active than in your everyday life. You also may or may not find that on vacation you’re more likely to engage in the rogue alcoholic beverage…. sometimes even before noon, maybe on a hot beach, perhaps with breakfast tacos?.. Just to create an imaginary example that definitely has not been generated from personal experience.
What I’m working toward here, is that vacation probably brings on scenarios where it’s extra important to be hydrated, while also being extra easy to completely forget hydration. You don’t want to hit that mid day crash your second day in paradise. Nothing is worse than staying behind to nap because your energy is completely zapped, while your properly hydrated travel companions go out for beers and empanadas (also a completely imagined scenario). Water at the ready is key here.
People sing praises for the Swell bottle. I don’t disagree, but there are also options out there that are essentially the same exact thing for fewer dollars. I got my bottle on Amazon from a brand called Simple Modern, and it looks and functions exactly like the ever popular Swell… which is to say, cold water that goes in it at 9 AM is still cold while I’m chilling on the beach watching the sunset making dinner plans. I’ll link it below. Anything I link in this post is NOT something I’m being paid to pimp, it’s just a helpful recommendation based on things I actually own.
Also, try to purchase a larger bottle. Sure this takes up more space, but a lot of times while traveling there isn’t an opportunity to refill. A lot of countries don’t have drinkable water all over the place all willy nilly like the States. Ample water is worth the extra real estate in your backpack.
As I’ve mentioned I’m a BIG ASS FAN of the beach vacation, but a situation that can be tricky is managing a beach towel in a back pack. They take up serious space with their plushness. And while a cozy plush towel is awesome, not having a giant overstuffed back pack you’re swinging around everywhere, struggling to fit all of your shit into because your towel is SO DAMN BIG is even more awesome. Peshtemals are super thin, absorbent towels that come in fun colors and patterns. They also roll up to about the size of the burrito you ate for lunch at Chipotle last weekend, and don’t cost very much more than it either. With some hunting, you can usually lock in on one for under $15 bucks on Amazon. They can also double as a sarong because they’re thin enough to drape well, so they do double duty. Often I’m packing two. I hate being damp, so drying off is a battle I’m constantly thinking about, and they take up so little room it’s like, well why not?
3. Sun Screen
At present, the year is 2018, and I feel no need to elaborate to anyone old enough to be traveling alone why this is on my list. However, I’ll gladly offer some helpful sunscreen advice! Get a spray sunscreen for easy reapplication. The easier it is to reapply the more often you will. I’ve mentioned I try to keep it green when possible, so I do a pump spray bottle as opposed to aerosol. However, I haven’t found a truly green sunscreen I love. The way organic sunblock applies seems to be chalky and streaky, and never really fully absorbs. If anyone has a great recommendation, PLEASE let me know. But until then, for me it’s been Australian Gold Spray Gel with Bronzer, SPF 30. I know, it’s filled with all of the chemicals. But that classic cool koala and that vacation smell get me every time. I also usually have some sort of Neutrogena 50+ SPF stick situation for my face. We all want to come home from vacation tan. But if you’re outdoors a lot, odds are that will just happen. You don’t have to risk wasted vacation days nursing sunburn, or worse, skin cancer, about it.
(Side note: For those wondering, I’m typically packing something reef safe as well, and I definitely bring it with me on days I’m going someplace where I might be around reef, protected waters, or near marine life. Again I just hate the way zinc based products apply, so they aren’t my everyday go-to.)
4. Aqua Socks
I know these are dorky. But ask my husband about the time in Isla Mujeres I left him in the dust in pursuit of good snorkeling while he stood near the shore whining about how the rocks hurt his feet. Having some grip and protection when entering water that requires navigating slick and/or jagged rocks is invaluable. I prefer a water sock to a water shoe because aqua socks are cheaper, take up WAY less space (mine roll up to about the size of a clam shell), and dry much faster. I find that they somehow last longer than their water shoe counterparts. I think maybe because they’re designed way more simply? IDK, but I love em.
Great for getting a closer look at animals and plant life, and even just scenery. I’m big on taking things in, so my nocs see a lot of use. People tend to think binoculars are expensive, but they really don’t have to be. I actually feel like a less expensive pair is a benefit, because I’m not hyper concerned when tossing them into my sandy beach bag after staring at some pelicans.
As a side note, it’s also worth mentioning that I typically buy a birding book for the region I’m visiting. I don’t generally carry it around for daily activities, but while I’m on the topic it’s worth mentioning that this can become awesome back at your rental at the end of the day, to leaf through with a night cap while trying to get a better sense of what you may have seen.
6. External Charger
Your cell phone is more than a phone. You’re using it to take travel pictures, upload the most special of these to Instagram, Yelp up cool places to visit and eat, figure out directions while navigating a strange new location.. It’s a pretty crucial tool for your day. Few things are worse than your phone dying just when you were about to check out a cool Mojito bar you’d heard of, but can’t recall the name or location of, and aren’t awesome at speaking the common language. Having an external charger for a mid day rejuice can be a life saver.
…It seems that the one I personally own is no longer sold on Amazon, so I don’t have a link I can personally vouch for. But this is a relatively simple item, and I’d imagine any one would do just fine.
7. Mask and Snorkel
As I said earlier, I’m in an out of water all day. I’m happier than a.. girl in some water. I’m bad with analogies. But exploring little underwater worlds wherever I am, be it a bay, the ocean, swimming holes, cenotes… They are all are my idea of a real good time. I’m almost never without my mask and snorkel because they’re so easy to stash in my bag.
Again, for me, Since I’m talking about things I toss around, I’m more interested with cost effectiveness, since the likelihood of getting damaged or breaking is real. So I’ve linked the set I travel with, which isn’t the highest quality available, but is a great set for the price. It comes in lots of colors, so my husband, myself, and a handful of other friends we commonly travel with have actually coordinated so everyone has a different color. This way it’s easy to identify which is yours, AND it’s easy to pick your friends out of a crowd of tubes emerging from the sea. Its also comes with flippers, which I don’t travel with super often, but are still nice to have.
8. Change of Underwear (and other clothes maybe)
I typically depart my rental in the AM rocking a bathingsuit under my clothes. So having underwear in tow to shed the wet bathingsuit at some point is mostly a hygenic thing. Typically, I have underpants and a bralette in a plastic baggie somewhere in my back pack. It’s a real relief to not be heading out to dinner feeling like my vag is about to turn into petri dish.. and ladies, you can understand that having a dry bra to slip into is just about comfort. Who wants to be damp? Like, ever?!
That being said, I also sometimes bring a change of shirt in said baggy. Personally, once my linen shorts or elephant pants (my two staple vacation pants! I’ll do a separate packing post someday!) come off at the beach, they don’t go back on. However, at times I’ll toss my shirt on over a wet bathing suit as a cover up if I’m going to be wandering around in search of a bathroom or drinks. So, for me, shirts often get damp, and a dry one to toss on before dinner feels like a luxury. Few things feel less sexy than wearing a shirt at a restaurant with two big boob circle wet marks.
9. Rope Bag For Wet Items
On a whim, I purchased these knotted hemp bags on Ebay. What a fantastic buy. They take up no more space than a little string, but accordion out to fit a TON of stuff. So all of these aqua socks, wet bathing suits, diving masks, and damp peshtemals don’t have to go back into my dry pack when I’m leaving the beach. They get tossed into a net bag that’s nice and open for them to dry. I feel like I’ve also seen nylon net bags to serve a similar purpose, but I happen to love the hemp ones I have.
10. Sun Hat
I swear I’m not a sun hater. I just don’t want it burning my face, or getting in my eyes. I have super fair eyes guys. So times of day when sunglasses just aren’t enough I’m glad for a sun hat. I’ve gotten one that Roxy makes that has a wired brim so it can be worn a multitude of ways depending on how you shape it. That wired brim also makes it so you can roll it up and toss it into your pack, and bring it back to form when it’s time to pop it on. Aside from sun protection, sometimes beach hair is cute, but sometimes it… not. My sun hat will often make an appearance in the evening when there is no sun, because it is hiding unruly hair.
11. Big Earrings
Onto more about quick stylishness… I feel like a pair of big earrings can do some heavy lifting in terms of dress up a beach bummy look. So when we’re right from the beach to dinner, I know I can slick my hair into a side braid and pop in some big earrings to look a little more put together. Again, I’m not talking 5 star restaurants. I travel on a budget and gravitate toward wanting to experience more local flavor anyhow. So when I’m talking about getting “night time appropriate on the go”, I’m talking about looking appropriate for grabbing margaritas and ceviche at a local bar or bistro I probably rode a bike to.
12. Chambray Shirt
To me, the chambray is the ultimate travel staple. Not too warm, but enough for an evening breeze. Goes with everything. Can be worn unbuttoned as an alternative to a hoodie, or buttoned when you’re looking to go a little more stylish. Tie it at the waist if you’re looking to be a little sassy. Adorable and classic over a bikini. Guys. I’m a pretty light packer, but at least two chambrays come on every single vacation with me, and I never leave home without one. Not even just on vacation, like, this is just good life advice here.
(backpack, sunglasses, chambray, sun hat. Guys, I clearly MEAN all of this shit that I say.)
13. Wide Tooth Comb and Leave-In Conditioner
If you don’t already know, a wide tooth comb is crucial for gentle detangling. Your hair is usually extra dry and brittle after a few days in salt water, so being more gentle with it than ever will become important. I got a sandalwood comb, and it does the job while looking lovely. A few spritz of a leave in conditioner (I pour a little of my standby into a 3 oz travel bottle) to protect my hair from becoming overly dry, and it glides right through. My hair still dries all beachy and wonderful. So needless to say I’m a big fan.
TWO pairs my friend. I mean it. Sunglasses get misplaced and break. I once got so excited to hug Goofy at Disney World, that I totally forgot my sunglasses were hanging from my shirt and smashed them. This was at like, 11 AM and would have been a legitimately upsetting time for me if I didn’t always have a back up pair. I typically get sunglasses at Marshals/ TJ Maxx. It’s pretty easy to snag a niceish pair (Guess, Betsey Johnson, Steve Madden) for under twelve bucks. I pretty much buy a pair every single time I step into one of those stores so they’re stashed in every corner of my life. But this is all me, cause I have ridiculously sensitive eyes and would likely be visually impaired by a sunglassesless day in the sun.
Gone are the days when Bluetooth headphones were pricey items you hoped your parents would get your for Christmas even though you’re an adult who should totally be buying your own stuff. Having wireless for travel is nice for the simple fact that not being tethered to something is awesome. They are nice for when you want to scroll through your social media feed in public, zone out to some music, do your daily Duolingo, or send vibes to that frat bro on the beach lounger next to you that you’re not there to make friend. I got some cheap ones from Amazon that fold up really nicely, and were super inexpensive. And as I close this out I’ll reiterate one last time, for vacation stuff it’s always a solid choice to go cheaper. I don’t need to be tossing some Beats by Dre into the bottom of my sandy backpack, and frankly I don’t want to worry about caring for something that costs hundreds of dollars while I’m just trying to live my life.