What to Pack: Seven Essentials for an Island Adventure

As the end of Summer inches ever closer, I find myself simultaneously trying to soak up every last drop of sunshine where I live while daydreaming about chasing the warm weather to an island somewhere. This summer baby just can’t take the cold without the occasional escape.

Of course, my personal travels tend to be of the aquatic variety, and I lean more toward adventuring than relaxing on the beach. In the five island adventures I’ve gone on in the last couple of years, I’ve  refined what I actually need to pack versus what I’m comfortable either doing without or buying at my destination. Here, I’ll share the list of seven essentials I won’t leave home without.

  1. Sunblock:
    Top of the list is sunblock—and lots of it. If you’ve ever tried to buy this on an island, you’ll find that the selection is typically limited, and it’s incredibly expensive—sometimes as much as 2-3x what you’d pay here. Do yourself a favor and pack your favorite to protect your skin during those days in the sun. And pro tip: chemicals in many sunblocks actually harm reefs, so be sure to check out this article from Consumer Reports to find one that is ocean-life friendly if you’ll be taking any dips in the ocean.
  2. Med Kit:
    For me, it’s not a proper adventure if I don’t get a few scrapes, bumps and bruises along the way. But even if you’re planning on just relaxing, you never know when you might eat the wrong thing, step on a shell or worse. That’s why I always travel with a small med kit filled with essentials for the most common situations. Check out my previous post on what I pack in my travel med kit.
  3. Rash Guards:
    Sunblock only lasts so long, particularly if you’re spending a lot of time in the water. Enter: Rash Guards. Typically worn by water sport enthusiasts to protect their arms and upper body while engaging in some pretty awesome activities, rash guards can be great even for the most relaxing vacations. These long-sleeve shirts have sun protection built in, so you don’t have to worry about whether your sunscreen has worn off. Stay Nauti has tons of designs for men and women. (Full disclosure – I own the brand.) 🙂
  4. Plenty of Swimsuits:
    Have you ever tried to hang-dry a swimsuit on an island? Cause if so, you’ve likely learned that it takes WAY longer to dry than it does in drier climates. I always pack at least one swimsuit per day of my trip. Women in particular shouldn’t hang around in a wet swimsuit (not good for the lady parts), so having clean, dry suits always on hand is the best way to ensure a healthy and happy trip.
  5. Extra Towel:
    Yes, most hotels will provide towels, but I’ve run into some weird rules with what time the towels need to be turned in. Some are super lenient, and some require that you turn in towels every night, which can be challenging if you’re going on late afternoon/evening snorkeling excursions. Do yourself a favor and pack an extra one—even if it’s smaller/less fluffy than your usual beach towel (those are tough to pack). You’ll be thankful you did.
  6. Beach Tote:
    Unless you’re keen on taking one of your travel bags out in the sand or on a boat, it’s a wise move to pack an extra specifically for that task. I take my favorite dry bag, as I spend a lot of time out on the water and like to keep my things dry. If your trip doesn’t put your gear in danger of getting wet, a simple tote will do the trick. Both of these bags can pack super flat, so they won’t take up much room in your suitcase.
  7. Good Hat or Visor:
    If you couldn’t already tell, I take sun protection seriously. Vacations are meant to be spent away from your hotel room, so having the proper coverage (sunblock, rash guard and something extra for your face) is essential. I tend to like a good trucker hat (easy breezy mesh back!) or a good visor. These visors from Stay Nauti are my favs—they feature a nice, wide strap (good for those of us with bigger foreheads) and are super comfortable. As a bonus, mine have gotten wet with salt water more times than I can count and haven’t yet discolored.

While I typically try to carry-on only for most of my travels, island adventures are the one exception. It may be easy and convenient to buy or replace essential items on a domestic trip in a big city, but that’s not the case when you’re venturing off to a rock in the middle of the ocean.

A checked bag also helps circumvent the carry-on liquids rule, so you can pack the full size sunblock of your choice (and leave room for souvenirs)! I still carry-on most of my items that I absolutely couldn’t live without if my checked bag gets lost—you know, just in case.

With that, I wish you happy packing and good adventures!

-jz

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