It seems a contradiction in terms but in my opinion, there truly are “must have” non-essentials for women traveling in the tropics. Of course you need your passport and credit cards and airline tickets etc….those are the essentials, but here are the top 10 items I consider must haves for keeping it together under the sun and sea.
I am hardly a “girly girl” and am extremely low maintenance when it comes to fashion, hair and accessories but there are a few things that keep me feeling good and looking sporty as well as feminine while schlepping my way, whether through Asian airports or the back streets of Mexico.
Top 10 Tropical Travel Tips
First and foremost in my bag of tricks. Talc has incredible drying properties. When you want to dry off but there’s too much moisture in the air or after a shower when you just can’t get all the spots dry before pulling on your shorts, bring out the baby powder. It goes in all the places you’d expect, under your arms, under your breasts, lower back and every place else you can think of (yes, you know where I mean). Not only does it get rid of extra moisture, it has a pleasant, fresh scent.
Sundress that doubles as a beach cover up
I have a couple of loose throw over sundresses that hit the suitcase every time I hit the road to the tropics. This keeps me ready for anything. Most sundresses are appropriate to wear in most any country and are versatile. Throw on a bathing suit and toss the dress over the top. Now you’re ready for an unexpected quick stop for a swim on a sweltering day. After cooling off, toss on the dress and pull off your wet suit from underneath (a variation on the surfer’s change). Grab a pair of panties from your bag (or not, it’s up to you!) and you’re ready for the beach bar, an evening out or a shopping spree in the local market. Don’t forget the travel size baby powder you can discreetly use after you change!
This may seem obvious, but many girls feel the need to travel with fancy shoes. Flip flops are the norm worldwide in the tropics and go with any outfit you’ll want during a day of cruising around town or heading to the beach. They are virtually indestructible and easily replaced in any local shop for a few pesos.
Nail Polish and Individual polish remover pads
Even if you have your nails professionally done before you hit the road, sand and sea will take it’s toll, especially toes. Me? I’m a DIY kind of girl when it comes to my nails. I love the individual nail polish removal pads, easy to use and toss with no worries about a bottle in your bag. Many stores now carry mini bottles of nail polish for a quick fix anywhere anytime. Nothing looks sexier than painted toes with a tan!
Hat and/or hair Scrunchies
This applies more to women with long hair. In the tropics your hair will take a beating in sea and salt air. It will behave exactly the way you don’t want it to. A baseball cap with your pony tail through it is sporty and keeps your hair out of your way and the sun off. Scrunchies are another favorite of mine. I can swim with them in my hair and not worry about them getting wet. They also add a splash of color if you must and you can get them to match all your bathing suits.
A Good Conditioner
Do it. Pack the good hair conditioner you love from home. I have yet to find a tropical country where I can get a good moisturizing hair conditioner. Water in many parts of the world can be harsh. In Mexico I found the water very very hard and even with conditioner my hair felt like straw. In Indonesia, the water was so soft, I never felt I got everything rinsed out. Unless you are staying in a five star hotel, don’t expect to find anything to your liking.
Shorts with Elastic Waist Bands
This one may seem kind of weird but follow me on it. When you are in tropical isles, your skin will soak up moisture and will bloat you. Shorts that easily slip up over your hips at home are a little tighter in a humid climate. Plus if you can’t get completely dry before you dress you’ll find it much more difficult. If I know I’m going to be dressing in the humidity, I bring either my sundress or a pair of shorts with an elastic waistband for easy dressing.
The little black dress goes anywhere and is a perfect way to stay cool but look dressy in the tropics. It’s as versatile for the beach bar at happy hour or the five star resort restaurant and can be worn with your flip flops or those little sparkly heels you couldn’t resist bringing. I never leave home without one!
Between Sharkman and I we travel with one extra pair of sunglasses. Don’t skimp here. The sun is harsh at lower latitudes and will reek havoc with your eyes. If you don’t have good polarizing sunglasses your eyes will ache at the end of the day on the beach and long term can cause medical eye issues. Get good sunglasses, use a Croakie or some type of strap (preferably a floating one if you’re on the water a lot) and take an extra pair. Take good care of your eyes, you won’t regret it.
A Gazillion Bathing Suits
Okay, this is my personal fetish. I can wear the same tank top three days in a row but not the same bathing suit. I feel feminine having lots of bright colored bikinis that I can change at a moment’s notice. If I’m scuba diving, I change suits after every dive in order to stay dryer and warmer as well. And do I need quality? Nope. I hit the sales at Old Navy and buy 10 at a time or find the left over XL suits in the Junior dept. at Target. No one knows or cares if your bathing suit is Gucci. For me, quantity over quality in this department. And no matter how heavy your suitcase is, there’s always room for another bikini….or six!
Do you have other must have non-essential for women traveling in the tropics? Let us know below!