Author Archive | A Week at the Beach

Camping tent overlooking fog on a mountain

3 Camping Tips for Maximum Outdoor Comfort

Some camping tips can be over the top. When really heading to the hills on a camping trip is all about getting back to basics; leaving the strain of the modern world behind and decompressing among Mother Nature’s glorious bounty. No screens, no deadlines, no 24-hour news cycle. Just you, your friends, your backpacks, and the wilderness. Pure simplicity. That’s why we love it.

That said, there’s a lot of unnecessary machismo around camping. Some people seem to think that camping has to involve at least a little bit of suffering. And if it doesn’t, you’re not doing it right. But I, for one, don’t subscribe to these theory. I love getting back to basics, I love being one with nature but I also love being comfortable, warm, and safe. And what do you know? It is possible to have it all.

Orange camping tent lit up at night in the dark wilderness

Here 3 camping tips for maintaining maximum comfort

(without breaking the bank or spoiling the adventure):

1. Don’t skimp on your gear

Even if you’re sleeping on a Caribbean beach, the key to camping is all about being prepared for the conditions. When you’re out in the hills and the sun falls below the trees, the night can get cold quickly. That’s why the first of our camping tips is about investing in good gear.

I know camping can seem like an expensive hobby, but that’s only true when you take a short-term approach. A good multi-season sleeping bag might cost you well over $100, which sounds expensive. But if you look after it well there is absolutely no reason it won’t last you for years and years.

And if having a comfortable sleeping bag means you spend more nights camping on your holiday than sleeping in hotels, then return on investment is a easy to see. You will easily make that money back in a night or two.

View looking at the woods from inside a tent with a sleeping bag

The same goes for a solid, well-made tent. Obviously a tent fit for purpose is going to cost a little bit more initially compared to a festival tent you might find in the bargain bin at a gas station. But when it comes to longevity there is no competition. I’ve had tents that have lasted longer than some marriages!

Camping is definitely one of those pastimes where spending a little more initially can pay big dividends down the road. And in most cases we’re only talking about a little bit more money for better quality. The difference between a standard sleeping bag and a good one is pretty much the cost of a meal out. Stay in this weekend, have a sandwich, and spend the savings on good gear that can go with you practically anywhere.

2. Think of your sleep

Nothing can ruin a camping trip quite like a sleepless night spent tossing and turning. Not only will that evening be spoiled but so will the following day. You’ll have bags under your eyes bigger than a sleeping bag and likely be so grumpy that fellow campers will secretly hope you become a bear snack! More important, when you’re tired you’re more prone to make mistakes, lose your footing, or get injured.

So getting sufficient sleep in the woods is not only for the benefit of your enjoyment, it’s also a health and safety issue. Fortunately, I have camping tips for that too. And the good news is there are a heap of things you can do to improve your odds of getting a good night’s rest when camping. I recommend you start by bringing something comfortable to sleep on.

Sleeping bag and pad next to a tent at sunrise

It sounds completely obvious but you’d be surprised by how many first timers show up with a wimpy grocery store roll mat. You’re sure to impress no one, least of all your back, by sleeping on one of those underwhelming pads. Camping technology has come along way, and now you can find lightweight roll mats and air beds to match any style of camping, from extreme backcountry to glamping.

If you already have an inflatable bed and find that’s not the most comfortable, then have a look at this handy guide on what you can do to primp it up before you pump it up.

3. Always stay dry

This is possibly the most important of my camping tips. Can you imagine being more uncomfortable than when you’re deep in the woods, realizing every single piece of clothing you have is wet? It might not be a problem during the day when  sunshine and body heat is working in your favor but when you lay down at night, however, things are going to get cold quick.

The solution is to always have an extra pair of dry clothes to change into at night. But don’t just trust that your backpack will keep clothes dry either. Most backpacks are not 100% waterproof, so you’ll be in trouble if the heavens open or you somehow drop your bag in the creek. It happens. More than you think.

Person crossing a clear river in their camping gear

Instead dry sack or even just a sturdy reusable bag to protect the clothes you’re not wearing. And always, always, change for bed. Even if your clothes don’t feel damp, they usually hold at least a little bit of your own sweat. As night falls, this moisture will evaporate and your body temperature can plummet. It’s definitely worth the extra effort to bring a change of clothes to make sure you stay dry and warm!

And there you have it, camping fans–three camping tips to improve your comfort and safety during your next camping trip. Remember the woods are fun, but they also demand our respect. Conditions can change quickly, and it’s up to you to be prepared. All you need is good gear and a sensible head on your shoulders.

What are your favorite camping tips for enjoying the great outdoors?


About the Author: Sarah Cummings is a freelance writer. When she’s not writing about sleep or practising yoga on the beach, you can find her hiking to new camping spots. She and her family are definitely adrenalin junkies who love nothing more than spending time in the Great Outdoors!

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Beach Vacations that Aren’t in Florida

4 Beach Vacations that Aren’t in Florida

Don’t take it personally, Florida. There is no end to the number of adventures to be had in the sunshine state, from the picturesque to the unusual. But when it comes to beach vacations and ocean view destinations, Florida does not have the monopoly that people think it has. Far from it, in fact! If you are planning to soak up the sun this summer, whether with your family or on a private getaway, it’s time to branch out and experience something else besides Epcot. Take a look at four of the most phenomenal beach vacations that have a little more culture and flair than Orlando.

4 Beach Vacations Outside Florida

1. Samana, Dominican Republic

If you are a beach vacation aficionado, you might not even need to read the rest of this article. Samana is perfectly situated for quick access to not one, not two, but three world class beaches. Soak up all the sun you need and enjoy the best ocean views in the world in Samana Bay. There are lots of activities to keep you occupied if you can manage to peel yourself away from the stunning white sand beaches.

There are waterfall hikes and zipline excursions for the adventurous members of your party. Deep sea fishing excursions can be arranged for the sportsmen and women out there. Still craving more beach time? Take a horseback tour of the Samana peninsula and drink it all in. When you are ready for a quick bite or a major meal, Samana boasts a variety of fine dining options. You can find everything here from local Dominican specialties to Thai and French cuisine that will have you returning night after night.

Two people sitting on a beach bluff in Negril Jamaica

2. Negril, Jamaica

Jamaica is renown for its vibrant culture, music, food, and style. The nightlife in cities and towns across the country can make for a memorable vacation, but what Jamaica does best is beach life. Negril offers a number of exciting activities and attractions that are related to its prime beachfront location.

You can hit surf on a boogie board, sailboat, or anything in between. Go for a long walk on the aptly named Seven Mile Beach and check out the amazing natural formations of the Negril Cliffs. Get a private glass-bottom boat tour of the bay or dive off the coast to find dolphins and exotic reef life. Once you’ve had your fun in the sun, maybe you are ready to put on your dancing shoes and see if Jamaican nightlife is worth all the hype (it is).

You can find everything from classic beach bars to pulsing nightclubs in Negril. There are even services that offer bar crawls after the sun sets. One Love Bus Bar Crawl might be just the thing you are looking for to get acquainted with party culture on the island.

3. Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Puerto Plata is an idyllic beach getaway for those who want the very best of the best amenities, excursions, and comfort. The numerous luxury resorts will entertain and pamper you like royalty. You can explore the famous Paradise Island by your desired mode of transportation: sleek speedboat or catamaran.

Amber Cove is a popular docking point for cruise ships, and rightfully so. From there you can access restaurants and cafes with authentic local flavor, or take a quick hike to stunning waterfalls and lush jungle ecosystems.

If you want the experience of a lifetime, set up a dolphin encounter at Ocean World Park! You can swim with the well trained dolphins before watching their exciting stunt-filled show! Puerto Plata will also appeal to the foodie in you. There are a ton of fine dining options in the area, especially elegant takes on Caribbean and creole cuisine.

Aerial view of the clear blue waters surrounding Turks and Caicos

4. Turks and Caicos

For the ultimate beach vacation, you have to find your way to the tiny caribbean island country of Turks and Caicos. This destination is far off the beaten path and you can find pristine beaches that you can lounge on all by yourself. And what beaches they are! Check out Half Moon Bay and Grace Bay for ocean view sunsets that will change your life.

Dive just offshore to untouched reefs teeming with shimmering tropical life. Better yet, enjoy the most remote, jaw dropping snorkeling while on a private catamaran cruise around the island. Would you rather eat what you see out there? Charter a fishing boat for a half day or full day of deep sea fishing and eat your catch that evening!

The Caicos Conch Farm is definitely worth a visit for a totally unique and informative afternoon. When you are done, mingle with locals in Providenciales every thursday at the weekly Thursday Night Fish Fry. There are plenty of all inclusive packages available to make beach vacations in Turks and Caicos an unforgettable experience!

Conclusion

Move over, Florida. You are still beautiful in your own way, but there is no questioning the appeal of these superb locations.  We hoped you enjoyed reading about  Beach Vacations that Aren’t in Florida.

Was this article helpful and informative? Leave us a comment with your thoughts in the section below.

 

 

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View of Jervis Bay, NSW, Austrlia

Discover Jervis Bay & Shoalhaven

Jervis Bay and the Shoalhaven region is a coastal area that lies in the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia.

It’s made up of a number of charming coastal towns and suburbs. Jervis Bay, on the other hand, is the stunning oceanic bay and village that lies to the east of the Shoalhaven area. It’s also known for having the world’s whitest sand. Jervis Bay and Shoalhaven are full of never-ending treasures, and are only a two-hour drive south of Sydney.

Here are the best ways to discover Jervis Bay & Shoalhaven:

Hyams Beach in Jervis Bay, NSW

[Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jayphen/16281947166]

Visit the Beaches

Hyams Beach is the most well-known of beaches in the Jervis Bay and Shoalhaven area. It’s easy to see why since it’s one of the most picturesque beaches in NSW. You’ll find that Jervis Bay really does live up to its reputation for having the whitest sand.

There are other similar beaches just as amazing as Hyams Beach, too. You’ll be just as please with beaches like Greenfields Beach and Murrays Beach. These hotspots in the Australian sun are great for relaxing or hitting up some water activities.

Porcupine fish in Green Patch, Jervis Bay, NSW

[Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/87895263@N06/8612899680]

Try the Water Activities

One of the more popular water activities for people visiting the area is snorkeling and scuba diving. Jervis Bay and Shoalhaven are home to sites like the southern reef at Mollymook, the Labyrinths, Gorgonian Wall, the submerged Fairey Firefly aeroplane and Point Perpendicular. Here in the South Coast, the Jervis Bay Marine Park has calm waters and white sand along with its marine life to keep you amazed.

Boating and fishing in Jervis Bay and Shoalhaven provides some of the best experiences and there are many ways to enjoy those tranquil waterways. You could hop on a whale watching tour, hire your own boat for a day’s worth of fishing or a private sailing charter, or even go kayaking along the beaches.

Surfing in Jervis Bay is also very popular, with surf hotspots including Bawley Point and Culburra Beach, Warrain Beach and Mollymook Beach.

Friends hugging on a bench in Jervis Bay, NSW, Australia

[Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/frankllin/5658745463/]

Find Accommodations

Jervis Bay accommodation is quite easily accessible as almost all of the attractions in the area are within short distances of each other and there are many small towns to explore.

When staying in the Jervis Bay and Shoalhaven region, it is best to choose a centralized location so that you can explore other places nearby. I’d recommend the Minnamurra River, Lake Illawarra, Minnamurra Forest, Bombo Quarry etc. From beachfront homes, bed and breakfasts, motels, inns to even coastal camping, there is plenty to choose from.

In the Shoalhaven region, coastal camping amidst the shoreline of the South Coast is a great way to enjoy the natural environment. Camping out close to places like Bristol Point’s beach, Cave Beach and Green Patch is ideal, as you can easily enjoy the sunrise or sunset without travelling far.

The Spirit of Jervis Bay tour boat in NSW, Australia

[Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lukasbenc/4139717336]

Take a Tour

There are plenty of tours available in the area catering to people of all ages with a large variety of things to do. Ecotourism is a growing industry in Jervis Bay, with tours available for sightseeing cruises that allow you to explore the sandstone cliffs, sea caves and coastal surroundings. You can go on bush tours, take surfing and wakeboarding lessons, visit local wineries and gourmet food producers, and even go whale & dolphin watching in the bay.

Have you been to Shoalhaven or Jervis Bay? What are some of your favorite things to do there? Tell us in the comments!

 


 

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Boats and a man on the beach in Playa del Carmen

A Week in Playa del Carmen: Part II

If you think spending a week in Playa del Carmen is too long, I think you’re wrong. We’ve written all about the Riviera Maya town before, and I’m sure we’ll write about it again. Because there is so much to see and do near this attractive beach town, just one hour south of Cancun.

Woman on the beach of Isla Contoy near Cancun, Mexico

I recently spent a week in Playa del Carmen for my friend’s birthday, and I could have easily stayed another week just to do all the activities we came across. And while I don’t want to bore you with the details, I do want to share some of the highlights that will hopefully prove helpful!

(Note: There had been a lot of violence reported in Cancun just before our trip to Playa del Carmen; however, I never felt unsafe walking through the town or on any of our tours. There was a relatively noticeable police presence, but it wasn’t overwhelming. And while I’d encourage you to take the sensationalized reporting with a grain of salt, always put your safety first.)

Annelise standing in front of the butterfly sculpture in Play del Carmen

Here is how I spent a week in Playa del Carmen:

DAY ONE: Get Settled In
Our group of seven all arrived in Cancun around 8AM. Since there were so many of us, we decided to hire a Super Shuttle for a round-trip fare of $120. Plus it was nice not to worry about arranging our ride back.

After about an hour, the driver let us out at the four-bedroom AirBnB we’d rented in Playacar. This is a nice gated community interwoven with the Hard Rock Hotel’s golf course. While it was a little ways from the bustling main strip, it was also a welcome reprieve. We had our own pool to lounge in privately and it was quiet at night. Of course there are a lot of options for accommodations in the area. We went with an AirBnB so we could have some privacy and still be all together. In this case the property manager was very accommodating, and provided drinking water as well as the number of a reliable, private taxi service. (Of course there are other ways to get around.)

After getting settled into our rooms, having a snack and getting groceries, we finally made our way out to dinner. We’d heard the restaurant at the Frida Kahlo Museum, but it was unfortunately closed for renovations. So we ate just across the street at Mi Pueblo. This is where my tour of shrimp tacos began. The food was good and the open air made for fun and easy people-watching.

Group of people in front of the Frida Kahlo mural in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

DAY TWO: Explore Your Surroundings
With everyone a little jet-lagged (except for me; I still woke up at 7:30), it was lunch time before we were all ready to go explore. So we walked into town and North of the pier to find a nice spot on the beach. And, although there was A LOT of seaweed on the shore this time of year, the beach was still beautiful and the water incredibly warm.

Ceviche at Patio 8 in Playa del Carmen

After a few hours, we walked a few blocks back toward Calle Quinta Avenida (5th street, a pedestrian path lined with shops, hotels, and restaurants), and went to Patio 8 for food and drinks. This place has great food and drink specials. Like most of the places we ate, its prices were comparable to American restaurants. But that didn’t keep us from sticking around for a couple of hours just eating and drinking and talking.

Marissa getting a birthday dessert at Patio 8 in Playa del Carmen

On our way home, we stopped to chat with the folks at Del Mundo Tours about snorkeling. They talked us into a multilingual excursion – our boat had French, English and Spanish-speaking groups – to Isla Contoy for about $120 USD per person. But we had to be up early, so it was straight to bed after that.

The port in Cancun where the boats leave for Isla Contoy

DAY THREE: Visit Isla Contoy & Isla Mujeres
We showed up in front of Del Mundo for pickup at 7AM (I told you it was early). They drove us to a port in Cancun, where they served breakfast and put us on a boat with about 30 other people.

Our guides, Lou Lou and Clal (who were seriously awesome), took those who wanted to go snorkeling just past the Mesoamerican Reef (the second-largest barrier reef in the world). In the span of about 45 minutes, we saw brain and fan coral, beautiful fish, and a nurse shark!

A boat on the water during a snorkeling trip near Isla Contoy

From there we stopped on the protected Island of Contoy for three hours. Here you can do more snorkeling or just float in the crystal waters until they serve a surprisingly delicious lunch. The only catch is that you’re only allowed to wear biodegradable sunscreen in order to protect the reef. And if you’re not a fan of mosquitoes, I’d suggest you skip the Island tour. The trip finished with quick, hour-long stop at Isla Mujeres before returning to Cancun and eventually Playa del Carmen.

A dock in the crystal waters off Isla Contoy, Mexico

For dinner, we had a reservation at Alux. This restaurant is a little away from town, but it’s so worth it. It’s set up in a cave that used to be part of the region’s underground river system (more on this later). They gave us a private room, let us choose our bottles of wine straight from the cellar, and even brought out a custom-made a birthday cake for us to share. As if the setting wasn’t reason enough to enjoy it!

A group in a private room at Alux restaurant in Playa del Carmen

DAY FOUR: Check Out a Beach Club
The best way to chase a birthday dinner? Birthday brunch.

We landed at Indigo Beach Club because they have a brunch buffet every day of the week from 7AM to 12PM for about $13 USD (not including drinks). Buuuuuut getting seven people to move is a bit like herding cats. So we got there for lunch instead. After food and drinks, we moved one-by-one from our table on the sand to their lounge chairs, where we continued to eat, drink, and enjoy the beach.

Group having drinks at Indigo Beach Club in Playa del Carmen

And this is where I sheepishly admit we spent ALL DAMN DAY at Indigo. There are two dangerous things right next to Indigo: a beach-front spa and a tourism kiosk. And we couldn’t resist either. The ladies in our group all got hour-long massages for about $30 USD (plus tip) at Spa Turquesa. And we went back and forth with the kiosk manager for a while before booking our adventure for the next day (ruins and more snorkeling!).

Man and woman in the pool at Indigo Beach Club in Playa del Carmen

By the late afternoon we had migrated to their pool area (for a fee). Hear me when I say their pool is AMAZING. It’s two stories and the upper level is a hot tub with an underwater glass wall that overlooks the pool AND THE OCEAN. It’s no wonder we couldn’t leave. We ordered another bucket of beers and they brought us towels and cups and we stayed long enough to have dinner, too. (Get the chicken fajitas.)

Despite spending literally eight hours there, we only spent around $100 per person on food, drinks, and pool access. Well worth it, IMHO.

Hammocks in front of Indigo Beach Club in Playa del Carmen

DAY FIVE: See the Ruins & the Turtles
Once again we woke early for an 8AM pickup. A private bus picked us up and whisked us away to the Mayan ruins in Tulum.

Mayan Ruins overlooking the ocean in Tulum, Mexico

The tour we paid for included transport, admission, and a guide. Though frankly I’m not sure it was necessary; there is signage along that way that could be equally informative. After the tour, you can relax on the beach, do some shopping, or grab a bite to eat. We ate Don Cafeto Tulum Ruinas and I had the best chilaquiles of my life for $125 pesos.

Having lunch at the Don Cafeto restaurant at the ruins in Tulum, Mexico

From there, our bus took us to the Bay of Akumal to snorkel. Akumal is so special because the sea water merges with the freshwater from the underground river, causing different varieties of sea grass to grow. If you’re thinking, “Who cares about sea grass?” I hear you. But sea turtles come in droves to eat the grasses unique to the region.

At Akumal, our snorkel guide, Alejandro, gave us gear and took us around a roped area for about an hour. In that time we saw stingray, squid, and a handful of sea turtles—some even had suckerfish clinging to their shells! And unlike our open water snorkel, the water here was calm. It was easy to float and follow the guide while still being able to see everything going on below the surface. It was relaxing and enjoyable and highly recommended.

By the time we got home, we were so tired we ordered Dominoes for dinner, watched the rain storm, and went to bed early.

A rain storm in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

DAY SIX: Take a Dip in a Cenote 
Whatever you do, do not skip the cenotes! I repeat: do not skip the cenotes!

If you don’t know what a cenote is, you’re in for a treat. Mexico’s Riviera Maya is littered with them—more than 6,000 in total—and they’re easily one of the things that make this region so special.

Jardin del Eden cenote peeking through the trees near Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Basically, there is an underground river with fresh water that flows throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. As it moves, it erodes the landscape beneath the ground and creates caves filled with freshwater. When the ceilings of these caves collapse, you’re left with beautiful open-air pools surrounded by jungle. Or ocean or ruins or what have you. Most have some kind of life, like varieties of fish, and are so worth the trip.

A view of the bathing deck from one side of Jardin del Eden cenote near Playa del Carmen

There are so many cenotes near Playa del Carmen it can be hard to choose which one is right for you, and we tossed around the idea of going to one of the more developed parks like Rio Secreto. Ultimately, we decided to hire a car to take us to Jardin del Eden. Mostly because it was close and full of the same fish that eat your skin in fancy spas. Plus, there are two other cenotes close by (Azul and Cristalino), so we could keep exploring if we wanted to.

The entrance to Jardin is $100 pesos per person, and the snorkel rental is about $25 pesos plus a deposit you get back. Although we initially weren’t going to snorkel, I’m so glad we did. It’s really amazing to see how deep the pools are from below the surface. Jardin is also nice because they have sunbathing decks, plenty of shade, and a small cafe for when hunger strikes. We only spent a couple hours swimming around before returning to meet up with the rest of the gang.

A man slacklines at Jardin del Eden cenote near Playa del Carmen, Mexico

On our way through town we passed a restaurant called Fah and eventually returned for dinner. The atmosphere was great, complete with an incredibly talented live band and a guest performer who beat-boxed like you wouldn’t believe. If you go, order the tuna tartare because it’s to-die-for. Easily my favorite meal of the trip.

A bench in the jungle overlooking the ocean near Playa del Carmen

DAY SEVEN: Kiss Paradise Goodbye 
Okay, so maybe it’s a little less than a week in Playa del Carmen. Day seven was our last day, so we didn’t have much time.

We got up early to pack and clean house before doing some last-minute souvenir shopping at the edge of town. Our shuttle came for us at noon and we went our separate ways once we got to the airport.

And just like that, my week in Playa del Carmen came to an abrupt end. If I’d had more time, I would have definitely explored more cenotes.

Need more convincing? Check out the Planet Earth coverage on the Riviera Maya’s cenotes. And tell us how you’d spend a week in Playa del Carmen!

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Must-have travel items packed in a suitcase

The 4 Must-Have Travel Items I Won’t Leave Without

Anyone who has traveled more than once has them. The first items they lay out on the bed or put into their suitcase. The things that make it on every trip. Their own must-have travel items.

Even for someone like me, who’s a bit of an over-planner, packing is a chore. The only upside to doing it often is that you eventually get pretty good at it. You come to learn which things you absolutely have to pack and which you can leave behind.

While they might be different for everyone, I’ve come up with a few I think are – or at least should be – universal.

Toiletries to pack for a trip

Here are the four must-have travel items I won’t leave home without:

1. Sunscreen

I feel like this is a good indication of getting older and wiser. I used to avoid sunscreen like the plague when I was younger. Now I want it in everything—lotion, foundation, chapstick. I’m currently on a personal mission for the perfect organic moisturizer with built-in SPF. But until I find it, I have managed to find two sunscreens I absolutely love.

For my face, I’m obsessed with the Coola tinted mineral sunscreen. It’s natural and applies so-freaking-smoothly it will change everything you think you know about sunscreen. The other, stickier option I use for my body is the Aloe Gator Gel. The gel is a little harder to apply than creams, but I’ve also found it to be much more resistant to sweat.

(Side note: I’m an advocate for using natural products whenever possible, and now more than ever. There were are least two places in the Riviera Maya that didn’t allow sunscreen (and Hawaii just banned chemical sunscreens!) because it’s harmful to the local habitat. If you opt for something biodegradable, you can feel good about wearing it anywhere you go.)

2. Bug repellent
This is one of the must-have travel items I’ve learned to love the hard way. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been a lighted target for mosquitoes.

These days I’m lucky enough to live in a place where they’re not a problem, but that only makes them more noticeable when I go anywhere else. Because these small, evil creatures have the ability to ruin a perfectly good time, I’ve learned to always be prepared. Don’t be fooled by the climate, either. I’ve seen mosquitoes at low humidity and 10,000 feet of elevation.

Since all-natural options have been unfortunately less effective for me personally, I shamefully opt for the full-strength varieties when it comes to spray. If you’re not sure you’ll need it, I recommend getting one of these small, travel-sized tubes that won’t take up much space.

Better safe than eaten alive, I say.

Woman wearing a buff head wrap while hiking a mountain in Switzerland

3. A Buff Wrap
The Buff wrap is certainly the newest addition to my list of must-have travel items. In recent years it has become a given for hiking trips. But after wishing I had something handy to wipe away the constant stream of sweat I battled in Mexico, I’d gladly take it anywhere.

It’s versatility is what makes it so great. You can wear it as a scarf to keep warm, or a headband to hold your hair back or keep sweat from your eyes. You can put it over your nose to block wind or bugs. In Cancun, our tour guides wore them on the boats and around the islands for sun protection, too.

And they’re so light and compact that you won’t even be mad if you wind up leaving it in your suitcase. Plus it comes in such a wide variety of colors and patterns—there’s definitely something for everyone.

A good Buff wrap is sure to let you flex your experienced-traveler muscles.

People holding up their colorful dock and back towels on the beach

4. Travel towel
We’ve mentioned the advantages of a good travel towel before, and I’m sure we’ll mention them again. Even if you’re going somewhere towels are provided, these things come in so handy.

For example, we stayed at an AirBnb in Playa del Carmen that provided bath towels and beach towels. But the beach towels were massive. They’d take up half your backpack if you brought just one with you. Not to mention how hard it is to free sand from the fluffy ones.

For this trip, I took my Dock & Bay towel with me (though I also love the Sea To Summit options for smaller sizes). And I was so glad to have it. I threw it in my backpack wherever we went and used it any time a chair was hot or uncomfortable. I used it as a wrap walking around the beach or pool, and even as a shawl when my shoulders got hot from the sun.

The best part? After a quick shake virtually all of the sand is gone and it dries so quickly you can use it again and again.

Of course there are several other items, like toothpaste, that I never travel without. But I’ve found that these four must-have travel items can be unexpected life savers on any given trip.

Would you agree? Tell us what you won’t leave home without!

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