First Tropical vacation? Don’t forget these items…


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tropical vacation packing list header

I just got back from my very first ever tropical vacation! Thirty seven years and I'd never been anywhere with warm turquoise water and soft white sand beaches. Spending four days at Beaches Turks & Caicos for the Social Media on the Sand conference (#BeachesMoms) was easily one of the most amazing places I've seen in my life.

Tropical beach is different in just about every way from the Northern California beaches I've grown up with, so I've compiled this list of things to take, especially if you've never experienced this type of environment. Some are obvious, but some might be less so.

Sunglasses: At the conference, we received a pair of gorgeous Ted Baker sunnies, courtesy of, a conference sponsor. But I had actually brought a couple of different pairs with me. Sunglasses are something I like to play with a little bit, stylewise, as evidenced by my other crazy polka dotted ones seen further down this list.
must pack sunglasses

Sunhat: With this sort of sun, a baseball style hat isn't going to cut it. You'll want something that will cover your face, neck, AND ears. So go for big and floppy. I was able to pack mine in my suitcase by wadding up clothes in the crown and packing it at the bottom with things carefully tucked around it, but you can also find “crushable” or “rollable” sunhats that fit the bill as well.
must pack sunhatBug Repellent: I didn't actually experience any bugs in my time at the resort (This is actually shocking. I usually attract ALL THE BUG BITES) but I do know that they're out there, and my sister ended up with some bites, as did a few other conference attendees. Conference sponsor Avon provided us with their famous Skin So Soft “Bug Guard” product, which also has SPF 28.

Sunblock: This should be a given, but it always bears repeating. I personally can't stand the feeling of regular sunblock on my face, and still need regular hand lotion, so I bring a variety of products with me for my skin moisturizing and protecting needs. Coppertone was also a conference sponsor and provided SPF 50 for us.
must pack sunblock big spray

Easy Coverup: I only packed dresses to take to T&C… I wear them a lot anyway, but especially for a trip to a resort like this. Something I could easily throw on over my swimsuit to go into a restaurant, and that was made of a material that would dry quickly if I wandered into the ocean (which happened constantly. It's like that water just pulled me towards it!) This dress is from eShakti and is actually a maxi on me (when not tied up in a knot, that is)
must pack easy cover up

Comfy Sandals: While there's something to be said for walking barefoot along the beach, I also wanted something for comfy and supportive for traipsing around the resort; sidewalks, boardwalks, lobby floors… you'll want something with a little sole to keep your feet feeling good.

Ahem Anti-Chafing Products: Ew, but necessary. I'm from a totally non-humid area, so I was kind of unprepared for the sticky air of the Caribbean. There are a variety of products that can help with this sticky, icky issue.

Book/Magazine: And by book or magazine, I mean actual paper. With pages. It can be a real challenge to read a digital screen in the bright sun on the beach, and I don't know about you, but I do some of my best relaxing near the water. Awesomely, Beaches Key West Village had a library, where you could just grab a book, or leave one, if you finished it before you left and didn't want to carry it home.(Thanks to Jen Reyneri for the photo!)
beaches library

Multiple Bathing Suits: Another thing with the humidity; hanging your wet bathing suit on the balcony or in the bathroom doesn't guarantee that it will dry overnight. I was thankful that indecision had led me to pack all three suits that I own, so that instead of having to wear a damp suit in the morning, I had a dry one straight out of my luggage I could put on.

Waterproof phone case: The little guy shown in the photo below will get its own post soon, but I can't recommend it highly enough! Especially for a place like an all inclusive. I stashed my room key, a business card and my phone in it, and wore it on a lanyard around my neck. Yes, I looked a little dorky, but it was nice to have my phone close by, and it's waterproof, even when submerged! I was able to take it out into the ocean with me for photos and videos, and didn't have to worry about dropping it or anything. Probably the best $10 I could have spent before this trip!
must pack phone pouch

Rash Guard: I'm not normally a t-shirt in the water person, but would definitely want to bring along a rash guard like this one from sponsor Lands' End. If you get a chance to snorkel, for example, you're going to be exposed to the sun for far longer than you might realize, and sun protection is a must.
Must pack swim top

Can you think of anything else I missed? What is your must-have item for a tropical vacation?

Disclosure: I received a discounted rate at Beaches Turks & Caicos as part of the conference, some items mentioned have been received as part of the conference gift packages. This post contains affiliate links.

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