Every vacation has its essential items you definitely want to pack, and a tropical or beach vacation is no exception. You don’t want to leave off anything important from your packing list, and if you want to pack a little more eco-friendly, you’re going to want to consider bringing these 10 items!
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Reef Safe Sunscreen
This one is a definite if you’re going to be applying sunscreen at all (which you SHOULD be packing and applying if you’re on a tropical vacation!). With all the toxic chemicals found in sunscreens, you don’t want to be putting them on your body, and definitely not in the ocean? Our world’s reefs face a lot of stress while they’re just trying to survive. From rising ocean temperatures to plastics, runoff and waste, sunscreen is one thing you can do while you’re out on your snorkel adventures to help protect your skin, and our reefs. Not only are they safe for the oceans, they’re typically gentle on your skin as well! Check out this natural sunscreen from Raw Elements, and bonus if you opt for their plastic free options!
Turkish Cotton Towel
No tropical vacation packing list is complete without a towel, but forget those heavy, printed, fluffy beach towels at home. Those are much better suited for the spa or home. Lugging a heavy towel around is never fun, and they take SO long to dry. Opt for a lighter Turkish towel, made of lightweight cotton, quick drying, and made with *actually* cute designs. Plus, they are great doubling as a sarong for when you need a quick coverup!
Snorkel or Dive Gear
Speaking of spending time in the big blue, don’t forget to pack your snorkel gear if you have it! If you don’t own any, consider renting equipment from a dive shop or your accommodation. It’s way more eco friendly to use what you already have, or borrow from someone else than to buy it once while you’re there, never to use it again. If you are heading somewhere for diving or snorkeling and want your own equipment, check out these fins that I use when snorkeling and this mask and snorkel set!
Solar Phone Charger
If you’re spending all day out on the beach or somewhere without an outlet, you don’t want to be worrying about your phone battery when you’re trying to take pictures or use your map to navigate! Investing in a solar phone charger is a great way to harness a renewable resource to keep your battery charged on the go. And it’s perfect for a beach or tropical destination since (hopefully) you’ll have lots of sunshine! Living aboard a sailboat, solar power is something we use every day to power our home, and this portable charger is great since it is sand, dust, and splash proof!
More Sun Protection
Rather than only relying on sunscreen, opt for physical sun barriers like a UV shirt or a big hat. During the summers and when I’m down in the islands, a big hat is a MUST for me. I love the natural grass fiber ones, since they breathe nicely and the beige goes with any outfit! You can find them in many places, especially down in the islands where locals will make them out of palm fronds, grasses, or other natural materials! If you need one before you leave for your trip, I’d recommend one like this with a drawstring!
Another physical barrier to the sun that’s a good thing to include is a long-sleeve UV shirt! They make them in wicking materials, but a long sleeve linen or cotton should keep the sun off your skin as well, but may not prevent all the UV rays from passing through the material. There are endless choices, but a good long sleeve helps protect your skin so much in the intense tropical heat!
Something not talked about too much unless you’re familiar with the sustainability community is travel sized toiletries. The small, single use plastics are definitely not ideal when you’re trying to pack a sustainable, ocean friendly bag! But you can’t bring your big containers you would normally use (or refill) at home, so what do you do? There’s a couple options. My favorite way to transport toiletries is avoiding the liquids at all! I use shampoo bars, and it’s so nice to pop it into my reusable soap holder, and not worry about having to keep liquids under a certain size. Another option is to invest in silicone (or reuse your travel size) containers! Use your big containers, or bulk store to fill up what you need, and avoid the plastics!
Along the lines of sustainable toiletries, the OG swap is to a bamboo toothbrush. You can also start using toothpaste pellets (another liquid free option!), and either a safety razor or a Leaf razor! Both of these are long term handles and heads, with just replacing the blades!
Most people have heard about denying a straw (save the turtles) or bringing your own reusable ones, but you can actually take it one step further by bringing your own reusable utensils when you get takeaway meals to bring to the beach. Pair that with a reusable water bottle, and you’ve got a sustainable, ocean friendly lunch to bring to the beach! Definitely add this adorable set to your tropical vacation packing list if you plan to order take away meals!
Let’s be honest – the styles of swim changes almost as quickly as the tides, so it can be hard to keep up with that “fast fashion” and be sustainable at the same time. While I’m all for finding bikinis that make you feel confident, I’d definitely air on the side of quality over quantity. Investing in higher quality swimwear helps the environment by reducing demand for the swimsuits you’re only going to wear once or twice at most. While I do have way too many bikinis than one gal needs, my favorites are sustainably and ethically created. Keep reading for my favorite brands to include on your tropical vacation packing list!
SaltyLuxe Swim makes beautiful, high quality bikinis out of plastic pulled from the oceans, and the company donates to Marine conservation with every purchase. One more of my favorite swim lines is from a small company here in little St. Augustine, called DH Swim. These bikinis are handmade, reversible (hello, 4 styles in one!), and customizable! And if you’re up for a little digging, you can try thrift shops or second hand sites (like Poshmark) for pieces!
Definitely opt for swimwear that you can trace the origins of, or that are working towards a sustainable line, rather than purchasing from those fast fashion brands!
Of course, if you’re planning a trip to the beach or to the islands, you need to know what to pack for all those other outfits for when you’re not at the beach or swimming in the big blue ocean. I’m a huge fan of lightweight fabrics and neutral colors, so that you can mix and match with many different outfits. Whites, linens, lightweight cotton, tanks, cotton shorts, flowy sundresses – you get the gist. This strategy also made it easy for me to learn how NOT to overpack (which I was HORRIBLE about before). If you need help learning how to do that, I’ve got a total guide on it, and spoiler alert – you only need ONE pair of jeans (and even less if you’re heading to the islands!)
For the Adventurer:
Now if you’re planning some tropical hikes, you’re going to want to leave those big hiking boots for the mountains at home. Even if you’re hiking mountains in the tropics, odds are the terrain is going to be a lot more slippery than the rocky trails you’d use big boots for. My favorite shoes for hiking in the islands are Tevas, they’re not only lightweight, super cute for everyday wear, comfortable, but they’re great to wear in muddy or wet conditions. Bonus – you don’t have to worry about wet socks! There are many different styles of Tevas, but I would opt for a pair that has a strap around the back of the heel if you’re looking for a pair to wear on your adventures!
For Your Accessories
Of course, no vacation outfit is complete without the right accessories! My biggest recommendation would be to leave the expensive, shiny jewelry at home or in the safe when you’re out on adventures or swimming in the ocean! Opt for cute, colorful, and versatile accessories like the cute bracelets and anklets from Pura Vida. I’ve loved their bracelets for so long, they’re the perfect pop of color to make your tan stand out, and they often partner with organizations benefitting different communities and ecosystems!
There are so many ways that you can make your tropical vacation packing list more sustainable, but these are some ideas on how to start! Don’t forget, the best things are the ones you already have to live a little bit more sustainable on your travels! And check out this post if you’re in need of learning how to avoid overpacking!