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Ten Must-Haves for Island Travel

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You are headed to paradise!  To make sure your island adventure is carefree, throw these ten things in your suitcase right now!  We’ve been to nine islands and counting, ranging from the Caribbean to Asia to the South Pacific.   While each island was VERY unique and different, I’m convinced that island-life and island-time share similarities worldwide!  Island-life is awesome, chill, adventurous and leaves you hungry for more!  While I don’t have much experience with cold-weather islands, these must-haves are no-brainers for every warm island you’ve got on your bucket list. 

Walking confidently into these waters with our reef shoes.
Walking confidently into these waters with our reef shoes.

1) Reef Shoes

Barefoot in the sand is great…until…OUCH!  Wildly fun islands also come with a lot of virgin beaches and wild, untouched ocean life.  Whether you find yourself hiking bluffs of fossilized coral, walking a rock-scattered beach, or wading on coral-rich, rocky ocean floors, you’ll want these water shoes.  They saved my feet over and over in the Cook Islands.  You will occasionally find yourself putting your foot down on dangerously sharp rocks or burning fire coral, and barefoot is not an option.  Every single time I forgot my shoes, I ended up with punctured or lacerated toes!  I don’t think the shoes will save you from a sea urchin, but some added protection never hurts.  Get a comfy pair that can double as walking shoes and save your blessed feet! Check out our favorite kind here.

The perfect footwear for when the kayak gets stuck
The perfect footwear for when the kayak gets stuck
Walks on rocky coasts in reef shoes!
Walks on rocky coasts in reef shoes!
Putting our reef shoes to everyday use!
Putting our reef shoes to everyday use!

2) Snorkeling mask and fins

I thought goggles were pretty cool, but give me a snorkeling mask and I’ll be entertained for dayyyssss!   The Cook Islands and the Caribbean alike are swarming with lovely ocean life and coral formations right off the beach and you’ll be be wowed every morning if you have your own gear! Coming prepared with your own gear really beats renting gear because it will save you some money AND you’ll have no time limitations.  You can snorkel with the sunrise, sunset, and any time in between if you so desire.  You can even feed the fish right out of your hand at lunchtime if you’d like. We started out with a snorkel set from Amazon, and we’ve recently tried out a new mask (more to come on this!). Click here for our first snorkel gear set and click here for the new mask!

Snorkeling day in and day out right off our beach in the Cook Islands
Snorkeling day in and day out right off our beach in the Cook Islands

3) Chacos or hiking sandals

Tennis shoes aren’t going to cut it!  If you want to explore the jungle, hike through creeks, zipline through a rainforest, or jump off a waterfall, you will probably wish your tennis shoes could get wet.  Most islands are wet, humid, and muddy, with plenty of opportunities to make a splash along your walk!  Chacos are my  best friend and worth every penny in my opinion. They are as comfy as tennis shoes with lots of arch support, but they can also dry or be hosed down without any harm done.  I wish I was a brand ambassador for Chacos, but unfortunately I’m not and there are only two stores in my entire city where you can purchase them. You’ll have to do a little investigating to find yourself a pair and have them fitted to you.

Hiking on sharp, uneven fossilized coral terrain (in my Chacos!)
Hiking on sharp, uneven fossilized coral terrain (in my Chacos!)
Biking and walking everywhere with as much support and stability as tennis shoes.
Biking and walking everywhere with as much support and stability as tennis shoes.
On a six-hour hike through muddy terrain and creeks.
On a six-hour hike through muddy terrain and creeks.

4) Bugspray and Sunscreen

I lumped these together because they seem like no-brainers.  Don’t leave these two things at home! EVER!  If you get near the equator, you’ll need your sunscreen every. single. day.  (Side note: I use to burn frequently even with a really high Spf, so I’ve changed my M.O and now use a low Spf and apply it ever hour. This seems much more effective!) If you like to be near the ocean or in a cool damp jungle, you’ll always have about 10 million tiny bugs to keep you company.   Protect yourself from these bugs with a little spray or light a bug repellent coil on your porch at night so you can keep listening to the waves in the dark after sunset. 

Already very sunburned - apply your sunscreen frequently.
Already very sunburned – apply your sunscreen frequently.
To enjoy views like that, you'll want your bug spray!
To enjoy views like that, you’ll want your bug spray!

5) Non-perishable snacks / Granola bars

Island-life comes with a hefty price tag since most food (and especially non-perishables) have to be imported from another country.   You’ll probably spend double the price on a granola bar that you would back home, so just bring them with you!  Grab some snacks that won’t melt or mold in your bag and use those to power your through your island adventures between meals. 

6) Hats / Sunglasses

Two pairs of sunglasses are a must since one pair might disappear in the ocean or get lost in a backbpack somehow.  But, don’t stop there! Grab a hat – a ballcap, a fedora, a giant straw hat, etc.  You’ll be glad you did when the island sun peaks through. 

Hat and sunglasses? Check!
Hat and sunglasses? Check!

7) Hammock / Large beach throw

My camping hammock doesn’t always fit, but when it does, paradise just gets better.  There’s nothing that says “you’ve arrived” as well as a hammock strung between palm trees right next to the ocean or beneath a night sky of sparkling stars.  I’ve been so happy with this hammock from Amazon. It’s easy to put up and take down and it is very compact for travel. But….if the hammock doesn’t fit in your suitcase, grab yourself a large, lightweight beach towel or blanket that doesn’t attract sand.  It’ll be nice for spending your days reading or napping on the beach and then you can leave the sand on the beach where it belongs.  My husband has this microfiber towel from Amazon that folds up really tiny, but I have a one-of-a-kind hand-woven throw from Tunisia that I hope will last a very long time because it’s awesome!

A great place to read or nap
A great place to read or nap

8) Reusable water bottle

Maybe you’ve chosen a destination with potable water or maybe you’re going to have to purchase water.  Say hydrated AND keep the ocean clean by refilling your own water bottle!  Please! 

I don't go many places without a water bottle
I don’t go many places without a water bottle

9) A rain jacket or an umbrella

This is not a must if you don’t mind dancing in the rain!  Even if the forecast predicts sunshine, I wouldn’t count on it.  Rain can blow over an island in a matter of minutes.  It’s absolutely fascinating how a sunny day without a cloud in the sky can be clouded over with drenching rain in a matter of minutes!  Plan to see, feel and hear a sweet island rain during your trip, and don’t lose heart.  It will probably pass as quickly as it came! My waterproof rain jacket from Amazon is great because it is actually waterproof and helps cut wind chill really well too!

On Aitutaki where it rained for days and rain jackets came in handy.
On Aitutaki where it rained for days…

10) Good books, puzzles, and card games

You’ll stay busy having fun in the sun, but when the sun sets at 6:30 p.m., boredom might set in if you don’t come with a little game plan. We have really enjoyed reading late into the night on our patio with the sound of the ocean waves in the background. We’ve worked on jigsaw puzzles while listening to downloaded TED talks, and we’ve challenged each other to multiple back-to-back rounds of the 2-person card game, speed. Whether night life is your scene or not, there may be islands that go quiet after sunset, so carry a few activities that you can enjoy together in the evenings!

Start packing! Paradise awaits….

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