ISLANDS: 10 Useful Things to Pack for Spring Break

Think you’re prepared for your trip? Better check our list just to be safe.

March 13, 2020

Swimsuits, sandals, board shorts—check, check and check! And, unfortunately this year, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, too. You know what you need to pack to wear for your upcoming Spring Break vacation. But perhaps you haven’t thought about some other truly useful items that can keep you better organized, offer increased protection from the sun, and help the environment.

Here are 10 products frequent travelers love and you should consider packing on your upcoming trip—or any island or beach vacation in the future.

Packing Cubes

If you aspire to be a carryon traveler—or just to be more organized when on the road—and you haven’t tried packing cubes, a beach getaway is a great time to discover their very practical uses. Whether it’s neatly zipping up into one place the multiple bikini tops and bottoms that usually end up buried in your suitcase or smartly separating clothing child by child, these nylon and mesh bags organize anything you want them to.

They’re also great for compressing t-shirts, shorts and sundresses into neatly stackable squares or separating clean clothes from dirty ones on the return trip home.

Check out options at eBags and Eagle Creek.

Stainless Steel Water Bottle

Why stainless steel? Aside from not being plastic—and thus more eco-friendly—many stainless steel water bottles have an insulation feature that will keep water, soda, juice or ice tea cool while at the pool or beach for up to 24 hours. Once you pack one, you always will. Just make sure to arrive at the airport with it totally empty of liquids.

Check out bottles by S’well and Takeya.

Re-usable Straws

More and more island and resort destinations—including Oahu, Aruba, Antigua, Barbados, the Bahamas and Jamaica—have banned single-use plastics, including straws (many of which end up in the ocean), replacing them with eco-friendly paper straws. The downside? Most paper straws quickly go soggy and limp.

The solution: pack re-usable stainless steel or bamboo straws (and a cleaning brush) and you can enjoy your iced coffee, smoothie or tropical cocktail for as long as you wish.

Check out Klean Kanteen for stainless steel (with flexible silicone tops great for kids) and Buluh for bamboo.

Reef-Safe Sunscreen

Yes, your favorite brand of sunscreen is keeping you safe from harmful UVA and UVB rays, but if it contains oxybenzone or octinoxate, it’s also harming delicate coral reefs when you swim. Like plastic straws, key tropical destinations—among them the state of Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Bonaire and Aruba—passed laws that have banned or will soon ban (in 2021) popular sunscreens containing these ingredients.

No matter where you’re headed, if you’ll be sunning and swimming, you can start doing your part early by packing mineral-based, non-nano reef-safe sunscreen such as Raw Elements or Thinksport.

Packable Sun Hat

Vacationing in the Caribbean, Florida or Hawaii requires overhead protection from the intense tropical sun—and what better way to avoid burning your face, ears and scalp than a wide-brimmed sun hat? The chicest straw ones require delicate handling and need to be stored in overhead bins while flying.

But there are plenty of packable options: flexible straw or washable fabric hats that can be thrown in your checked luggage or carry-on and reshaped when ready to wear.

Check out styles by Madewell and Wallaroo.

Quick Drying Turkish Towel

Traditional beach towels are bulky and take up space in your luggage—so do like European beachgoers do and pack a thinner, 100-percent cotton Turkish-towel (also known a hammam or fouta towel). Because they’re thin, they’re quick drying and with their chic French Riviera-inspired stripes they can even work as post-beach sarong or shawl.

Check out options by Serena & Lily and Cacala.

Sun Protective Clothing

Whether it’s quick-dry swim shirts for the the kids and dad or a cute cover-up or tunic for mom, investing in swim- and post-swim clothing that incorporates built-in sun protection is a smart move. Yes, long-sleeve t-shirts will do in a pinch, but for multiple days of fun on the beach, invest in lightweight, quick-dry styles that offer protection and easy care—just rinse and hang and you’re good to go for another day.

Check out options at Coolibar and UVSkinz.

Power Bank

Yes, you can juice up your smartphone overnight in your hotel room, but shooting videos of the kids, the gorgeous scenery or your friends will quickly zap your device’s battery. Recharge while on the go with a 10,000mAh or more power bank—they’re getting sleeker and more lightweight every day.

Check out the options from Anker and Xiaomi.

Collapsible Cooler

To keep water, soda, beer, sandwiches, fruit and other snacks cold while at the beach or poolside, bring a collapsible nylon cooler from home. They come in a variety of sizes and can be placed atop your clothing before you zip up your bag.

If you anticipate that your luggage will already be filled to overflowing, opt for a foldable cooler that meets carry-on requirements and then fill it with your toiletries, electronics and whatever else you usually put in a backpack or other carry-on. Once in your hotel, you can empty it, fill it with ice from the ice machine and hit the beach.

Check out options at REI and Coleman.

Luggage Scale

A souvenir shopper’s high often ends at the airline check-in counter their luggage now weighs too much—and they’re forced to fork over $50 or more in overage fees. Bringing along a handy and affordable luggage scale—basically a strap with a built in digital display that you attach and then lift—will let you know ahead of time that you’ll need to re-allocate some items to your carryon or even buy an extra bag to pack your purchases and carry them onboard.

Scales are particularly handy if you plan to tote home bottles of local rum, tequila or other weighty libations in your checked luggage. All airlines post their luggage weight restrictions on their websites—typically 22 to 30 pounds for carry-ons and 50 pounds for checked bags—so be sure to know before you go.

Check out versions by eTekCity and Tarriss.