12 THINGS YOU MUST PACK IF YOU’RE TRAVELING SOMEWHERE TROPICAL FOR SPRING BREAK
bout two years ago, I moved to St. Croix, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, after wintering there since 2016 (remote work FTW!). In addition to packing for myself for four-month stretches and accumulating the best things for full-time #islandlife, I’ve hosted more than a dozen visitors and counting—shockingly, a free place to stay in the Caribbean is a draw.
All that is to say: I can share on excellent authority what items are absolute musts to make room for in your checked luggage or carry-on bag for a tropical vacation. (And don't forget your face mask for the plane... and in case your destination has different COVID-safe requirements than you're used to at home.)
4. Insect repellent
One of the less brag-worthy things about living on an island: The tiny biting creatures that also inhabit it. Because mosquito-borne illnesses are always something of a concern in the tropics, it’s wise to pack protection.
Skip those essential oil-containing products, which smell great but are largely useless. (I once found a dead mosquito floating in the water of my lemon-eucalyptus oil diffuser, so I guess she wasn’t exactly repelled by it.)
In terms of active ingredients that work, DEET is the king of the repellents, but picaridin rates comparably well and is less noxious-smelling and greasy on the skin. You can get effective products in pump sprays and lotions that don’t exceed carry-on size restrictions, or wipes that don’t even count as liquids. For a weeklong trip, you won’t need more than one of those options.
A 20% DEET Premium Controlled-Release Lotion will work well against mosquitoes, but Dr. Zimring says he prefers the 20% Picaridin lotion since it also protects against ticks, gnats, chiggers, and flies. (In both instances, he recommends Sawyer brand.)
Part of spending time outside means battling ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting insects. For this, Nelson swears by permethrin.
And out of the products we tested, Dr. Zeichner highly recommends Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent.