12 tips when packing for a tropical destination

The cover picture was taken in “Jardin de Balata”, Martinique, 2015. I was in my island to spend the Christmas holidays with my family.

This post is entitled “12 tips when packing for a trip to a tropical destination”. Actually, it would have been more accurate to talk about the Caribbean more specifically because that is what I know about. Yet, it can apply to any destination and island with a tropical climate.

In case you didn’t know yet or as a reminder, I am originally from the Caribbean. It has its advantages, of course. I am lucky to go to Martinique about once a year unless specific duties or considerable issue come along. It has become an habit. Even when I was living in the US in 2014, I wanted to go there but the reason why I didn’t was the high price of the flight, almost the same as a Paris-Martinique one. So I renounced that year and went to an other Caribbean island, Haiti, as much interesting. I don’t regret it, definitely, as it was an opportunity for a new “adventure”.

Here are some tips you want to keep in mind when packing. Some are just reminders and obvious, some from experiences in those destinations, others are just cosmetics related and dedicated to women in particular.

  1. Check weather and sanitary environment beforehand. Obviously, you had considered this way before packing anyway! From storms, hurricanes to all the diseases and viruses brought by mosquitoes out there wthether it is Chikungunya, Dengue or currently Zika, you want to pay close attention. Stay tuned and informed. Eventually in extreme cases, you are not going anyway! Be careful at any rate. Check yourself too as for medical background. Update if necessary.
  2. Sunglasses and hats are not optional. Sun is no joke. I am sure you will not forget them anyway since the first one is the first thing that comes to our mind when the sun comes out. More than a simple fashion accessory, they are a must-have. Same for hats, not everybody need a hat yet you want to do as much as possible to prevent sunstroke.
  3. Bring mosquito repellent but do not rely on them only. Yes, that is the bad new. Usually mosquitoes in a tropical destination are warriors. Use repellent and more importantly stay away from those warriors that is to say in air-conditioned or windy places, you can check my other post about tips when you are on the spot. Do not scratch, resist the urge to, you still have creams for bites. Or more generally, have insect repellent, sometimes mosquitoes are not the guilty ones ! Watch out for spiders too.  allergies.
  4. Sun cream, again no joke with that one. Protect your skin, especially at the beginning of the trip. Despite a tanned completion, I myself want to “play cool” sometimes without using any sun cream. Guess what ? I have already got sunburn. Not funny. Lesson learned. Do not be stubborn. In town it is even worse. Moistrurizing lotion after sunbathing is also important. Be careful lips are also vulnerable to the sun.
  5. Light clothes yes, but always bring one or two pants. The hunting for mosquitoes starts at evening (until late morning), so when you are going out for dinner they are actually looking for theirs ! Wearing a pant could help you avoid mosquitoe bites. All of those steps previously mentionned associated to healing creams should prevent “damages” and further damages.
  6. Bring flip-flops (beach sandals) not only for the beach but also because your pretty leather sandals do not enjoy tropical heavy rains ! And a beach bag
  7. Adapt make-up to climate. Ladies, light loose powder prefered. Keep foundation for other climates…oily, sticky skin is very uncomfortable. It looks bad, and on the pictures too. The good new is once we get tanned, we most likely do not even need make-up ! Oh ! It feels good !
  8. Adapt fragrances to climate. Cologne prefered. Use light fragrances. With the heat it can be really overwhelming for yourself and for the others. On the other hand they usually do not stay all day. I personnally use the ones with vanilla notes for that reason, it is nice. Or, I use body lotion that comes with my regular fragrance instead of fragrance.
  9. Choose and bring appropriate products to prevent or take care of skin and heat rashes. It happens to me all the time the first weeks in the Caribbean.
  10. Choose and bring a combined skin and hair care. I mean to use for both skin and hair instead of one for each. “Huile prodigieuse” by Nuxe or “5 sens enhancing dry oil”  by Rene Furterer for instance are good references. Hair get dry, dull and unglossy with water sea. You want to prevent that, actually protect hair before and after sea baths (and after a good shampoo) is ideal.
  11. Sure, ladies only ! Consider a mean for quick hair removal. Still, depending on the duration of the trip. Some “bad” news. The heat, tropical climate and humidity all together “boosts” hair growth. Uuugh ! A little confidence here, I always take my electric hair remover, just in case. You don’t want spend time at the spa during the trip because of that slight drawback ! But then again, you know better than me your habits, so it is also peculiar to each of us.
  12. Bring appropriate swimwear. Again for the ladies. “Appropriate” ahah, what do I mean by that, right ? I fall easily for pretty swimwear, any kind and color. I simply love it ! It is the perfect “outfit” to enjoy colorful and bright colors. I always look for the newest trends and collections. Some reality check though. One piece, trikini are really cool but not ideal to get tanned. Usually, I bring a bikini as well. So, you might want to consider this ! Is that superficial ?

 

Lastly, consider tips before, on the spot and after the trip to get the best experiences in a tropical destination !

And you, what do you usually bring with you when packing for a tropical destination ? I’d love to hear from you !

Proven! An afternoon in Venice is enough to be amazed.

Here are some suggestions when you just have a few time in a city such as Venice, when you are “passing through” Venice; and because it is Venice, come on! You cannot miss out on an opportunity to get all the good vibes “La Serenissima” is well-known for!

 

There is so much to see there. It is no news. Piazza San Marco with the Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale, exploring lagoons and Canal Grande by gondola, the colorful houses of Burano Island, also famous for its lace. Millions of tourists every year come whether it is their first time or more, and I am not here to enumerate the famous places one should go to. You probably know them anyway. Instead I can tell you about the context in which I got to see Venice, how you can relate to it and how to enjoy it.

Could an afternoon be enough? Answer is yes!

I mean if you find yourself in the exact same situation as me where Venice is on your way to another country…More precisely, you try to get the cheapest flight ticket to go to Croatia and the most appropriate to your journey, and Venice appears to be the best option. Great! Why would you just land there and do nothing with an entire afternoon between train/plane transfers? On my way back to Paris, I arrived at Santa Lucia train station around noon and the flight was later at night at Venice Marco polo airport. Therefore, the plan was to use this spare time delightfully in town!

The only drawback is if you do not “fly light”. You get the point, walking around with heavy or many suitcases is not comfortable. I learnt to do so to be able to experience to the fullest in such situations! So, now you know in which circumstances it is just an afternoon in Venice that will blow your mind as a first-time visitor.

One word that I had heard and read a lot on the Internet when it comes to Venice is “expensive”. Well, good news, here I share about an affordable afternoon. On a side note, it was indeed my first time in Venice however not in Italy. My first trip was dedicated to Rome and Milan. I have to admit that I love Italy in general, I really do! It has the reputation of providing everything for any epicurean, the good life, the beautiful emotions we get and experience that feed all our senses, a lot of the things I personally enjoy. Art, architecture and heritage, food, romantic ambiance and fashion of course! To sum up the so called dolce vita! So, how to get a taste of it in an afternoon?

Yes, you definitely have enough time to:

  • Get lost in the charming narrow streets.

First thing first! At some point, it seems that you can get lost. True that one street after another is pretty, it seems that they look like, a lot! I heard others saying that Venice is a labyrinth to people that do not know it. It sounds kind of “scary”, right? But not so much in fact! Trust me. At the end of the day, it is all fun! Your eyes are literally wandering faster and more than your feet can handle. If that doesn’t make sense, I hope it has at least enabled you to relax and unlocked the will to just try. Well, and afterwards, try to describe this delightful feeling and experience of getting lost!

 

  • Get a taste of the Italian food and treats.

A visit to Venice – and in Italy in general – wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the food whether it is antipasti, gourmet, fine, salty, sweet, wine…any! Anyone disagree here? In an afternoon, you want to make time for that IN ANY CASE!

  • When you get there: Have Lunch! You are going to need it, actually I suggest before the strolling-getting-lost adventure! There are plenty of restaurants. We are spoiled, the choice is ours! Perhaps the most challenging part. Competition is high in the area! Restaurants staff work hard to attract you in theirs. Good thing for visitors, there is a high chance for you to be offered a free drink/aperitif just to get in!
  • After getting lost in the area, and being back on the right track, make your way to the Shamrock Irish Pub to REWARD yourself. Do not “judge” the place by its name! I mean that despite the name of the place that refers to Northern Europe, I personally think the whole experience remains Mediterranean; let me explain, you can get a Guinness – not sure I need to precise Guinness beer here ahah – and still feel the warmth of an Italian welcome and service. Isn’t this a brilliant “cocktail”! Another option is 2€ for a coffee with that same experience, not bad!
  • While heading to the bus station to get to Marco Polo airport, make a stop at the shop Cioccolateria Dal Mas. Treat yourself! Staff is very helpful and of course you find quality treats (made by craftsmen). A place for the tiramisu lovers and in this particular situation where you do not have much time, it is handy. Take it away. I got a fruity dessert as far as I am concerned. Yes, there are enough and enough choice to satisfy each of us!

Some details : in Cannaregio > Shamrock Cannaregio, 282/B, 30121 Venezia & Dal Mas Rio Terà Lista di Spagna, 149, 30121 Venezia.

  • Discover Cannaregio and its elegant sites…from the outside if you do not have much time: Chiesa di San Geremia (18th century) and St Lucy’s relics and Palazzo Labia – Salone del Tiepolo. Of course, it’s worth seeing inside and out the buildings! Was too short for me to spend time inside. What is the point if you cannot take your time to enjoy, and pay close attention to the details because in this kind of building, it is really about the details. So, I admired them from the outside, and I must say I am a little bit frustrated!
  • Buy souvenirs according to tastes in Rio Terà Lista di Spagna, main street in Cannaregio.
  • In the Venetian imaginary, most of us can picture the carnival of Venice and the “Commedia dell’arte” therefore it is natural and very common that the most typical souvenirs one will bring from Venice are the elaborate and sophisticated masks. No wonder! You find a wide range of them according to prices, sizes and styles.
  • Traditional pastas, sauces, spices…you name it. I chose chocolate. Do I need to mention to bring a taste of Italy home and make your loved ones happy? I am confident, it will. Especially, when you left them behind, it might help a lot to get rid of any resentment! Good food always warms our hearts. It seems that Italians know very much how to do that, seems like a tradition. So, it wouldn’t hurt to take with us some of this magic know-how!
  • Yet, while being inspired by the “perfect picture”; keep in mind the reality of the city to better appreciate its authenticity. I do not want to sound didactic or moralistic of course. However, as I am sitting here writing about Venice, I feel like sharing about the behind the scenes. We must remember that all of this beauty has a “price” if I can put it like that. And here I am not talking about the money we spend for accommodation, food and tours or other activities; though there is a high chance any negative impacts in a tourist site will influence its development policy therefore its pricing policy. If we want to enjoy a beautiful city for the years coming and allow the next generations to do so, it is more about the “price of preservation” of what is part of our heritage. We hear a lot of stories about damaged, spoiled tourist spots, visitors’ bad behaviors, tourism being a predator to the environment and cultural sites, tourism as an invasion; to the point that local authorities are facing challenges including dealing with the locals’ complaints. International organizations are also involved as it is all about the future of the planet and resources of all kinds. Venice is no exception and it is nothing recent.

How a memorable trip to Croatia looks like

The cover picture was taken in Zadar at the Sea Organ site, August 2016. “Zadar sunset from the Sea Organ seafront steps”.

I am persuaded that one does not need to see everything that is said to be a must-see, do what is said to be a must-do when traveling. It has not been my approach so far and I am pretty happy with it. I have come out with a lot of beautiful surprises this way. You don’t need to do all to have a memorable time.

There are at least two advantages having that approach: we free ourselves from the unnecessary pressure and go with the flow what allows us to enjoy – indeed – our trip and therefore we allow ourselves to explore and discover most often beyond the well-know, we allow ourselves to be more open to the mystery, we invite the scary unknown in the experience. We get to see the hidden gems or what might not be in the travel guidebooks and websites, we let in the emotions, sometimes the “true side” of a place reveals, we learn and make it unforgettable. Plus, you are able to share these uncommon and little discoveries of yours with your world which is probably one of the best way to stand out with some unique pictures.

Croatia is one of the trendy European destinations. I had the opportunity to go there for a week, recently, thanks to my Croatian friend that I met in London. A perfect timing and fit as I was interested in visiting, during summer, an European country new to me. I do not regret it!

Divided into six tourist areas from the coastal Istria, Kvarner, Dalmatia, to the inland Central Croatia, Zaghreb, Slavonia; this destination has a lot to offer, not to mention the sun there. Stunning landscapes from turquoise water beaches of the Adriatic to breathtaking cliffs, waterfalls, lakes and national parks (Plitvice), moreover Roman heritage and influence (Pula), quaint cities (Rovinj) and Unesco sites (Old Dubrovnik, Split), the thousand islands (Hvar, said to be the “Croatian Saint-Tropez”), spas resorts (Slavonia) as well as a diversity of related activities such as diving, sailing, nightlife, shopping, wildlife observation. Oh my God! Where to begin!

You get it. It was clearly impossible to do all. Some factors influenced me beforehand, fortunately! I liked the pretty sight of the Adriatic coastline when I was researching and my friend is from this part. Ideal deal. So, I suggest a balance of must-see/crowded and more confidential, family kind of atmosphere sites to relax.The following itinerary includes Istria, Kvarner, Dalmatia. Let’s get it started!

Relaxing time at Zubovići Beach, avoiding the crowded beaches.

 

  • Start your trip in Northeastern Italy by the border with Croatia.

When you get the opportunity to do two countries in one trip it is always interesting and you get more knowledge. I landed in Venice because the flight was cheap from Paris. I learnt to travel from there to Croatia and I got to see a little bit of Venice and Trieste. Also, I was curious about crossing the border by car!

Some details: round-trip flight Paris-Venice was 80€ with Easyjet via Skyscanner.net. 12,90€ for the train ticket Venice Mestre – Trieste Central. Get the ticket on the spot.

Train tickets at Venice Mestre train station. Headed to Trieste

 

  • Discover Rijeka.

Located in the Kvarner Bay, I found this harbor city extremely cute. Enjoy shopping in the city center and grab a cup of tea or coffee at the lovely Cukarikafe Bar. See Some details below.

Art lover, as always! Rijeka.
Tam said something regarding my Parisian lifestyle. I replied “Are you kidding me? I’m loving it here!”

 

So many colors in just one place! We had deep talks with my friend here. An inspiring place, her favorite. At Cukarikafe, Rijeka.

Some details: Cukarikafe Bar Trg Jurja Klovica 4, 51000, Rijeka, Croatia. Tezenis for nice swimsuit, good prices: Korzo 11, 51000, Rijeka, Croatia.

 

  • Go on a self night-tour in the pretty Opatija.

About 20 minutes from Rijeka by car. Consider parking in a touristy city at night. Why at night? Still dynamic, lively, however less crowded. You can enjoy a nice atmosphere and stroll; also stand out with night pictures of this famous city of the Istria peninsula, popular international seaside resort in the 19th century. Opatija is the oldest tourist resort in Croatia.

The well-known “Maiden with the seagull”, true symbol of Opatija and Kvarner region.

 

Cuddling with that old gold man.
  • Go on a road trip from Rijeka to Pag Island.

A beautiful journey made of panoramic view with cliffs, pits and stunning blue of the Adriatic sea and coastline beautiful towns. On the road, you can make short stops to enjoy.

Some details: leave early as the road trip is about 4 hours including the ferry journey with a car 150 kunas = 20€ from Prizna to Pag (duration:15/20 mn), breaks and traffic jam. You might need to check here for the ferry.

 

View on road trip from Rijeka to Pag island. How do we cross that outstanding blue?
  • Get food at the bakery.

I tasted and liked these spinach and cheese, ham and cheese kind of “rolls”. Very convenient during road trips. Plus, those as well as pastries, doughnuts are about 7 kunas (less than 1€).

On the road. Stopped to get a doughnut stuffed with apricot jam. Bomb!

 

  • Experience Pag Island in different ways.

We are now in Dalmatia. At first Pag is this surprising dry island without vegetation. Then, it is definitely a lot of fun! Simply relax at the beach Zubovici BeachNovalja. Leave the land and explore the sea boating around, scuba diving. Go for strolls in the villages’ streets. Party at Zrce Beach, it is THE place for nightlife, clubbing (spring break). Enjoy a waffle or a crepe in this bustling area between 10PM and 1 AM!

 

I had just arrived in Pag and I was aleady delighted!
Funny discovery! A bar with almost everything made of ice, this glass included! At Rocks Ice Bar, Zrce Beach.

 

  • Taste the local cheese.

I learnt about the Paški sir ! “Sir” in Croatian is cheese. The star in Pag Island and outside the country! I just love cheese, that’s a fact. Period. Tasted and approved, that one had me like…waw! A bit salty though. If you want to know why, ask the locals, they are going to tell you the story about the production process! Worth it!

And for those who like beer, there is the Croatian beer! “Pivo” in Croatian.
Paški sir is a sheep milk cheese of Pag Island. Loved it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Experience the Sea Organ in Zadar and much more.

I have got a crush on Zadar. To me it is a combination of the ambiance and places like Montmartre in Paris and Venice with the charming pedestrian and narrow streets. I am a sucker for a lot of things related to art, with this little artistic touch it is even more interesting.

 

Artists in the streets, Zadar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No wonder that Zadar received the prestigious title “Best European destination 2016” from European Best Destinations, the European Tourist organization in Brussels.

Indeed, Zadar is home to remarkable public art installations along the seafront. Go get an ice cream at Slad while strolling in the heart of the town to discover the Roman ruins; on your way to the fascinating Sea Organ and its related attraction Greeting to the Sun. Take a seat on the seafront steps and just open your ears.The only thing I can say is just experience it, I cannot reveal too much! Except that there are usually a lot of people! Added to this, the sunset is simply the best I’ve watched so far in Europe. Last but not least, there are food and beverage carts on the spot. Food to die for! Fresh fish and seafood, I had a delicious shrimp risotto at Harbor Cookhouse & Club (See Some details below).

Trust me, you want to try this Kinder flavor ice cream at Slad ice cream shop! In Zadar. See Some details below.

Church of St. Donatus, referring to bishop Donatus of Zadar at the origin of the building.

 

People enjoying food on the seafront. Waiting for the Sea Organ “show”.

 

A tasty discovery. I tasted the shrimp risotto there. Bomb! At Harbor Cookhouse & Club.

Some details : about 1 hour and a half from Novalja (Pag Island) to Zadar. Adresses : Harbor Cookhouse & Club, Obala Kneza Branimira 6/a 23000 Zadar. Slad Ice cream shop, Mihovila klaića 4,23000 Zadar.

 

Some general recommendations to make a trip to Croatia even more memorable; on a side note that can always be used anywhere else:

  • Think in “Kuna”, the Croatian currency, as Croatia has recently joined the European Union. 1€ is about 7.5 kunas, 1£ is about 8.7 kunas and $1 is about 6.5 kunas.
  • Go with friends, family or make friends there if solo traveler. Of course splitting the costs is one of the big advantages; moreover some activities might be more enjoyable with great company. I am pretty sure you agree that a road trip or a boat trip feels better with them.
  • Do not get stuck in one city/place, there is much to see out there! My opinion though.The car is certainly the best option.
  • Stay with the local people. For some people, it has become a golden rule and a traveling style. To me, it depends the destination, my mood and the kind of experience I’m looking for at the moment. However since I’m interested in meeting the locals I would often go for it. In Croatia I stayed with them and I would definitely encourage to do so. The advantage is that they can fairly advise you where to go, what to do and you get to know the local food.
  • Learn Croatian ideally with Croatians. I stress it “with Croatians”. Yes, because first of all it is more fun and secondly I must keep it real here; as a French native it is a challenging language. Reading and speaking with the right pronunciation requires their help. For example, I learnt to say “Can I have a glass of water” > “Mogu li dobiti čašu vode?”. How would I know how to say it the right way without them!

 

Learning the language.Ćevapčići” or “Ćevapi” is a grilled dish of minced meat of the Balkans region.

 

  • Come back for more!

I would like to address special thanks to my friends Tam, Stefana and their family. And you, what did you like about the suggestions? How do you make your trip to Croatia memorable? Feel free to get in touch with me if you need more details about flights, journeys and activities.