The Ultimate Tropical Vacation Pack List for Costa Rica and Beyond

The Traveler Broads are hosting our first ever group adventure to fabulous Costa Rica this year. So, we put together the ultimate tropical vacation pack list full of helpful reminders and our favorite gear for all of our soon-to-be travel buddies. (Hi, friends!) We decided to share it with the world since, let’s face it, it’s been a minute since most of us have been able to travel like we used to. And a refresher never hurts. 

From reef-friendly sunblock and waste-free toiletries to practical tips on insuring trips in the time of COVID, our tropical vacation pack list includes everything we think a traveler needs for a tropical getaway, whether they’re chilling with us in a Costa Rican hot spring or beaching it in the BVIs. (Or even living it up in Key West, to be honest.) 

FYI: We chose the products to include on this list and then looked to see if there were any related affiliated links. That means, we may make a small percentage (at no cost to you) if you buy through our links, but we’re ONLY endorsing products and companies we believe in. 

The Basics 

Passport: Duh! But be sure there are 90 days or more left until expiration. (Of course, travelers to U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands can travel on their state-issued IDs.) 

Copies: Photocopies of your documents (ID, Passport, Insurance, Vaccine Card)

Carbon offset: Don’t forget to offset your flight! This carbon emissions calculator also directs travelers to projects investing in jet biofuels and alternative energy projects.

General gear

External battery: We don’t need to bring converters! Yay! But we never leave home without an external battery AND CABLES! This one’s big and not cute, but it’s the best (and will charge your stuff for DAYS.)

Insulated water bottle: We like this 18oz option that has a loop to clip to a bag with a carabiner clip.

Reusable utensils: We’re starting to travel with these as part of trying to go eco friendly. If you don’t already have a set of these in your car, get on it! This set is so small it fits on a keychain!

Waterproof phone case: These can range from very simple to quite complex and specific to your phone, so just make sure the phone you have will fit.

Toiletries and More

Ocean safe sunblock: Raw love sunscreen is reef-safe, plastic-free and not a liquid. Order directly from the company or Amazon. (I know! We hate them but can’t quit them.) All Good is a women-owned, carbon neutral company that makes a reef-friendly sunscreen in a stick. Of course, they are on Amazon as well. And Badger Sport makes a plastic-free, reef-friendly sunscreen that is available at Target.

Bug spray: If you get bit in Louisiana, expect to get bit in the tropics. Target is a good variety of travel sized bug spray, wipes, and deet-free options.

Dry shampoo: We like this Bumble and Bumble powder kind, which is friendlier on the environment and easier to pack. They also make a mist.

Hair emergencies: Fender has fine hair and bangs, so the tropics are basically a disaster for her ‘do. She loves this Calista blowout brush to unplaster her hair from her forehead. (If you’re coming to Costa Rica, you can just borrow hers 😉 But, when all else fails, a New Orleans-based Fringe & Co party wrap always saves the day.

Travel Kit: Like we said before, By Humankind has a very cute waste-free travel toiletry kit. Maloney’s favorite natural, no waste deodorant is Humble brand in Bergamont & Ginger. Or BYO home brands. These environmentally friendly, reusable containers are always great to have and a great gift for a traveler. (Hint. Hint.) We like these from Cadence and Kitsch.

Sleep gear: Maloney uses this stuff every night, but it’s especially useful when traveling and you don’t know if your hotel will be bright and noisy. Sleep Mask with ear plugs, or built in headphones. This is a great travel white noise machine, or you can download the “Better Sleep” app on your phone.

Costa Rica trip must-haves (that work everywhere)

Rash guard with UPF: Quick dry clothes that block the sun. You’ll want it when we’re boogie boarding, plus it just protects your skin better than sunblock can. Target has some CUTE options.

2 Bathing suits: So you always have a dry option. Also here’s a couple of comfy sports bras that could also be a swimsuit in a pinch. Fender loves Target’s seamless bralette (dark colors only, if you’re swimming in it 😉 and Maloney only wears their unlined racerback.

A hat or visor: How else you gonna pull off that professional traveler lewk?

Backpack/day bag:  This one is affordable and the mesh is good for drying on the go. We all know Fender loves a fanny pack too, her current fave is from New Orleans-based Tchoup Industries.

A sarong or microfiber/quick dry towel: Look how small this one gets!

A light rain jacket: This one folds up in a little pouch.

Hikeable shoes/tennis shoes

Water-friendly sandals: Tevas or Chacos are our favorites.

Covid-related travel supplies 

Of course, no tropical vacation pack list could be “ultimate” without these additions. Rules vary by country and change frequently. Your best bet is to double check entry/re-entry requirements and current safety protocols with the CDC website and the U.S. embassy for the country you’re visiting. 

Masks: At the moment, masks are required in public spaces in Costa Rica and many other Central American and Caribbean destinations. And, honestly, be prepared to pack masks when you travel internationally for the rest of time. Get you something cute. Rhianna wore this brand of N95s once, so it’s good enough for us. And Target has some cheap surgical style masks that are very easy to wear.

Trip insurance: Don’t get stuck footing the bill if you catch Coco and have to cancel a trip or get stuck quarantining overseas. Compare trip insurance policies with Squaremouth. We trust AXA and Berkshire Hathaway, but there are a lot of options available now. Expect to pay between 4-10% of your pre-paid trip costs. And pay special attention to: Travel Medical, which covers medical costs if you’re sick overseas, and Trip Cancellation/Interruption policies. 

Read more about Why, When and How to Buy Trip Insurance.

Qured tests: Travelers returning to the U.S. are required to present a negative rapid test taken within 24 hours of their flight, under current rules. Fender loves these Fit to Fly Rapid Antigen Test. A nurse watches you take the test over the Internet; you email them a pic of your results; and they email you official digital proof to show the airlines. Viola! Just be sure to order your kit more than a week in advance, so it arrives in time to pack with you!

(Note to our Costa Rica ‘22 crew: If testing is required at the time of our trip, our tour operator will schedule tests for us. That will be an optional, additional fee.) 

Hand sanitizer: We like these refillable/plastic optional hand sanitizer bottles. By Humankind is a carbon neutral company, and they have a lot of great travel sized products as well.

Don’t get overwhelmed, friends! Most of this tropical vacation pack list is optional, little things that might make you more comfortable. Please put questions or other suggestions in the comments. And remember! We have another group trip planned for 2023. Discounted spots are still available! (For now 😉 

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