Lazing about on the sand or diving through the waves… A beach getaway is the dream of many an Aussie worker. Here are our best tips for packing for a beach trip to three diverse islands scattered over the globe: Bali, Fiji, and New Caledonia.
Tip 1: Packing checklist
Use our essential packing guide to make sure you have what you need:
- Swimsuits x 2: Yes, bring two! You never know when you’re going to snap a bikini string in the surf. Nobody wants to pay $100 for a new swimsuit at the only gift shop on the island.
- Big-brimmed hat: Real ladies and gents use real hats to keep skin cancer at bay.
- Repellent containing DEET or picaridin: If you get bitten by mosquitoes overseas, you could catch many debilitating diseases including malaria, dengue fever, or chikungunya virus. Remember, repellent goes on over the top of your sunscreen. These repellents are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women and children older than 2 months when used according to instructions.
- SPF50+: Don’t settle for SPF30, or even your SPF15 BB cream. Depending on where you’re going, the sun can be just as fierce as in Australia – but not all countries sell SPF50+. Plus it costs three times as much at the beach as at your local supermarket back home. It’s so hot that make-up just slides off, but sunscreen is a must. Aloe Vera gel is a lovely helper if you do happen to get burnt.
- Sunglasses: Your eyes can get cancer from UV rays, too – did you know? The sun can also give you cataracts and skin cancer of the eyelids. Get yourself some sunnies with labels saying “Blocks 99-100% of UV rays” or “UV absorption up to 400nm”.
- Cotton clothing: Stick to light layers, and cotton or linen if possible. These fabrics are the kindest in the heat and humidity. Be respectful to local traditions of modesty by bringing a pair of long pants/skirt and a shirt with sleeves if you plan to visit any temples or other cultural activities.
- Jacket: It’s cold out near the water when the sun goes down! And if it rains at the beach, it gets just as cool as when it rains at home.
- Beach bag: When you’re overseas among strangers, be extra careful with your beach bag. Pick one with hidden pockets for valuables and hotel keys, and a zippered pocket to keep things dry.
- Scarf: Scarves are hands down the best beach-saver. They are a sun-protector, breeze-fighter, modesty helping, and fashion statement – all in one tiny package that rolls up into nothing in your bag.
- Comfy flip-flops: You’ll be wearing flip-flops everywhere as a hygiene measure, to protect your feet in moist spas, pool areas, changing rooms, or the like. Your footwear should stay comfy even once your feet are layered in ultra-chafing sand and salt water.
- Magazine or book x 1: You won’t read as much as you think, so don’t weigh yourself down. But a bit of light reading is great for the beach and the plane home. If you’re going to New Caledonia and you don’t already speak French, make your one book a phrasebook!
- Snacks for the beach: For a taste of home, pop a pack of muesli bars into the top of your check-in luggage. Most countries’ Customs and Quarantine don’t have a problem with individually-wrapped muesli bars, but you should always check when it comes to bringing food. On the beach, buy “safe” fruits (fruits not washed in water, e.g. bananas) and support the locals.
- Reusable water bottle: You’re splashing around in water but the sun and the salt dehydrate you faster, so come prepared. An aluminium or stainless steel water bottle will keep the water cool and tasting nice, and it will leak less than a plastic bottle. Be sure to refill with bought water. Many countries don’t have the same filtration systems for their water, so don’t just refill it from the tap unless you want “Bali belly”. We know it goes against the grain to pay for water, but bottled water is much cheaper overseas!
- Ear plugs: If you’re not used to sleeping by the ocean and you don’t find it the noise of the ocean as hypnotic as everyone says it is, these will be your best friend at night.
- Plastic bags or zip-lock bags: Almost everything gets sandy or wet at the beach – but for the things that must stay dry and clean, bring lots and lots of plastic bags.
- Hand sanitiser and pocket tissues: Many developing countries are just as clean as Australia these days, but hand sanitiser and pocket tissues are lifesavers for those public restrooms in the middle of the jungle.
- Deck of cards: Not an essential, but some of my favourite memories of my travels are playing ‘500’ or ‘Up and Down the River’ while waiting for a meal to arrive or waiting for a ferry.
- Flashlight: Great for playing Spotlight or chasing crabs down the beach at night. Also helpful if you’re staying in a beach shack that only has electricity during certain hours.
- Activewear: If you intend to go for a morning run along the shore, just remember that your swimmers will give you absolutely no support. Pack your usual exercise clothes.
Why isn’t there a beach towel on our packing checklist?
Beach towels take up a lot of space unnecessarily, and many hotels and resorts provide beach towels for you, in Bali in particular. If they don’t, you can get one very cheaply at the local markets.
Tip 2: Don’t bother bringing the dressy stuff
Chances are you won’t wear it. A patterned maxi dress is perfect for both cocktails in a hotel bar and lounging around the beach with takeaway fish and chips.
You also don’t need too much jewellery. There’s nothing worse than digging through the sand for your favourite necklace or earrings. Travel insurance will cover replacing some of your lost belongings, with usually only a small excess – but nothing can replace the emotional value of a family heirloom.
Tip 3: Don’t bring the beach home with you
Lots of Aussies love collecting seashells or a jar of sand when they visit the beach back home. But if the sand is not Aussie sand, the Department of Border Protection will not let you bring it back onto our shores. This is because it classifies as “soil” and this can contaminate Australia with diseases that kill our native flora and fauna.
The other big ones that people get caught with are untreated wooden carvings or other wooden items; leather, fur, or bone items; fruit and veges; and weapons such as tribal knives. Here’s our longer list of souvenirs you cannot bring home with you.
Instead, when you’re buying souvenirs you can actually bring home, make sure you’re using a card that’s not going to bring home a big bill in exchange rates and conversion fees. CANSTAR’s already made your shortlist for you – what are you waiting for?