PACKING: What you think you need vs. What you ACTUALLY need 

For the first time in a little while (since coming back from Vegas) I took my first long-ish trip to a place I hadn’t been yet – Cuba! I’ve been to the Dominican and a ton of the surrounding areas but never Cuba so I thought it would be fun to check out.  Everyone told me that Cuba has the best beach, and I’m obsessed with the beach so I had to check it out.  Read my next post for Cuba details including where I stayed and how my overall experience was – this post is dedicated to PACKING.  I really feel like I’ve mastered packing, from travelling Europe with a backpack (a literal school backpack…. not even one of those giant backpacker backpacks…) to packing for longer trips with a luggage.  I used to go to Mexico and take a full size large luggage with me, wear half of the stuff and just lug it all back.  This time I mastered the beach vacation in a small luggage (not carry on sized, just one size up) and a carry on!

I thought it would be really helpful to share my before and after thoughts about what I need to pack for a resort/beach trip, and what I actually needed when I thought about it afterward.  So let’s get into it. The lists will be divided into before and after thoughts about the trip and are focused on what I thought I needed the most to make this the most glam, easy, beautiful beach vacation. I’ll be excluding the obvious things from my list (like toothpaste and underwear) and focusing on those “extra” things that people should or should not bring to make their trip perfect.
(Bikini by Kristin Sundberg for NA-KD fashion. Emoji power bank by Betsey Johnson. Phone case by Casemate. Argan oil by Josie Maran. Travellers cocktail kit via Chapters).
Before – list of necessities pre-trip:

  • First-time eyelash extensions!!
  • Bali Body oil (for tanning and for soothing)
  • 2 sunscreen sprays
  • Aloe Vera gel
  • Sparkly body lotion
  • Coconut oil
  • Medicine
  • Body chains
  • 4 different sized hoop earrings and basically every other big bold earring I own
  • Unique looking bathing suits
  • 7 days, so 7-8 bikinis
  • 4 bikini cover ups
  • 5 plain tops, 3 types of shorts, 3 skirts
  • 7 “fancy” outfits for dinner at night
  • 1 wedge heel, 1 strappy heel, one thigh high boot heel, 1 comfy sandal and 1 fancy sandal
  • 3 bodysuits
  • 2 jeans
  • 4 lipstick colours
  • 3 headbands
  • 2 bungee cord hair elastics
  • Flexirods
  • Hair mousse
  • Curling iron

Now, this is a list of everything that I thought I NEEDED to make this vacation a success. This next list is one that I made after returning from the trip, with the older words as the things I really needed, and the other points with an explanation of why it wasn’t necessary at all.

After – list of things that really mattered in bold: 

  • Eyelash extensions – although I would never get them on a daily basis and I’m hesitant to ever get them again, eyelash extensions made a huge difference for me on the trip. I swam in the ocean and pool everyday and they barely came off! They made a huge difference for me doing my makeup after the pool and before going out at night. Such an easy way to look fab for vacation. (I’ll be doing another post on my experience with the extensions though and why I wouldn’t get them again) 
  • Bali Body oil – NOT NEEDED.  I was actually pretty annoyed at this company because I asked them before I ordered if my watermelon tanning oil would come in on time (before my vacation) and they promised it would – yet it never did, so I didn’t even bring it on vacation with me! I received it when I was home and I quickly realized it’s better NOT to bring tanning oil to a sun-strong place like Cuba.  It also would have been so annoying to put oil on on the beach with all the sand and the mess that it makes.  Body oil is not the safest or best way to get a tan… you’ll get one anyway. I’m using this oil post-vacation at home to hydrate my skin after a shower and I like it for that. No need to bring it with you really… I was fine without it and never found myself wishing I had it.
  • 2 sunscreen sprays – should have actually been 3! They run out quickly. For two people for a week; bring at least 3 sun screens.
  • Aloe Vera gel – NOT NEEDED, as long as you have something like it. I bought some after sun lotion instead (a super small bottle) it lasted the me all week and did the same thing. As long as you have some type of lotion with you for after a long day in the sun, you’re good.
  • Sparkly body lotion – NOT NEEDED.  My skin was always hydrated from the after sun and I didn’t want to irritate it so I never even used my glitter body lotion!
  • Coconut oil – NOT NEEDED, but some oil should be brought. I brought a mini tube of macadamia oil for my hair and applied it after each shower. I only used half of the tube, it was travel friendly size AF and it worked perfectly to keep my hair looking good.
  • Medicine – I got sick a few times, so bringing some type of Advil or Imodium or hydrocortisone for skin is a really good idea.
  • Body chains/jewelry – needed, but RATIONALLY. I bought all these cool body chains but when you’re kinda sunburnt and tired you’re seriously not even gonna want to wear them. Just bring two cool pieces and a few nice earrings and you’re set. If your outfits are busy, you don’t need too many extras, even if they looked cool on Instagram.
  • Unique looking bathing suits/7-8 suits – NOT NEEDED. Okay, my hugest point is that you should bring cute/comfortable bathing suits on vacation with you. I brought some comfy and some “sexy” and the comfy ones win every time. Crochet or strappy bathing suits are cute for pictures but soooo annoying to actually wear all day. I would rather be comfortable and have fun swimming in the ocean than scratchy and too restricted in a bathing suit just for a pic.  Also, only bring like your top 5 or something. I brought some black and white bottoms to match everything, some of my favourite tops and 2-3 full set bikinis.
  • 4 bikini cover ups – NOT NEEDED. Literally only need 1-2 maximum. Wear the MOST COMFY ONES! If they’re too tight or too hot you’re not going to wear them…. it’s hotter and you’re lazier on vacation than you think you’ll be.
  • Clothing – all I can say is that I only ended up bringing one wedge heel, strappy heel, fancy and plain sandal and they were all a good choice. That’s really all you need. As far as clothes go, pack as many little dresses as you want. If you’re like me, my dresses take up like 10cm of space when they’re rolled up, and can be dressed up or down with shoes and accessories. Even if you don’t wear them, just bring them! Makes no difference really and at least you have the option.
  • 4 lipstick colours – YAS. Necessary. do it up with the pink and orange when you’re on a tropical vacation.
  • 2 bungee cord elastics – these are the best and I’m obsessed. If you have beach salt water hair, a normal hair elastic would get so tangled and rip your hair out. Bungee elastics are a saviour.
  • Flexi rods – NOT NECESSARY. I love them to curl my hair without heat but I’m not willing to sleep in them, and my hair never dried on time when they were in my hair. It was also so humid there that the curl just died. Waste of space unless you’re willing to sleep in them and get curly hair in the morning.
  • Hair mousse – not necessary (for me anyway) – hated the way my hair looked! I wanted to bring the bumble and bumble hair undressing cream but totally forgot. That would have been the best product for hair in Cuba in my opinion!
  • Curling iron – NO. Why even try? I just pony tailed or let my hair air dry every day. If anything, I would bring a straightener next time just to do my bangs and stuff. If your hair is naturally wavy or curly like mine, you can totally skip the actual curling iron.

Things that weren’t on any list but should have been:

  • BUG SPRAY AND AFTER BITE. So necessary.
  • Snacks. We stayed at an all inclusive and the food in Cuba isn’t the best. Snacks in the room for like a late night treat would have been a good idea.
  • Comfy pjs – I just brought cute pjs but after a sun burn and a long day, you just want comfy pjs and don’t care about how you look… BRING COMFY THINGS!
  • Detangling spray. It just helps with the breakage after a shower.

Well, now you can see where I was spot on and where I went wrong in my packing list. I fit all of my things into a small luggage and into this amazing cute carry on by Kensie which will be my new travel staple (I carried my shoes in here because heels take up a ton of space). To make travelling even more light, I save all of my Sephora sample bottles and put my beauty products in there. My toiletries bag was super small and light.

(kensie carry on tote, pic by Nordstrom) 

Those are my main travel tips for what you think you need to be fab on a resort vacation and what you ACTUALLY need. I hope it helps put some things in perspective while travelling!


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