For many people, the hardest part of traveling (aside from waiting for your vacation to start) is packing. Most airlines have baggage restrictions so you don’t want to over pack; but you also don’t want to find yourself in a jam because you’ve forgotten something you’re going to need. When traveling to Aruba, you don’t have to worry – there are grocery stores with brands you’ll recognize – but things cost a bit more than you’re used to paying back home. Think 3x as much depending on what you need.
Aside from your bathing suit, tank top and sandals, there are going to be a few things, you’ll want to bring from home to get the most out of your time on this beautiful island. Doing so will almost guarantee you ‘Biba Dushi’ (living the sweet life)!
Even as a melanated goddess, I can’t stress this enough. If you’ve been to the island before, you know what I’m talking about; but if you’re an Aruba newbie, there’s a chance that you might be underestimating the sheer strength of the UV rays. I’ve seen my friends go from ‘Marshmallow’ to ‘Milk Chocolate’ in less time than it takes to say, “Sis, did you pack your sunblock?” You can and WILL burn … quickly! Pack your SPF 30 or better. Your shoulders will thank you.
If you’re going all inclusive or don’t plan on straying very far from your resort, this one won’t apply to you so much (the hotels on the island do an incredible job with pest control) but if you’re going to explore the island you should definitely pack some bug repellant.
Aruba is known for being an arid island, but it isn’t completely dry. The wetlands known as the Bubali Bird Sanctuary is an amazing spot for nature enthusiasts, bird lovers and photographers alike. You know what they say: with great wetlands comes a great breeding ground for mosquitoes. Be ready so you don’t have to get ready!
An insulated water bottle
Did you know that Aruba’s drinking water is rated one of the best in the world? There’s no need to spend extra money on single use plastic water bottles when you’re on the island. Just bring your bottle, get some ice, fill your bottle from the tap and viola! You have a refreshing beverage and you’re helping the environment. Bring some powdered mixes from home and you’ll be good to go.
A well fitting hat
Not to be redundant, but did I mention that it’s very sunny almost all the time?
The peak hours for the sun are between 10am and 4pm but right around noon it feels like it’s 6 feet above your head. During this time you’re at a higher risk for sunburns, squinting, and scalp-burns (YES … scalp burns!!!!). You’ll want a hat at some point. However, it can’t be just any hat – you’ll be needing a wind savvy hat.
You’re going to be tempted to bring your favorite fitted cap but if it’s a little too big, have fun chasing it down the shoreline. Did you buy a cute fedora that doesn’t have a chin strap? Yeah. That thing’s going into the sea and straight to Panama. Everything flies to Panama from Aruba … SMH!
The reason that the sun is so bearable in Aruba is because of the constant trade winds that race by, cooling the skin and stealing our stuff. The wind wants your hat. It also wants your flip-flops, your half drank cocktail (another great reason to bring an insulated bottle) and your beach inflatables.
Come to think of it, the wind here is like that one friend we have. You know, the one that eats all your food and never returns the stuff they borrow; but you deal with it because they’re so much fun to be around. You’ve been warned: choose your hat wisely.
Over the counter medications
On a personal note, I’m that chick. The one with wet wipes (antibacterial of course) and a tiny first aid kit in my carry all. I also carry a bottle opener (with a knife), tweezers, a lighter and a spare…well, you get the point. I might be considered over prepared in certain circles, but it’s better safe than sorry, right?
It’s always a good idea to travel with some general medication such as: pain relievers, antacids, antihistamines and possibly dramamine. Of course, all of those products are on the island but they’ll cost much more than you’re used to paying. Not to mention, Murphy’s Law dictates that you’ll probably need the aforementioned medication in the middle of the night when everything’s closed.
If you’re traveling with children (or the accident prone) pack some waterproof band-aides and antibiotic ointment. Oh, and if you wear glasses bring an extra pair – just in case. That goes double for sunglasses. Also, if you wear contacts bring extra lenses and more solution than you think you’ll need. And don’t forget to take some vitamins.
A light jacket for the evenings
This one sounds crazy but sometimes Aruba’s evening air carries a bit of a chill that will come to you as a sharp contrast to the heat of the day. Maybe you’ll be in a restaurant that’s blasting the air conditioner or go to a bar where I believe they set the thermostat somewhere just shy of ‘Arctic chill’ . You might never need it, but if you do you’ll be happy to have it so, bring a jacket – just in case.
Of course the beach is waiting for you just outside of your hotel, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll want to run up to your room every time you need something. You’re definitely going to want a bag that you can bring to the beach so you can keep all your treasures close at hand and out of the sand. The best type of bag for the beach over here is one that can be completely closed against the wind. Remember when I told you the wind likes to swipe your stuff? Well, sometimes it feels bad about that and tries to make up for it by blowing sand at you (and your drink). Bring a bag that can be shut tight to protect your devices.
If you plan on enjoying liquid libations and snacks on the beach, consider bringing a soft cooler as your carry all bag. Aruba has also, proudly, joined the list of eco-responsible nations that ban single use plastic bags so you’ll need reusable bags if you plan on doing any grocery shopping on the island. The turtles will thank you!!!
Again, this one doesn’t really apply to those staying by the High/Low rise hotels – which are world renowned for their pristine, white sand beaches. However, if you’re staying off the beaten path or plan on exploring the island and/or participating in water activities, do your feet a favor and bring a pair of water shoes.
Some of the beaches further up and down the coast from the high rise hotels are rocky. It’s not a great feeling to step on a sharp-edged, slimy, algae covered rock (unless you’re into that kind of thing). It’s even worse to step on a unsuspecting sea creature – for all parties involved (but mostly you).
One of the minor inconveniences of modern life: while the amount of devices we possess that need charging, has grown exponentially over the past few years – the amount of charging ports we have access to, has not. Throw a portable charger in your bag, you can thank me later.
Aruba is gorgeous. You’re probably going to go home with at least three times as many pictures and videos as you’d thought you’d take. It might not be a bad idea to pack an extra memory chip and a portable power bank so you always have the means to get that perfect shot.
Casual Comfortable Clothes and Shoes
You don’t need to dress up on this island! Sun dresses, shorts and casual shirts paired with sneakers or sandals are perfectly acceptable attire almost everywhere on the island.
Aruba is colored with the most amazing palette. You should see what is worn for carnival! The colors found in nature are echoed all around the island, even the houses and government buildings are painted brightly.
Use your trip to Aruba as a time to let your color shine. That obnoxiously loud Hawaiian print … bring it!!! Those vivid seersucker prints … pack that!!! Have you ever wondered if you could pull off wearing Majorelle? Now is the time to find out. Bright island white? Absolutely!!!
Of all the things that you should pack for Aruba, I know there’s one thing I don’t have to remind you to bring: your sense of wonder for the incredible experience that awaits you.
Un bon vuelo!