Heading south this winter? Good for you! I just got back from beautiful Tulum, Mexico; my first beach vacation in a decade. A few things caught me off guard so I've gathered my top 5 tips to help you get the most from your sunny getaway.
1. bring all the sunscreen
This time of year most beachy locales have daily highs around 30C, so pack more sunscreen than you think you need. The UV will zap you and you need to account for sweat and water too! I absentmindedly grabbed a tube that was half-empty and nearly ran out. You do *not* want to pay $30CAD+ for crappy sunscreen at a hotel gift shop (not exaggerating, that's legit what they were charging at our resort).
My fave sunscreens? Vichy, Bioderma, all La Roche Posay, all easily found in-store at Shoppers Drug Mart, online at beautyboutique.ca, and at other mass retailers across Canada. FYI, Bioderma also makes a FANTASTIC sunless tanning spray that'll give you a believable, streak-free glow before you hit the beach.
2. hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Time in the sun will dry you out, whether you're hiking in the jungle, practicing yoga on the beach, or lazing by the pool. Drink oodles of water (most resorts will provide unlimited bottled water for free), and if you're going off-resort for the day, be sure to pack at least one full bottle per person. I got heat stroke after two hours of full sun at Chichen Itza, and it wasn't fun. Plan ahead!
3. Pamper your skin
You already know you'll need plenty of sunscreen and water, but lemme tell ya: your skin's gonna need extra help. With exposure to sand, saltwater, and chlorine, you're gonna notice dry flaky bits on your elbows, knees, and heels.
My advice? Pack a body scrub and your favourite lotion or body butter. Head to The Body Shop and grab a their Piñita Colada collection (smells just like a piña colada) or even better, snap up their Fuji Green Tea beauty bag. For just $15 you get a travel-sized (aka plane-friendly!) kit with shower gel, body scrub, body butter, and a zippered cosmetics pouch. No crummy hotel toiletries for you!
4. bring a sippy cup
If you're staying at an all-inclusive, you'll notice they serve your unlimited drinks in teeny plastic cups. That means two things: your ice is gonna melt in a jiffy, and you'll be back in line at the bar before you know it. Before I headed down Mexico way my pal Natalie gave me some great advice: pack a grown-up sippy cup! Oh boy was she smart.
I grabbed a pair of Corkcicle travel mugs at Chapters Indigo and they worked like a charm! They held 2-3 times more than the dinky resort cups, kept our margaritas cold for hours, and the bartenders were happy to rinse them between drinks. Thanks for the tip, Natalie!
5. travel like a local
Without a doubt, the most memorable parts of our vacation were the days we spent off-resort, exploring the Mexican countryside. Now, the safety of various vacation destinations differs greatly, so do your homework before you go and get familiar with the area. That will help you determine whether you want to remain on-resort or go further afield.
In our case, my hubby has spent lots of time in Mexico in the past, so he was comfortable renting a car. He'd never been to the Quintana Roo/Yucatan region so we did some reading and learned that highways are generally in good shape with great signage, and that police/army checkpoints are plentiful. Once down there, the roads were great, signs were awesome, and we passed many checkpoints but thankfully weren't stopped at any.
We went off-resort nearly every day, exploring everything from Mayan sites to local grocery stores. Brush up on the local language (even a few phrases go a long way) so you can ask questions about prices, menus, times, or distances.
Understand the local currency and have some with you at all times. Defaulting to USD in countries with their own currency nearly guarantees you'll get hosed (and with good reason, IMHO). So put in just a little extra effort: locals will appreciate that you want to understand them - and their country - a bit better.
Now off you go, enjoy the beach!