My Guide to Packing for Beach Vacations

It’s holiday time which means vacation time here in Korea, which of course means travel to other parts of Asia for many expats. This year I’ll be packing my backpack for a 10 day trip to Panglao, Bohol in The Philippines.

This will be my second visit to The Philippines, a beautifully romantic, tropical place made up of thousands of islands. The Philippines is home to great  dive spots and stunning beaches, not to mention very friendly people. On my last trip, my boyfriend and I snorkeled twice daily, seeing stunning sea turtles and swarms of sardines. This trip I plan to snorkel again as well, and so am being mindful about what to pack.

Beach sunset (Nicaragua)

Beach sunset

When taking a beach vacation, especially one in which you plan to spend a lot of time in the water, it’s important to consider the lasting effect you and the items you bring with you might have on the environment. For your next beach trip, give some thought to what you bring, wear, and leave behind.

Do your part when packing to make your footprint as small as possible.
  • SUN PROTECTION – Sunscreen: Not all sunscreens are created equal, do a little research and find a product that is labeled reef safe, especially if you plan to swim, snorkel, SUP, or dive. Some chemicals in sunscreen (oxybenzone) damage reefs and marine life, avoid screens containing the chemical and opt instead for more natural products that contain zinc oxide.
  • SUN PROTECTION – Cover Up: Get a rash guard. Rash guards are thin, breathable tops worn over swimsuits or in warm waters for surf and other water activities to protect against harmful UV rays. As much as I prefer natural fibers for my clothes, when it comes to active and performance wear, synthetics perform best. Buy quality and treat your clothes with care for an extended and purposeful product life. Bring a small cap or beach hat for your trip, too; sunglasses are great for protecting the eyes, but hats will keep rays off of your face and will therefore be cooling.

Hat and rash guard.

  • FROM THE SHOWER TO THE SEA – Pack Wise Toiletries: Just like sunscreen, other toiletries that you bring on your trip with you are potentially harmful to the environmental. Bring, or DIY your own shampoos, conditioners, lotions, soaps, cosmetics, toothpaste and more that are paraben-free (a common, dangerous preservative.) Making this extra effort is especially important when staying at eco-lodges or resorts where the gray water (water from showers/laundry/washing) runs straight back into the environment. Some mindful accommodations even require that you bring only safe products with you.


  • REDUCE PLASTIC – Bring a Tumbler: The Philippines is one of the top five producers of plastic ocean pollution in the world and I do not want to contribute to that statistic while visiting, so I’ll be bringing a metal, reusable water bottle and my trusty tumbler with me. Potable water is not always easily found in remote places, so bottled water becomes the norm. Bringing a personal, filtering, reusable water bottle might be a solution for the brave. Other options include iodine drops or this LED purifier I’ve recently learned about. My boyfriend and I traveled Costa Rica & Nicaragua for a month with a filtering water bottle and had no problems.

My well-weathered tumbler!

  • LEAVE A POSITIVE PRINT – Donate: Backpacking is a basic way to travel the world, I say basic because you have to edit your packing list again, and again to get it all to fit into a 40 liter pack that you will then carry with you – everywhere. Packing light is a necessity when it comes to backpacking, but if you’re traveling internationally and get a baggage allowance that comes with your ticket, then consider packing a second suitcase of donations for your intended location. Get in touch with an organization ahead of time so you can drop them off at the beginning of your trip. Collect used clothing  or other needed items from friends and relatives. Tip – plan to wear some donations during your trip and leave them at the end to decrease your packing load.

Donations that went with me to my YTTC in Nicaragua, modeling with them is Pepper.

This is just a short list of packing tips, concentrating on conscious/eco travel. Be sure to read your toiletries and cosmetics labels the same way that you read your food labels, and ditch the generic for greener items, or DIY some baking soda toothpaste. Then, relax on the beach, knowing that you have done a small part in reducing ocean pollution!

Leave No Trace – Litter on Korean Mountains

Surrounding myself by nature is a wonderful luxury that I try to make part of my life as much as I can. Living smack in the middle of a city, it is not always easy to feel totally engulfed by the beauty of the natural world. Don’t get me wrong, Busan has great hiking and of course beaches, but often reminders of being in a city are there – noise pollution, light pollution, and straight up litter. Recently though, I was able to get out of Busan for a little trip up north over the Chuseok holiday to visit Seoraksan National Park.

Years back when I made my first trip to Seoraksan, a fellow American expat taught me about the idea of Leave No Trace, it’s as simple as it sounds, take with you whatever you brought up when you go, leaving no trace of your visit. This means clean up after yourself, that simple rule we learn in kindergarten. Don’t leave any wrappers, single use utensils, or even fruit peels (as they are more than likely tarnished with pesticides and are probably not native of the land so therefore might cause disruption to the ecosystem.) This is a rule that I strictly follow whenever I get up into the mountains (or parks, beach, etc.)

Admittedly though, I am not an avid hiker. When given the choice I much prefer to stay near sea level as opposed to climbing up a big ‘ol mountain, but once I have been dragged along on a hike I always love that I’ve done it. It feels rewarding and the views are fantastic.


Unfortunately, not all of the views are beautiful. On my most recent hike I couldn’t help but be upset by all of the litter left behind by fellow hikers. Feeling affected, I collected as much of the litter as I could and stuff it in the side mesh pocket of my backpack, by the time I finished the hike the trash was spilling over the sides.

Water bottles were a common sight

Water bottles were a common sight

When I returned to my hotel I emptied it all out and arranged it to have a closer look. It seems that most of the trash was individually wrapped candies. (Candy wrappers are also one of the most frequently littered items on my local beach.) If only the sweet-toothed, nature “lovers” loved nature enough to leave no trace. Other items I took notice of were bits of gear that had apparently fallen off mid-hike, a reminder to buy quality when you shop so that you don’t have the problem of your backpack or footwear falling apart during use, and if it does, please take it with you and dispose of it properly.

It is so important to Leave No Trace; I can’t imagine how long all of this might have stayed on the gorgeous Seoraksan floor. Sure, there are probably teams that go up and clean, but wouldn’t it be nice if everybody took their own responsibility and left places as beautiful as they found them, with no traces?