Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Get Outta Here: Costa Rica Packing Tips

I just returned from what had to be the hottest place I’ve visited on the planet. Not that I can’t take the heat – when they wrote the line “some like it hot,” they were referring to Julie Sturgeon.

What I didn’t like about Costa Rica was my packing choices for this humid, tropical climate. I'll cheerfully pass along my new insights so you can avoid lying naked on a bed, dripping wet, waiting for the fan to speed up:

• Don’t take tight-fitting jean shorts. Tortuguero is a rainforest, for crying out loud. Loose, cotton pants feel far better than rigid materials cutting into your waistline. A waistline, I might add that is larger than the pants’ waistband because I have a vain streak.

• Do take more than one bottle of spray-on sunscreen (bonus points if you even start with a new can. I took the left over from spring break). Sure, you can buy more. But not while on a boat in the middle of a lake.

• Don’t bother with an extensive cosmetics selection. You might find a little powder, a hint of blush to dress up for dinner useful. But foundation? Honey, it’s going to melt off your face and leave stains on your glasses. Not to mention your shirt front where you wiped at the sweat. Mascara and lipstick? Get outta here! Perfume – the only thing you want to smell like in the wilds of Costa Rica is DEET, my friend. Preferably 50 percent or higher.

* Do take along Kaopectate and Milk of Magnesia. These good folks eat black beans and rice for every meal. While your tongue will think it’s in heaven (remember my personal motto: a day without beans is a bad day), the opposite end will be so confused as to whether to clamp down or let loose, you need to be prepared for a sudden decision at any moment.

*** EXTREMELY IMPORTANT: Don’t get hair extensions six days before boarding the plane. In particular, don’t let your stylist’s trainer talk her into semi-permanently welding a weft onto the base of your occipital bone, commonly known as the nape. (I know such medical language because I looked it up on You Tube in an attempt to distract myself.) The result is a head of hair clamped onto your head like a Fisher Price toy. You can’t lift it off your neck. Sweat pools in the weft and drives you nuts. You will scratch, tug and pull at these things until you tear them away from the scalp – and thus destroy an investment of several hundred dollars. Not to mention you look kinda funny in the vacation pictures.

Side note: Said hair extensions also tempt you into toting along a blow dryer, special shampoos and conditioners, two kinds of hair bands, rubber bands, curlers (what was I thinking?) and a curling iron. With airlines charging for precious luggage space, do yourself a favor and only take a freaking hair brush. OK, and the rubber band. Just one.

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