December 28, 2021

BTTI Essentials: A Packing List

Today's procrastination technique: writing about packing instead of actually packing. May my past fails be your future successes. If you're headed to the next Back To the Island or are considering going at a later date, here are a few things you should bring that may not make your regular packing list:

1. A pen you can easily reach mid-flight. You'll have to fill out a customs card before you land, and airlines don't provide enough pens for each passenger. If you don't bring your own, you'll have to awkwardly wait to borrow one from a stranger, and that's even less exciting during a pandemic.

2. A physical paper with your return flight details and the address of where you're staying. The customs form that you'll be filling out with that handy pen you remembered to pack is going to ask for the resort address. If you're like me, you'll try to look it up on your phone and realize there's no international flight wifi. Next you'll dig through the BTTI packet that you printed and realize it's not in there either.

You'll also have to fill out a card with your return flight number and time before you're allowed to board the bus to the resort, and there's no airport wifi outside to access your confirmation email. Save yourself the trouble and have all of this information written down, or at the very least, have screenshots.

3. Plenty of small bills for tipping. Yes, it's all-inclusive, but tips are appreciated and often expected even though they're not required. As for currency, if you have American money and don't plan on leaving the resort, don't bother exchanging. USD is welcome and is also preferred over credit cards in the gift shops.

4. A folder to pack your autographed photo in for the trip home. Unless you like creases.

5. A few Ziploc bags big enough for wet swimsuits/clothing for the trip home. It's humid in Jamaica. The wet thing you took off yesterday is not going to be dry today.

6. Basic first aid supplies and medicines. Bandaids, Neosporin, Ibuprofen, Pepto Bismol, Nyquil, Benadryl, etc. Anything medical that you MIGHT need, pack it. If you have to track any down once you arrive, you either won't find it at all, or you'll pay 5x what you would have paid if you brought it with you. 

7. Shoes you can wear in the water. The beach at the Jewel is less rocky than the Melia, but there are a few areas in the water with pointy rocks and sea urchins, and you can't tell until you're standing on them. All I'm saying is if you don't pack #7, you're definitely going to need #6.

Bonus TMI: It's not that common, but I've known more than one fan to contract hookworms in their feet from going barefoot at past BTTIs. Don't let that scare you away from taking your shoes off, but I would avoid walking shoeless in the grass or even being barefoot for extended periods of time in the sand. You can blame the cute cats that roam freely around the resort with some innate cat instinct to identify sand as their litter box.

8. Bug spray. Some people swear it's unnecessary and that they never get bitten at BTTI, but I can definitely remember itchy ankles after shows when I forgot to put any on. It's not an issue during the day, but as soon as the sun starts going down, I swap out sunscreen for bug spray. A friend getting bitten in the face by a mosquito and having to show up to photo day with a swollen eye is also enough of a cautionary tale to keep it on my packing list (and my body) indefinitely.

9. One light-weight layering piece just in case it's windy or cool at night. If you're from some cold place that wears shorts when it's 55 degrees out, you can probably skip this one. Fellow southerners, you're welcome.

10. Less clothing. I overpacked SO MUCH that I never wore the first year. Every person has their own style and preferences, so pack for your own comfort zone, but I quickly found that my happy place is swimsuits under a coverup or a summer dress. That's it. No pants. One pair of shorts that I may or may not actually wear. No more than four pairs of shoes including my water shoes and whatever I wore on the plane. If you want to go carry-on only, it's doable with a little work.

P.S. Don't forget to leave space to bring home any souvenirs you might want as well as your merchandise package which always includes a towel and a t-shirt. Also, don't pack toy water guns because they'll cause an embarrassing misunderstanding about firearms and get confiscated by Immigration...but that's another story.

Happy packing! Feel free to leave a comment with your own packing essentials.