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.

Greetings from 2023! This form is entirely digital now. Enjoy not scrambling to borrow a germy pen.

The good news is if you're referencing this list while packing, you're probably right on time to fill out the newly digitized customs form instead of deciding which pen to bring. It's called a C5 form, and you should ONLY use the following link:

This is the direct link listed in the Island Gigs app and comes from the official Jamaican government website.

I did some lazy Googling to find the link at first, and I landed on two different official looking websites that both mentioned a processing or application fee. There isn't one, so please don't fall for this scam! 

2. An offline copy of your return flight details.

You have to fill out a form before you can board the bus to the resort, and one of the questions is your return flight number and flight time. Every year I act like this is new information and then scramble to track it down somewhere in my phone without the benefit of airport wifi, because there is none. Save yourself the trouble and write it down or 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 (particularly at the small cove beach). You don't really have to wear shoes in the water, but step with caution if you don't.

All I'm saying is if you don't pack #7, definitely bring #6.

Bonus TMI: It's not that common, but I've known more than one person 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 (F) 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.

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