We love family adventure, but we’re careful to be mindful of threats to family safety while we travel. Before you go to Central or South America, or the Caribbean, make sure you pack these travel products to protect against Zika or other mosquito-borne illnesses. And of course, always consult a health care professional before any trip to a destination known to have a Zika threat, to discuss any danger to your family.
Ben’s Insect Repellent Wipes:
The first step in protecting your family against Zika is to keep mosquitos away. We don’t like using DEET on our skin, but in the case of mosquito-borne illness, it may come down to choosing the lesser of two evils. Ben’s repellent is a brand I’ve come to trust, and it does offer protection from ticks and insects that may carry the Zika Virus, West Nile Virus (WNV), Lyme disease, Malaria, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), and other infectious diseases. Pick up a bottle of Ben’s in a TSA-complient size on Amazon.
We’re a family that spends a lot of time outdoors, and Natrapel is the only DEET-free insect repellent we’ve found to significantly work. It uses a CDC-recommended 20% Picaridin formula, and lasts 12 hours. We use the wipes, simply because our kids tolerate them best, but it also comes in a spray bottle form. Pick up a package of wipes for under $9 on Amazon.
Adventure Medical Kits World Travel kit:
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for every family to have a well-stocked medical and first aid kit when they travel. Yes, medical supplies and medications are available almost anywhere, but that doesn’t mean they’re readily available, and it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to communicate your needs or find the right place to buy them. Sometimes, they’ll be packaged differently or have a different brand name, making matters more confusing. Even in first-world countries like Ireland and England, I’ve had trouble finding the over-the-counter medicines I’ve occasionally needed.
We use Adventure Medical Kits when we camp and backpack, and their World Travel kit has everything you’ll need for a family of four. It’s fairly bulky, but I love that there’s extra room for your personal medications, too. It’s incredibly well designed, with different pockets for everything, and each flap is labelled, so you can easily get to the right space for intestinal medications, bandages, allergy meds, etc. It comes with a diagram for communicating your needs in several languages, and a pretty thick booklet on basic first aid. For trips when I’m short on space, I may remove the book to save space and weight. Pick up a World Travel kit on Amazon at a discount.
Scarf or head net:
I almost never travel without an organic cotton or wool scarf. I find so many uses for one, from a wrap on the chilly airplane to an optional headdress or bandana while in foreign countries. In Central and South America, my scarf has doubled as bug protection. I love Aventura Clothing scarves, but use what works for you. In some cases, you may even want to upgrade to a mosquito net for your head. We have used Sea to Summit mosquito head nets. Pick one up for under $10 on Amazon.
Insect repellent clothing:
For travel to the Caribbean and Central and South America during which you know you’ll be outside a lot, such as when we were volunteering in the Dominican Republic or our upcoming trip to Panama, when we know we’ll be visiting national parks and preserves, we decided we would rather invest in travel clothing treated with insect repellent rather than spray ourselves with it daily. I love the Toad & Co DeBug line for women, and have also traveled with ExOfficio’s BugsAway line extensively. ExOfficio is the first US company to offer insect protection in clothing, and their BugsAway items keep their repellent for 70 washes. I’m still wearing my ExOfficio crew shirt from 2013. For this fall’s travel, my husband is now wearing ExOfficio’s Baja Sur shirt, which is lightweight but tough as nails.
For kids, Columbia Sportswear’s PFG Bahama long-sleeved shirt helps repel both sun and mosquitos (though it is not treated with repellent).
Part of the fun of a tropical destination is sleeping outside in warm weather. If you think you’ll be sleeping outdoors, whether in a hammock on the rental home porch or in a backcountry environment, consider a mosquito shelter like Grand Trunk’s Mozzy Net. This 144″ by 30″ shelter includes spreader bars and guy lines, so you can expand it fully, like a tent, giving you plenty of room. And it packs down small into its own stuff sack for easy transport. Pick one up on Amazon for under $60.
Have you traveled to Central or South America or the Caribbean lately? What precautions have you taken?
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