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Packing for Central America

A Black Friday Special: Things to Buy When Packing for Central America

Are you packing for Central America and need to buy some things for your trip? Here’s a Black Friday guide to picking up your travel essentials online. This article contains a link (or links) to Amazon, from which, as an Amazon Associate, this website will earn a small commission if you make any purchases. Some other links are also affiliate links, where we will also make a small commission if you purchase anything after clicking, at no extra cost to you.

Around the world, regardless if you’re from the one country that celebrates Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November or not (and Happy Thanksgiving, if you are!), the last Friday in November is Black Friday.

Black Friday is that day of the year that now lasts longer than the traditional 24 hours. Nowadays, Black Friday often stretches across the entire weekend, to merge into Cyber Monday on the other side. Sometimes, Black Friday starts before Friday. It’s indeed a strange phenomenon.

For those of you that don’t know, Black Friday is a marketing gimmick that’s been around, in some form or another, since the 1950s. It began with people in the U.S. taking the Friday after Thanksgiving off to create a long weekend for themselves. Oftentimes, they called in sick and went shopping.

Retailers began to notice the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving were super-busy. They decided to make things even busier by offering discounts on good bought during these days. Black Friday evolved, over the years, into the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season, and finally turned into the excess of gross consumerism we all know and love today.

But that doesn’t make Black Friday a negative thing. Shopping on Black Friday doesn’t mean getting into a fistfight with some redneck over the last half price Sony 75 inch 4K ultra HD LED Smart TV in Walmart, like you see on the news most years.

No sir.

Shopping on Black Friday, and throughout this weekend, can be a calmer experience if you do it online.

In this article, we’re jumping on the Black Friday bandwagon in a different way. We’re not looking for deals, per se. Rather, we’re trying to entice you you over to Amazon to buy your travel gear and clothing for your trip down to Central America.

Whether you’re coming to Central America on vacation, or for something more permanent, there’s stuff you need, stuff that is sometimes harder to find, or more expensive on the ground. Stuff you’re better off buying online.

Below is a video from our friends at Costa Rican Vacations, outlining some stuff you should bring to Central America. They’re talking about Costa Rica here, of course. But the reality is, you can also replicate this advice for Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama:

We’ve taken some of the advice from this video, and looked for the best products on Amazon for you. We already mentioned this above, but this website participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. That’s an affiliate program allowing us to earn a small commission when readers buy something from Amazon after clicking a link on this site. This commission does not affect the price you pay.

The first thing you need, I guess, is luggage itself.

Are you a backpack person or a suitcase carrier? Doesn’t matter, we got you covered for both:

For the suitcase carriers, you could do worse than checking out Coollife. They offer a bunch of lightweight, hardshell suitcases, either individually or in sets. Prices are good, and the design looks awesome.

Backpackers should take a look at the Witzman brand from Altosy. Lovely canvas backpacks here in a range of subtle colors.

Now your luggage is sorted out, you need stuff to put in it. That means clothes and shoes.

Traveling to Central America means traveling light. Try to leave heavy duty clothes like jeans and sweaters at home. Rewatch the video above and see what he’s bringing down – light clothing, lots of linen, etc. You probably have a bunch of this already.

One thing you might not have, though, is a decent windbreaker or light jacket to keep out the rain. The one you have at home might be way too hot for this part of the world, so it’s worth looking for something suitable.

I like The North Face or Columbia, myself, and have tons of gear from there. Both stores in Costa Rica are, unfortunately, super-expensive, so you’re better off ordering online, if you’re here in-country. 

You might have to look around a little for something suitable for Central America (suitable meaning LIGHT), but they have a bunch of cool stuff that will work. If you can’t find anything you like, just get a poncho. In fact, that might be even better. 

Something else you’ll need is practical footwear.

Flip flops are essential, of course. But so’s a decent pair of lightweight walking shoes. Think of some hybrid between sneakers and walking shoes – leave the heavy boots in your closet.

Another piece of essential footwear is water shoes. You know, something you can get wet while rafting or jumping off a waterfall. These are probably the most forgotten or overlooked pieces of gear out there. Sure, you can just wear a pair of old sneakers, but why not check out the real thing?

The last clothing items to mention are a hat (baseball cap, bucket hat, whatever) and a sarong. A sarong is perfect, even if you’re not wearing it. Perfect for sitting on at the beach – way better than a towel.

So that’s it for some clothing ideas – remember to watch the video above, if you need more detailed help about clothing for this part of the world.

Now let’s look at some travel essentials that many people forget until it’s too late.

You’re going to need something to keep your passport in, documents, cash, cards, and so on. It can be a money belt or something you hang around your neck, but definitely pick up something like that. Also, on the topic of carrying stuff, bring something waterproof that you can have on you when going into the ocean.

Obviously, you shouldn’t take your money, passports, cards, phone, etc. to the beach, But if you have something, you’ll been to protect it, so a small waterproof container is perfect. In a pinch, think ziplock bags put into a fanny pack.

The final part of this guide is about medicines and toiletries.

Here in Costa Rica, they call mosquitoes the national air force. I don’t get bitten anymore because I’ve been here too long – but newbies get eaten alive. And dengue is a thing in Costa Rica and all over the region.

So it goes without saying you’ll need decent bug spray. Whether you’re a DEET person or not (and here’s not the place for that debate), bring something. Insect repellent in Central America is expensive. 

Another expensive item down here is sunscreen, so you’ll want to bring that yourself, too. Deep it high factor, because the topical sun is brutal. And where that bucket hat, too! Other items include painkillers, band aids, the usual first aid basic stuff. Might be worth having a travel first aid kit so you don’t have to worry about individual items. 

There’s more stuff you can buy online to prepare for your trip. We haven’t covered the half of it here.

Cameras, go-pros, electronic gear like that. If you’re a photography buff, you can bring your drone. Plus you’re going to need an extra phone charger. Everyone always needs an extra phone charger. And then, of course, we never mentioned sunglasses. Indispensable, they are.

What are your recommendations for a tropical trip? What have you forgotten and needed, or brought down and never needed? It would be great to know. In the meantime, whether you’re shopping for travel or not, have a wonderful Black Friday weekend and enjoy yourself on Cyber Monday, too!

James Dyde is the editor of He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.

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