When you are traveling, for cost and convenience, it is best to pack light. That said, there are a few essentials you should not forgo to save space. For a vacation in the tropics, it is important to consider ahead of time the activities you plan to pursue in order to best prepare to face the needs of the situations you may encounter. Your requirements for a hotel-based vacation with occasional forays into wild areas are completely different from an extended trip into the back country, up a mountain or deep into an isolated cave.
Consider potential travel emergencies from all sides--family should know how to find you, you should know how to contact them and you should know how to ask for immediate help.
Make a small emergency information card for your wallet. Include a list of emergency contact numbers, your insurance information and vital medical information. Do not rely on memory or your cell phone for these items. If you are incapacitated, time may be a factor, and others may not know how to access the data.
Make an emergency card for yourself. Include local emergency information in the country to which you are traveling, such as the embassy address and phone number; how to contact police, fire and ambulance services; and a few phrases to request help if one of the primary languages of the area is not English.
Pack any prescription medication you may need on the trip, plus a few extra doses in case you are delayed or some of your medicines are lost or damaged. Carry extra prescriptions for your medications in case your luggage or medicines are lost or stolen.
Malaria medication is usually recommended for tropical locations where the disease is an issue, but the choice of medication is specific to the country you intend to visit. The CDC suggests you see your doctor four to six weeks before your date of departure to ask about your options.
Carry a small emergency first aid kit stocked with basic items you may need if you are suddenly taken ill. Aspirin or ibuprofen, antibiotic ointment, bandages, alcohol or hand sanitizer, diarrhea medicine and a treatment for stomach upset, antihistamines, water purification tablets, an Epi-pen--whatever fits potential dangers that may greatly affect your health. You may also want to carry a couple of emergency food bars. They may help if a medication requires food in your stomach or serve as quick calories.
It is better to be prepared than to face a potentially life-threatening situation empty handed, especially if there is a communication barrier. Also, you save money and hassle if you have a few basics at hand, in your pack or your room.
Bring sunscreen, sunglasses and bug spray if you plan to spend any time outdoors. Skin is your first barrier of protection against microorganisms. Bites, burns and breaks in the skin can let in infections that may fester under tropical conditions.
Tropical countries are notorious for insects, and biting insects may host serious diseases. Carry repellent and apply it early and often--ideally before you feel the first bite.
The sun's rays are more intense in equatorial regions and at high altitudes. Use a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF, and follow the directions for reapplication religiously. Sunglasses should be rated to protect against UV radiation and should wrap the face to protect your eyes from the sides and front.