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Packing Tips for Travel to Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina

What should you pack when heading to these countries?
By Michael Gould


Read time: 8 minutes

Welcome, alumni travelers joining me on Michigan Alumni Travel’s Radiant Rhythms Tour and any alumni who have a passion for travel! My name is Michael Gould. I am a Professor of Music in the Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation Department (percussion) at the School of Music, Theater & Dance, as well as a member of the faculty in the Residential College in LSA. I am also the Director of the Center for World Performance Studies.

I am excited to be hosting Michigan Alumni Travel’s Radiant Rhythms cruise (Feb. 10-23, 2019). I had the privilege of doing this trip five years ago, and it is a great trip. I am hoping to give some basic tips to help prepare for this trip or to be used as a guide for anyone who might be traveling to this area of the world. I know we have expert travelers on the tour, as well as in the alumni community, but I thought I would share some insight about things to pack.

As a side note, at the moment I am sitting in a cafe in the Tegel Airport in Berlin, Germany. I have been here to teach 22 graduate dance students from all over the world how to better integrate music into their own dance and pedagogy (especially focused on improvisation and creative process). It was a lot of fun, and I managed to do the whole trip with only a small backpack. This included lots of drumsticks, exercise clothes, multiple jackets, and yes, enough underwear for five days!

While it will be cold, gray, and possibly snowy in Michigan (or other areas in the U.S.), anyone traveling to this area can expect warm and sunny weather in Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. So what’s the best plan of action for clothes and gear?

The Radiant Rhythms trip is aboard Oceania — a fantastic ship noted for its extraordinary food. I tend to lean toward casual for almost everything in my day-to-day life, and the same goes for this trip. While it is great to have a nice set of clothes for dinner, it’s even better to be comfortable for excursions and the day-to-day activities on board the ship.

First and foremost, let’s start with our feet!

Nothing is worse than a day in uncomfortable shoes — especially when walking around old cobblestone streets and large, uneven surfaces (yes, some of the excursions have all of these, including flooded streets from high tide). I would suggest a casual hiking-type shoe — it does not have to be a high-top version. Once you settle on a pair of shoes, walk in them (a lot) before you leave. The break-in period for shoes is quite different depending on the shoe. Also, although it sounds great to have a waterproof and a windproof shoe, these types of shoes are also warmer to wear than a ventilated shoe. It’s a tradeoff for you to decide. I use both, but in the warm weather, sometimes my feet get too hot, and this can lead to blisters.

Speaking of blisters — there are times where I may use baby powder or some type of powder for my feet. It keeps them dry and happy! I also pack either duct tape (around my water bottle) or a variety of band-aids to help with blisters. I also take a small tube of Neosporin (or something similar) in case I do get a broken blister or small cut. Since we will be surrounded by water — and in many cases in the water — I also take a sandal that I can wear in the water and not be worried that it gets wet. I am never a happy camper stepping on a sharp object like coral or glass while in the water (or land, for that matter!).

Paraty, Brazil

Let’s talk about the SUN!

I am a bald guy, which is easy when it comes to getting haircuts but bad for the sun. I always wear a hat outside. It is usually some kind of ventilated baseball hat, but, as you know, there are a variety of options that will also give you a wide brim for covering your neck. I also carry a pair of very lightweight polarized sunglasses.

Speaking of, it’s always nice to have a backup pair that is perhaps not as fancy but will save you in a pinch. Same goes for your regular glasses, contacts, and reading glasses. Bring those backups!

Back to the sun…

I use a sunscreen that has a rating of around 30 SPF or above. It is also rated to be used in the water. I put this on at least 30 minutes before going outside. I also reapply after an hour or two of continually being in the sun.

TIP #1: Bring a roll-on type of sunscreen that comes in a lip balm-type tube.

It is very small and easy to carry it in your pocket, purse, etc. I use NO-AD sunscreen, but, of course, there are hundreds of types.

It is important to know that the sun is intense in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay in the summer months, and you will get burned if you are not careful. I also always wear a surfer shirt when I am in the water — especially if you are snorkeling. Your back will get burned very quickly, and a surf shirt avoids all of that. Also, be generous with the amount of sunscreen you apply and don’t forget the tops of feet, ears, etc.

As far as the rest of your clothing, I bring maybe two pairs of pants and two pairs of shorts, a swimsuit, and a nice set of clothing. My wife is a big adventure-type person and has definitely taught me I have brought way too many clothes on some of our adventures.


TIP #2: Bring a very small daypack that you can roll up and put in your suitcase.

I can’t tell you how many times I have asked my wife to carry my stuff because she either had a purse or backpack. I would suggest the REI Flash Pack in either 18 or 22 liters. They are inexpensive and great. I have carried this with me literally across the planet from Antarctica to the very north of Sweden. There are many different kinds of these types of backpacks!

When you do go on an excursion, bring the daypack, sunscreen, a hat — any essentials you will need throughout the day.

TIP #3: When you get one of those annoying credit card offers in the mail, take out the fake credit card from the envelope and put this in your wallet for excursions.

I would keep the real credit cards in a travel pouch close to your person while having the fake ones ready should something happen — although the odds are extremely slim to none, it is good to have the fake ones handy.

TIP #4: Take all of your credit cards, driver’s license, and insurance cards and place them face up on a table.

Take a picture with your phone and then take another of the reverse side of the cards. Upload these pictures to Google Drive or iCloud or a secure hard drive you can access while traveling. If you do lose your wallet, you will have all of the information available from anywhere there is internet service (you can access, for example, all of your personal files on Google Drive from anywhere in the world — and yes, it is fairly secure). Keep a paper copy of your passport and insurance cards with you when you are out and about but not your actual passport.

Interior of the boat (although we will be on the Sirena — this was a sister ship)

TIP #5: If it rains, I don’t use an umbrella.

Carry lightweight, waterproof pants and a raincoat. I roll these up and put them on the bottom of my suitcase. If there is any chance of rain, I wind up putting these in my day pack and am prepared for staying dry while still enjoying the sights. For me, it gives me better mobility than an umbrella. I wear a baseball hat, so the bill of the hat keeps the raincoat hood on, and I can see while crossing streets, for example. You can find a huge variety of rain pants at REI or Sierra Trading Post.

To roll or not to roll? That is the question. There are two things that I am talking about. First, if your suitcase is heavy, make sure you have it on wheels! You don’t want to blow out your back before you even begin. Same goes for carry-on bags. If you have a weighted down carry-on bag, odds are it’s on one shoulder and you might get a sore neck or back. Try lightening the load or use a roller bag for carry-on. The second rolling idea is for your clothes. I usually roll my clothes before packing. They tend to get less wrinkled, and it helps with space utilization.

TIP #6: Most of the time I only have a carry-on bag, so I pack this in layers.

The stuff I use the least is on the bottom, with things I absolutely need on the plane at the very top or easily accessible. I know as soon as I am on the plane where to grab my noise-canceling headphones (these headphones have saved me many times; I wind up using them when I am trying to sleep in noisy hotels), cables, books, etc.

Speaking of the plane…

TIP #7: Carry a reusable water bottle with you.

I drink a lot of water. After going through airport security, I fill up my water bottle in the bathroom, water fountain, or refill station (and yes, I usually have some kind of duct tape wrapped around it for various needs if it comes up). In foreign countries where water may be somewhat suspect, I purchase bottled water.

This leads me to think about stomach aches, aches and pains, and medications. Of course, you all know to take the medication you need and plenty of extra. It is a good idea to have access to your prescriptions in case you need to get more. As you know, do not pack these in your checked luggage. I carry a self-made medical kit that includes: Pepto-Bismol, ibuprofen, Tylenol, cold meds, band-aids, Neosporin, allergy medications, etc. These are always on the ready just in case, and they go with me everywhere. Of course, most ships — including Oceania — have a first-rate medical staff for much more serious issues.

TIP #8: I have now started to pack a lacrosse ball.

What the heck is this? It is a very hard rubber ball. I use it to help me stretch out all of my aches and pains — lower back and glutes while on the plane, IT band along the side of my leg while standing with the ball against a wall, or rolling the ball on the side of my knees. It has been a wonderful addition, and I have added this to my travel toolbox.

This may not cover everything, but it is a start. Happy packing!

I am looking forward to traveling with Michigan alumni on this trip and talking about the wonderful music these countries offer. To help whet your appetite, I put together a Spotify playlist of Brazilian music. Enjoy!

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