Our travel post, The Escape, covers where to go and what to pack. First, we travel to Cuba for sightseeing, salsa dancing, & rum.
Hi, friends! My name is Sarah, and I’m a creative professional based in DC — with the much sought after unlimited vacation policy. To say travel is my passion would be a vast understatement — I feel most alive when traveling. I look forward to sharing my travels with you. You can also follow me on my own blog or on Instagram @gurrity.
Havana may not be as easy to get to these days, but it’s not impossible — and it truly is a beautiful city. Abra and I traveled to Cuba last year, and I booked my flights for a second, solo trip the day of the US-Cuba travel policy change announcement. I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to return, and didn’t want to miss out. Having been to Cuba twice, this is what I’m feeling for a weekend wanderlust visit to La Habana. iBuen viaje!
Maxi dress — Havana is humid all damn year. There’s nothing better than a flowy, jersey maxi dress on a hot & humid day. The bright stripes above would be super fun on a hot Havana afternoon, but this printed dress and this off-the-shoulder maxi would be great options for a wander along the Malecon or dinner on the rooftop at one of Havana’s hottest spots, La Guarida.
Shorts — I’ve traveled to many countries where showing off your legs with a pair of jorts isn’t appropriate. Cuba is not one of those places. While jorts are one of my favorite things to wear, ever, this navy pair would look great on the dance floor at a rooftop salsa bar (and… while Abra endorses 4-inch inseams, I’m 5’3 on a good day, so you’ll only ever find me in the J.Crew 3-inchers).
Tops — There’s nothing quite like being in a salsa-inspired top while salsa dancing in the salsa capital of the world. I love this red option from Forever 21, and this BP cold shoulder top comes in literally all of the colors. Go crazy.
Panama hat — Ideally, this could be your first purchase while wandering the cobblestone streets of Habana Vieja. Or, you could be ready to go by ordering this one ahead of your trip.
Walking shoes — I cannot emphasize the importance of having cute, supportive walking shoes while traveling. Before you totally hate on Crocs… this pair saved me, and kept my feet pretty happy while I was walking 22,000 steps a day.
Not convinced? This darling pair of red wedges are the stylish choice.
Cross body — No matter where you are traveling, you’ll want a light, adjustable cross body that keeps your belongings close and zipped up (pick pockets, ladies, pick pockets). This cognac option above has a top-zip that will keep your belongings secure, and pretty much matches everything. This double-zip option is lightweight, neutral, and just $40.
Camera — Most days, I’m lugging around a heavy professional camera. So when I returned to Cuba for a solo trip, I rented this Fujifilm mirrorless camera to capture those magical moments without needing to break out a camera that screams out “professional photographer/tourist, comin’ through!”
If you’re not looking to break the bank but still want to make some memories with a non-phone, check out this Panasonic camera — it has a Leica lens and clocks in at $250. Don’t feel like buying? As a professional photographer, BorrowLenses is my go-to when it comes to testing gear before committing. Use this link and get $20 off your first rental.
Go old school — take a notebook. For me, it’s much easier to take notes with a pen and paper than it is for me to break out my iPhone… especially when you’re traveling sans data, cellular service, and internet in general (Welcome to Cuba!). Plus, taking handwritten notes lets you live in the moment. Take notes on paper, and look up all the recommendations that your new Aussie friend from the bar gave you later when you finally get wi-fi. This Moleskine reporter’s notebook is my go-to.
And speaking of phones, here are the apps I swear by in abroad: Maps.me and this offline English-Spanish dictionary. My Spanish skills are pretty good, but sometimes you just need to look words up.
Don’t speak Spanish at all? I met a couple of Americans who were communicating with non-English speakers by using the Google Translate app. It was entertaining to watch, but it got the job done! There are also places online where you can find Cuban tour guides who will translate for you and drive you around.
Look for more travel posts in the future! Next up, traveling to New York City Sarah’s way versus traveling to New York City Abra’s way.
This post is just in time as I’m leaving for Cuba Friday and deciding what to pack.
This post is AWESOME 👏🏻- I love the graphics too SOO PRETTY!!
Hi Belle! I love the new changes. So, I went to cuba in May and didn’t consider practical shoes. Whew! Big mistake. I’m headed to Santiago, Chile next month and won’t make the same mistake twice. Can you recommend a dressier flat for nighttime? I am only taking a carryon and heels, even wedges, are somewhat impractical. Thanks!!
I couldn’t commit to a new digital camera before my last family vacation, so thanks for the BorrowLenses rec. And I just ordered those Crocs. I had planned on aiming to get to Cuba next year, though now I’m not sure what the policies will look like. Thanks for all the tips!
Sarah Gerrity says:
Thanks, Kelly! BorrowLenses was a game changer for me. I never make a purchase without renting the gear first.
As far as visiting Cuba, check out El Camino Travel — they’ve been doing some pretty cool trips, and they send a professional photographer so their travelers can leave their cameras + phones at home! One of their tours would be a great option for going to Cuba under the new regulations.
Sarah – great post! What lens/lenses did you find to be most useful for your travel photography? (I also have full frame Nikon and am packing for a trip to Italy).
Sarah Gerrity says:
I basically only use 2 lenses when I travel – a 24-70mm f/2.8 and a 14mm f/2.8. They’re pretty heavy to carry around, but those two always give me the photos I want 🙂
Here’s an older post on some of my camera gear basics: https://sweetsonian.com/2014/05/my-photo-gear/
Hope this helps!
Love Cuba! Having gone to Cuba a few months ago, I would add two things: bring all the toiletries and tampons that you might want/need in Cuba, as these things are hard to find. And, bring a long sleeved linen shirt, or a kimono, or a pareo wrap to cover your shoulders and arms–that sun is hot, all day long, and you can burn in a New York minute!