Why I'm Taking a Bottle of Vodka on My Summer Vacation


Getty ImagesIm planning a country getaway one of these weekends soon—maybe to my brother Jakes house in the woods near the beach, or to a pals rustic cabin in the Catskills.

Its not like either place is a days hike from a supermarket or drugstore, but still, I like to be prepared to deal with common country hassles so that my relaxation time isnt cut short. Heres what Ill tuck in my duffle bag:

Bottle of vodka
Its not only an essential ingredient for Sunday morning Bloody Marys; vodka is also an essential preventive treatment for poison ivy or oak. Thats because alcohol is one of the few things that can remove urushiol, the clingy, rash-inducing oil from poison ivy and oak that causes the blistery, itchy, weepy rash.

But you have to act fast: If you wait longer than 10 minutes or so, the oil will do its damage. So as soon as you can after youve touched the three-leaved plant, wipe affected skin with vodka, then rinse well with plenty of plain water. Then, and only then, shower with soap and water (using soap too early in the process only moves the urushiol around).

Finally, don gloves and with vodka wipe off clothes, shoes, or anything else that touched the plant. To remove urushiol, rubbing alcohol works as well as vodka (but not in the Bloody Marys).

Herbal Clear Outdoor Whole Body deodorant
This great-smelling stick deodorant (about $5; drugstore.com) is made with a fragrant blend of essential oils that not only keeps you smelling fresh, but also repels bugs—and thanks to the lavender, eucalyptus, thyme, lemon, bergamot, and ginger oils, it has an herby, citrusy aroma. I not only use the stuff as an effective underarm deodorant, but I also swipe it over my ankles, neck, and arms when Im strolling through the woods—and before bed—to keep mosquitoes from biting.

UV Sun Sense strips
I got a sample of these strips ($6; amazon.com) in the mail and think theyre really cool—especially if you have kids whose sun exposure you want to monitor. Theyre wristbands, and you slather them with sunscreen as you slather yourself. The bands turn blue when exposed to the sun; when the blue fades, its time to reapply sunscreen (to yourself and to the band). If the band turns yellow-orange, thats a warning that its time to cover up or seek shade. Each pack contains seven bands; you use just one per day.