Traveling to places around the world in search of shelling destinations for great treasure hunting are the best vacations ever. Nothing beats bringing home the most beautiful of all souvenirs to remember a fabulous trip to the beach… seashells. But then, how do you get breakable seashells, sea urchins and sand dollars home in your suitcase without them breaking?
Clark and I are now pros at packing our suitcases to and from our destination for our shelling trips. We pack our shells for safe traveling in all sorts of recycled containers like plastic nut jars, Pringles cans, plastic lunch meat containers, butter tubs, plastic Gatorade and water bottles. The real key to this? We take lots of containers with us so we know there will be room in our suitcases on the way back. Some times our containers are empty when we depart for our trip but if we travel to remote islands, we carry snacks, breakfast food and other goodies in those big containers so by the time we are ready to pack up to head home, they are empty and ready to be filled back up with shells. We use layers of paper towels (or plastic bags or other recycled material) to fill air space so they don’t move around at all.
We are addicted to Gatorade for long beach combing days so we always have it on hand. It keeps us hydrated but it also has a nice wide mouth opening so when it’s empty, we fill them with durable mini shells to stay safe and compact while out on the beach. Then after the shells and bottle is washed and rinsed, we fill it back up with clean treasures. It hardly takes up any room in our suitcase or back pack. When we get home, I empty out a few pieces from the top then cut the bottle with a knife to get everything else out safely. Do you see that long white bottle? On one of our shelling days at Guantanamo Bay, Susan found that very sturdy bottle washed up on the beach and asked me if I wanted it. Yes! That will be perfect for layering SEA URCHINS and other really fragile BEACH BLING. It worked! Not one URCHIN broke.
Clark was worried about our vintage Cuban Hatuey bottles we found in Gtmo so he packed each one in his shelling boots and packed other shells (like FLAMINGO TONGUES, WEST INDIAN TOPS and a CARIBBEAN VASE) in his snorkeling gloves. Perfect!
At home, we love to make Jungle Juice (aka an Arnold Palmer -Iced tea mixed with lemonade) made with Crystal Light. I NEVER throw away the containers the packets come in and always travel with at least two of them in my suitcase for fragile shells. It was a perfect fit for these RAZOR CLAMS, CHITON, EGG COCKLE, FLAME SCALLOP, FLAT SCALLOP, ANTILLIAN SCALLOP and whatever that TUBE WORM is we found in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I don’t know but it’s the fattest WORMIE I’ve ever found!
See how well it contains an ANGEL WING?
SAND DOLLARS are tricky but I love chicken salad/deli salad containers for these. If you pack these with paper towels (again, you can use anything for padding for layering- I’ve even heard people using slices of bread) so they don’t move around too much, they will probably make it home without breaking. Once the container is packed, I then wrap a tee shirt around it and find a nice space in the middle of the suitcase and build around it with other clothes so that nothing can crush it.
Believe it or not, it’s very rare that I ever travel with more than a roller bag and a backpack (we both have an OverBoard Waterproof Backpack – they go any where!). At times I’ll put the backpack inside a tote bag to have just a little more room for a jacket and things I need to get to easily but it is still considered only 2 carry-ons. We rarely check our bags and we travel to places that only require bathing suits, short and tee shirts so why pack so much? We wash our suits and shirts every night so they’ll dry the next day… so who cares if we wear the same thing 2 different days on vacation? We surely don’t! We’d rather have extra room for shells.
There are several more very important parts of the process of packing shells to get them home….
1 -We always make sure we never have a living being in the shells. We always look for them on the beach but some times those little hermit crabs get so deep in the shell, we don’t see them until the evening wash down. Then we have time to return them.
2- If we don’t have bleach or detergent to wash the shells, we make sure they are rinsed with fresh water and dried.
3- We never take what we won’t use. We always sort through our shells each day to only take the best ones. It happens every time… our first day is so exciting, we collect fragments of shells we have never found before. That’s why on each day while we are admiring our finds for the day and washing them down, we start a pile of the things that won’t be traveling with us. We either give away these shells to someone else (in my humble opinion, we even have fabulous discards- LOL). These were the shells we collected in Cat Island that we left at our room.
These are the shells that didnt make our cut on the last day of our trip to Thailand. The manager of our resort in Krabi, Thailand was pleased to have our rejects too!
I’m sure there are other really good ways to pack shells but this method works for us and it gets our shells back home safe and sound. The most important thing is to enjoy what you find and don’t fuss too much about taking everything you see. You will forever have beautiful memories being surrounded by your treasures from around the world.
PS-To see how we display a few of our shells, CLICK HERE.