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Sunscreen 2019: Find the Best, Safest Products for Coral Reefs (and for Your Skin!)

By Berne Broudy, Lonely Planet Writer
January 12, 2022
A smiling woman applying sunscreen
Martinmark/Dreamstime
Yes, sunscreen protects your skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays. But the chemicals found in most sunscreens also harm wildlife, kill coral, and may even end up in your seafood dinner. Here’s what you can do.

More than 14,000 tons of sunscreens wash off swimmers, paddlers, snorkelers, surfers and other watermen and waterwomen into the oceans each year. If you care about coral reefs, read your sunscreen’s ingredients label to ensure you’re not poisoning yourself and the environment in the quest to avoid sunburn.

Does Your Sunscreen Kill Coral?

Most of us have been educated from an early age on the dangers of sun exposure, and we cover any exposed skin with a thick layer of sunscreen before we venture out. What most of us don’t know is that when we dive in the water, the chemicals found in most sunscreens kill coral, cause deformities in fish and bioaccumulate in the environment, eventually ending up in the human food chain.

Choose Reef-Friendly Sunscreen Ingredients

Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between sunburn and healthy coral reefs. There are alternatives to coral-killing sun block if you’re willing to read a label or two. Avoid Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Octocrylene, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, PABA, Parabens, Triclosan, and any nanoparticles or 'nano-sized' zinc or titanium. The only truly reef-friendly active ingredients are non-nano zinc oxide and non-nano titanium dioxide.

Read the Label, Not the Hype

Sadly, you can't rely exclusively on manufacturer claims. Picking a sunscreen that says 'reef-safe' or 'reef-friendly' on the package isn’t good enough, as those terms aren’t regulated, according to the Surfrider Foundation. Only reading the label closely will point you in the right direction.

Reef-Safe Sunscreen Is Also Good for Your Health

Picking a reef safe sunscreen is not just good for reefs – and in some cases required by law – but it’s better for your health too. Caroline Duell, Founder and CEO of sunscreen manufacturer All Good, says, 'All chemical UV absorbers are damaging to the DNA and endocrine systems of coral. Coral are animals. Humans are animals, and studies are now linking damage seen in coral to human systems as well. Even if you’re worried about your kids’ health more than the environment, reef safe sunscreen is a must.'

Learn more about sunscreen, take the River to Reef Friendly SunScreen Pledge and then try these top-rated, reef-friendly sun protectants.

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FamilyProduct Reviews

What’s the Perfect Father’s Day Gift for a Travel-Loving Dad?

What’s the best Father’s Day gift for a dad who loves to travel? Well, my credentials for weighing in on this question are at least baseline: I happen to be a father and a travel editor. First of all, “travel” for Father’s Day doesn’t have to mean covering a great distance. I’m here to tell you from personal experience (which in this case happens to be supported by clinical research) that neither a fancy meal nor carefully (or not) chosen “stuff” can compare to taking an easy day trip or one-tank escape to a place your dad loves—or a place he’s never been before. Experiences Are Better Than Stuff You’ve read the studies (or, at the very least, you’ve read the summaries of studies in listicle form on social media): Meaningful experiences make people happier than obtaining possessions. A major study at Cornell University was even more specific: “Doing makes you happier than owning.” My Most Memorable Father’s Day In support of “doing” rather than “owning,” please take a look at the photo above, which illustrates my most memorable Father’s Day. The picture of a medieval garden might suggest that my family sprung for a flight to Spain. Nope. All we had to do was take the half-hour drive from our home in the Hudson Valley to one of my favorite museums, the Cloisters, in upper Manhattan. Full disclosure: My wife and two daughters don’t exactly love the Cloisters. Medieval art is an acquired taste, and to date only I, among the four of us, has acquired it. But you don’t have to love ogling paintings and sculptures of angels, martyrs, and the Holy Family to enjoy the Cloisters. We had a lovely few hours strolling the gardens in full mid-June bloom, grabbing a bite to eat at the cafe, and taking in the epic views of the Hudson River from the museum's terraces. Talk to Us: What’s Your Dad’s Favorite Day Trip? Have you got a special day trip in mind for your dad this Father’s Day? Post a comment below. If you’ve got a photo, even better: Post is to Instagram and tag it #mybudgettravel.

Travel TipsProduct Reviews

5 Carry-On Backpacks for Every Kind of Trip

As professional travelers, we put in lots of hours on the road, and with that much time on our hands, we get to know our gear pretty well. The little quirks that don’t seem like a big deal up front can become full-blown annoyances after a week of travel, and likewise, the nerdy details that might not merit more than a shrug at first glance can easily become an obsession once we realize how handy they can be in practice. We put another round of carry-on backpacks through their paces to find our favorites—all of which will fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you on most jets, and cost less than $200. 1. For the Weekend Road Trip (Courtesy Topo Designs) Topo Designs makes some of our favorite accessory bags and Dopp kits, so it’s not surprising they make one of our favorite backpacks too—the brand’s bags and accessories are designed to work together as part of a modular system, and the 30-liter Travel Bag is no exception. Pack bags, Topo’s answer to packing cubes, cost a little extra, but they nest inside for a tidy fit, and the Dopp kit does too—no cramming necessary. (If you need more room, clip a smaller bag onto the outside of the pack, or go for the 40-liter version.) But enough about the accessories—the backpack itself earns rave reviews. It has organizational pockets galore: On the front, a large zippered compartment with two internal zippered mesh pockets, plus another section with two open pockets for snacks and chargers and a deep zippered one as well. The main compartment holds three or four outfits, with two big mesh pockets for additional storage. At the back of the pack, there’s a padded laptop compartment, and an external pass-through sleeve to stack the bag on top of your rolling suitcase; it also comes with a removable crossbody strap, so the shoulder and hip straps tuck away if you choose to use it. The zippers even have security loops to protect against sticky fingers, and the stiff nylon material is water-repellant in addition to being practically tear-proof. All in all, our number-one pick.Travel Bag - 30L, $189; topodesigns.com. 2. For the Urban Excursion (Courtesy Knack Inc.) Launched in late 2018 by a team of former Tumi execs, Knack makes a good case for ditching the luggage and carrying just a single backpack. With a slim profile, clean lines, and crisp suiting-inspired fabric, the expandable Knack Pack displays the attention to detail you’d expect from a contingent of industry pros. Unexpanded, the medium version holds just 17 liters; expanded, that capacity nearly doubles. The packing compartment unzips to lay flat, holding a few days’ worth of clothes with compression straps to lock it all down, with a zippered mesh pocket covering the facing side. One of its savvier highlights is the built-in sunglasses case, lined with fleece and conveniently placed at the top of the pack, but other travel-minded touches include a rain flap that covers the expansion zipper; a zip-away side pocket that hides a water bottle; and padded shoulder straps, reinforced with sternum straps, that tuck into the back panel. Two minor complaints: There isn’t a side handle, and the front pocket is a bit of a head-scratcher, a triangular flap that folds down to reveal pen loops, one strangely shallow pocket, and a row of small slots big enough to hold business cards...and not much else. But for a nice-looking bag with a deceptively generous capacity, we'll allow it.Medium Expandable Knack Pack, $175; knackbags.com. 3. For the Long Haul (Courtesy Rick Steves' Europe) This convertible carry-on from Rick Steves' Europe came on our radar by way of a reader's comment—and we have to say, it was a solid suggestion. At about 40 liters, it’s the roomiest of the bunch (and at 3 pounds, the heaviest too), a no-frills pack that excels in its simplicity. The main compartment is nearly suitcase-size, with compression straps, an elasticized pocket running the length of the lid, two loose mesh bags for laundry or smalls, and a document pouch that clips into place so important papers are always within reach. On the front, there are three pockets of varying sizes: a square one for a cardigan or a neck pillow, a small one for glasses, lip balm, and the like, and a really deep one for magazines, tablets, tech gear, and more. The pack can expand a couple of inches if need be, but beware of overstuffing if you want to use it as a carry-on. Though there isn’t a dedicated compartment for a laptop, the side pocket will accommodate one, albeit without any cushioning; additional features include a mesh water-bottle sleeve, handles on the top and side, outer compression straps, and shoulder and waist straps that tuck away as needed. This is the most old-school model we tried—those shoulder straps are only slightly padded, and the floppy nylon fabric gives it the feel of a classic gym bag—and while we tend to prefer more structure and more organizational components, you won't find many travel packs this size at a comparable cost. Convertible Carry-On, $100; ricksteves.com. 4. For the Outdoorsy Overnight (Courtesy Mammut) If outdoor adventures are on the agenda—with some work on the side—try Mammut’s Seon Transporter X. In something of a reverse mullet, it's business in the back—think: a padded, fleece-lined section for a laptop, tablet, paperwork, and reading materials, plus two orange-zippered mesh compartments and pockets for pens—and a party in the front, with a main compartment housing a ventilated, zippered section for hiking boots, with space leftover for toiletries and a change of clothes or two. (Though the bag technically has a 26-liter capacity, it's definitely for those who travel light—that shoe compartment claims quite a bit of real estate.) As for access points, the big pocket at the front is basically the height and width of the pack itself, with a zippered mesh pocket inside, and the small compartment at the bag's top is good for valuables, with two fleecy open pockets and yet another zippered mesh one. Smart elements include well-padded, ergonomic shoulder straps, top and side handles for ease of carry, and big looped zippers that pull without a hitch, all under the cover of a sturdy, weather-repellent material, in a camouflage print that makes it stand out from the crowd. Seon Transporter X, $190; mammut.com. 5. For a Few Days Away (Courtesy Solo New York) With a spacious main compartment that opens like a suitcase, incorporating a built-in bag for shoes or laundry and four small stash pockets (two mesh and two solid nylon) in the lining around its frame, Solo New York’s 22.6-liter All-Star provides the capacity of a duffel—minus the duffel’s tendency to turn into a black hole, thanks to its organizational touches. On the front, a zippered pocket holds the necessities you'll want to reach on the fly, like sunglasses, tickets, and chargers. The front is padded to protect the laptop section, which also has a sleeve that fits a tablet, so you’ll only have to dig through one pocket for your electronics when you hit the security scanners. Two side handles and one on top make for easy stowing on planes or trains, and the cushy straps tuck away when they're not in use. (It also comes with a long shoulder strap, in case you get tired of hauling it around on your back.) As a whole, the pack is lightweight and inexpensive—in fact, the lightest, least expensive one we tried. At this price point, and considering its five-year limited warranty, it’s a great option for a short trip. All-Star Backpack Duffel, $87; solo-ny.com.

Travel TipsProduct Reviews

11 In-Flight Essentials to Pack for Your Next Trip

While we can’t do anything about the seatmate who takes over your shared armrest, or the drink cart that bumps your elbow with every trip down the aisle, or the lack of legroom in coach, we’ve put our frequent-flier miles to good use and collected the gear to make your time in transit as enjoyable as possible. From pillows and earplugs to blankets and socks, here’s what you should stash in your carry-on for a smooth, no-friction travel day. 1. Charge Up (Courtesy Anker) Yes, most planes have in-seat outlets these days, but if you’re on a short hopper flight, your aircraft probably won’t have a plug. Avoid outages with Anker’s tiny power bank—at just four inches long and weighing less than five ounces, it’ll keep your devices humming along until you’re back on the ground. Anker PowerCore 5000, $22; amazon.com. 2. Get Some Rest (Courtesy Travelrest) When it comes to long-haul travel, catching those Zs is critical, and Travelrest’s memory-foam neck pillow is one of our most highly rated nap-time tools. Between the under-chin support that keeps your head from dropping, an angled back that cradles your neck just-so, and a velour cover that feels extra-cozy against your cheeks, you’ll be nodding off in no time. Travelrest Ultimate Memory Foam Travel Pillow, $40; amazon.com. 3. Avoid the Noise (Courtesy the Grommet) Whether you’re blocking out your seatmate’s snoring or trying to catch every last word of your favorite podcast, a solid set of headphones is non-negotiable. These Bluetooth earbuds from ISOtunes come with a noise-reduction rating of 27 dB and a selection of foam tips—much more comfortable than, say, Apple’s hard-plastic AirPods. Plus, with 10 hours of playback time, they’ll take you from check-in to deplaning in one go.ISOtunes Audio Professional Noise Isolating Earbuds, $90; thegrommet.com. 4. Organize Your Essentials (Courtesy Flight 001) With labeled pockets and pouches for your tablet, smartphone, passport, and more, Flight 001’s in-seat organizer is a Type A personality’s dream. Unfold it and hang it from your tray table’s hook, or keep it zipped and put it in the seat-back pocket in front of you—either way, you’ll have instant access to your gear. Seat Pak Pro, $40; flight001.com. 5. Stay Moisturized (Courtesy Skinny & Company) Recirculated cabin air is notoriously drying and germ-ridden, but a good lip balm can help keep your skin's moisture barrier intact. Skinny & Co.’s formula relies on coconut oil, beeswax, cocoa butter, and vitamin E to prevent against the painful cracks and chapping that allow bacteria to sneak into your system, and it feels light yet substantial when applied. Stash one tube in the aforementioned organizer, one in your Dopp kit, and one in your coat pocket, and you’ll be covered on all fronts.Lip balm, $17 for three; skinnyandcompany.com. 6. Get Comfortable (Courtesy Slip) First-class tastes on a main-cabin budget? Slip’s pure-silk pillow and eye mask will keep tangles, flyaways, and sleep creases at bay, so you’ll arrive at your destination looking refreshed. The set is a bit of a splurge, both in terms of cost and how much space it takes up in your bag, but if you’ve got a serious beauty routine, you’ll want to make sure it’s protected, especially when you're crammed into a middle seat in coach.Beauty Sleep to Go! Travel Set, $120; slip.com. 7. Guard Your Ears (Courtesy Pluggerz) Changing air pressure on takeoff and landing often wreaks havoc on sensitive ears, especially during cold-and-flu season, when congestion can result in all kinds of aches and pains. Travel-specific earplugs, like this pair from Pluggerz, alleviate the pressure and keep your ears from popping, even when everyone around you is suffering. Pluggerz Uni-Fit Travel earplugs, $10; jet.com. 8. Corral Your Cords (Courtesy Aseismanos) If you’re an artist, by all means, load up this adorable waxed-canvas pencil case from Aseismanos with your must-have pens and tools, but don’t fear if you’re less creatively inclined—you can still put it to good use. At 7-½” long by 2-½” wide, it perfectly accommodates a small, two-port plug, an extra-long phone cord (complete with Cable Bite), and a small charging cable or two, and it’s slim enough that it'll slide seamlessly into your bag, no matter how full.Small pencil case, $28; aseismanos.com. 9. Keep Your Blood Moving (Courtesy VIM & VIGR) To reduce swelling, improve circulation, and give tired legs an energy boost, compression socks are the way to go. Most of the offerings on the market tend to be orthopedic in style, but with colorful patterns in cotton, nylon, and merino wool for men and women alike, these fun little numbers from VIM & VIGR grant you all of the therapeutic benefits with none of the seatmate side-eye.Compression socks, $33; vimvigr.com. 10. Stay Warm (Courtesy Bloomingdale's) In-cabin temperatures can be unpredictable at best, so you'll want to be prepared if you’re susceptible to the chills. This light, quilted blanket from Sparrow & Wren will have you snuggled up quickly, thanks to its down fill and generous 50" x 70" size.Sparrow & Wren Packable Down Throw, $45 (regularly $90); bloomingdales.com. 11. Pack It All In (Courtesy Topo Designs) Too many items for one central organizer? Split your gear between a few smaller pouches, and your bottomless tote will seem much more manageable. These accessory bags from Topo Designs are ideal: Stash eye drops, lip balm, and Advil in the smallest; hand sanitizer, lotion, and a compact in the next size up; and laptop chargers, power cords, and social-media equipment in the largest. Made from hardy Cordura fabric and boasting bright-red zipper pulls, they’ll withstand potential snags and tears, and they’re easy to spot in your bag too. Accessory bags, from $15; topodesigns.com.

Travel TipsProduct Reviews

Travel Gear for Tech Addicts

Thanks to constant innovation and development, the tech world moves fast, but we've captured the goods that'll make your gadget-loving day, from fun and frivolous to strictly business—all for the cost of two Benjamins or less. 1. Add to Your Camera Collection (Courtesy GoPro) Ringing in right under our $200 cap, the entry-level Hero7 White is a great way to dip a toe in the GoPro waters with minimal investment. This tough little camera is waterproof to 33 feet, and it shoots steady, non-jittery video in full HD (1080 pixels at 60 frames per second, albeit with a minor fish-eye effect), thanks to a stabilization feature that eliminates the shakes, even during the bumpiest activities. Outdoor enthusiasts will want to attach it to a helmet and activate the voice controls for hands-free photography and videography, or use it with a tripod or selfie stick for an everyday point of view. For optimal social-media sharing, we like to use the time-lapse or slow-mo options in 30-second bursts, then add music, effects, and more via the connected app.GoPro Hero7 White, $199; gopro.com. 2. Make It Pop (Courtesy Popsockets.com) Who says tech accessories have to be straitlaced? Show some personality with a PopSocket, a sticker-backed button that attaches to a phone case and expands or collapses as needed. It serves as both a handle and a stand, so you can pop it out and prop up your phone to watch videos, or use it to ease that death grip while texting, emailing, or scrolling the timelines. And with plenty of opportunities for personalization and customization, not to mention hundreds of designs, from sports-team logos to cartoon characters to holiday themes to planetary patterns (we particularly love the mini breakfast set seen above), you're bound to find one that suits.PopSockets, from $10; popsockets.com. 3. Keep Tabs on Your Bags (Courtesy Away) Hate letting your checked bags out of your sight? This mashup, courtesy of the chic luggage line Away and the Bluetooth tracking gurus at Tile, will soothe your separation anxiety. The sleek black leather tag conceals a 2.4-millimeter-thick device that, when paired with the Tile app, can locate your belongings within a hundred-foot range. And if your suitcase has wandered further afield, you can tap into the Tile's user network to crowd-source its last-known location. Yes, the odds of losing luggage are getting slimmer every day, but this is an excellent way to cover your bases, just in case.Away x Tile luggage tag, $30; awaytravel.com. 4. Increase Your Security Detail (Courtesy BASU.COM) For that fearless traveler who boldly ventures through dark alleys and dodgy neighborhoods—or bear-infested woods—in search of the next adventure, stay safe with an itty-bitty personal alarm. Barely three inches long and under an ounce, Basu’s battery-operated eAlarm+ comes with a carabiner and clips to a daypack or keychain so you'll always have it close at hand. It’s easy to use too: Pulling out the black pin at the end unleashes a 130-decibel siren that will sound for half an hour, or until the pin goes back in. A reliable companion for late-night city strolls, you can also use it with cords to set a tripwire perimeter around a campsite, or string it up on a hotel-room door for extra protection against intruders.Basu eAlarm+, $19; basu.com. 5. Keep in Touch (Courtesy goTenna) When you're wandering off the grid but still want to keep in contact, hook yourself up with the tools you need to create your own signal. These handy goTenna Mesh devices pair with phones so you can communicate sans cell service or WiFi, relaying text messages and GPS locations through your own personal network. The nodes transmit on UHF frequencies within a four-mile radius in open areas and half a mile in dense ones, but they'll link up with fellow Mesh users as well, tapping into a worldwide peer-to-peer network to extend that reach even further. They're the perfect thing for crowded events, backcountry hiking, or overseas travel without the roaming charges.goTenna Mesh, $179; amazon.com. 6. Light Your Way (Courtesy Kikkerland Design) Bring a note of whimsy to your most mundane tasks with this fun little USB-powered lamp from Kikkerland Design. With a spaceman reminiscent of a classic LEGO astronaut and a flexible, nearly foot-long neck that lets you shine its 12 lumens in any direction you choose, you’ll be reaching new heights in no time. Simply plug it in and flip back the visor to shed some light on the situation.Kikkerland Design USB Light + Astronaut, $20; amazon.com. 7. Get Ready for Your Close-up (Courtesy SIRUI USA) For casual photographers looking to improve their Instagram feed and make those smartphone shots really pop, we highly recommend Sirui’s 60mm lens, a quality clip-on attachment that sharpens the details on close-up shots and portraits alike. Available on its own, it also comes as part of this travel-friendly set, along with an 18mm wide-angle—ideal for capturing those sweeping vistas—and a 170-degree fisheye lens, plus a clip and a hard-shell case that’ll keep it protected in their kit.3 Lens Mobile Phone Kit, $190; siruiusa.com. 8. Boom or Bust (Courtesy Polk Audio) A run or a bike ride through unfamiliar territory can be a good way to get the lay of the land, but exercising on the road can also be a nervy proposition, especially if you're relying on noise-canceling headphones to provide the soundtrack. A light, wearable alternative, Polk’s Boom Bit is a Bluetooth speaker that clips to your clothes, supplying tunes without sacrificing an awareness of your surroundings. For such a tiny device, the sound quality is remarkable, and it even has an integrated microphone for hands-free calling. With mid-range volume levels, it should get about three hours of battery life, but when they do need to recharge, the whole unit plugs directly into a USB port—no extra cables necessary. (Note, though, that the on/off function requires a bit of dexterity, so it might not be optimal for those with hand-mobility issues.)Polk Boom Bit, $20; amazon.com. 9. Tie Up Loose Ends (Courtesy Nomad Lane) With great gear comes a great amount of paraphernalia, and a professional-level organizer will help you get it all together. This well-constructed vegan-leather version from Nomad Lane has a place for pretty much everything: Small elastic loops for things like cords, cables, and earbuds, big elastic loops for larger items like power banks, a removable pouch for adapters and reading glasses, and slim plastic pockets for flash drives and the like, plus room for a tablet like an iPad Mini, a Galaxy Tab, or a Kindle to fit snugly inside. You'll never lose a charger to the depths of your bag again.Tech organization case, $88; nomadlane.com. 10. Give Yourself a Boost (Courtesy Anker) When you're traveling with multiple USB-powered devices, bringing a plug for each one is a waste of precious carry-on space. Anker's universally compatible wall chargers help multitask with speed and ease, thanks to an assortment of ports that’ll get those gadgets to full capacity in a hurry. At two inches square, the PowerPort II 2 is the most compact of the bunch, but with two ports boasting 24 watts, it packs a solid punch. Need more juice? The 43.5-watt PowerPort Speed 4 offers a petite but powerful footprint, with one port for Qualcomm QuickCharge-compatible devices and three with Anker’s proprietary fast-charging technology, all in a tidy package less than three inches square and an inch thick. And if you're looking to leave those bulky MacBook or Nintendo Switch adapters at home, the PowerPort II with Power Delivery is the best bet. With 30 watts of USB-C output, it’ll charge a MacBook in two-and-a-half hours, and it has a regular USB port as well. All three feature foldable plugs and surge protection, for peak portability and peace of mind.PowerPort II 2, $15; PowerPort Speed 4, $28; PowerPort II with Power Delivery, $30; anker.com.