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Just Bug Off - Warm Weather Summer Family Vacation Essentials.253BugOffBurtsBees Pests of the insect variety can raise the stress level of any vacation. Checkout our list of solutions to pesky bugs so your family vacation time will be more pleasant. Our list offers solutions for a camping trip to the Boundary Waters or a family vacation in the tropics.

In the last ten years I have tried many ways to keep bugs away from family members. When I haven’t been successful I have then used after contact remedies to at least ease the discomfort.  My list of products that work is short and because I am asked often to share the list, here it is.
Repel the bugs – avoid itching. So it is no secret I love Burt's Bees and each time I discover a new product I fall in love again. The company actually delivers natural earth friendly solutions to just about everything. Three of their products are essential is a family adventure with Mother Nature is in your future.  Herbal Insect Repellent – lemongrass, citronella and rosemary – works wonders. If a sneaky mosquito or pesky sand fly does break the barrier try the Bug Bite Relief – camphor, menthol, lavender and more lemongrass. Need to know: I have to mention the Poison Ivy Soap created to lessen the disgusting plant’s rash giving potential. It works, really works. The rich lather contains jewelweed to help relieve itching plus pine tar and tea tree oil long-lasting relief.

Solar anti mosquito guard. This solution works because it disorients the mosquitoes by creating a sound that they avoid. It is run by a solar cell and fits nicely on a key chain, belt loop or jacket zipper. It is small enough to misplace and unless charged by the sun it is useless so it is best used in combination with other remedies. I found that it will also discourage crickets from moving into a tent or sleeping bag. Bonus Points: My other favorite finds at Real Goods include the “Survival Kit in a Sardine Can”, “Pocket Kite”, and the Stellarscope – a pocket sized solution to make stargazing more rewarding. Toll-free 1-800-762-7325 or online at
Repello wrist bands. This option works like a charm. It repels mosquitoes, gnats and fleas for a specified number of hours, usually about 120. Our kids like to use these on their ankles to keeps sand fleas from biting. Even though the company claims that the bands are pleasantly scented, pleasant is a relative term and my relatives think the odor is strong. The good news is that the bands are not affected by perspiration, useful when hiking during warm weather. They are made in Mineloa, New York, 11501. That alone should mean it is good because if it works on the resident mosquitoes in up state New York, it will work any where in the world.

Skin-So-Soft by Avon. Who hasn't used this at one time or another. It seems to work well unless there is sweating involved. In that event a re application is necessary. It comes in many forms from bath products to sunscreen. I have the sunscreen lotion for use at the beach. The label indicates that it will repel mosquitoes, fleas and deer ticks. The catch is that it must be reapplied after about two hours in order to remain effective. If the kids are in and out of the water then a reapplication must take place about every hour and a half. Still it is a better product to use than the harsh chemicals that claim to last all day. This product is available through any Avon representative. Don't know one then call toll-free 1-800-FOR-AVON.

Bug-Me-Not. This non toxic oil has been voted most pleasant by my teenagers. Along with being teen pleasing it works very well. It is the creation of Anna Carter, Herbalist. The pleasant mixture has no petrochemicals, no alcohol and no animal products. It does have castor oil, citronella, lemongrass, cedar and eucalyptus as well as a little lavender and peppermint. The remedy lasts up to five hours and does not go bad when mixed with perspiration but does not seem to work after a swim in the sea or a dip in the lake. Call (828) 262-0006 or

Shooo! This is also an herbal remedy that is available in concentrate. I found it in a little shop in the Golden Isles...a place know for its no-see-um population. We are testing the diluted spray as I write this review. So far so good. The aroma is pleasant and it seems to last for more than five hours on dry land. As the label indicates it repels mosquitoes, gnats and no-see-ums and most important to me biting flies. Made by Aromatiques in the Brunswick Isles of Georgia.

Additional Solutions.

Take garlic. For many garlic changes the body chemistry and deters flying insects from biting. It isn't enough to take garlic a day before hiking in the woods.  Most say supplement your diet for at least two weeks before exposure to a natural encounter with the little flying pests. What better excuse to eat extra garlic?

Avoid wearing black. In many parts of the world large flies like those called horse flies or yellow flies bite. The bites are uncomfortable and can be hazardous to the health of small children. Because the seasons vary it pays to ask ahead of time. One piece of advice that keeps turning up   when these flies are mentioned is "Don't wear black!" Why? I have been told that the flies think they have landed on a horse, bear, zebra or whatever. 253AfterBite

Wear hats with netting. As unglamorous as they look the tented hats serve a purpose. This is truly one of the most sensible solutions for avoiding gnats up the nose or down the throat. Most sporting goods stores have them in the fishing section. Magellan's, one of the best places to get quality travel products, has them along with lots of cool travel adventure esentials. Call toll-free 1-800-962-4943 or
After the bite. It depends on the kind of bite as well as the location but to ease minor discomforts I have two products that never fail. Nelson's Sting Gel is Britain's oldest homeopathic manufacturer has the perfect solution to reduce swelling and itching. The pocket size tube is truly indispensable for families who encounter  nature on a regular basis.  Obviously it is easy to find in the U.K. but may also be found in many health food in North America. It is distributed by Solgar Vitamin and Herb Co. in Lynbrook, New York. 11563.
After Bite. A solution in a pen sized dispenser, this ointment quickly soothes the sting and reduces the itching sensation. The clip keeps the itch eraser from dropping out of a  pocket. Available from Tender Corporation, Box 290, Littleton, New Hampshire 03561. (603) 444-5464 or

First Aid. Don't leave home without it. Outdoor Research in Seattle Washington offers well stocked first portable first aid kits ideal for families. The bright red color makes them easy to find when family debris is at its height. The zippered cases open and can hang for an outdoor clinic look. Inside is a handy instruction book for emergencies. Our family has used their kits for more than a decade. They provide reasonably priced, dependable, quality that lasts. The directions for use during emergencies make sense, though we have never had more than a twisted ankle and a few bites…scrapes and a headache. In ten years they have made improvements and we have restocked, no hassle.

They have now expanded the first aid kit options to include one just for the tropics. They also have the one pocket versions ideal for one-day adventures. Parent comment: The red color is useful in more ways than one. In addition to being easy to find in a messy tent or van, the color is easy to spot floating down river. For anyone who has capsized and faced the challenge of collecting possessions seeing red helps. The color shows up  on brown water or rocky rapids or in a calming eddy…but make sure to seal the kit in a clear float bag.  The retail store in Seattle is (206) 971-1496 or

Content researched and posted by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files. Images by Nancy Nelson-Duac. Copyright updated 2018
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