How to Politely Use – not Abuse – your Vacation Mules

We islanders need stuff. As much as we love the somewhat simpler way of life that the tropics bring forth, we still can’t escape the need for stuff (some more practical than others…). But due to shipping restrictions, high costs, and limited availability of certain things online, we’re often forced to get creative. One of our favorite solutions? Visiting friends and family aka Vacation Mules.

*click for image credit

Now let me apologize right now to my friends and family for referring to you as mules, but I just can’t find another term quite so apropos. Not only are we islanders appreciative each and every time you accept the work of a Vacation Mule, it is not an exaggeration to say that you make our island life more livable. We love having you visit and we love the rock life essentials you bring with you. However, we do understand that with your agreement to participate as a Vacation Mule, there are some contractual unsaid DOs and DON’Ts that we must uphold on our end to ensure an ongoing positive working relationship.

Islanders, take note:


  1. DON’T overwhelm your Vacation Mule by sending an excess of items to their homes that they must unwrap and find space for. Remember – they are headed on vacation and need space in their luggage for their own items too.
  2. DON’T overload your Vacation Mule. The worst thing you can do is send something larger than typical suitcase dimensions or something so heavy it will surely tip the scales. You don’t want to make your Vacation Mule that person at the airport that is frantically unpacking and repacking their bags on the sidewalk to avoid overweight baggage fees on your behalf. That is a surefire way to lose any hope of that Vacation Mule ever working for you again.
  3. DON’T stress your Vacation Mule out by sending a package that barely makes it to them before their travel date. This is especially applicable if the item in question is imperative to their vacation comfort such as a very important generator part that will keep you all comfortable when electricity is lost or a mosquito net to put around their bed to help in reduce their likelihood of being eaten alive by mosquitos while they try to sleep.
  4. DON’T send any items to your Vacation Mule that are on the No Fly List or that can potentially ruin a person’s belongings/clothing should it burst open in flight.

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  1. DO ask your Vacation Mule’s permission to send items to their homes prior to ordering.
  2. DO let your Vacation Mule know what you have ordered and how/when they will be receiving the package(s).
  3. DO keep an ongoing list for yourself of items that are perfect for Vacation Mules to bring. Sometimes, out of the blue, you will be asked the very wonderful question, “Is there anything I can bring for you?” When that opportunity arises, you don’t want to be caught off-guard with nothing prepared because surely, upon their arrival, the light bulb will then go off and you will live to regret your oversight.
  4. DO make sure you greet your Vacation Mule at the airport with cold water and an alcoholic beverage of their choice. Get them settled and get their feet in the sand as soon as possible after their arrival to show your gratitude and remind them why they love coming to visit you in the first place.

Drinks Supplied

Helpful tip: If all else fails and you have exhausted your Vacation Mules but are still in need of stuff, there is a crowd-shipping community originally named mmMule, now called PiggyBee. When researching my package mule theories, I came across an article by Ken Hegan, writer and billionaire, wrote back in 2012 about this group titled Wanted: Mules to Deliver Packages to Strangers. Since then, the company has expanded and rebranded. Has anyone out there used PiggyBee crowd-shipping? I’m definitely intrigued…

In the meantime, take care of your Vacation Mules, islanders! Is there anything any of you islanders – or Vacation Mules themselves – would add to the list?

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Heidi Fagerberg

About Heidi Fagerberg

Unbeknownst to Heidi, her heart was stolen in 2001 while visiting her sister at Veterinarian University on the rock of St. Kitts. The sick to her stomach feeling when getting on a plane to leave the rock was not yet enough for her to understand her heart's true desire. She set off to revamp her life, leading her to a Master's program to teach English as a second language which she hoped would allow her to travel more.

But the conch shell kept on blowing and was impossible to ignore after she moved to teach English in Costa Rica. Heidi found herself stealing away from her new home in paradise back to the rock of St. Kitts. A long distance love affair usually ends in heartache and her whole person was in constant pain - she missed her love, St. Kitts. Finally, she succumbed, moving there in 2007.

Now her days are spent living out her burning love affair with St. Kitts and Nevis - capturing the scenic beauty of the islands through photography, keeping company with the animal characters in her books (, and developing youth sailing programming in the Federation. To add a bit of flare to her "crazy life", she joined her husband in restoring gems. She refers to it as wrenching on cars while liming with her best friend. They are not just any cars, but her beloved mellow yellow Jeep and his four fantastic, historic Land Rovers.

Each and every day she wakes up and thinks, "Wake me up from this dream and demon of a life. I am alive and happy." WOOP WOOP! For more about Heidi, check out her website,

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18 thoughts on “How to Politely Use – not Abuse – your Vacation Mules

  1. Whatever, use and abuse us! After the last few vacations on a rock, I realize we only need a few essentials. We’ll gladly bring anything you need for an awesome dinner, cool sunset, or boat trip.

  2. Haha! I loved this article! My husband and I are vacation mules for a friend in Aruba. Visiting several times a year, we have a wonderful arrangement. We bring very little with us for ourselves, he lets us keep a bin of personal items in his storage, and instead, we bring the items he has had shipped to us. We have traveled with some crazy items over the years! Some examples: a six foot palm tree pruner, a barbeque grill, 3 – 32″ tv’s, and a commercial sized coffee system, to name a few! Not all at once, but none the less, quite a feat and very comical.

  3. I loved this post …so, so true. I am always shocked when ex-pats on our island actually ask their guests to go shopping for them.

    The same rules should apply when shipping as an add-on to someone else’s pallet of imported goods.

    As to the “dreaded list”, we begin a new “bring-back list” each time we arrive. In a pinch, when asked in a hurry, there are always AA and AAA batteries!

  4. Being from Canada originally, I always ask for my Tim Horton’s coffee, coffee crisp and my favourite hair colour. In exchange for a vacation in paradise no one’s said no yet!

  5. My friend just left but brought me 2 pizzas and hot dogs from Chicago . I live on St. Croix and thank goodness walmart now ships here…..My other friend works for Delta and brings 2 big boxes for free every time it’s like Xmas or the things I ordered shipped to her. Love my friends ❤️❤️❤️

  6. I am actually sadly surprised when friends or houseguests don’t offer to bring down such essentials as bratwurst from that little deli on our old traffic circle or fresh (er) specialty McCormick spices yet rave about their latest acquisitions from Macy’s or Williams Sonoma….Fortunately most of those people have been moved off of our Favorite List overtime. We are forever grateful for those who schlep oven or airconditioner parts and the lovely surprise of a butterflied leg of lamb from a gourmet grocery store – you are welcome any time!

  7. Loved your article. I live in Cozumel and have the same issues. Begging and then weeping with joy over the silliest but little things that make life easier(English language magazines, cables for computer and my phone, spices, certain cosmetics, medicines). I am always grateful, and rarely have I ever had a problem.

    • I know the feeling. I am headed off Island tomorrow and the list of items I am returning with are just in time. I ran out of some of my favorites that I just can’t get here. In this case I am the package mule for myself friends and family

  8. Love this…I guess my cousin is my mule. I take advantage of freebies on the click to give (autism, animal rescue, breast cancer, rainforest, hunger etc.) and have them shipped to her. She brings them the next time she visits. Most are very small.

    People have asked me when they go on vacation if they can bring something back for them but I always say no cause I feel uncomfortable with them having to lug anything back….figure they will buy their own stuff….
    Having someone bringing something when they are coming on vacation is a little easier cause most of the time they will be happy with a little space – your items have left – for their goodies bought when they return home.

  9. I have been doing this for the past year (8 trips) and have decided to be more selective who I will mule for. When the village hears I am coming I have been overloaded with requests, often just before I leave home. This means running around, re packing, too often needing an extra suitcase and paying baggage fees. Really frustrating when I get just what they want and then it’s not right after all. Have things mailed to me? Tried that too. Didn’t get things in time. My new policy is family only unless it is a necessity of some kind (usually isn’t).

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