What You Need To Pack For Your Next Island Escape

If you find yourself thinking, “What to pack for an island vacation”, “What to pack for a tropical vacation”, or simply, “What to pack for a vacation”, you aren’t alone. 

We’ve all been there - packing for a vacation, whether it’s an island escape to a tropical beach or a bustling city adventure - knowing what to bring (possibly more important, what not to bring) is a challenge many of us face. 

With packing mishaps ranging from a simple inconvenience (jetting off to the Caribbean without a swimsuit), to totally and completely disastrous (realizing you left the country without your wallet), it’s no wonder we all suffer from packing-induced anxiety. That said, most packing flukes can be easily avoided - we are here to teach you how to pack for a tropical vacation (and enjoy the process, too!).  

Follow our guide below, if you want to pack like a pro for your up-coming island getaway!

Square One: Preparations 

Alright - now that you’ve chosen your destination and booked your flight(s) and have your accommodations squared away, it’s time to prepare yourself for the ultimate summertime tropical vacation. Believe us when we say, being prepared ahead of time is a lifesaver (or should we say trip-saver?) when it comes to getting the most out of your next island escape. 

Passport & other IDs - 

This may seem like a “no-brainer”, but planning a vacation entails a lot of work and a great deal of planning and preparation. All of this hustle and bustle ignites plenty of excitement and feelings of anticipation, however, the hectic atmosphere can cause some of the most basic “to-do’s” to slip through the cracks. To ensure your ability to safely travel to and from your island trip, update your passport and all other necessary forms of identification at least one month prior to leaving. By getting your legal documents organized and up-to-date well before you leave, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that you are prepared ahead of time, even if the D.M.V. ends up taking 3 weeks to mail out your new - now un-expired - ID prior to your vacation. If you plan on venturing out of the country, this step of the preparation process is absolutely vital for safe and successful travel.

Create a packing list in advance -

Are you making a list? Checking it twice?! 

It may seem silly, but creating a packing list far in advance allows you to ensure that nothing goes forgotten when the day to actually pack your things arrives. Fact of the matter is - you don’t need to bring a whole lot with you on a vacation in the Caribbean or other tropical vacation destination. That said, you do need to pack smart. By creating a packing list far in advance, you’re giving yourself the ability to adjust that list over a period of time - prior to the day when you actually start packing your bags for the trip. If you compile a packing list early on, you’ll be surprised by the number of items you will have accidentally forgotten to jot down on the list originally. As the days pass by with your vacation approaching, you can add items to your packing list as they randomly pop into your head. Additionally, you can remove items from your list (to make room for all the amazing souvenirs you’ll want to bring home with you) prior to your departure.

Keep things simple & versatile -

Tropical island vacations are for rest and relaxation. Keep this in mind when choosing what clothing items and accessories to bring with you on your escape. 

One of the best travel packing tips I’ve ever been given, is to select tops and bottoms that are simple and easy to mix and match with each other. This saves time when getting dressed each day while you’re away, and doing so will save you a great deal of space in your suitcase and/or luggage - leaving lots of space to bring back souvenirs you’ll pick up on your island escape. 

Some easy-breezy and tropic friendly clothing options include lightweight tops, such as cotton t-shirts and tank tops, comfortable shorts, flowy skirts and/or sundresses, rompers, athletic sandals, and of course - swimsuits! Flip-flops and other lightweight footwear options are recommended, as they take up very little space and don’t weigh much. 

We will get into more detail regarding the best clothes to pack for an island getaway below.

Consider weather conditions -

Another important aspect to consider prior to packing for an island escape, are the weather conditions of your destination. 

As you might expect, the weather of any given location will greatly impact what types of clothing items, essentials, and extras you may need to pack for your trip. Not every island is created equal. Although they may all be beautiful in their own way, some tropical islands have high rates and/or frequency of precipitation all year round. Others are much more dry, with little-to-no chance of rain. Of course, you have those islands that meet somewhere in between - dry for the majority of the time, but rainy during the monsoon season. 

With that in mind, be sure to pack a light to medium weight rain coat if your island vacation is going to be spent somewhere that’s likely to pour. On the other hand, if you’re visiting a tropical destination that presents very little chance of rain during your stay, leave the coat (and any unnecessary items) behind. 

Either way - make sure to bring along your skin’s most important shield, sunscreen! And remember, the lighter you can pack while still ensuring you’ve got everything you need, the better!

What activities will you be doing?

Are you going to be spending your vacation doing recreational activities? Will you be riding a bike, going on hikes, camping on the beach? What about the evenings you spend on your vacation - will you be eating at fancy restaurants or going to an outdoor concert? Do you plan on scuba diving or exploring the reefs? 

Each of these activities are different, therefore they require different types of wardrobe items. If you have plans to camp on the beach, there are certain items you’ll need to pack in order to ensure you’re properly prepared for such an activity. When packing, bring the right items needed to accommodate the kinds of activities you’ll be participating in while on your island escape.  

Island Vacation Packing Checklist

Alright, now it’s time for the fun part! Below we’ve compiled a categorized packing list for a tropical vacation - that you can follow no matter which island you’ll be escaping to!

Attire to pack for an island escape:

  • 3-5 versatile t-shirts and/or tank tops (lightweight and breathable)
  • 2-3 pairs of shorts, capris, and/or skirts (remember - easy items to mix and match!)
  • 2 pairs of long cotton pants (jeans, if you prefer. Remember - comfort is key!)
  • 1 long sleeve top (long sleeve t-shirt or blouse)
  • 1 sundress (2 sundresses, if you feel that you’ll need options)
  • 1 light sweatshirt or hoodie for cool evenings
  • 1 light rain coat (if needed)
  • 1-2 nightlife wardrobe outfits
  • 5-7 pairs underwear
  • 1-2 sports bras/everyday bra
  • 3-4 pairs socks
  • 1 pair of sneakers and/or hiking boots (as needed - depending on planned activities)
  • 1-2 pairs flip flops, sandals, and/or water shoes
  • 2-3 swimsuits
  • 1 packable daypack/backpack or fanny pack
  • 1 swimsuit cover-up
  • 1 hat
  • 2-3 pairs lounge outfits and/or pajamas
  • 1-2 sets of workout or fitness clothing options

Toiletries to pack for an island escape:

Facts: When it comes to packing toiletries for any vacation, keep in mind that less is more and you can always pick up little items here or there while on your getaway. Also, if you plan on flying to your tropical destination, all toiletry items must be 3.4 oz (100ml) or less, and must be able to fit inside a quart-sized plastic ziplock bag. We also like to note: If you plan on spending time in the water, please be conscious of the sealife by packing eco-friendly products. 

  • Small package of makeup wipes and/or baby wipes
  • Small package of tissues
  • Body wash or bar of body soap
  • Travel size shampoo 
  • Travel size conditioner
  • Travel size toothpaste
  • Toothbrush with travel case
  • Shaving tools and/or devices
  • Contacts (lenses, case and travel size solution)
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Makeup (best waterproof makeup list here)
  • Hair products and/or accessories (travel size)
  • Travel size insect repellent or bug spray
  • Travel size eco-friendly sunscreen
  • Travel size aloe vera or after-sun lotion
  • Travel size deodorant
  • Travel size lotion
  • Necessary daily vitamins and/or medications

Personal items to pack for an island vacation:

Here is a list of the personal items you’ll need to pack for a tropical getaway (make sure these items are handy and available to you with easy access prior to your plane ride to make the boarding process smoother):

  • Wallet (with cash and debit and/or credit cards)
  • Passport and/or personal ID
  • Any necessary travel visas or travel documents
  • Medications you may need while on the plane
  • Headphones
  • Gum or mints
  • Sunglasses
  • Lip balm
  • Antibacterial wipes and/or hand sanitizer
  • Face mask
  • Empty reusable water bottle 
  • Tissues
  • Smartphone & charger
  • Portable battery pack & connectors
  • Camera, lenses, chargers and accessories for the best beach photographs
  • Extras: Laptop (and charger), book, personal travel journal

List of Islands Where You Can Escape 

  • ABC Islands: Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao 
  • Anguilla 
  • Antigua & Barbuda
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Cuba: check out Old Havana (an UNESCO World Heritage Site)
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Grenada
  • Guadeloupe: a  large percentage of the entire territory is protected nature reserves
  • Jamaica: check out 7 Mile Beach or Dunn’s River Falls
  • Martinique
  • Puerto Rico: Old San Juan has heaps of stories to share
  • St. Barts
  • St. Kitts & Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Martin – St. Maarten
  • St. Vincent & The Grenadines: Made up of 32 islands
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • Turks & Caicos: Holds 3rd largest barrier reef system in the world
  • US Virgin Islands: St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix
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