What to pack for a Caribbean vacation
As mentioned in my previous post, I just got back from an amazing vacation in Cancun. Now I know Mexico is not necessarily considered a part of the Caribbean but it does share border with the Caribbean Sea so it is close enough (lol). Also, the tips I’m about to share can definitely be applied to any Caribbean vacation you’re planning so sit tight because this is going to be a longer, but very informative post.
The Caribbean islands are known for their year-round warm temperatures, beautiful beaches, and delicious food. It’s no wonder millions of people pack up their belongings and head to one of them each year to enjoy some time off work. I think everyone needs to experience a Caribbean beach vacation at least once in their life. It’s such a different pace from a European tour or a North American trip. Activities are much slower in pace, partially due to the heat, and happen outdoors.
This can sometimes make a lot of people unsure of what to pack, given that a lot of us who go to the Caribbean on vacation are leaving from countries with milder climates. In this post, I would be breaking down the items you want to pack the next time you’re headed to a tropical destination for some R&R. I would be covering not only the travel outfits you want to include but also toiletries, shoes and skin care/protectors you may need. This would serve as your Caribbean packing list and so you may want to bookmark this post for future reference.
*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through the links, at no cost to you.
I’ll be starting this from the top of your head to your toes and so we begin with hair and face.
1) Hair and facial products
Given that most airlines have very strict liquid and gel allowances, your hair and facial products may not be able t go inside your carry-on bag. If you do not wish to check in any luggage, I recommend getting one of these travel size toiletries containers sets. Make sure that all the containers you’re bringing along fit into the small Ziploc bags the airport provides before you fill a backpack with toiletries. I love this set because it comes with the small jar you could squeeze your night cream into, rather than travelling with the entire container.
If you are going for a weeklong trip, you really don’t need that much product. Personally, I go with a small quantity of the following: cleanser, moisturizer, body lotion, make up remover wipes, body wash, toothpaste, and mouthwash. They all fit in my toiletry bag. For the toothpaste, I just buy the mini tubes. I also go with a small box of dental floss and a small tube of deodorant. Since I typically wear my hair in braids when on vacation, I don’t have to travel with any hair sprays and brushes, which makes packing much easier. I just grab a couple of hair ties and I’m good to go.
2) Skin care and protection
With great heat and sunlight comes the risk of sunburn and mosquitoes. That’s why it’s important to travel to any Caribbean region with great sunscreen and insect/mosquito repellant. My go-to bug spray whenever I visit a tropical destination is OFF! The odour isn’t too strong and as long as you don’t miss any spots, it keeps the bugs away. I would spray some on my body right before I stepped out, sometimes reapplying it twice a day. I would spray it on my body after having lathered some SPF 50 sunscreen all over my body.
Skin protection is very important when you’re headed to a Caribbean destination because you do not want to get sick from being bitten by a malaria-carrying mosquito nor do you want to suffer from harsh sunburn when you’re on the vacation of your dreams. Try to stay in the shade when the sun is extra hot and pack some insect repellant wipes if you’re carrying a smaller bag throughout the day.
This is probably the first thing most of us pack once we’ve booked our ticket to an island vacation. I personally pack some of my best outfits when I know I won’t have to worry about work or other responsibilities for some time. It’s funny how we put our best selves forward when we’re away from home! Here are the items I packed and what you may want to add to your list of vacation items.
- A white tank top: white because it reflects light and just looks great against the blue skies and blue water. I like to pair my tank tops with a maxi skirt or a pair of shorts.
- Bathing suits: If I’m going to be relaxing on an all-inclusive resort, I like to pack at least one bathing suit for each day. I know that may seem a bit much for some but if you’re going for a week, I would recommend at least 3-4 swimsuits. Shein has many great ones for under $20! Try getting at least one in a bright color – you’re on vacation, go for it!
- Speaking of beachwear, don’t forget you straw hat and beach cover to keep you shaded from the sun’s harsh rays. Cover ups can be in varying lengths depending on your preference. This is probably my favorite of all sun hats and the one I wore throughout my Cancun trip.
- A couple of flowy dresses: Sometimes all you want to do is throw on an easy-to-wear sun dress with a beach cover and head down to dinner. A flowy dress would provide that and comfort while you down your 5th margarita.
- A light shawl: On cool evenings, a shawl can help provide a little warmth from the ocean’s cool splashes. Traveling with something light but warm is a good idea, no matter what season it is.
- A short-sleeved top or 2: I like to pair these with either denim shorts or linen pants. Some inclusive resorts have a dress code and so you don’t want that person being turned away because she was inappropriately dressed. A short-sleeved top is your solution to that.
- A pair of pajamas: Either an oversized tee or a shirt and shorts works fine. You may find your room to actually be pretty cold at night with the AC on full blast so be mindful of that. I love this fun and airy one below.
- Lots of underwear: Definitely one of the most essential items on this list. Plan to be showering multiple times a day while on a tropical vacation, especially if you’re out in the sun or staying active. I recommend you pack plenty of options of underwear to ensure you never run out (perhaps aim for 2 pairs/day).
- 1 or 2 bras: You don’t need to pack nearly as many bras because your swim suits tops could serve as bras and some of your outfits may most likely not require one. Isn’t that the best?!
- A maxi skirt: This is a great flowy option to travel with because you can pair it with different tops; even your bikini top!
- A cocktail dress: Even if you’re not travelling with a significant other, you may end up wanting to checkout the night life in the country or island you’re visiting. Also, you never know if you may end up going on a date and you want to be prepared. You could also opt for any dressier evening clothes if you’re not up for a cocktail dress.
The one I'm wearing below is so flattering and has the built-in matching underwear.
When it comes to shoes, the list is short for obvious reasons. You don’t need many options of footwear to get around an island filled with sand and/or jungle.
- A pair of flip flops are needed to walk around your inclusive resort or Airbnb and perhaps in the shower
- A pair of sandals: these are a bit more formal and can be worn for day trips trying out new restaurants or visiting a museum
- A pair of tennis shoes: if you’re not a fan of sandals or now you’ll be doing lots of walking, then a pair of sneakers or tennis shoes would work for better for you
- A pair of worn-in walking shoes or active shoes: If you plan to do some ziplining or ATV driving, it’s best to not show up in your most expensive footwear because things can get really messy, especially during the rainy season
- If you plan on doing some water activities, save your good shoes and get yourself a pair of water shoes instead!
- A pair of high heels: You may or may not need them but it’s better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them around! Stay ready sis!
- Jewelry: I believe with the humid weather experienced on the islands of the Caribbean, you want to go with your lighter jewelry. This would also help you avoid packing a heavy suitcase. I would suggest packing just 1 necklace, 2 pairs of earrings, a few rings and perhaps a bracelet.
- A small day bag (either a cross body or fanny pack) would come in handy if you plan on doing some touring.
- Another important accessory is a pair of UV shades to keep the sun out of your eyes. For my ladies who like to bring all their favorite books, snacks and sunscreen with them, don’t forget the beach bag!
In my personal item (or handbag), I like to have gum, lip balm, a nail file, Kleenex, some cash and a piece of ID on the daily.
I hope I’ve give you a great packing list you can refer to before your next vacation to any of the Caribbean nations, or anywhere nice and warm. Please let me know if there’s any other item you think should be on this list.
Until the next post,