Packing for a trip to the Caribbean can take days if you’re not sure what to pack! That’s why we’ve compiled the ultimate Caribbean vacation packing list to make things a bit easier on you. Then, you can spend those last few days before your flight resting up and dreaming about the beach, instead of struggling to figure out what exactly you need to pack!
A Caribbean vacation packing list
For this list, we’re going to take a “minimalist” perspective on things and include only the essentials. There are several reasons why you should avoid overpacking when heading to the Caribbean– one of them is airline baggage weight limit restrictions. There’s nothing worse than arriving at the airport, only to find out your bag is 2 pounds overweight and you’ll have to cough up an extra $50 fee.
So take your cues from your minimalist friends, and leave those extra jeans at home. However, don’t forgo the following essentials:
1. 1 bottle of Sunscreen and SPF lip balm
Get a high SPF quality sunscreen. Your best bet is to grab something with natural ingredients if you’re planning on swimming in rivers, bays, and lakes (some Caribbean bodies of water have restrictions on sunscreen chemicals, like the bioluminescent bays of Puerto Rico). In addition, you’ll need a lip balm with sunscreen to keep your lips from becoming red and chapped under the Caribbean sun.
2. 2 fast-drying towels
Pick fast-drying towels that are suitable for the Caribbean’s muggy, humid weather. Bring two, so that if one’s wet or dirty, you’ll have the other as a backup.
3. 2 bathing suits
You won’t want to have to yank on a wet swim suit when going out to the beach. Bring two so that you’ll always have a dry one on hand.
4. A wide brimmed hat
Bring a wide brimmed hat and some sunglasses to shade your eyes from the bright Caribbean sun. If you want to save space in your suitcase, buy your hat from one of the many tourist shops or stands while on vacation.
Nothing’s worse than having to squint when trying to take in historical monuments or spectacular seaside views. Protect your eyes and avoid headaches (and squinty photos) .
6. Flip flops and a pair of sneakers
Don’t forget your sandals for the beach– bring a pair that you won’t mind getting wet. Also, you’ll need sneakers for activities like hiking, ziplining, and Mayan ruin climbing (yes, that’s a thing).
7. Beach cover up
After a long day at the beach, you might be tempted to head to a restaurant to eat without changing out of your suit. However, many Caribbean islands have “no bathing suit” policies for restaurants and certain parts of town. Therefore, it’s absolutely essential to bring a cover up or some clothes along to throw over your suit in case you get the munchies.
8. Reusable water bottle
On most Caribbean islands, the water isn’t drinkable (here are some other things you shouldn’t ingest in the Caribbean). Therefore, you’ll need to either buy bottled water, or bring along a reusable water bottle that you can refill. The latter option is by far the best for the environment, since plastic bottles contribute to the ever-growing plastic waste problem in the Caribbean.
Here are other ways to take a plastic-free vacation to the Caribbean.
9. Light, breathable clothing
When vacationing in the Caribbean, avoid polyester fabrics at all costs. Polyester and other synthetic fabric don’t mesh well with Caribbean weather. Since it can get hot, humid, and sometimes muggy, stick with light, airy, breathable clothing items. Cotton is generally a good choice.
Tip: Bring only the clothing you know you’ll need and wear. If you’ll have access to laundry machines, only bring clothing for half of the total days of your trip. Otherwise, bring one outfit for each day, plus an extra if you wish.
10. Your passport and other documents
One of the worst mistakes you can make when going to the Caribbean is to book your flight without the necessary documentation needed for entry. Depending on what country you’re from, you might need a passport plus a visa. A tourist visa is documentation granted by a foreign country that allows you to enter purely for tourism. Although many Caribbean countries allow American, Latin American, Canadian, and European citizens to enter without applying for a tourist visa, it’s best to check ahead of time to see what you’ll need, just in case.
11. Any medications you might need
It can be tricky to find the right medications in a foreign country. Save time and effort by bringing along the ones you think you might need. If you take controlled prescription meds, bring along your doctor’s prescription. Medicines like Tylenol or Tums can be packed in your luggage, as long as they are in their original packaging.
12. Laundry bag and wet bag
A bag for dirty laundry is essential for separating dirty clothes from clean ones in your suitcase, especially if you won’t have the chance to wash your clothes while on vacation. In a pinch, simply recycle a plastic grocery bag and use it for your laundry.
Especially if you’re planning on swimming, it’s a great idea to bring a wet bag. This is a bag that will protect the other clothes in your suitcase from wet items, should you need to pack them before they are dry. You could use a plastic grocery bag for this in a pinch.
13. Rainwear or an umbrella
Take note: it rains often on Caribbean islands, especially during the rainy season. Now, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t mostly sunny. What is does mean is that you could be caught in the occasional sudden shower. So, be prepared by including an umbrella or rain jacket in your Caribbean vacation packing list.
14. Toiletries in small amounts
If you stay at a hotel, chances are you’ll shampoo and soap for free during your stay. However, if you need a few other products, such as contact lense solution or shaving cream, you’ll have to bring those things along.
Note: be sure to pack liquid toiletries in your checked luggage and not in your carry on, since TSA policy limits the amounts of liquids you can carry. If you want to bring them in your carry on, put them in 3 oz bottles, placed in a quart-sized plastic bag.
Need more advice for your Caribbean vacation? Read 8 Caribbean Travel Hacks You May Have Missed.
Main photo: Virgin Islands National Park, St. John. (PlanetWare.com)
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