What’s in My Bag: Packing for the Caribbean

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It’s been awhile since I’ve shared any practical tips, so I took note on a 10-day jaunt to the islands of what I packed, what I wore and what I could have left at home in case you want to see the method to the madness. Here are my tips on what to pack for a Caribbean vacation.

My Packing “Method”

Before I go, I lay out everything I think I want to take on the bed of the upstairs guest room, which is more or less my dressing room as it is. Then, I add some things, take away some, still add some more back; this process pretty much continues for a week straight until the very moment I’m ready to walk out the door. Then I throw a bunch of things in the bag last minute that I’m pretty sure I can’t live without.

Vacation in the Caribbean: What to Pack

(Newsflash: They never even get used. And yet, 130 countries later, I’m still learning.)

Vacation in the Caribbean: What to Pack

I also hang any complete outfits on my coat rack, so I can decide what goes and what stays.

My Bags

Normally, for a 10-day trip—and one to places like Bonaire and Aruba where you really need minimal belongings and no warm weather wear—I would take just a carry-on and a laptop bag. However, Lipault Paris sent me one of its foldable duffels to try out for this trip that I wanted to take so I eschewed by carry-on policy this time. I loved the color—so easy to spot when coming around the baggage claim—and the fact that I could fold it up beneath my bed if I chose to unpack (which I didn’t).

Vacation in the Caribbean: What to Pack

Next time, though, I’d opt for the smaller size as the one I got was huge (30 inches), and I only needed half that space. Instead, I found myself cramming a lot of unnecessary things in there just to fill excess room so that my belongings wouldn’t bounce around in cargo! That said, Alex has the carry-on size. I wish I could swap my big ol’ one for this model.

I also almost always take my Epiphanie camera/laptop bag; it has space for all my electronics, plus a couple small personal items should I lose my luggage again.

Vacation in the Caribbean: What to Pack

What I Packed

Again, this is more than I’d usually take on an average trip, simply as I wanted to fill up as much space as possible. I mean, if you’re checking a bag, why not, right?

  • 15 sundresses (1.5 for every day; possibly mildly excessive)
  • 10 nice dresses (1 for every night)
  • 8 pairs of underwear
  • 2 rompers
  • 1 denim jacket
  • 2 cardigans
  • 2 pairs of wedges
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 1 pair of Tieks
  • 1 pair of running shoes
  • a few pairs of socks
  • 6 bathing suits
  • 2 hats (no wrinkles for me!)
  • a jewelry bag and toiletries
  • sunscreen and bug spray
  • a MacBook Pro
  • a mask and snorkel (I took my fins and booties out last minutes and left them at home)
  • a Canon 6D camera for above-ground shots
  • a Canon G11 and the underwater housing for diving
  • a GoPro Hero 3 for diving deep
  • a GoPro 4 Session for shallow water sports (only works to 30 feet)
  • a Polaroid camera and film for fun bachelorette shenanigans

Vacation in the Caribbean: What to Pack

You know, casual. Five cameras (not to mention an iPhone) is totally normal, right? But hey, when you’re with bloggers, you’re going to appear in a photo exactly every five minutes, so you gotta look good (and have the equipment to document it, too)!

Vacation in the Caribbean: What to Pack

I will say that packing my socks and intimates in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag is key to me being able to locate things in such a huge bag like this one. And if you’re a diver, taking your own dive gear is always helpful. I don’t own anything (yet), but it really is a pain to have to learn new rental gear (and hope it works), especially if you’re diving with multiple shops in one week!

What I Forgot

I mean, I’m not perfect (obviously)—I’m always leaving much-needed items behind by accident.

  • The charger for my underwater camera, a pretty clutch item with as much time as we spent submerged (I bought a universal charger for $40 at a camera store in Bonaire)
  • Enough conditioner for 10 days (many hotels in the Caribbean do not provide it, period, and with diving, you need A LOT)
  • My back-up hard drive (I tend to back my photos up every few days while traveling—just in case)

Vacation in the Caribbean: What to Pack

What I Didn’t Need

After every trip, you always find you didn’t use the majority of what you packed. So what could I have done differently?

  • Left half the dresses at home. Let’s be real, Kristin; you knew you weren’t going to wear them all.
  • Forgone the heels. Typically, I’d never take heels on any trip, but we were having a surprise bachelorette for Angie, and I wanted to dress up. In the end, while I did don my LBD, I just threw on sandals instead.
  • Packed fewer workout outfits. I had ambitions to workout every day (I always do), but the reality is that diving tires you out in a serious way, so other than caving and yoga, I didn’t hit the gym once. (Regardless, I still lost two pounds on this trip!)
  • Any sort of outerwear. In places like Florida, I am forever needing a jacket when going out to eat because they really jack up the A/C. In the Caribbean, that’s not a problem and, plus, we always dined al fresco anyway. The weather was perfect; next time I’ll probably pack one cardigan (mainly for the plane) and leave all other outerwear at home.

Vacation in the Caribbean: What to Pack

What’s your number one tip to packing for a tropical escape?



Packing for a Caribbean Vacation

  • September 4, 2015

    Two important things:

    1. Yellow tieks. Heart eyes emoji!
    2. Eight pairs of underwear for 10 days? Do you go commando 1/10th of the time?

    • September 4, 2015

      Ha! I didn’t even wear them all either because I was diving the entire first seven days and lived in a bathing suit all day.

  • September 4, 2015

    25 dresses … you OWN 25 dresses?!?! I need you to teach me your shopping/dress wearing ways 🙂

    • September 4, 2015

      25 dresses is maybe a quarter of ONE of my closets (I have three) 😉

  • September 4, 2015

    I’m right there with Angie – I don’t think I even own half that many dresses! Of course, I always notice your super cute dresses, so I shouldn’t be shocked. I’m happy to take your hand-me-downs if you ever tire of any of them 😉

    • September 4, 2015

      You may have to get them hemmed, but sure! 😉

  • September 4, 2015

    Great list! I always forego the heels too..they never get worn. II recently had to pack for a 10 day trip as well – it was harder than I thought but at least I didn’t run out of underwear! P.S. Love your bikinis.

  • September 5, 2015

    Kristin, you do pack A LOT! Wow. I thought it was hard to beat me. I backpacked Latin America with 17 kg on my bag, most of them a pharmacy as I have asthma and I am under constant medication and had to carry a supply for several months. But you beat me 🙂 BTW, nice taste in clothes and lovely bikinis!

  • September 8, 2015

    What a great list Kristin! You had me snorting with laughter at the way you pack your stuff “then I throw a bunch of things in the bag last minute that I’m pretty sure I can’t live without….They never even get used. And yet, I never learn from my own mistakes.”

    If I’m going somewhere hot. I’m British so everywhere is hot! I take a hat, sunglasses, suncream (yep. even for dark skins!), my swimming stuff, birkenstocks as I don’t like flip-flops, my lipstick, my phone, my kindle, lots of British newspapers and a writing book. Oh, and a first aid kit as you can be sure that I will catch a cold LOL!

  • December 9, 2015

    Fantastic list! I have always wanted to travel light. I have tried several times to pack light but at the end it wasn`t light at all. Thank you for sharing this post! Love your sandals. Greets!

  • December 17, 2015

    Could you tell me from where you get the red platform shoes? I’m in love with all of your stuff! Great taste

  • February 6, 2017
    Ellen LY

    Thank you for your entertaining commentary on how to pack for the Caribbean. I am a notorious overpacker and swear every time “never again”. I am like you, and lay everything out, but for some crazy reason I also at the last minute add ridiculous clothing items I can’t live without. And I really can live without them!! You gave me some perspective and I will incorporate some of your ideas that I’ve never done. Duh! It never occured to me to put sn itinerary in my bag in case my luggage git lost. I am soooo bad at packing that I start The process 3-4 weeks before my trip! It takes time to collect all the bits and pieces for travel bag and first aid kit. I hope your ideas will take The edge off my trip packing. I also go to TJ Maxx and get a Duffel for the extras I seem to acquire. I collect sea shells and need space to bring them home. I dont think I ever packed 25 dresses, so your blog was truly refreshing! So, now I need a bright Colorado suitcase!!!

    • February 6, 2017

      Ha! For Instagram purposes, I try to pack a bevy of different outfits 😉

      I actually have another packing post coming up, so stay tuned!

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