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.
(Newsflash: They never even get used. And yet, 130 countries later, I’m still learning.)
I also hang any complete outfits on my coat rack, so I can decide what goes and what stays.
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).
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.
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
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)!
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)
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.
What’s your number one tip to packing for a tropical escape?