You’ve booked the flights, you’ve got a place to stay (thanks to those sweet hotel discounts you found online), and now all that stands in front of you and laying on the beach on your soon-to-be-fabulous Caribbean vacation is the dreaded thing we all try to put off as long as possible — packing. But, don’t worry too much about it, getting everything together and shoved into those old bags you still haven’t replaced won’t be nearly as hard as you might think. So take a breath, close your eyes, imagine yourself snorkeling with all kinds of different magical-looking fish, and let’s do this.
Packing for a Caribbean Vacation
No Passport Needed
There are some interesting things you need to know about getting into the Caribbean as far as passports and visas go. First off, if you’re American and a full-fledged U.S. citizen, you don’t need to have a passport if you’re flying into Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, which includes the trifecta of St. John, St. Thomas, and St. Croix — the others require you to have more than basic U.S. IDs (driver’s license, etc.). If you’re hopping on a cruise, you can actually visit more of the islands without a passport, but be sure to double-check where you’re going before assuming you’re all good.
Another important thing to thing to do before you start packing is familiarizing yourself with the weather happening for wherever and whenever you’re traveling in the Caribbean. There’s not a lot of major differences between the temperatures from one to the other and the average temperatures are around 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit most days, but depending on the month you’re traveling you might have more or less rain, which is a good to know. Brief showers happen nearly every day on most of the islands, too but not enough to pack any legit rain gear.
It’s easier said than done, but thanks to the consistently hot climate, the Caribbean is a place where less is more. In fact, many people who are traveling for a week or less easily get away with packing a couple of carry-ons, wearing a light jacket, and keeping it simple. Depending on your needs (I know, shoes) and length of stay you could easily get away with not checking any bags, which would also save you a lot of hassle and potential delays if you’re flying.
Your Itinerary Determines Your Needs
Are you planning on doing some hiking? You’ll need some active clothes and a pair of good rubber-soled shoes that can give you the support you need. Are you just going to lounge on the beach all day and drink cocktails? You can probably get away with packing not much more than a couple of swimsuit options, flip-flops, and one or two pairs of shorts or dresses to wear when you’re not listening to the waves. There’s no one perfect list for this since each trip is unique, but think through what you’ll be spending your time doing and pack accordingly.
Your toiletry needs will pretty much be the same, but you might want to throw in some extra sunscreen, lip balm, or aloe/lotion depending on your plans to get out into the wild or your skin tone. It’s going to be hot and sunny most of the time, so ease into it and remember, you can always get more sun the next day, but it’s hard to deal with a really bad sunburn.
Last, but definitely not least, don’t forget to pack in your cameras, selfie-sticks, GoPros, Kindles, or any other electronics that you feel like you can’t live without. You’ll probably want to keep the phone off as much as possible, but it’s your Caribbean vacation, not mine, so you can do whatever you want.