What To Pack For Tropical Vacations

There are lots of articles with advice for packing for tropical vacations. This article will not only provide specific packing recommendations, it will also include my picks for favorite items suited for all weather conditions you may experience during your next tropical getaway.

Woman swinging in a hammock with a tropical view in front of her.
Photo Credit: Rachel Claire/Pexels.

What Weather Conditions Should You Expect to Experience On Tropical Vacations?

Most people think visiting the tropics means the weather will be hot and steamy. Did you know, in Costa Rica, the average temperature year-round is 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit? Evenings can get downright chilly. Even in places like Belize, you may be scrambling for cool-weather gear.

Any packing list for a tropical vacation is missing items if it doesn’t include items that can be converted from warm to cool weather. My favorite, for both men and women, is Columbia convertible pants. At least one pair should go with you on every single trip, regardless of the destination.

It’s also reasonable to expect rain. Sometimes daily or for days on end. Make sure to carry your own lightweight travel umbrella, making sure it fits easily into our luggage, purse, or backpack.

Packing for Warm Tropical Weather

Packing for your tropical vacation should include at least 2 bathing suits per person. My philosophy is one to wear, and one that is in the process of drying. Keep in mind that if the weather is warm and steamy, you may require more changes of clothing. Lightweight, moisture-wicking, and light colors will be most comfortable and wear the best.

The length of time at your destination and how available laundry facilities are will help determine how many outfits to pack. My general rule of thumb is one outfit every 2 days, knowing I will spend a considerable amount of time in bathing suits. Ladies, don’t forget sundresses and a light wrap for evenings.

Shoes are an incredibly important consideration. Many activities require closed-toed shoes. If you want a pair of shoes that will stand up to hiking muddy trails while allowing your feet to breathe, I highly recommend these Sketchers slip-on sneakers. I also recommend having a pair of water socks if you have sensitive feet like me, and a pair of water-resistant sandals or flip-flops.

An overhead view of supplies for a trip. Hats, passports, sunglasses and other odds and ends.
Photo Credit: Hana Brannigan/Pexels.

Let Activities Guide Your Packing List

Are you going to be outdoors? Of course, you will! If you burn easily, have a history of skin cancer, or just want to make sure neither of these applies to you, sunscreen is a necessity. A sunscreen with SPF 50 or greater is a must-have item in your tropical vacation packing list. An after-sun gel is also a great idea if you burn easily.

I always want to be in the water and being aware of my impact on nature is important to me. If I am going to be near coral reefs, I use Manda’s all-natural sunscreen. This is a zinc-based sunscreen, reef friendly, and approved by most dive locations around the world. I squeeze a dab into my hand, slightly massage the dab, and then spread it thinly to my most vulnerable areas. I have not burned once since starting to use this sunscreen, and I love that I can protect my skin and nature at the same time.

Another way to protect fragile skin from the sun’s rays is with thin UV-protectant clothing. I love this woman’s UV protection and moisture-wicking shirt. It does a good job of protecting my skin.

That’s a lot about clothes, but I have one more item I pack. I love to snorkel. Unfortunately, I am a little anxious breathing through regular snorkel masks, so we always carry our own snorkel full-face snorkel mask. If you are anything like me, you will LOVE this!

What accessories should you pack for your tropical vacation?

We’ve already talked about rain gear and umbrellas, those are critical. Carrying a collapsible wet bag is a great idea, and we have a handful of bags that travel everywhere with us.

In humid environments, paper wrinkles – including your passport. The advice we received was to place our passports in a sealed plastic bag. We tested this theory, and by mid-day the second day, sure enough, those pages were starting to wrinkle. Now, we always make sure we have a plastic bag for our passports and cash.

What else should you pack for your tropical getaway?

  • Insulated water bottle – many destinations no longer use single-use water bottles
  • Copies of your passport
  • Translation guides if you are not familiar with the local language
  • Sunglasses – I always carry a spare!
  • Insect repellent
  • Travel-size first aid kit, including nail clippers and tweezers, and pain relief
  • Prescription medications and a list of the medication names – just in case
  • Binoculars, cameras, and plenty of spare batteries and SD cards

Better safe than sorry!

General Packing List For Any Vacation

This is more of a checklist that you use can use make sure you get everything into that carry on bag or suitcase.

  • Toiletries – Including toothpaste, toothbrush, skincare and shaving cream and razors.
  • Underwear
  • Shorts
  • Tops
  • Pants
  • Dresses
  • Shoes (particularly good walking shoes)
  • Hats
  • Sunglasses
  • Passport
  • Plane tickets or boarding pass
  • Sweaters
  • A scarf
  • Phone or laptop charger
  • Sarong
  • Jackets
  • Sleeping bag (if camping)
  • Sleepwear
  • ATM Cards
  • Credit Cards

This list has served me well for many tropical vacations. Use this packing list as a starter list for your next trip. Try to pack light if possible, but don’t leave behind things you’ll need. Bon voyage!

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