What NOT to Pack for your Caribbean Vacation

Written by: Amanda W


So you’re planning a trip to the Caribbean? Awesome! Curious about what you should pack? No problemo, I’ve got you covered. Just promise me you’ll pay attention and heed my words. Here it is – you ready for this?

Don’t pack.

I mean it. Packing involves stuffing stuff into a bag that can barely contain the amount of stuff you’ve stuffed into it. Stop packing stuff.

You will need 10% of what you think you need. Seriously. You will wear the same shorts, the same shirt, the same bathing suits, the same dress all week. No joke. Everyone who takes an island vacation admits the same thing: I packed way too much crap.

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You’re on an island! Who are you trying to impress anyway?

You want to know what those of us who live here wear most of the time? The same shorts, the same shirt, the same bathing suits, the same dress… ALL YEAR LONG. Islands are casual, and we’re not talking about the kind of Casual Friday where you still have to wear a shirt without stains/holes and a skirt that hits just above the knees for decency. We’re talking seriously casual, like I’ve seen so many old dudes walking down the street in speedos I officially never want to lower my eyes from the horizon again-kind of casual. I’m scarred. But you know what? Good for them! I might cringe a little because it’s just way too much exposure for an old dude, but if he’s comfortable wearing that walking down the street, then so be it. He and all his buddies. Because for some reason that’s a thing in the islands (or, at least on my island): old dudes hanging out (literally).

And old dudes aren’t the only ones setting the standards low; on my rock, a sarong is also perfectly acceptable to wear at all times of the day or night, in any manner of tying, with as little as absolutely nothing on underneath. Seriously. Bras are beyond optional here. Shoes? Pshh, c’mon. A bikini/boardshorts is work-appropriate for 100% of the population. Even if they don’t work in the water!

So what does this mean for you, dear vacationer? It means, don’t be that guy. You know who I’m talking about. Don’t be that guy wheeling a giant suitcase down the street that’s large enough for a comfortably lounging English Mastiff to fit inside. Don’t be that girl constantly wiping sand and dirt off her previously perfect pink stilettos. Don’t be that family lugging around 18 bags to go to the beach for the day – you do not need to pack enough snacks for an army. And trust me, your kid is just going to pee in the water, so don’t worry about packing all that hand sanitizer and toilet paper either. You don’t need it. You don’t need any of it.

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Here is a handy list of the things you absolutely do not need when traveling to the Caribbean. Period. I promise. Unpack them right this second!

For the ladies…

  • High heels.
    Many roads are unpaved, and you sure as hell can’t wear them on the beach. Many an ankle has suffered from misguided attempts to look taller.
  • Makeup.
    It will melt off of your face. You will look like a disturbing cartoon character. You will spend the entire day wiping your face and then trying to fix the uneven mess you’ve just made. And you’ll also look like you’re crying evil black tears.
  • Hairdryer.
    Humidity. That’s all I’m saying.
  • Cute purses and wristlets to match every outfit.
    Nobody even noticed your outfit, forget about the rest.
  • Moisturizer of any sort other than sunscreen.
    Refer to the melting disaster that is makeup. Moisturizer is lovingly termed “slime” in the islands.
  • A bathing suit for every day of the week.
    You need two. One will dry over the clothes line or porch railing while you wear the other one. That’s it.
  • Multiple beach cover-ups.
    The more you bring with you, the more sand and unwanted biting critters you will bring back home.
  • Jewelry.
    Unless you’re joining us momentarily from your luxury yacht, keep the jewels at home, ladies. Many islands have populations that suffer from extreme poverty – your flashy diamonds will only attract unwanted attention.

For the gentlemen…

  • Dress shoes.
    You will barely need a pair of flip-flops, forget about anything that will suffocate your newly-freed toes.
  • Button-down shirts.
    I know what you’re thinking – you want to pull off that sexy casual look (sleeves rolled up, top buttons open, untucked, and looking carefree). You know what you will actually look like? A hot sweaty mess. Pit stains are not sexy, mi amigo.
  • Multiple pairs of sunglasses.
    This isn’t fashion week. We buy Ray Dans from the guy on the street.
  • Jewelry.
    I cannot count the number of times a newlywed has lost his ill-fitting wedding ring while snorkeling or diving. Leave it at home, boys – it will save you from the inevitable fight later.

I know you think I’m exaggerating, so let me reiterate: one shirt, one pair of shorts, two bathing suits, one dress/sarong for ladies, one pair of flip flops. That is all you need.

Consider this your warning: if you are that guy struggling down the street with three gigantic suitcases, know we are all mocking you ceaselessly. If you are that girl struggling to keep your precious stilettos clean on the beach, know we are all hoping a wave comes up to sweep them off your feet entirely.

Do yourselves – and your back – a favor: leave all that extra stuff at home. Unless your aim is to entertain us – in which case, go ahead and bring your luggage collection. We can’t WAIT to see how you manuever those plastic wheels in the sand.

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A version of this article also appeared on AWalk on the Run.

This entry was posted in Amanda Walkin's posts, General, Island List-icles, Random Funnies, Tourists and the Locals and tagged , by Amanda Walkins. Bookmark the permalink.
Amanda Walkins

About Amanda Walkins

Girl travels solo. Girl meets boy. Within a week, girl moves in with boy, adopts island dog, and decides to never go home. Her life is a cliché. But actually, Amanda is just like so many others who got sucked into the vortex of their respective rocks. Amanda’s current rock is Roatan, a little island off the east coast of Honduras. From brutal Boston winters to the frenetic pace of Washington, DC, Amanda just kept heading farther south in search of warmer climes and laid-back vibes. Now she spends her days balancing writing and socializing with the eclectic residents of Roatan. That beats the hell out of balancing in high heels on a moving metro train.

Amanda writes about her rock for tourists, current and potential expats, and, of course, for her own sanity at www.amandawalkins.com.




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39 thoughts on “What NOT to Pack for your Caribbean Vacation

  1. Hi my husband and I going to the Caribbean for 7 day’s everytime we travel we both over pack this trip is don’t want to end up with all that luggage and clothes we didn’t get to wear it guess I’ll just take one pair of heels lol in case we go out to a club

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  4. “Bras are beyond optional here. Shoes? Pshh, c’mon. A bikini/boardshorts is work-appropriate for 100% of the population. Even if they don’t work in the water!”

    Really? Are you serious? So there are no businessmen or women, teachers, lawyers, doctors, firefighters, or damn near anyone with an office job or dress code in the Caribbean? Everyone is walking around banks, hospitals, schools, offices with bikinis, boadshorts, or sarongs with no bras? As someone born and raised in the Caribbean, this is stupid at best and offensive at worst. For a vacationer, yes this may be appropriate. But the islands are multifaceted COUNTRIES and people’s homes, not just vacation spots. Meaning people conduct business, run countries, and work there…often in jobs that ask for more than sarongs and boardshorts

  5. absolutely wonderful post! Spoken right out of your experience. I am going on a Costa Rica travel with my friends and blogs like yours are very helpful. We have booked an adventurous vacation with http://vacations-costarica.com/ and picked all fun activities instead of museums and historical places. Surely I wont be needing my heels or all those matching stuff 🙂

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