What to Pack for the Caribbean

Planning a Caribbean vacation has many steps—choosing the destination and dates, booking the accommodations and transportation, figuring out activities, and making your packing list.

If you’re wondering what clothes to wear in the Caribbean, we’re here to help! In this article we’ll go into detail about what to pack for the Caribbean (including what to pack for a Caribbean cruise) and answer some frequently asked questions.

How to Decide What to Pack for the Caribbean

First, check the weather forecast for your destination. This will help you know if you need to bring special items like raingear, or perhaps a warmer wrap for cool nights.

Next, calculate how many days and nights you will be gone to figure out how many outfits you will need.

Then, think through what you will be doing and where you’ll be going. Different activities will require different types of clothing, shoes, and equipment (such as hiking boots, workout wear, or snorkeling goggles).

Finally, make a list! Having a comprehensive packing list for your Caribbean vacation will help ensure you don’t forget anything important. If you’re traveling with someone else, be sure to compare notes so you don’t bring duplicate items—or leave something behind because you thought the other would bring it.

What to Pack for a Caribbean Holiday in Your Carry-on/Purse/Backpack

There are certain things that you will need with you while you travel, such as your tickets, passport, credit cards, etc. But you will also want to keep any valuable or irreplaceable items with you as well.

These include:


You will want to bring some cash for tips, taxis, and places that don’t accept credit cards. If you don’t want to carry much cash with you while traveling, you can always get it from an ATM once you’re at your destination.

Keep in mind that you don’t want to walk around with a lot of cash on you at any time.

Depending on which island you’re visiting, you may want to get some of the local currency before you leave. This will come in handy if the transportation you take from the airport doesn’t accept U.S. money. It also buys you a little time to find the best place to exchange currency, since rates and fees can vary.

Tip: Depending on where you go, you may need to pay a departure tax in cash at the airport, if it’s not included in your plane ticket. Be sure to ask in advance and set that cash aside if so.


It’s smart to not bring any expensive jewelry with you on a Caribbean vacation, but whatever jewelry you do bring should be packed in your carry-on to keep it safe.

Important Phone Numbers

Yes, you have everyone’s number in your phone, but what if your phone gets lost, stolen, or damaged? Make a separate list of important numbers like emergency contacts, doctors, health insurance company, travel insurance company, house or pet sitter, the hotel where you’re staying, credit card companies, and the nearest American embassy, and keep it in a safe place.


Make sure you pack all medicine that you need in your carry-on bag so you don’t have to worry about your luggage getting lost. In addition to any prescription medication, bring over-the-counter drugs (like aspirin, ibuprofen, stomach remedies, seasickness medicine, insect bite relief cream, and antihistamines) as well as items like bandaids, antiseptic wipes, and antibiotic ointment so you’ll have them on hand if you need them. You can’t always count on having access to these on an island.

Tip: keep all prescription medications in the original bottles to avoid any issues.

Destination Information

You may be asked to provide the name and address of where you’re staying when you reach your destination, so be sure to have that readily available. It helps to print out your hotel reservation. This will also come in handy if you are taking a taxi to your hotel.

Health Insurance Cards

Hopefully you won’t have any need for your health insurance information while on your vacation, but it’s good to be prepared for an emergency.

Travel Insurance Information

If you have purchased travel insurance, make sure you have this on hand as well.

Vaccination Information

Bring copies of immunization records if your destination requires special vaccines.

Photocopies of Important Information

Before you leave home, make two sets of photocopies of all the important documents above, including prescriptions for any medicine you’re carrying. Keep one with you and leave one in your hotel room at your destination. This information will be invaluable in case anything gets lost or stolen.

Tip: You can also take pictures of all important documents (your passport, driver’s license, insurance cards, etc.) and keep these on your phone. You may even want to email them to yourself or to an emergency contact just in case.

Emergency Contact Card

On a business card or small piece of paper that you can place in your wallet or somewhere that would be easily found, write down your name and the contact information for your family, in case of emergency.

Your Cell Phone, Charger, and Earbuds or Headphones

You might think this doesn’t need to be on the list—of course you’re bringing your phone—but chargers are often left behind. Putting everything on the list helps make sure you bring it. If the island you’re visiting is on a different voltage system, bring a plug adaptor as well.


If you’re bringing a separate camera, keep it as well as any accessories and supplies with you.

Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is an absolute travel essential these days. Pack several small bottles, and make sure you use it frequently.

A Change of Clothes and Basic Toiletries

Many travel experts suggest including your toiletries and a change of clothes in your carry-on, just in case your checked luggage is delayed. Women may want to bring pack their makeup bag if they use brands that aren’t easily replaced. If you do pack your toiletries in your carry-on, be sure to check the most current rules about what sizes of liquids are allowed on the plane.

If you wear contacts, be sure to bring any supplies you need as well as an extra pair, just to be safe! If you wear glasses, you may want to bring an extra pair of those as well.

Tip: Think about putting a swimsuit and flipflops in your carry-on as well in case you can’t check in when you arrive. That way you can head straight to the beach!

What to Pack for the Caribbean in Your Checked Luggage

In order to pack light, think about items that can be dressed up and down with accessories, like a sundress that works for both a casual day trip and a dressy dinner. For a weeklong trip, try to bring 4-6 tops and 3-5 bottoms that can be mixed and matched. If you bring some small packs of laundry detergent, you can wash things out in your sink even if you don’t have access to a washing machine.

If you’re planning on doing specific activities like hiking, tennis, or golfing, make sure to bring the appropriate clothing and shoes.


Men can bring t-shirts, polo shirts, and button-up short sleeve shirts; bring a tie if going to dressier places.

Women can bring t-shirts, tank tops, and lightweight blouses.

Dresses and Skirts

Women will want to add a few casual dresses or sundresses, or a skirt and top, to your packing list, especially if you’re staying at a resort that asks for “resort casual” wear in some areas. If you’re planning on dining at a more formal restaurant, bring a nicer dress and shoes to match. (Don’t forget an appropriate purse, too!)

Shorts and/or Pants

Shorts are essential for both men and women. Cotton shorts, khaki shorts, and even workout shorts can all be worn during the day at most places; just make sure they’re comfortable. Breathable fabrics like linen are ideal.

For men, pack lightweight pants such as linen or khakis. Women can pack Capri pants or lightweight slacks.

Shoes and Socks

The type of shoes you bring will depend on what activities you want to do on your trip. You will probably want to at least bring water shoes, flip flops, and sandals. You may want to bring tennis shoes if you’re going to do a lot of walking or playing sports.

If you plan on hiking, you may want hiking shoes. If you plan on going to a nicer restaurant, bring a pair that will fit in there. And if you’re going to golf, bring appropriate shoes.

Be sure to bring several pairs of socks for any shoes that need them.

Try to bring the fewest pairs of shoes you can get away with, and see what can do double duty. For example, a comfy pair of black flats can work for walking around during the day and dressing up for dinner at night.

Tip: To save room in your luggage, wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane. Slip flip flops in your carry on so you can change as soon as you land.

Underwear and Pajamas

Make sure you pack enough pairs of underwear for your vacation, and bring whatever you like to sleep in. Women will want to bring several bras, including a strapless bra if you’re bringing tops that need it.

Scarf, Shawl, or Jacket

Women may want to bring a scarf, shawl, or light jacket in case they get chilly in air-conditioned places. These can come in handy on airplanes as well.

You may also want to bring a light rain jacket or poncho, even if the forecast is clear. Caribbean weather can be unpredictable.

GoPro Camera

A GoPro is great for video of underwater adventures or other places where you won’t want to take your phone.

Phone Charger

You can’t use your phone if it isn’t charged! You may want to include an extra phone charger in your checked bag (in addition to the one in your carry-on) as a back-up in case you misplace the first one.

Travel Adapter/Plug

You can’t charge your phone if you can’t plug in the charger! Check to see if you need to bring a travel adapter plug.


Most resorts these days have hairdryers in the room, but you may want to doublecheck this in case you need to bring your own.

Rucksack or Backpack

You’re going to want both hands free at times, so we recommend bringing a backpack to take sightseeing or hiking if you plan to do that.

Miscellaneous Items

Ziploc bags tend to come in handy on trips, as does a Swiss Army knife and a small flashlight. You might also want to pack stain removing wipes in case you spill something on your clothes.

Beach Bag

A beach bag is an easy way to carry all your beach essentials. Make sure it’s made of a material that can get wet.


You’re going to need plenty of sunscreen! The Caribbean has stronger sunlight since it’s closer to the equator. Also, being on sand or water intensifies the sun’s rays. The higher the SPF, the better! You don’t want to go below SPF 30, but 50 or higher is best.

Bringing it from home ensures that you have the SPF you need and will save you money. We recommend bringing some in your carry-on or personal item on the plane that is not larger than 3.4 fluid ounces. In addition, you will want a lot more in your checked luggage.

Tip: If you’re going to be snorkeling or scuba diving, make sure your sunscreen is reef-safe.

Lip Balm with SPF

Lips are very susceptible to sunburn so protect them with a balm that has sun protection in it.

Sun Hats

Pack a wide-brimmed hat to protect yourself from the sun and help prevent headaches, heat stroke, or sunburn on your face and neck. One that is crushable and can easily fit in a small bag is ideal so you can take it on excursions.


You’ll also want to protect your eyes. Sunglasses are a must; they should have UV protection.

Flip Flops

Flip flops are the ultimate beach shoe. You can throw them on to walk to the beach, pool, or spa, or use them to walk into the local town. We suggest bringing two pairs, a nicer pair for dining and one for everything else.


The last thing you want to do on a Caribbean vacation is forget your swimwear and spend the first day trying to find something half-decent in local stores.

Make sure you bring several choices so you don’t have to wear a wet suit.

If you’re planning on doing any water activities, women may feel more comfortable wearing something other than a bikini bottom. Either bring some shorts you can put over your swimsuit, or find swim shorts for women.


Instead of changing in and out of your swimsuit, it’s much easier to just throw on a cute cover-up. These are easy to pack and will save you time when you’re getting ready for casual dinners or drinks by the pool. Note that it’s expected in many places to wear some kind of cover-up in public areas.

Rash Guard

If you’re planning on doing any water sports, a rash guard will come in handy. It can also protect you from the sun.

Beach Towels

Resorts will provide you with beach towels, but if you won’t be staying at a resort, bring a couple of towels if you have room.

Snorkeling Gear and/or Goggles        

While all-inclusive resorts will often have complimentary snorkeling equipment, and you can certainly rent it if not, you may prefer to bring your own. Goggles especially are easy to pack; if you wear prescription goggles you will definitely want to bring those.

Waterproof Phone Case

A waterproof phone case can be a lifesaver when you’re at the beach!

Waterproof Bags

Waterproof bags are great for keeping your things safe from sand and water. You can take them with you snorkeling or scuba diving and leave the bag in the boat knowing your valuables won’t get wet. They are also perfect to bring to the beach or the pool.

Insect Repellant

It’s the tropics! This will make sure you avoid bug bites.

What to Pack for Caribbean All Inclusive Resorts

Your packing list for a Caribbean all-inclusive stay will be slightly different than if you were staying at another type of resort.

Check the resort’s dress code. Many all-inclusive resorts have a nicer restaurant or two that require you to dress up a bit more, so you’ll need to bring an outfit, shoes, and accessories for that. Some also request “resort casual” clothing during the day, which can mean no tank tops, t-shirts with writing, or jean shorts.

However, most all inclusive resorts will provide things like beach towels, toiletries, and hair dryers, so you can cross those off your list. They will also usually have equipment like snorkeling gear, golf clubs and shoes, and tennis rackets available.

What to Pack for a Caribbean Cruise

Most of the items on a packing list for a Caribbean cruise will be the same as in the list above. However, there are some additional things you’ll want to pack, such as:

  • Motion sickness medicine or wristbands
  • Comfortable walking shoes (most cruise ships are very large and you’ll be doing a ton of walking)
  • Formal outfits, shoes, and accessories for fancy dress dinners
  • A waterproof travel bag for onshore excursions

How do I pack for a week in the Caribbean?

What to pack for the Caribbean for a week or more will depend on whether you have access to laundry facilities. If so, you can pack just a few items that are easily washed. If not, you’ll want to be sure to bring enough outfits, underwear, and socks to last for your entire trip. A tip is to bring 4-6 tops and 3-5 bottoms that you can mix and match.

What to wear on a plane to the Caribbean?

When heading on a Caribbean vacation, dress for the plane in layers. It may be cold where you live, but it will be toasty warm when you arrive. You don’t want to be sweating right off the bat!

Wear lightweight, comfortable pants and a short-sleeved shirt, then layer a long-sleeved shirt, sweater, or jacket over it.

Of course, if you’re traveling during the summer, you can just wear light pants or shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. However, you may still want to bring a light sweater or wrap in case the plane is cold.

Either way, you will also want to bring sunglasses and a hat in your carry-on so you can protect yourself from that tropical sun. If wearing heavier shoes on the plane, tuck some flip flops into your carry on as well.

Now that you’ve read our tips on what to pack for the Caribbean, have we left anything out? Let us know in the comments! And if you’d like help planning your trip, feel free to contact our expert travel advisors!

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