So you’ve finally decided to take that much needed two week vacation in the Caribbean! Balmy beaches, palm trees and sun, sun glorious sun! Hotel booked…check. Rental car…check. Now all you need to do is pack! This is where things get just a bit tricky. My one word to the wise before heading to your Caribbean destination is plan, plan, plan! Decide what activities you would like to engage in before you arrive at your vacation destination since this may save you from packing too much or packing items unnecessary for your trip. It may be a good idea to get a little info about the destination that you choose to visit either online or from your travel agent, or to speak with the concierge at the hotel in which you plan to stay to get an idea of the available activities and culture of the island.
When choosing your clothing look for pieces that are cool, comfortable and travel well. While silks and linens may seem perfect for Caribbean temperatures, they often times wrinkle easily and are difficult to iron. This may pose a problem since some hotels and guest houses do not have irons and ironing boards in their rooms and may charge a tidy sum for the service. Stick with cotton and jersey materials, not only are they cool, they also move easily and generally do not wrinkle like some other materials. You may also want to pack a few items that are casually smart if you do decide to sample the night life on the island. Most restaurants in the islands may require men to wear collared shirts and a pair of slacks to dinner. So guys make sure to pack at least one pair of long trousers and a couple shirts for night time fun. For the ladies bear in mind that the atmosphere is tropical and cool so pack a of couple skirts that can be paired with a cute top and dresses to step out at night.
Although generally speaking the pace in the Caribbean is laid back and mellow, one must bear in mind that it is a bit more socially conservative than what you may perhaps be accustomed to. While no one may actually tell you about walking into the bank in a sarong and a pair of flip flops, the disapproving glances may say it all! Indeed in some islands like Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica there are strict rules about entering places of business in beach wear, so make sure to pack items that you may be able to wear in the event that you have to go into town to the bank or to a doctor’s office.
Comfortable shoes are also a must since you may be doing a lot more walking than you are accustomed to on terrain that may be unfamiliar. While flip flops may be ideal for walking around at the beach or in your hotel they may not be altogether comfortable when walking around town. Pack shoes that are breathable, give proper support, and have thicker soles if you intended to be walking a lot. Bear in mind too that there may be days when it rains. Yes sometimes it can rain for days at a time so make sure that your shoes are made of a material that can dry easily if they were soaked.
For those who have decided that they are not going to spend all their days lounging at the pool or the beach with a mojito and a magazine there may be some necessary additions to your suitcase. For those who are interested in exploring, many Caribbean islands have stunning opportunities to savour their unspoilt beauty. These near to perfect idylls however are more often than not, off the beaten track. If you hope to explore these areas be sure to pack a sturdy pair of shoes. A pair of trainers and socks would suffice. For the underwater explorer you may want to pack at least your own snorkel mask. It has been my experience that not all masks are created equally, so although you may be able to rent a mask, the downside is that your discomfort may detract from the enjoyment of the experience.
If you are on a short vacation (two weeks or less), do pack your own toiletries and essentials. If you can, purchase travel sizes of things like shampoo and conditioner, stick deodorant, after sun lotion, toothpaste, mouthwash, and sunscreen for your trip. Doing this saves you the time, hassle and expense of purchasing those items on your island destination. Additionally, if you have sensitive skin or eyes, or are accustomed to using particular brands it may be necessary to bring your own stuff since getting the exact item may prove difficult and expensive. A small first aid kit is always a good idea on any trip. Your kit for your Caribbean vacation should include, pain killers, medication for tummy upsets, cold medicine, bandages, skin salve for sun burns and insect bites, antihistamines and alcohol wipes. Make sure to also purchase unscented scented lotions and sprays if you want to avoid unwanted attention from insects. Also if you are on prescription medication for any illnesses, be sure to have an adequate enough supply to carry you through until the end of your vacation.
When packing, stay away from expensive items of jewelry and electronics. Ladies if you must, limit yourself to a modest watch and earrings (not hanging). It is a good idea to check with your hotel or guest house beforehand to find out whether there are facilities for keeping your items safe while you are out of your room. Find out also whether there are computer and Internet facilities available to guests if you need to keep in touch. Carry your laptop only if you must. Ladies blow dryers are often available at most hotels and guest houses so if you have to take an hair styling implement your flat iron may be best. Remember mobile phones are only a good addition if they can work on the island. Check first with your mobile phone provider to see whether your phone has roaming capabilities and whether the island you are going to can support your provider’s service since not all islands may be able to. Do carry small compact cameras in neat cases. They not only travel well, but are also more convenient to carry around with you while on vacation.
When you are finished packing, your basic suitcase should have at least two extra pairs of shoes, a few outfits, swim wear, toiletries kit, and first aid kit. Once these basic items are packed you are pretty much set and on your way to enjoying your Caribbean vacation, so have fun and make sure to take lots of pictures!