How to Pack for the Caribbean

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money.

Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” – Susan Heller

Packing for vacation, especially if you have never been there before, can be stressful. For some it is very easy to over-pack because you aren’t sure what to pack. If you are anything like me I am an "over-packer" I put things in my suitcase thinking "just in case" and then don't have space for those awesome finds purchased during vacation. Whether you are an over-packer, under-packer or just don't know how you should prepare for the Caribbean, I hope this will help you the next time you pull your abandoned suitcases from the closet for this year’s vacation. For those of you over-packers (like me) there are some really great tips on how to minimize your load, so now please consider some of these tips to help you pack for the Caribbean.


First and probably most important is to check the weather for your destination. At times the weather can be unpredictable depending the time of year that you are planning to visit. Rainy season for this part of Mexico is June through October so be sure to check the weather forecast for the area. Keep in mind that at times they may call for rain every day but you may never see a drop. If you plan to be out and about during this season you may want to wear very lightweight clothing that will dry out fast and possibly carry a compact raincoat or poncho. For the months of November through March you may want to bring at least one pair of pants and a long sleeve shirt for those chilly ocean breezes at night. This will be very important if you go on a boat cruise at night. Depending on where you are coming from you might find the weather very comfortable.

Remember that you don’t want to leave home with your suitcase bulging because you do not only need to follow the airline weight restrictions but you will also want space in your suitcase for those awesome souvenirs you may find at the outdoor markets or shopping malls. First you may want to begin by laying out all your outfits for the week. See what you can possibly mix and match instead of taking a complete outfit for each day. Do your best to resist bringing your fancy bling or expensive electronic toys. For cosmetics and toiletries, don’t pack full size bottles and be sure to put them in zip lock bags.


Here are some tips from my friends and fellow travelers:

  • Kristi from Canada advises, " Don't over-pack. For a Caribbean vacation all I need is 2 or 3 swimsuits, 2 coverups, 2 daytime outfits, and an outfit for each night at dinner. Also, be smart about finding comfortable shoes that go with almost everything so you only have to bring 2 or 3 pairs. If traveling during the winter I think it is a good idea to pack a summer outfit in a carry on bag and change into it at the airport (in Cancun or on a layover). And then bring a warmer outfit in the carry on for going home and again change at the airport."

  • "Put socks inside shoes! T-shirts, shirts, shorts and pants folded like a tube, it saves space and avoids wrinkles on your clothing." Shared by Hector in Cancun.

  • Before one vacation that I took with my best friend we got together and divided our packing list. If she was going to bring the toothpaste and shampoo I would pack the sun block and styling products.

  • Laura from Cancun says, "Also don't bring a hairdryer. The tropical weather will ruin any hairstyle in 5 minutes anyway. Also most hotels have hair dryers built into the bathrooms. For cosmetics and toiletries, don't pack full size items. Also, don't buy travel sized items. You can purchase refillable bottles for shampoo and such and reuse the bottles at home until your next vacation. If you aren't picky about your shampoo, most hotels provide these essentials and if you need more they will bring you as requested. Basically try to avoid bringing anything that might be provided to you."

  • Do your best to resist bringing your fancy bling or expensive electronic toys. Fun time will have a very abrupt end if you were to lose your favorite piece of jewelry!

  • Choose items that you can wear again and pieces that you can mix and match. Don't take items that are brightly colored or loud that might stand out as a repeat in photos! If you like to shop, only pack clothes for 2-3 days and buy items once you are there.

  • Try avoiding packing too much make-up. Due to the humidity here in Cancun chances are it will melt off your face before you get too far from your hotel room.

If you are an under-packer then this list will hopefully be your new best friend!

  • One of the greatest tips that we can share with you is have a good idea of how you will spend your week. For example, if you've made plans for zip lining, shopping through the markets, a tour at the ruins or anything that involves walking then you will want to pack a pair of tennis shoes. Here's another example, let’s say that you want to do a tour that may involve riding ATVs. You will want to pack clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting soiled and possibly ruined... then trashed. You wouldn't want to throw away a pair of brand new tennis shoes right? (I saw that too many times when I was working at Selvatica!)

  • Definitely pack more than one swimsuit. If you only have one be sure to hang your wet suit to dry when you take it off. For me there is not much more annoying than trying to put on a sandy, wet swimsuit.

  • For the ladies, be sure to pack some kind if sun dress or cover up. The majority of restaurants require appropriate coverage to enter and dine.

  • If you plan on doing tours that require you to bring a towel, you might want to bring your own or leave space in your bag for your new Mexican souvenir. Some hotels do not allow you to take their towels off property or charge you a $25 + fee for lost towels.

General Tips

  • "Take an empty hefty garbage bag every time. I have everyone put their dirty clothes in it right away. That way no sand gets in bags, etc and when I get home it goes right to laundry." Kelly

  • "I always have my swimsuit, cosmetics and an extra change of clothes for my carry on....if my suitcase gets lost...I'm still on the beach!!!" Kristi

  • "I do take clothes to change into at my destination in my carry on because if you have to wait for check in you don't want to stand around in winter clothes...I pack a suit and wait at the pool! I also leave half a bag empty traveling to my destination because I know I'm going to shop and need room to bring crap back home!" Kelly

  • Pack toiletries in zip lock bags!! Don't take the chance of a bottle opening by placing a piece of tape on the top. Don't pack valuable items in your checked bags! Also use zipper locks for extra protection!! An unsecured bag = easy opportunity.

  • If your suitcases are a plain solid color, use a brightly colored ribbon to help you spot your bags quicker at baggage claim. This will also help other people to not grab your bags by accident.

  • Wear your bulkier clothes on travel days to give you more space in your luggage.

Very Important!!!

  • Mosquito repellent is a must, just as important as sunscreen and both should be biodegradable!

  • Make photo copies of your passports, credit cards and other important documents and email it to yourself.This will help you to recover any items that may be lost or stolen. Place important documents and valuable items in your room safe. Avoid carrying any of these important documents on you. Remember that most places will require you to present your passport when you are exchanging money. See the post "Dollar vs Peso". This will help answer any questions you might have about how to deal with money here.

  • Take a copy of important phone numbers that you might need while here in case you lose your cell phone.

  • If you plan on renting a car, check with your insurance to see if they will provide coverage. You might not need to spend the extra money with the rental agency.

  • If you take medications be sure to take enough with you and a list of what you take. Be sure to have all your doctor prescribed medications in a bottle with your name as to not get held up at checkpoints.

If you have any great travel or packing tips please

share with us in the comment section below!


Happy and safe travels from Pure Paradise Travel!


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