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What to Pack for a Tropical Beach Vacation

Off of Sugar Beach in Maui

Off of Sugar Beach in Maui

  • Pack lightly, but take everything you need.
  • Dress appropriately for each activity, but only have one change of clothes.
  • Simplify and get away from it all, but have everything you need to relax.

Based on these conflicting principles of travel, my friends and I have come up with a woman’s basic packing list for a tropical beach vacation. I will make separate lists of personal items, clothing, activity items, travel supplies, and supplemental condo supplies (since we commonly rent a vacation condo). Some of the items could likely go in more than one category, but I just put them on one list. These lists don’t mean I necessarily think you need to take all of these things, but they are worth thinking about. You will want to think ahead about travel size containers for some of them, too.

Personal Items:

  • sunglasses, good ones that don’t make things look dark, but do cut the glare
  • reading glasses, for those of us over a certain age…
  • deoderant
  • shampoo, conditioner
  • comb/brush
  • menstrual cup (which you can read more about here; having one of these has made the difference in being able to enjoy a vacation in spite of such inconveniences), and a few back up feminine pads
  • first aide supplies, such as bandaids, tweezers, ibuprofen, duct tape, super glue
  • olive oil or lotion for skin; helps with dry skin and bug bites
  • sunscreen, in case you didn’t have time to pre-tan (you can read some of my perspective on that here) or you get too much sun too quickly (unfortunately very easy to do in tropical zones) and have to protect burnt skin
  • lip balm
  • minimal make-up, such as eye liner, mascara, lip color
  • toothbrush AND toothpaste
  • small hand mirror

Activity Items:

  • bug repellent
  • crushable hats with brims, for hiking or beach time
  • beach towel
  • insulated bag lunch tote
  • collapsible beach chair (I’m still brainstorming over this one)
  • small back-pack for day hikes
  • Garmin watch or similar GPS device for keeping track of location or mileage
  • books to identify local flora and fauna
  • travel fishing poles (This is really for my husband, but it is something he has wished he had several times lately, so I’m putting it on my list and I might get him one like this: H2o Pro 5′ 3 Piece 100% Graphite Travel Fishing Rod.)
  • canteen water filter, such as back packers use to filter microbes out of any “wild” water supply they would like to use. (I don’t have one yet, so can’t recommend, but this is an example of what I’m talking about: NDuR 38oz Pull Top Filtration Canteen.)
  • floating swimming pool hammock. These are light and fold up to pack very flat. Just a few breaths to blow them up and voila!
  • waterproof camera with video capability. Don’t forget charging cords and/or batteries, as well as make sure you have a large enough memory card in it. Here is a good review to help choose one, if you don’t already own one.
  • translator app on smart phone (you might want to make sure this is turned off or you have adjusted your plan for using it in a foreign country) or iPod, if at all possible

Travel Supplies:

  • printed copies of all flight, rental car, and hotel information
  • neck pillow for sleeping on plane
  • iPod or kindle for listening to audio book or reading on flight
  • charging cords for all electronics (make a distinct list of cords needed; I use ziplock bags to make this more manageable)
  • your own good, noise reducing earbuds
  • iPad or small lap top computer with pre-downloaded movie(s) for diversion during flight. Downloading can take a while, so do this enough ahead of time.
  • paper and pen – because you will always think of something you want to remember later, and can also use to begin making a potential menu and shopping list for condo meals and snacks
  • one change of clothes, a favorite bathing suit, and toothbrush, just in case you have any trouble getting reconnected with your luggage. That should be enough to keep you happy until get your luggage or you go shopping for what you need!
  • Gum. This is good for both some mouth refreshment between eating and for helping with pressure changes during flights
  • cash, credit cards – you will want some of both. Consider calling the credit card company ahead and letting them know, so they don’t think someone has stolen your card, thus deactivating it.

Condo Supplements:

  • I have never met a condo with good cooking knives. Wrap one large chopping knife and one smaller paring knife in your beach towel or suitable t-shirt and duct tape it together. Then, sandwich it between or in shoes or something fairly firm in a hard shell suitcase. All of your food preparation will be much more enjoyable.
  • A few of your commonly used spices in some small ziplock bags will be appreciated come meal time. Small containers of salt and pepper usually not too expensive to buy, but all the spices you might wish you had can add up to a lot of money.
  • If you are going to a foreign country, you might also consider a small supply of sugar and coffee or tea.
  • Food storage containers. I try to take a few ziplock bags, and some small to medium plastic containers. It is easy enough to pack some smaller clothing items inside of these to make efficient use of space and to keep them from getting broken. If you get any alcohol on the flight, save those little bottles. They are cute and can come in handy.


  • shorts/skorts
  • tank tops and/or t-shirts
  • one light weight, long sleeve shirt for sun cover or bug guard
  • light jacket or sweat shirt
  • jeans
  • belt
  • hiking sandals (I have found both Keens and Lunas to be very comfortable)
  • running shorts, shirt, and bra
  • minimalist running shoes (always good to have back-up in strange territory)
  • pajamas
  • underwear, bottoms and bras
  • hankies (come in handy for hikes)
  • socks, for hiking or running
  • dress/skirt outfit for dinner and dancing
  • a leetle bit of jewelry (You might like this easy to make travel jewelry case I came up with; pack in carry on for safety)
  • one piece or athletically stable two-piece bathing suit, because activity is just more fun when you have a more secure suit
  • two piece, for laying in the sun, because anything more is much too hot

I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, because I always do. If you know what I need to put on the list, let me know. Otherwise, I will also work on updating it as things come up with further travel plans. I might get around to adding a pdf of the lists to the blog so that you can easily print it, should you desire to use my lists as your own list template.

We like to take our tropical vacations during our homeland winters, and it’s actually not too soon to begin making reservations for winter 2014-2015 now!


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