Spring-Break Bound? Packing List for the Tropics

I. Hate. Packing.

I think it’s because I used to do a lot of long-distance backpacking in places like Nepal — where if you forgot something like toothpaste, you were good and up and creek. Now, I live practically on the Appalachian Trail, so most of my hiking is close to home, and my trips take me to places where you can buy toothpaste or shampoo or the bug repellent the TSA wouldn’t let you take on the plane. But I still get all nervous and antsy about forgetting something.

The answer: Lists.  I keep lists for conferences, list for city trips, list for outdoor adventure trips, and lists for the tropics.

It’s getting toward spring break time.

If you’re lucky enough to be going to a place that looks like this….

Petit St. Vincent, a private island in the Grenadines

Petit St. Vincent, a private island in the Grenadines

… here’s what you’ll want to take for a week-long tropical escape.

I’ve depersonalized my list: you don’t really need to see what’s in my medicine cabinet, do you? And to make it usefully gender balanced, I’ve added stuff from my partner’s list, too…

Warning, I travel light, and I’m not much for evening dress up and make-up. Alter your list accordingly.


  • Bathing suits (two or three)
  • 2 pair casual shorts
  • 3 -4 T-shirts, tank tops, or blouses including one polo-ish shirt for the plane
  • 1 or 2 pairs walking shorts
  • 1 button-down shirt
  • 1 dress
  • 1 skirt and 1 or 2 blouses
  • 1 long pants (for plane)
  • One long-sleeved T
  • One rain/wind jacket
  • Hat
  • Underwear
  • 2 pairs socks (for plane)
  • Evening shoes
  • Walking shoes or sandals
  • Flip flops
  • Towel
  • Night shirt
  • Beach wrap
  • *Gentlemen will want to skip the dresses and skirts and perhaps add lightweight khakis and a shirt or two suitable for dining. Polo or Hawaiian shirts will work unless you’re going seriously upscale.

Also in Suitcase

  • Laundry bag
  • Beach bag/daypack that can carry camera bag and daily essentials (bug dope, sunscreen, water, wallet,  snacks) with enough plastic bags to keep everything waterproof and separate.
  • Sports gear (Snorkel, mask, scuba stuff — YMMV)
  • Toiletries (soap, earplugs, sunscreen, lip stuff, bug stuff, tweezers, shampoo/conditioner, hair ties, nail file, make-up, lipstick; I take my toothbrush (and some other daily look-like-a-human stuff) in my carry-on.) Guys: Subtract make-up; replace it with shaving supplies.
  • Voltage converters (if necessary) and adapters; batteries and charger for camera.
  • Sunglasses
  • If I’m checking a suitcase, the following items accompany me on the plane as carry-ons:
    • Folder for paperwork, pens, itineraries, directions, notes.
    • Camera, lenses and case, memory cards, flash drives
    • Chargers for iPad and cell phone
    • Guidebooks (preferably digital)
    • Change of clothes

Stuff for Plane Comfort

    • Ipad (with guidebooks and reading loaded; note, for beach reading, use a ink-screen Kindle)
    • Glasses
    • Jeglag pills
    • Water bottle (fill it when you’re through security)
    • Medicines (include stomach settlers if traveling to developing countries)
    • Tissues
    • Nail clippers
    • Toothbrush and paste
    • Hair comb and brush
    • Moisturizer
    • Cell phone
    • Plastic bags for any liquids

So that’s it: What did I miss? What items are on your list? Comment below!




  1. says

    Handy! I too hate packing. Honestly, it’s the only time I can think of when I can be sure of suffering psychosomatic pain. I get the worst backache just thinking of it. My motto now is, “I can buy underwear in [insert name of place here].”

  2. Karen Berger says

    Jill: yes, yes, yes! I remind myself I can buy underwear in XYZ too — as long as I think that’s going to be possible…

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