17 Top Island Vacation Packing List Items for 2021 + What to Wear & NOT to Bring

Island beach with boats
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Updated on by Asher Fergusson

To relax, unwind, recharge your senses and get inspired, there is nothing better than a classic island vacation. From relaxing on the beach to snorkeling, boating, hiking, eating fresh fruit and dancing under the stars, island vacations can leave you with a whole new appreciation for life and its beauty.

Having indulged in many unforgettable island vacations myself, I’ve created this island packing list to make sure you have everything you need to maximize your relaxation and fun. You’ll also find a section on what to wear on an island, what NOT to bring, and answers to FAQs.

What to Pack for an Island Vacation – 17 Essentials

1. Travel Towel

Travel TowelI swear by these travel towels. A bulky towel that stays damp and mouldy in your suitcase is a nightmare. But these travel towels are perfect for any trip because they pack small and dry quickly, and you don’t have to clean them as frequently as a normal towel. You can use them at the beach and after a shower within the same day, and when it’s time to leave they’ll roll up dry and small for packing.

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2. Packing Cubes

HERO Packing cubesThese packing cubes organize your luggage, so that you don’t have to wrinkle your nice going out dress while rummaging for your bikini. You can hit the beach as soon as you arrive if all of your beachwear is tucked neatly within the same packing cube! Plus, this set comes with two laundry bags so that you don’t have to mix your clean and dirty clothes.

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3. Reef Safe Sunscreen

Reef Safe SunscreenDon’t ruin your vacation with a sunburn. You’ll be out in the sun a lot during your island vacation, and so it’s important to stay safe. However, you absolutely must use “reef safe” sunscreen. Studies show that normal sunscreens contain chemicals that destroy coral reefs. Reef safe sunscreen protects our skin without harming ocean ecosystems.

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4. Windproof Travel Umbrella

travel umbrellaIsland weather can be unpredictable. One minute, you’re out enjoying the sun – and then all the sudden you’re stuck in a tropical storm. That’s why a windproof travel umbrella is a must. Having it handy means that you don’t have to duck for cover every time it rains.

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5. Deet-Free Insect Repellent

Deet-Free Insect RepellentMosquitos sure can ruin a night under the stars, and you definitely don’t want to come home from your island vacation with Dengue fever as a souvenir. This repellent smells like lemon instead of nasty chemicals, and won’t sit sticky on your skin.

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6. Water Bottle with Built in Filter

Water Bottle with Built in FilterIt’s dangerously easy to get dehydrated in island heat. Depending on where you are though, you also can’t always be sure that your water source is safe to drink. That’s why I love these filtered water bottles. They filter your water on the go, so that you don’t have to waste money and plastic buying bottled water every day.

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7. Sand-Resistant Beach Blanket

Sand-Resistant Beach blanketIf you don’t want sand all over you everytime you relax at the beach, I highly recommend this sand-resistant beach blanket. It is quick-drying and lightweight, and it also has sand-weights on the edges so that you won’t lose it to the wind. As an added bonus, it has pockets to keep your belongings safe. This beach blanket takes lying in the sand to a whole new level.

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8. Travel Insurance for Island Vacation

travelinsurance.comTravel insurance is incredibly important on an island vacation, especially if you want to try new sports, like diving or surfing, or venture slightly out of your comfort zone. Anything can happen during your vacation and you’ll feel better knowing you’re insured. TravelInsurance.com will allow you to compare plans and find one that will protect you should you encounter unpredictable events including illness, injury and theft.

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9. Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger

Lipstick-sized portable chargerCharge your phone or camera without having to dash back and forth to your hotel room with this lipstick-sized portable charger. It’s small, simple, and makes travel so much easier. Nothing is worse than missing a killer sunset photo because your camera is dead.

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10. Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoalFeel free to try exotic new foods with activated charcoal on hand. If your stomach gets upset by unfamiliar food, activated charcoal absorbs toxins so that you can recover quickly without disrupting your vacation.

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11. Virtual Private Network

VPNA VPN protects your security. This means hassle free transactions at airports, hotels, AirBnBs, cafes and even roadside vendors without worrying about your credit card number being hacked or stolen. Unfortunately, I’ve learned from personal experience that tourists are huge targets for credit card fraud all around the world, so I’d say that wherever you travel, a VPN is a must.

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12. Underwater Camera

Underwater CameraWhether you want to photograph fish or your first surf lesson, underwater photography is a special island activity. This compact and affordable camera is also great for waterfall hikes or rainy days. Tropical vacations are wet, so you want a versatile weatherproof camera like this one.

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13. Waterproof Dry Bag

Waterproof Dry BagIf you want to fully enjoy the water, you’ll need a dry bag to protect your belongings. Even if the bag falls in the water during a hike, river crossing or boat ride, your electronics will stay completely dry and safe if protected within a dry bag. This one has a shoulder strap and waterproof phone case, which are particularly handy.

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14. Floatation Strap

Floatation StrapFor swimming, snorkelling or boating with your underwater camera or waterproof phone case, you’ll definitely want to use this flotation strap. That way if you drop your phone or camera, it will float instead of sinking to the bottom of the ocean!

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15. Leave-In Conditioner

Leave-In ConditionerSun and salt are staples of an island vacation, but unfortunately this combination can be damaging to your hair. I recommend using a leave-in conditioner at the end of each beach day to protect your hair from drying out and keep it looking effortlessly great.

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16. Swimsuit Cover-Up

Swimsuit Cover UpYou’ll be so grateful for this swimsuit cover-up. You can get wet at the beach or pool, throw it on for lunch, and then head back to the beach again with no fuss. Plus, this cover-up looks gorgeous on anyone and is comfortable, breathable and lightweight.

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17. Beach Bag

Beach BagTo up your beach or pool game, I highly recommend this beach bag. It comes with an insulated cooler at the bottom, which means that you can keep your food and drinks cold. It will also easily fit a change of clothes, towels, electronics, beach blankets and a book!

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Other Island Vacation packing list items not to forget:


What to wear on an island vacation:

On islands, the dress code is usually breezy and casual. Dress for comfort and relaxation, and make sure that your clothes allow you to enjoy the sun rather than swelter in it. Pack clothing that is lightweight and breathable, and leave any thicker fabrics behind. Summer dresses, sandals, flip flops, t-shirts, tank tops, and shorts make the best wardrobe for your island vacation. Plus, of course, plenty of bathing suits!

You also don’t need to worry about packing formal wear. A few nicer outfits are a good idea, but keep in mind that you’ll most likely be exposed to the elements, so don’t plan to wear clothing or shoes that can get easily stained or damaged by the beach or rain. Just in case, all of your footwear should be fairly waterproof.

To fully enjoy the outdoors, include some activewear in your packing list too. For hikes, runs, days out exploring, or whatever other adventures your island holiday offers, you’ll be grateful for some comfortable clothing that you can sweat in.

What Should WOMEN Wear on Spring Break? – (Click to expand)

Below is a sample women’s clothing list. (All items link to Amazon.com for your convenience).

Women will want light dresses for excursions into town and nightlife. Shorts, t-shirts and tank tops are better for outdoor activities. Of course, you’ll also need a killer bikini and swimsuit cover-up for the beach. A cute beach hat and sunglasses aren’t just nice accessories, but also will keep you protected while enjoying the sun all day.

On islands, you can go almost everywhere in flip flops, but for a nice dinner, you may want some durable nicer sandals. Hiking sandals are a great option for walking in warmer weather as opposed to heavy, clunky hiking boots.

Leave jeans and leather behind and opt for lighter, more breathable materials instead.

What men should wear on an island vacation:?– (Click to expand)

Below is a sample men’s clothing list. (All items link to Amazon.com for your convenience).

On an island vacation, men can get away with wearing board shorts, flip flops, and a tank top almost everywhere. In case you want to look nicer on a night out, pack some colorful, lightweight button-downs, and some nice waterproof shoes as well. For outdoor activities, athletic clothes with sweat-wicking technology will leave you feeling much more comfortable in humidity and heat. Pack some lightweight, slightly warmer clothes too, like a thin hoodie and linen pants, for stargazing on a cooler night.

The weather in and around the Grand Canyon varies largely depending on location. The base of the canyon tends to be hot from May to September, while the upper rim of the canyon has warm and mild temperatures. From December to March, expect the canyon floor to be cold and snowy, while the upper rim remains mild to cold.

Dry Season:

Most tropical islands will have a dry season and a rainy season, but the timing of that varies depends on where you are. The dry season tends to be the warmer months, so when you pack you won’t have to worry about getting cold.
Men will be happy in shorts and t-shirts while women can go out in a beach dress and flip flops

Rainy season :

During the rainy season, a good rain jacket is essential, as well as shoes with good grip that don’t slip when wet. You’ll also need to pack some slightly warmer clothing when visiting an island during the rainy season, like a light hoodie and long pants because days and nights could get just slightly cold.

Dressing appropriately for the activity on an Island – (Click to expand)

Relaxing on the beach – Pack your beach bag, and make sure you include your beach blanket, underwater camera, portable speakers, and waterproof phone case. Women can head straight to the beach in a bikini, flip flops, and swimsuit cover-up, while men can wear their boardshorts, a tank top, and flip flops too.

Snorkeling and boating – You’ll need to wear your rashguard and waterproof swim shorts. Make sure you pack your things in a dry bag and use your floatation strap for your phone. Flip flops are a good idea because they slip on and off easily and can get wet.

Hiking – Hike comfortably in lightweight hiking shorts, and moisture-wicking hiking t-shirts. I recommend wearing hiking sandals or breathable, lightweight hiking shoes rather than heavy boots when it comes to island adventures. Make sure you wear lots of eco-friendly sunscreen and mosquito repellent too.

Donkey and Horseback Riding – For these activities, it’s best to bring long pants and sturdy shoes that won’t fall off; some places may even require you to wear closed-toe shoes. As always, come prepared with layers to adapt to the weather, and consider bringing a sun hat or baseball cap as well.


What NOT to bring to an island vacation

1) 🚫 DON’T PACK bulky warm clothes: Islands are generally warm, and packing bulky warm clothing will just take unnecessary space in your suitcase. If the island where you are going can get chilly, you can still get away with lightweight items that are breathable and waterproof.

2) 🚫 DON’T TAKE unnecessary valuables and electronics: You’ll be so immersed with nature that you don’t need to bother with too many electronics. Your valuables are safer kept at home.

3) 🚫 DON’T BRING delicate items that are easily damaged when wet: Your island vacation will likely be wet, so it’s a no brainer to leave any items you don’t need that get damaged when wet at home. Pack a kindle in a kindle case rather than books, and bring an underwater camera rather than a regular one.

4) 🚫 DON’T PACK a bath towel: Bath towels don’t travel well because they stay wet, and get mouldy, in your suitcase. You’re much better off bringing a travel towel and using towels provided by the hotel.

5) 🚫 DON’T TAKE too many clothes: On islands you can dress casually and repeat outfits that are easy to get on and off. Besides, you don’t need to wear too much when the weather is so warm!

What NOT to wear on a tropical vacation? – (Click to expand)

Your nicest shoes – Free yourself to walk the beach and leave your nicest shoes at home. Wear flip flops or waterproof shoes instead so that you’re free to go anywhere.

Jeans – Jeans are warm and usually unnecessary on an island. You’ll be more comfortable in shorts, light khakis, and loose, breathable fitting linen pants.

Leather – Leather is a no-go for the beach; it does not like to meet the ocean. Leave any leather at home and wear material instead that’s lightweight, waterproof, and dries easily.


FAQs about an island vacation

    1. What is the weather like?

    Each island is different, but for tropical islands, the weather will usually be hotter and more humid than what you’re used to. Islands can also be very rainy, with unpredictable and fast changes in the weather. Be ready for anything, especially to get wet!

    2. When is the best time of year to visit?

    It’s best to visit islands during their summer or dry seasons. Wet or winter seasons can sometimes bring higher surf and more dramatic waterfalls though, as well as cooler temperatures that will be more comfortable for some.

    3. What are the best things to do on an island vacation?

    The main activity during your island vacation will usually be enjoying the beach – relaxing, swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, boating, or diving. You can also explore local cultures in towns, and local nature and wildlife by taking hikes.

    4. How can I save money during an island vacation?

    Save your money and enjoy nature’s gifts for free. Outdoor activities won’t only help you make the most of what the island has to offer, but your budget will also thank you. You don’t need to spend money every night on nights out when sometimes just a bonfire on the beach, enjoying the stars, is a better bet.

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