Table of Contents

27 Top Island Vacation Packing List Items for 2024 + What to Wear & NOT to Bring

Island beach with boats
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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.

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What to Pack for an Island Vacation - 27 Essentials

  • 1. Quick-Dry Travel Towel

    I swear by these travel towels. A bulky towel that stays damp and smelly 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 wash them as frequently as a normal towel. You can use them at the beach and after a shower the same day, and when it’s time to leave, they’ll be dry and won’t take up space.

    Quick-Dry Travel Towel

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 2. Beach Bag with Built-in Cooler

    To 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! It can hold 14 cans, so you’ll have everything you need to chill on the sand til the sun rolls down.

    Beach Bag with Built-in Cooler

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 3. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

    Did you know there’s a cyber-attack about every 39 seconds? According to Security Magazine, this totals about 2.2K attacks daily and hackers are only getting more ruthless by the minute. Unfortunately, I’ve learned from personal experience that tourists are huge targets for credit card fraud all around the world, so a VPN is a must. I thought our Airbnb would be safe but I can tell you first-hand that it’s awful to wake up to stolen banking information or a compromised PayPal account.

    A VPN like NordVPN means hassle-free transactions on a truly private network when you join public wifi at airports, hotels, Airbnbs, cafes, and more. It also will limit online censorship so you’re not blocked from using your favorite websites in certain host countries (which commonly include Netflix, YouTube, PayPal, and sites you may need for work). They even offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, so there’s literally nothing to lose and everything to gain.

    Virtual Private Network (VPN)

    View NordVPN.com Options ➜

  • 4. Packing Cubes

    These 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.

    packing cubes

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 5. Reef Safe Sunscreen

    Don’t ruin your vacation with a sunburn. You’ll be out in the sun a lot during your island vacation, 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.

    reef safe sun screen

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 6. Travel Insurance for an Island Vacation

    If you’re traveling away from home, your domestic coverage will not protect you overseas (including Medicare and Medicaid), and the last thing you want is to pay six-figure bills out-of-pocket! Travel 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. In many countries, it’s actually mandated so that tourists don’t end up paying huge medical bills that would be difficult to recover from.

    We use Faye because they handle everything on their easy-to-use mobile app, and reimbursements are quick. We were wired the funds when we needed them most, rather than being put through delays and tribulations as with most providers. Faye has completely transformed our experience with insurance and they are simply the best! It’s one of the cheapest expenses on your trip and worth it for the peace of mind alone.

    Travel Insurance for an Island Vacation

    Get a quote in less than 60 seconds with Faye ➜

  • 7. Windproof Travel Umbrella

    Island weather can be unpredictable. One minute, you’re out enjoying the sun – and then all of a 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.

    Windproof Travel Umbrella

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 8. Water Shoes

    I’ve had my feet scratched up from sharp things in the water, so I consider water shoes essential. For going in and out of the water, they will protect you from rocks, coral, shells, and other items that can hurt exposed feet. Since they’re mesh, they’re super breathable and dry quickly to keep you on-the-go.

    Water Shoes

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 9. Mosquito-Repellent Wristbands

    Mosquitos 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. We love that they’re wearable instead of having to respray toxic fumes all day.

    Mosquito-Guard-Repellent

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 10. Cooling Towel

    An island vacation is a perfect time to bring along a cooling towel. This awesome invention helps you stay cool with minimal effort, whether you’re by the pool, at the beach, on a boat, or out exploring. All you have to do is wet the towel, wring out any excess water, and it instantly becomes 20-30 degrees colder than the outside air temperature. They’re reusable and pack down super small, making them built for all of the island adventures that await you.

    Cooling Towel

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 11. Water Bottle with Built-in Filter

    It’s dangerously easy to get dehydrated in the island heat. Depending on where you are, 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.

    Water Bottle with Built-in Filter

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 12. Neck Wallet

    Not only are neck wallets good for keeping your valuables safe, but they also keep your most important items together in one convenient place. In this neck wallet, you can fit your phone, bank cards, cash, and passport in zippered compartments. It helps to have all of these valuable belongings in one place rather than strewn about in different pockets and bags. You’ll be able to carry your necessities with you and remain hands-free while taking part in fun island activities like biking, hiking, and kayaking.

    neck wallet

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 13. Sand-Resistant Beach Blanket

    If you don’t want sand all over you every time 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 a cherry on top, it has pockets to keep your belongings safe. This beach blanket takes lying in the sand to a whole new level.

    Sand-Resistant Beach Blanket

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 14. Universal Travel Adapter

    It’s very likely that the island you visit uses different electrical plugs than in your home country. It’s important to bring a travel adapter so you can charge and use your electronics in case the plugs are indeed different. I really like this one and recommend it to my friends who travel because it works in almost every country and comes with two USB ports so you can charge multiple devices at once.

    Universal Travel Adapter

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 15. Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger

    Charge 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.

    Lipstick-Sized Charger

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 16. Waterproof Phone Pouch

    Use this waterproof phone pouch to film underwater movies. We all want to go full-mermaid and take stunning underwater selfies – this pouch will keep your phone safe from water, sand, and scratches. You’ll have full use of your touchscreen and camera to record epic underwater videos (with sound).

    waterproof phone pouch

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 17. Floatation Strap

    For swimming, snorkeling 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!

    Floatation Strap

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 18. Activated Charcoal

    Feel 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.

    Activated Charcoal

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 19. Underwater Camera

    Whether 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. It’ll shoot even better videos than your phone in a cover (which you’ll need regardless), but to make the quality truly epic, this weatherproof camera is your best bet.

    underwater camera

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 20. Waterproof Dry Bag

    If 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.

    Waterproof Dry Bag

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 21. Hanging Toiletries Bag

    This hanging toiletry bag is one of our favorite discoveries! It hangs on any door or hook to create a shelf-like system, regardless of how glamorous (or unglamorous!) the bathroom situation is. It’s so much nicer than throwing your products all over the countertop chaotically. This one has 4 giant pockets and holds our entire family’s toiletries to consolidate all liquids in case of spills.

    Hanging Toiletries Bag

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 22. Motion Sickness Patches

    If you suffer from any motion or seasickness, these are a must-have. My wife field-tested a bunch of brands, and this one came out on top as the most natural and effective. It also doesn’t make you drowsy like similar products.

    Motion Sickness Patches

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 23. Leave-In Conditioner

    Sun 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.

    conditioner

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 24. Swimsuit Cover-Up

    You’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.

    Swimsuit Cover-Up

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 25. TSA-Approved Luggage Locks

    Pickpocketing is common in many parts of the world. These locks are necessary for your checked luggage. They are TSA-approved so security can access your bag if needed, but no one else will be able to look through your things. We bring a couple of sets for suitcases, backpacks in crowded areas that draw thieves, public or hostel lockers, and more.

    TSA-Approved Luggage Locks

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 26. Kid’s Snorkel & Life Jacket

    If you’re traveling with any little ones, bring your own snorkeling equipment. While there are plenty of options for adult rentals, you’ll have a harder time finding the right fit in children’s sizes. It’s best to ensure this is fitted at home before you depart for your trip. We also bring these unisex life jackets to help our kids float more confidently in the water (especially necessary for big ocean waves that can even take down full-sized adults!)

    Kid’s Snorkel & Life Jacket

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 27. Packable “Just in Case” Bag

    Regardless of where you go, you’ll likely feel the irresistible pull to do some shopping! Pack this “just in case” bag for those unexpected purchases; it fits perfectly under your plane seat and counts as your personal item bag for the flight home (no carry-on fees, woo-hoo!) I also love that it’s a duffle material so it’s super lightweight when empty.

    Packable “Just in Case” Bag

    View on Amazon.com ➜

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 an Island Vacation? – (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.

Packing for the Seasons on an Island

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 on an Island Vacation

  • 1.DON’T PACK bulky warm clothes

    Islands are generally warm, and packing bulky warm clothing will just take up 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. Unless the island you’re visiting happens to be Iceland or someplace equally as cold! In that case, consider bringing compact warm clothes like a down jacket or thermals.

  • 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. Besides, you’ll be surrounded by water and we all know water and electronics don’t mix. So unless it’s waterproof or a device you absolutely can’t travel without, save yourself the headache and leave it behind.

  • 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 Island Vacations

  • 1. What is the weather like?

    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! Most islands have a wet, hurricane, or monsoon season, so it’s important you travel prepared depending on the time of year you plan to visit.

  • 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?

    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.

    You can check out the top local tours for hundreds of cities around the world through Get Your Guide. They’re our favorite booking services for authentic experiences at an affordable price.

    See all worldwide attractions at GetYourGuide.com ➜

  • 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.