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28 Top Key West Packing List Items for 2024 + What to Wear & NOT to Bring

Key west bridge
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Key West, the farthest west of the Florida Keys, boasts year-round sunshine and warm temps, in a beautiful island setting.

The southernmost city in the U.S., Key West can be a great destination for those looking for fishing, snorkeling, pub crawls, museums, and beautiful beaches. It can be both a family-friendly destination and a vibrant weekend getaway for couples or friends, depending on how you choose to spend your time.

Because Key West offers a lot of different options for vacationers, it can be hard to know exactly what to pack. We’ve put together a list of 19 essential items you should be sure to pack, including what to wear in Key West, what NOT to pack, and answers to FAQs to help you make the most of your trip.

Woman at sunset in key west
Key West sunsets are absolutely magical.
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What to Pack for Key West – 28 Essentials

  • 1. Packing Cubes

    Packing cubes are the new travel essential. By putting your clothes in the various size cubes, you keep your luggage organized and tidy. I like using a different one for each type of clothing (tops, underwear, swim) and having each person traveling use a different color. These come with laundry bags to help keep your clean and dirty clothes separate and offer a lifetime replacement guarantee.

    packing cubes

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  • 2. Waterproof Phone Case

    You’ll be swimming at Smathers Beach, Higgs Beach, and gorgeous places like Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. Protect your lifeline from all the water that surrounds you with a waterproof case. This one shields your phone against moisture, sand, debris, and scratches. Add a flotation strap to ensure it floats if you drop your device deep in the ocean!

    Waterproof Phone Case

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  • 3. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

    Cybersecurity attacks have taken out businesses, individuals, and entire school districts in the Key West area. Protect your online privacy and ensure hackers can’t steal your private information by using a virtual private network (VPN).

    For a low monthly cost, NordVPN ensures a completely anonymous virtual experience and a private IP address that creepy onlookers can’t monitor. It will also block advertisements like pop-ups and offer discounted flight rates since no business can display geo-targeted pricing (that fluctuates depending on your location). And most of all, it’s the best way to have real peace of mind over your passwords and banking information while also removing any barriers to entry while using the internet.

    Virtual Private Network (VPN)

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  • 4. Swimsuit

    This one is obvious but essential. The common dress code in beach towns is a swimsuit and cover-up. Look stylish splashing around the beach in this flattering swimsuit. It comes in tons of colors and fun prints.


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  • 5. Quick-Dry Travel Towel

    A trip to the Keys is all about the fun you’ll be having on the water. From lazy days on the beach to exciting boat rides, you’re going to need a towel to keep you dry and comfortable. Opt for a travel towel over a traditional one. Travel towels dry faster, are more compact, are odor-resistant, and are extremely absorbent.

    Quick-Dry Travel Towel

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  • 6. Travel Insurance for Key West

    No matter how well you plan, the unexpected can happen – that’s why we like to use travel insurance. We use Faye because they reimburse you through their easy-to-use mobile app, which makes the claims process a breeze! They will protect you against flight delays, theft, cancellations, unexpected medical costs, evacuations, and other common travel issues that you shouldn’t pay for out-of-pocket.

    And what is the point of having insurance if it’s too daunting to use? I once avoided filling out a claim just because it seemed more time-consuming and dreadful than eating the lost expense. Faye is the opposite and makes the process painless. It’s like having an entire support team in your pocket, available 24/7 through their mobile app. You’re reimbursed quickly through a digital transfer instead of filling out heaps of paperwork. It’s more affordable than you would think and pays for itself if anything comes up. *Must be more than 100 miles away from home to use travel insurance.

    Travel Insurance for Key West

    Get a quote in less than 60 seconds with Faye ➜

  • 7. Mesh Slip-On Water Shoes

    We like these shoes for their versatility – you can wear them in and out of water and for various activities. These are the perfect shoes for Key West’s water activities, like kayaking, fishing, and boating. I like that they are extremely lightweight and breathable, which is great for Key West’s warm weather. The soles provide traction in slippery conditions, and best of all, they’re comfortable!

    mesh water shoes maui

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  • 8. Beach Bag with a Built-in Cooler

    This is the best beach bag we’ve ever found! It has a built-in cooler at the bottom to chill all of your snacks and drinks. It’s roomy enough for all towels, sunglasses, sunscreen, etc., with 9 large pockets, and it’s super easy to clean sand out of with a debris-resistant material. Consolidating your essentials and your provisions is a serious life hack – Trust us!

    Beach bag

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  • 9. Cooling Towel

    Keep yourself comfortable in the heat during your relaxing days in Key West under the sun. You never know when the heat will be too much to handle. Packing one of these compact cooling towels will ensure your comfort no matter where, no matter how hot. To use, just wet the towel, wring it out, and enjoy a cold towel that is 20 degrees cooler than the outside temperature.

    Cooling Towel Pink and blue

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  • 10. Rashguard

    These rash guards are great for a variety of activities. We like that they dry quickly, meaning you won’t be feeling like you are wearing a sticky wet shirt all day. They protect from salt, sand, and water and offer a UPF 50+ protection from the sun. Since I burn easily, they are a must-have!

    rash guard

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  • 11. Filtered Water Bottle

    While Florida generally has clean water, it’s wise to bring your own filtered water bottle so you can always double-purify the hydration you’re getting from public water fountains and less sanitary places. This Brita noticeably improves the taste of your water and is way better than buying plastic bottled water all day, which is expensive and bad for the environment.

    Filtered Water Bottle

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  • 12. Sunscreen

    Sunscreen is a necessity in Key West, as the sun can be very intense, with a high UV rating. This is our favorite sunscreen: it’s oil-free, not greasy, reef-friendly, paraben-free, and cruelty-free. It’s great for everyday wear and offers UPF 50 protection. Best of all, it smells like summer!


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  • 13. Neck Wallet

    Keeping your important items nearby is a must, and a neck wallet such as this is perfect because it can be worn over or under your clothing. It’s large enough for your cash, cards, and passports while still being slim and not bulky. It’s also got RFID for an extra layer of protection and tough, ripstop fabric for an added measure of safety.

    Available on with an exclusive 15% discount using the coupon code “HERO”.

    Neck Wallet

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  • 14. Hand Sanitizer Spray

    Whether you are out on the water, in town shopping, or checking out some local bars, carrying a travel hand sanitizer such as this means you’ll always know your hands are clean, even when you can’t wash up. They are small and compact, so you can throw one in your purse and one in your backpack and always have it on hand.


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  • 15. Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger

    If you plan to be out and about all day, the last thing you want is a dead phone halfway through the day. Throw a charger like this one in your dry bag, daypack, or beach bag and you’ll be glad you did. It can charge your phone completely but is only about the size of lipstick.

    Lipstick-Sized Charger

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  • 16. Discounted Tickets on Key West Tours

    Party on the sandbar, sail off into the sunset, watch dolphins in their natural environment, and snorkel in the crystal clear water. The trolly is a fun way to experience old-town and Miami is a road trip away!

    Get Your Guide is our favorite booking service for the best tours around the world. They have flexible cancellation and you can read reviews from other adventurers so you don’t get stuck in a lackluster experience.

    Discounted Tickets on Key West Tours

    See all Key West attractions at ➜

  • 17. Swimsuit Cover-up

    When visiting Key West beaches, you’ll probably want to grab a drink at a local bar or snack from a nearby café. Pack a cute coverup like this one to throw on over your suit. Some resorts and restaurants won’t even allow you to dine or shop if you aren’t wearing clothes and shoes. This one is adorable and can be worn with pants to create a full-fledged look!

    Swimsuit Cover-up

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  • 18. Motion Sickness Patches

    If you tend to get seasick on boating excursions or windy roads that whip around the coastline – these motion sickness patches are a game-changer! They’re the only thing that works to fight my wife’s motion sickness and nausea. They use natural ingredients that keep you alert instead of things like Dramamine that can make you so drowsy. Smaller boats won’t have stabilizers and can make you feel pretty green in the face – pack these just in case!

    Motion Sickness Patches

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  • 19. Deodorant Wipes

    I love using these wipes for everything – cleaning up hands, wiping down our bags, and most of all, washing my face. They smell great and leave your skin feeling clean and revitalized. After a day at the beach or on the water, these really help you feel refreshed and cleaned up. Throw a pack in your beach bag for the day, and freshen up before grabbing a drink in the afternoon.

    Deodorant Wipes

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  • 20. Dry Bag

    If you plan to be out on the water fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, sailing, or just hanging on the beach, consider bringing a dry bag like this for your valuable possessions. This bag is completely waterproof. It fits your phone, wallet, keys, packable towel, or anything else you need to keep dry and out of the ocean. It’s also dirt-resistant, which can be great for a long day on the sandy beach.

    Dry Bag

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  • 21. Luggage Locks

    We always travel with luggage locks for checking bags at the airport, securing backpacks that are going to be out of sight when we’re walking through public areas, and even securing a tent from the inside if camping. I bring a couple sets on our trips for lockers, suitcases, and more.

    Luggage Locks

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  • 22. Beach Blanket

    If you are planning a day at the beach, a beach blanket is a must. This blanket folds down into a small pouch, so you can throw in your beach bag, but it opens up large enough for a few adults to spread out. We love that it’s water-resistant, and sand-resistant, so you won’t be bringing the beach home with you at the end of your day.


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  • 23. Hanging Toiletries Bag

    Limited countertop space is such a drag! This hanging toiletries bag has seriously upgraded our travel experiences, especially when camping or in areas that don’t have big bathrooms. This bag hangs on any door, hook, or pole to unfold with 4 giant pockets. It can hold 20+ toiletry bottles, makeup, face towels, and accessories. It helps us maintain our routine and our sanity when away from home!

    Hanging Toiletries Bag

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  • 24. Leave-in Hair Conditioner

    The sun and saltwater can damage and tangle your hair in a place like the Florida Keys, especially if you plan to spend all day out in the weather. Spray with this leave-in conditioner in the morning (no need to rinse), and you’ll protect your hair all day. We like it because it’s paraben-free, cruelty-free, and vegan, so you can feel good about using it. And it smells HEAVENLY!

    Conditioner Protection

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  • 25. Windproof Travel Umbrella

    Key West is known for its sunny weather, but it’s also known for sudden, almost daily downpours (don’t worry – they usually don’t last long). This umbrella packs up small and is lightweight, so you can throw it in your bag and be protected from a quick shower. You’ll be glad you packed it!

    Hero Umbrella

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  • 26. Beach Wagon

    This one is easier if you’re road-tripping, but we always have a wagon to carry our family’s items to the beach. Instead of lugging around tons of bags, umbrellas, clothes, etc. – this wagon will easily roll over sand and deck surfaces. Sand is no match for these wheels and you can use it in the future for groceries, gardening, and more.

    Beach Wagon

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  • 27. Beautiful Dress for Women

    Because Key West is very casual, you can get by with a sundress or shorts almost everywhere. However, if you’d like to look nice for a night out, we recommend packing a beautiful and comfortable dress like this one. Throw on some heels and a few accessories, and look and feel sexy. This dress looks great on almost any body type and comes in many luscious colors and prints.

    Beautiful Dress for Women

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  • 28. Packable “Just in Case” Bag

    Since Key West offers the perfect balance of Florida and Cuban influence, you can find amazing gifts for yourself and your loved ones! This “just in case” bag is for those who never have enough room when packing to head home. It’s that extra bag you always need when traveling, easily filled with local treats like Cuban cigars, Cuban coffee, seashells, sandals, and more. Bonus points: If you’re flying home, it counts as your personal item on the return flight!

    Packable “Just in Case” Bag

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What to Wear in Key West

The dress code in Key West is very casual. Shorts, island wear, sundresses, and sandals are all appropriate. When packing, think mix-and-match, lightweight items that pair with each other and can be worn for more than one type of activity. And, since you will likely be spending a lot of time near the water, don’t forget to bring a few bikinis or bathing suits of your choice.
what WOMEN should wear in Key West – (Click to expand)
Below is a sample women’s clothing list. (All items link to for your convenience).

Key West means beachy, relaxed, and chill. When choosing your clothing, emphasize casual wear that is comfortable. Sundresses, shorts and tanks, and sandals will all give you the beachy vibe that you’ll feel all around Key West. Be sure to bring swimwear and coverups, and if you plan to do water activities like snorkeling and boating, some extra protection such as a rashguard. A lightweight pretty dress that can be jazzed up with accessories is perfect for a night out.

what MEN should wear in Key West – (Click to expand)
Below is a sample men’s clothing list. (All items link to for your convenience).

Key West is warm and causal, so when packing try to stay with lightweight fabrics like cotton and linen. You will of course want swim shorts for the beach, and if you plan to go fishing or out of the water, be sure to pack water shoes, a hat, sunscreen, and rashguard. For strolling Duval Street and checking out bars, men should think casual island-wear such as shorts and sandals, but throw in a lightweight jacket or collared shirt for a nice night out.

SPRING in Key West – March-May and September-November

The weather is warm year-round in Key West, so your packing won’t need to change much throughout the year. You may want to bring layers for the evenings but plan on shorts and sundresses throughout the day. The average highs are around 83° F (28° C), and the average low this time of year is around 75° F (23° C).

SUMMER in Key West – June-August

is warmer still, and so you’ll want to plan on spending time at the pool or beach. Pack shorts, tanks, and sundresses, along with sandals and flip-flops. You will find that summer is the off-season in Key West, and so rates may be lower in the warm weather, with average highs around 89°F (31° C), and average lows near 81° F (27° C)

WINTER in Key West – December-January

is a great time to visit Key West if you want slightly cooler temps. It’s still pretty warm, but you’ll need to pack lightweight layers for morning and evening. In winter months, the average high is about 76° F (24° C), with temps around 68° F (20° C) for the average low.

Dressing Appropriately for the Activity – (Click to expand)
Fishing and watersports – Key West is a great place to visit if you like spending time out on the water. Fishing, snorkeling, kayaking, and sailing are all favorite activities on Key West. For day trips like these, pack your swimwear, hats, sunscreen, water shoes, a water bottle, towels, and snacks. You’ll definitely want a daypack to hold everything and stay organized.

Roaming on Duval Street – Duval Street is Key West’s main drag, with shops, restaurants and cafes, galleries, and of course, bars. Pack comfortable shoes for walking, and can plan casual wear like tank tops and shorts. Remember to choose lightweight fabrics, and to keep it casual, which is Key West’s style.

Outdoor festivals and live music venues – If you plan to attend any outdoor festivals, live outdoor music, or street fairs, you should pack necessities for being outside all day. These include sunglasses, sunscreen, hats, blanket, a water bottle, and a backpack to hold it all.

What NOT to Bring to Key West

  • 1.DON’T BRING a surf board

    The Florida Keys are not known as a great surf destination. The calm waters are great for other activities, but most surfers will be disappointed here.

  • 2.DON’T PACK Heavy clothing

    Key West is warm year-round, and you’ll want to be outside almost the whole time you are there. Bulky, heavy clothing will be too warm and you’ll regret bringing it.

  • 3.DON’T TAKE Expensive jewelry

    Although crime in Key West is not really a problem, you won’t need fancy or expensive jewelry when going out, so leave it at home. The casual-vibe of Key West means you can get by with a few inexpensive accessories.

  • 4.DON’T PACK Uncomfortable, formal clothing

    Key West is extremely casual, and there is almost no need for formal clothing. Throw in a nice dress or jacket for dinner out, but plan casual clothing almost all the time.

  • 5.DON’T BRING Full size towels

    Wherever you stay, whether a hotel or Airbnb, should have towels for you, and bringing your own would take up way too much space in your luggage.

  • 6.DON’T TAKE Beach chairs

    You can rent beach chairs right at most beaches, and even if you are traveling by car and not plane, they take up too much space and are awkward to travel with.

  • 7.DON’T PACK Books

    Books will take up too much room in your luggage, and add unnecessary weight. If you’re planning to read on the plane or at the beach, bring a Kindle and you’ll have portable access to thousands of books.

What NOT to wear in West (Click to expand)
Don’t plan to pack formal wear. Key West is very causal, and there is no need for formal dresses or suits. Women should pack one nice dress that can be dressed up with accessories, and men should include a lightweight jacket for a nice dinner out. Other than that, plan to wear shorts, tees, and sundresses no matter where you are on Key West and a swimsuit with a coverup for the beach or pool. Please also don’t pack inappropriate or revealing clothing. Although it is known as a party town, Key West is popular with families, and many locals live here year-round, so inappropriate clothing is not appreciated.

FAQs about Key West travel

  • 1. How do I get to Key West?

    Visitors can fly directly into Key West International Airport from other cities in Florida. There’s also an express ferry from Ft. Myers. Another popular route is to fly into Miami and drive US Route 1 out through the Florida Keys (Key West is the last one). The drive takes 3-4 hours, but is an experience in itself, covering over 100 miles, 42 bridges, and connecting 34 islands.

  • 2. What is the best time of year to visit?

    The best time to visit Key West is between March and May when the weather is perfect. You’ll find lower rates in the off-season (summer), and cooler temps in the winter months. Almost any time of year means great weather and sunshine.

  • 3. What should I do in Key West?

    Key West is known for bars, so if you are into barhopping and nightlife, definitely consider a trip there. If you aren’t into the bar scene, there is still plenty to do on a Key West vacation. Surrounded by beautiful ocean, Key West boasts great snorkeling, sailing, fishing, and sunbathing. The Ernest Hemingway Museum attracts many visitors, and walking Duval Street is a great way to spend the day exploring shops, cafés, and galleries. Take time to leave the main drag of Duval Street, as both New Town and Old Town have restaurants, boutiques, and bars worth checking out.

  • 4. What should I avoid in Key West?

    There are definitely tourist-traps in Key West, especially the many t-shirt and souvenir shops. If you are planning to enjoy the island’s nightlife, you should also avoid being an overly obnoxious tourist – there are many locals born and raised on Key West (known as “Conchs”), and they don’t appreciate partiers who approach the nightlife with a “What happens in Key West, stays in Key West” attitude.

  • 5. Is Key West safe?

    Yes, it is. Although there is a large bar scene, Duval Street and Key West are very safe, with a strong police presence.

  • 6. Do I need to worry about hurricanes?

    Key West is located closer to the Caribbean than the rest of Florida and can be in the path of hurricanes. However, many people travel to Key West in the fall (hurricane season) with no trouble at all, and historically, it is not a hard-hit hurricane area. With advances in weather forecasting, there is usually plenty of notice of impending storms, and many tourist destinations offer hurricane cancellation policies. To have extra peace of mind during your trip, consider Travel Insurance.