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

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Updated on by Asher Fergusson

Any tropical vacation is sure to be relaxing and enjoyable. The tropical climate lends itself perfectly to hanging out by the beach or pool and soaking up the sun. Depending on where you’re headed, you may also have the opportunity to partake in some fun adventure activities, too!

Check out this handy Tropical Vacation Packing List to make packing for your trip so much easier. In addition, our guide includes what to wear on a tropical vacation, what NOT to bring, and answers to all your tropical vacation FAQs. Enjoy!

What to Pack for a Tropical Vacation- 17 Essentials

1. Packing Cubes

HERO Packing cubesPacking cubes are a must-have for your tropical vacation. These cubes will keep you organized as you pack and will help you avoid bringing too much stuff. This set comes in different colors and includes separate cases for your shoes and dirty laundry.
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2. Lipstick-sized Portable Charger

Lipstick-sized portable chargerA lipstick-size portable charger will inevitably come in handy during your trip. When you’re relying on your smartphone for different things throughout the day, the last thing you’ll want to do is stop somewhere to charge your battery. Instead, keep this handy charger in your daypack so you can charge on the go!

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3. Universal Power Adapter

Universal Power Adapter Depending on where you’re headed, you may or may not need to use a power adapter to plug in your electronics in your tropical destination. This universal power adapter works in over 100 countries and will come in handy not only for your tropical vacation, but for your future trips, too!

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4. Sturdy Sandals

Sturdy Sandals Sturdy sandals like these will most likely be your shoe of choice during your tropical vacation. They’re breathable so your feet won’t get overheated and sturdy so your feet will stay supported all day long. These are the perfect versatile shoes for your trip.

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5. Neck Wallet

HERO Neck WalletYou can’t go wrong bringing a neck wallet with you on your tropical vacation. It’s a great place to stow away your smartphone, passport, credit cards, cash, and more, and can be worn around your neck and under your clothes. This will help you to avoid pickpockets and petty theft as well.

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6. Rash Guard for Women and Men

HERO Packing cubesA rash guard is useful for avoiding rashes and sunburn when you’re spending time in and out of the water during your trip. These are temperature controlled so you’ll always feel comfortable, regardless of the heat or breeze, and they’re especially helpful for those who are particularly sensitive to the sun!
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7. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Virtual Private Network (VPN)A VPN is an undoubtedly important item to have with you on any vacation! Whenever you connect to the WiFi in public places, your VPN will ensure your personal information is safe and secure. It can also help you get around the paywall on popular news sites and it will allow you access to websites that may be blocked or censored in the country you’re visiting.

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8. Swimsuit Cover Up

Swimsuit Cover UpA swimsuit cover up will come in handy every single day of your tropical vacation! Easily go from the beach or pool to a cafe or bar by throwing this trendy cover up over your swimsuit, wet or dry. This one is cute and relatively inexpensive, too!

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9. Reef-Safe Sunscreen

Reef-Safe SunscreenIt’s important to protect yourself from the intense rays of the sun during your tropical vacation, so bring plenty of sunscreen and don’t forget to reapply! This sunscreen is reef-safe so you won’t have to worry about damaging the environment as you swim.

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10. Windproof Travel Umbrella

travel umbrellaThough you’re likely to experience plenty of sun in your tropical destination, there’s also a chance you could encounter some rain. In tropical places, it often rains heavily for a few hours and then clears up again. Be prepared by packing this handy windproof travel umbrella!

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11. LifeStraw Water Bottle

Lifestraw Water BottleYou won’t want to waste money and damage the environment by buying endless plastic water bottles, so bring a reusable water bottle with you instead! This LifeStraw water bottle even comes with a built-in filter so you can feel secure that the water you’re drinking is safe.

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12. Travel Insurance for Tropical Vacations

Tropical Vacation Travel Insurance Any time you leave on vacation, there’s plenty that can go wrong. While of course we always hope everything will run smoothly, it’ll give you peace of mind to have reliable travel insurance. World Nomads covers a wide variety of locations and activities and has plenty of affordable plans.

View their plans at WorldNomads.com ➜

13. Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoalIf you eat or drink something that doesn’t sit right with you during your tropical vacation, you won’t want your entire trip to be ruined! Bring these activated charcoal pills to take at the first signs of an upset stomach to expel the toxins in your body quickly and keep you feeling strong.

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14. Electrolytes

ElectrolytesElectrolytes are super important to bring with you on a tropical vacation. When you’re spending days under the hot sun, your body will need some help absorbing the vitamins and minerals it needs. Put some electrolytes in your drinking water to easily stay hydrated!
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15. Slip-On Mesh Water Shoes for Women and Men

ElectrolytesElectrolytes are key whether you’re traveling or not! Especially if you’re headed somewhere hot or plan to do a lot of physical activity, you’ll need to make sure your body is properly hydrated at all times. Adding some of these electrolytes to your drinking water will help kill a hangover, too!

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16. Affordable Underwater Camera

Affordable Underwater CameraOn a tropical vacation, some of your best memories are likely to be made in the water. Capture the very best of your trip by bringing along this affordable underwater camera! It’s compact, lightweight, and inexpensive, which is perfect for any tropical trip.

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17. Microfiber Travel Towel

Microfiber Travel TowelDon’t bring your heavy bath or beach towel with you on your tropical vacation! Instead, bring this handy microfiber travel towel that’s lightweight, compact, and dries incredibly fast. It’s perfect to toss in your beach bag or daypack so you can bring it with you wherever you go.

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Other Tropical Vacation Packing List Items Not to Forget

What to Wear on a Tropical Vacation

When you’re headed to a tropical destination, there’s no question you’ll want to pack for warm weather. That means bringing plenty of swimwear, shorts, tank tops, sundresses, t-shirts, sandals, etc. During your tropical vacation, you’ll probably spend most of your time in and out of the water, so a swimsuit cover-up, rashguard, and sun hat should all be on your packing list as well. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen and bring your trendiest sunglasses, too!

What Should WOMEN Wear on a Tropical Vacation? – (Click to expand)

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

On a tropical vacation, women should opt for warm weather clothing that is breezy, water-resistant, and will keep them cool in a hot and humid climate. These things include shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, sandals, sunglasses, etc. Women should also be prepared with a sundress or outfit for enjoying a night out on the town or a nice dinner, too.

What Should MEN Wear on a Tropical Vacation?– (Click to expand)

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

On a tropical vacation, men should dress for hot, humid weather. Be prepared with plenty of shorts, t-shirts, and clothing that is sweat resistant and water wicking. Don’t forget to bring a couple of nicer outfits, too, for dinners and nights out on the town.

Dressing for the Seasons on a Tropical Vacation

Regardless of which tropical destination you’re headed to, Be sure to pack plenty of warm weather clothing that can withstand the heat and humidity. You should also bring a rain jacket and windproof travel umbrella as you’re likely to encounter a bit of rain at some point during your vacation. Be prepared with some nicer outfits, like lightweight dresses and collared shirts, to enjoy evenings out in your destination as well.


Depending on where you choose to go on your tropical vacation, you may be visiting a destination that has one hot season that lasts the entire year. If that’s the case, you can expect warm, sunny days with showers of rain throughout the day. Be prepared with rain gear and lightweight, breathable clothing and shoes.


Many tropical destinations experience a dry season and a wet season. As you can expect, the dry season is known for having less rain and the rainy season is known for an abundance of rain. Do a bit of research ahead of time to determine which season you’ll be traveling during and dress accordingly!

How to dress for different activities on a Tropical Vacation – (Click to expand)

Beaches – Tropical beaches will require swimsuits, trendy swimsuit cover-ups, flip flops, sunglasses, and plenty of sun protection. Don’t forget to hydrate by bringing a reusable water bottle, too!

Adventure Activities – For adventure activities like zip-lining, canyoning, horseback riding, be sure to pack long pants, sneakers or sturdy sandals, a swimsuit, and clothes you’re comfortable moving around in.

Hiking – For hiking in tropical destinations, be sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes, a t-shirt, long pants, a hat, and sunglasses. Remember to drink plenty of water as well!


What NOT to Bring on a Tropical Vacation

1) 🚫 DON’T PACK a winter coat: You will have absolutely no need for a heavy winter coat on your tropical vacation, so leave it at home! The weather will be warm and humid, so pack clothing to keep you comfortable in that type of environment.

3) 🚫 DON’T TAKE too much stuff: The last thing you want to worry about on your tropical vacation is having a heavy, overstuffed suitcase to lug around with you during your trip. Pack light and leave room for souvenirs!

5) 🚫 DON’T BRING full-size toiletries: You likely won’t need to go through an entire full-size tube of toothpaste or a full bottle of shampoo during your trip. Save space and weight by bringing travel-size toiletries instead.

2) 🚫 DON’T BRING clothes that take a long time to dry: Fabrics like thick cotton or denim that take a long time to dry are NOT what you want to bring to a wet, humid, tropical destination. Instead opt for polyester or quick-drying materials which will keep you feeling much more comfortable.

4) 🚫 DON’T PACK a regular towel: Your regular bath and beach towel will take forever to dry in a tropical climate. Instead, opt for a handy microfiber travel towel that dries quickly and is lightweight and compact.

6) 🚫 DON’T TAKE heavy books: You’ll probably want to do some reading during your tropical vacation, but avoid bringing a ton of heavy books with you in your luggage. Instead, consider bringing a kindle which is lightweight and takes up much less space.

What Clothing Should I NOT Wear on a Tropical Vacation? – (Click to expand)

On your tropical vacation, avoid wearing thick or heavy clothing, like winter coats, jeans, and clothes with heavy cotton or denim fabric. Avoid wearing expensive or flashy jewelry or valuables, as you’ll make yourself a target for pickpockets and petty theft. Leave your favorite valuables at home!

Tropical Vacation FAQs

    1. Where should I go for a tropical vacation?

    There are many tropical destinations throughout the world, and if you live in North America, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Hawaii are all options that are relatively close by. If you’re looking to travel a bit farther, consider Southeast Asian and South Pacific destinations.

    2. Will it rain during my tropical vacation?

    Depending on when you travel, you may encounter some rain during your tropical vacation, so be prepared! Especially if you’re traveling during your destination’s rainy season, you’re sure to experience a good amount of rain. If you visit during the dry season or if your destination has only one long hot season, you may still experience a rainy day or a few showers intermixed with sunshine.

    3. How much does a tropical vacation cost?

    The cost of your tropical vacation will depend on several factors, including where you want to go, what your budget is, how long you want to stay, and how many people you’re paying for. Destinations like Fiji, the Maldives, and Bora Bora tend to cater to a higher-end clientele, and flights to those destinations alone will end up making for a more expensive trip. If you live in Florida and you’re headed to Puerto Rico for a couple of days, your tropical vacation will be much less expensive.

    4. What are the cheapest tropical vacation destinations?

    Some tropical vacation destinations are inherently cheaper than others, including some Caribbean islands like Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, or parts of Mexico like Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Southeast Asian destinations like Thailand and the Philippines are cheap once you get there, but the flights may be expensive depending on where you’re coming from.

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