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If you’re planning a trip to a tropical destination, creating a comprehensive packing list can be crucial to ensure you have everything you need for a comfortable and enjoyable vacation. A well-organized tropical packing list will not only save you time and stress while packing, but it will also ensure that you have all the essential items to make the most out of your trip.
Whether you’re heading to a beach resort, embarking on a jungle adventure, or exploring a vibrant city, a carefully curated tropical packing list will help you pack smart and travel light.
I have read many articles on how to pack for a tropical vacation, but not many come from a fashion stylist’s point of view. The following items are the areas I am going to cover in this article:
- What to wear on the plane
- What to pack for the beach, sightseeing, and going out at night
- What shoes and sandals to pack
- What jewelry to pack
- Basic toiletries, lotions, and sunscreen
In my opinion, when packing, it’s better to pick a few colors that you can mix and match. Since this article is discussing tropical locations, I choose lighter colors such as white, khaki, or any other earth tones. Then you can throw in a couple of prints for going out in the evening or for a splash of color.
Remember, it is better to not overpack, because you may do a little shopping while on vacation and want the room to bring home your new goodies!
In this article, we’ll provide my tips and recommendations to help you create the perfect tropical packing list for your next adventure.
What to Wear on the Plane When Going on a Tropical Vacation
The next category, what to wear on the plane, is one of the most asked questions I get from my traveling clients. Since we are focused on tropical vacations, I suggest the following that is both stylish and versatile. Since many of us are coming from winter or colder climates, it is best to layer so won’t be overheated when landing in warm temperatures.
Jogger pants are a stylish and comfortable option when flying. I have two favorites that I choose from. The first is the Vuori Miles Jogger (I like the grey Azure color). These are super comfy and can be worn in many different ways and can be found at Vuori.
The other pair I recommend is the Tencel Cargo Jogger from Banana Republic. They come in many colors but again I would do basic colors like the Maverick Tan.
2. Layering Tank Top
White tank from Banana Republic. These are my go-to travel tanks! Reasonably priced and a good fit for most women.
3. Blazer or Sweater
When I travel, I love to pair a jogger with a blazer and a tank. I recommend the J.Crew Parke blazer in bi-stretch cotton in the classic fit. Also, Navy is my color of choice and matches well with the items I chose above.
If prefer a sweater, choose one from J.Crew that is lightweight. I like the Diagonal cable-knit sweater in white also at J.Crew. This is also great to have for evenings in case it gets cool.
Veja SDU Sneakers are the best! Go with everything and have a cool, stylish look. Check out Veja.com and choose a color that is neutral and can be worn in many different ways.
I prefer the trainer-style sneaker.
5. Travel Tote
When I travel, I use a beach bag as a tote, then can use it for the beach once I arrive. It saves me from having to pack a large bag in my suitcase. Check out the Flora Bella Raffia Metallic Beach Tote at Neiman Marcus. I love the silver color!
What to Pack for the Beach
1. Bathing Suits
I recommend 2-4 bathing suits, depending on your trip duration. If going for a full week, I always pack 4 suits, but if going for a long weekend or a few days two is enough.
Some to consider are the Celine Shine one-piece in Emerald Green from Beach Riot at Freepeople, one of the Miraclesuits from Miraclesuit (very slimming), or the Lee Lee bikini in white from Lspace at Revolve.
2. Bathing Suit Cover-ups
If going for one full week, I would pack three coverups. Again, if going for a long weekend or a few days, 2 is enough. I try to take one long coverup and one shorter one.
The ones I love this season are the Noah Tunic in Water Lili by PQ at revolve, and Teien Caftan from Hemant and Nandita also at revolve.
3. Sun Hat
Everyone should pack one sunhat. We really want to save our skin, and protect our faces from the intense sun. It is important to find a stylish hat that can be easily packed without losing its shape.
Consider the Palma Fedora in Natural from Lack of Color at Revolve or the Isadora hat in Natural Stripe by L*Space at lspace. Both are easy to pack and look cute away from the beach as well.
This is truly a personal preference because everyone’s facial shape is different. I always like the look of an aviator, which can be found at Ray-Ban or find a less expensive pair that has the same look at target.com.
Another option is an oversize “Jackie O” Square Sunglass by Isabel Marant at Nordstrom, or a look at a less expensive pair like the Women’s Simply Vera Vera Wang Birdie Midsize Square sunglasses at Kohls.
4. Flip flops
My all-time favorite beach or pool flip-flop is the Tkees brand! Can be found at Nordstrom, Revolve, or Tkees.com. I like to choose a neutral color that will match all of my bathing suits and coverups!
5. Beach Bag
I would use the same one as above that could be used as a carry-on.
My favorite brand is Supergoop, and I love the Glow Screen face sunscreen that works as a tinted moisturizer too. I am more fair skin so pick the original, sunrise color. If you have darker skin, the Golden Hour color may be best for you. It is SPF 40 and I love how it gives my skin a sunburst look. Can be found at Amazon or Nordstrom.
$46.00 ($18.40 / Fl Oz)
$18.00 ($36.00 / Fl Oz)
$9.58 ($3.19 / Fl Oz)
They also have a full sunscreen line which I love, but might be a bit pricey. I usually just get the supergoop for my face, and then use a standard sunscreen for my body. I like Neutrogena sunscreen at Amazon.
What to Pack for Daytime Activities & Sightseeing on a Tropical Vacation
1. Shorts or Skirts
I usually pack a couple of skirts and a couple of pairs of shorts for a week’s vacation. Can always mix bottoms with different tops. My go-to is denim shorts with tee shirts or knee-length skirts with tank tops.
My favorite denim shorts are my Levi 501 Original short in Athens Mid Short at Levis or Revolve. I also love the Agolde Parker Vintage Cut-Off Short in Swapmeet found at Revolve. Another must-have short is the Flat-Front Chino Short in whiskey or white from Bananarepublicfactory.
As for skirts I like casual ones that are comfortable to run around in. Take a look at the Kate Spade skirt in Bitter Greens. Very tropical and looks great with a white tank and sneakers, sandals, or flip-flops. Also easy to pack, is the Addison Skirt in Blue Mini Garden from Rails.com.
My favorite t-shirts and tanks are from bananarepublic.com. They are easy to wash, and not too expensive. I replenish my tanks every year and choose a white, black, and khaki.
I also like to pair skirts and shirts with different printed or rocker tanks like the Be The Light Muscle Tank or the Rolling Stone t-shirt from Spiritualgangster.com. If want to spend a little less on these, there are some cute ones like the ACDC 1973 Heavy Metal Rock Band tank from amazon.com too.
I would bring two daytime sundresses that could also be worn in the evening with dressier shoes. Sundresses are so easy and are perfect for travel. I usually like to bring one shorter one and one longer one.
This season Anthropologie has very cute dresses for travel. I like the V-Neck Wrap Dress in the Assorted color. Again, could be worn with flats, sneakers, or heels. Very versatile!!
I also like to travel with a shorter super casual dress like the Savannah Flutter-Sleeve Eyelet Shift Dress by Robert Graham at Neiman Marcus, or the Khalani Midi Dress in dark green from Faithful the Brand.
For less expensive options, the Somerset Eyelet Mini Dress in white from Anthropologie, and the Arya Mixed Media Dress in black.
What to Pack for a Night Out on a Tropical Vacation
As I mentioned above, I like to keep my day colors basic to mix and match. However, in the evening I throw in some fun outfits that can be great colors or fun prints!
I always pack a few dresses that could be worn in the evening. Most tropical places are still very casual, so don’t want to be over the top. My picks for you this season are the x Revolve Saira Dress in Emerald Ocean and the Neema Robe Dress by Andrea Iyamah, both at revolve.com.
For a less expensive option, the Farm Rio Blue Macaw Flight Lenzing Ecovero Viscose Midi Dress from Farm Rio, and Juliana Dress from Revolve.
I always bring 1 jumpsuit or pant set also for the evening. My favorites are the Ranna Gill Off-The Shoulder jumpsuit from Anthropologie, and the Elsie Strapless jumpsuit in white from A.L.C. at alctd.com.
Clutch / Purse
I would choose a neutral color that would go would all of your night outfits. My favorite is the Cult Gaia Mini Ark Handbag in Natural color. A less expensive Straw Bag for Women can be found at Amazon.
Shoes & Sandals to Pack for a Tropical Vacation
Only need one pair. We already picked the trainers from above. Can be worn with dresses, skirts, shorts, etc.
One pair. We chose the TKEES.
I love a tie-up or a platform. I would try to bring just one pair. Very stylish and can also be worn with many things. My choices this season I absolutely love the Jeffry Campbell Devis Sandal in Honey from Anthropologie, and the Monnie Ankle Wrap Flat Sandal in gold or luggage brown. Both are reasonably priced.
I would not spend too much less on sandals, or your feet will hurt!
I would bring one pair of slides! They are sexy but still comfortable! Also, want to bring a color that will go with just about everything. I always bring a clear sandal, a metallic sandal, or a neutral sandal. I think they are fun and will match absolutely everything. My choices this season are the following:
The Arlow heel from dolce vita (for those who can wear a high heel). The chunky heel is more comfortable for people with foot issues.
Coach Kellie Sandal in Beechwood, Signal Clear from Steve Madden, or Champagne color Margi Leather Bow Healed Sandal from Tuckernuck.
What Jewelry to Pack for a Tropical Vacation
I never bring my good jewelry. It doesn’t matter if you are in an exclusive resort or in a budget resort, things get stolen!
I always bring one pair of gold hoops that can be worn all the time. They are easy, stylish, and easy to pack. I have the Textured Hoop Earring in gold from Nordstrom.
Two pairs of going-out earrings – Hoops can be worn in the evening too, but I always bring a couple of fun, tropical chandelier earrings.
A brand I have found that is cool and reasonably priced is Ink and Alloy. My faves are the Wendy Ring Earrings and the Lacy Diamond with Stripe Beaded Fringe Earrings in Mint.
Only need some thin layering necklaces. In the evening, if wear long beaded earrings, I would not wear a necklace.
If wearing hoops or during the day, I would try something like this: Parker Layering Set Necklace in gold, or for a less expensive option the coin Layered Chain Necklace in 18k gold filled from Etsy. You can also add a beaded necklace to the mix by Little Rabbit Jewelry at Etsy!
3. Bracelets & Rings
I always bring one cuff – look at the Modern Tangled Cuff Bracelet from Anthropologie or the beaded Cassie Angles Beaded Stretch Bracelet in Teal from Ink and Alloy.
I would bring both, can wear one on one arm and the other on the other arm. And yes, that’s not too much!
For a ring, my go-to is the Banana republic Ovalo Ringin turquoise. Great for the tropics and goes with a lot!
Toiletry Packing List (including some of my favorite brands)
Everyone has their own favorite facial and body products that work for them. I find most of my favorite brands in the travel size at Amazon. Below are the products that I love to use:
Olay Total Effects 7-In-1 Anti-Aging Cream Cleanser.
Olay Micro-Sculpting cream with sunscreen travel size at Amazon or Olay complete sensitive in 1 Day fluid moisturizer for sensitive skin like mine, also travel size at Amazon
Night of Olay Firming night cream
Eucerin Original Healing Soothing Repair in travel size
Shampoo and Conditioner
many hotels offer nice ones but I always bring my own – my go-to is Ogx Renewing Argan Oil of Morocco
a lot of hotels have their own hair dryers, but I prefer to bring my own. I have splurged and purchased the Dyson Airwrap that can be bought at Ulta Beauty. If do not have one of these and do not want to use the hotel or the resort, then I suggest bringing your own. The travel-size ones never work for me, so even though it is a pain to pack, I still do.
many hotel hairdryers can get very hot, so important to protect hair – Drybar travel Hot Toddy Heat Protectant.
I always bring my regular everyday brush. Whichever has been working for you at home.