How many times have you come home and unpacked from a trip, only to realize that you didn’t even use or wear half the things you brought along with you? 

I know this is something I’m guilty of. It’s just all too easy to get caught in that mindset of, “but what if I need it?” 

Unfortunately, this mindset can leave you with an overflowing carry-on or even extra fees for an unnecessary checked bag if you aren’t careful. 

Below, we’ll take a look at some expert tips on how to pack light for a tropical getaway. Follow this list and you’ll find yourself with everything you need, and nothing you don’t! 

1. Pack What You’d Normally Wear

I think many of us are guilty of packing extravagant outfits, expecting ourselves to suddenly become different people while we’re on vacation. Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look nice if you go to dinner, but most of your vacation is going to be spent outside of the hotel, and you aren’t going to want to run back for a wardrobe change every time you move on to a new activity.

Instead, pack the beach clothes you’d normally wear and limit the extras. After all, vacation is really more about relaxing and spending time with your travel companions than spending extra time in the hotel room prepping to look absolutely fabulous everywhere you go. 

2. Invest in a Smaller, Harder Suitcase

You cannot pack clothes into more space than you have. If you’re worried about over-packing, investing in a smaller suitcase can be a good solution.

Going with a hard-shell suitcase instead of a soft one can also help curb your over-packing tendencies. Softer suitcases can be stuffed and over-stuffed, to the point where they may even be too big to fit in the overhead compartment on the plane. 

Packing Light for a tropical getaway trip - tips for travel - get a smaller hardshell suitcase -

3. Consider Doing Laundry

Many hotels and resorts offer amenities that make it easier to feel like you’re at home, including a laundry service. The hotel itself may offer a laundry service where they pick up your clothes and wash them for you, or they may offer their guests access to washers and dryers. 

Having the ability to do laundry can really be a space-saver when you’re on vacation, especially if you plan on going for a week or two. This way, you only have to pack 2-3 of each clothing item and you can wash them as needed. If you don’t want to spend extra money, you can even wash lighter items in your room and hang them to dry.  

4. Mix-and-Match Your Outfits

Another key to packing light for your tropical vacation is choosing multi-purpose clothing items. Instead of packing a bunch of suits or extravagant dresses, opt for t-shirts and tank tops that pair well with 2-3 pairs of the shorts you bring along.

When you can wear your clothes together, you end up packing a lot less than you would need to if you packed a full outfit for every day. Be sure to choose a pair or two of shoes that go along with all your outfits, too! 

5. Wear Shoes (Not Sandals) on the Plane

Odds are, you are going to spend a lot of time either barefoot or in sandals once you hit the beach. But what about if you plan on hiking excursions or taking time to explore the local culture or shops?

You’ll want a comfortable pair of walking shoes for vacation, even if you’re planning on spending a lot of time in sandals at the beach. They take up a lot more space in your bag than the average pair of sandals, so wear your shoes on the plane instead. This will save you a little room for packing other things. 

6. Take Advantage of the Warm Weather

One of the major benefits of packing for a tropical vacation is that you won’t need to bundle up. While you might bring a sweater or a throw for if it gets chilly at night or in your hotel room, most of your clothes are going to be lighter, thus taking up less space.

As you pack, keep in mind that you’ll want to choose light, flowy clothing. It also isn’t a bad idea to pack a light, long-sleeve shirt in case you get too much sun and a sunhat to keep the sun off your face. 

7. Know What Your Itinerary Looks Like Beforehand

As you’re packing, it’s really helpful to know what types of excursions you’re planning on your vacation. Some people find themselves spending a lot of time on the beach and prefer that to exploring the local area. However, there are usually a lot of fun activities that you can do while on vacation, too! 

If you know what to plan for beforehand, it’s easier to pack what you need. Are you planning on going to a nicer place for dinner one night? Do you have any hiking, scuba diving, or other excursions planned? If you can pack something that goes along with your plans but can be worn at other times, that’s a major bonus! For example, the same shirt or dress you wear to dinner might look great as a beach coverup, too! 

A Sample Checklist of What to Pack for a Tropical Getaway

To wrap things up, here’s a peek at how you might pack minimally for your tropical vacation: 

  • 2-3 pairs of shorts or capris
  • 2-3 tank tops
  • 2-3 cover-ups
  • 2 pairs of trunks or 2 swimsuits that can be rotated out
  • 2-3 pairs of socks
  • 1-2 things you can use as a beach cover-up
  • 1 outfit/dress for a night out
  • 1 pair long pants and sweater for cooler nights
  • 2 pairs of pajamas
  • Undergarments 
  • A broad, brimmed hat
  • A cool, long-sleeve shirt
  • 1-2 pairs of sandals

With this checklist, you’ll cover the bare minimum of what you’ll need on vacation. Plus, it gives you plenty of options for mixing and matching your clothing so you look great the whole time!