This summer has flown by, and we’ve traveled to Sacramento (see my wedding looks from this trip here), Funner and San Francisco (all in California), O’ahu (see my O’ahu travel guide here!) and Maui (in Hawaii)! Traveling and going on vacation is one of my favorite things to do, but the planning process can be a bit stressful.
On top of putting together your itinerary, lodging and transportation arrangements, you also have to think about what’s going on your packing list. Tropical vacations, like the one I just took to Hawaii, call for swimsuits, coverups, sandals, reef-safe sunscreen and other things you might not even think about (like nutrients, self-care items, etc.).
Today, I’m simplifying the shopping and packing process for you to make sure you’re prepared, save money, stay safe, and look and feel fabulous on your next tropical vacation to Hawaii, Mexico, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos, Virgin Islands, Maldives, Bora Bora, Fiji, Tahiti and more.
Headed to Europe? Check out these 13 items no woman should ever travel to Europe without here.
12 Items You Need On Your
Tropical Vacation Packing List
1. Swimsuits that make you feel confident
This is kind of a DUH, but tropical vacations not only call for swimsuits but swimsuits that make you feel confident! You’ll probably be spending at least 50% of your time in a bathing suit, so keep that in mind when deciding which suits will make it into your suitcase. This high waisted bikini and this two-toned monokini were my faves and both under $30. Here are my top picks!
2. Hair ties, bobby pins, headbands, and moisturizing products
If you plan on going in the water, hair care should be top of mind! It’s the worst when you run out of bobby pins and hair ties (where do they disappear to?!), so I always make sure to have extras on hand. I also love headbands because they keep the hair from blowing in your face and also make styling easy!
Lastly, making sure you have the right products is key. I try to keep it simple, so I love to bring a multi-purpose hair oil (like this travel size Moroccan oil) and a few styling products like a sea salt spray (to bring out those pretty beach waves) or a curl styling cream like this.
If you’re only going to bring one product, get a light hair oil like this (works for all hair types). Put it on before you go into the water to lessen the damage of chlorine and seawater, and put it on after you wash your hair to help with moisture retention. See my other hair picks below.
3. Portable water filters
Remember the Pookipsi scene in the Sex and the City Movie where Charolotte accidentally drinks the shower water while in Mexico and has a little accident? Let’s not be like Charlotte!
I am a big water drinker (think 3-4 L per day), so whenever I’m traveling I like to have a ton of water on hand. This filtered water bottle removes bacteria and protozoa from lakes, streams to ensure safe, clean drinking water. Perfect for in the room or on the go! You can also try the Lifestraw which has the same features as the bottle.
4. Waterproofing tools for your electronics
No one wants their phone and electronics ruined by water! I got these waterproof iPhone pouches for my friend’s honeymoon and she and her husband said they were the most useful thing they brought with them on their trip to Mexico! You can take them underwater to take photos, or just keep your phone in them when you’re by the pool or at the beach and have peace of mind that they won’t get water damage.
I was doing some research into the Lifeproof case but ended up purchasing this comparable waterproof iPhone case from Amazon for a fraction of the price. I was so excited to use this and have a mermaid photoshoot while in Hawaii, but ran out of time. I put my phone underwater with this and it was completely protected, so I would still recommend it!
5. Anti-chafing stick
When I went to Hawaii, I wore lots of shorts and dresses, so in order to avoid chaffing, so this glide stick was a must.
After walking in very hot and humid temperatures all day, I never had any chaffing or irritation. I felt moisturized, comfortable and confident. It was a lifesaver!
And pro tip- you can rub this on your bra line, heels, toes, or arms to prevent chafing, blisters and general irritation. Trust me, you need one of these.
6. Affordable polarized sunglasses
While I definitely believe there’s a time and place for high-quality designer sunglasses, sometimes a girl just needs a cute and affordable pair that she’s not afraid to have fun in or accidentally leave behind at the pool.
Making sure your sunglasses are polarized is super important because you want your eyes to be protected! I love and have these, and they are so cute. Here are a few other pairs I’m loving for a tropical vacation right now.
7. Reef-safe sunscreen and chapstick
As I was doing research for my vacation in Hawaii, most of the excursion websites had content speaking to the importance of reef-safe sunscreen. To be totally honest, I never really thought about this!
On my trip, I learned about how certain ingredients (like Oxybenzone, Butylparaben, Octinoxate & 4-Methylbenzylidine and Camphor) in popular sunscreens are killing off the world’s coral reefs, but it’s completely preventable. PLEASE double check to make sure your sunscreen is reef-safe if you plan to swim in any ocean! Here are some safe options below.
8. Comfortable dresses, rompers and coverups
For a tropical vacation, dresses, rompers, and coverups are my go-to style pieces! You don’t need them all, but I do recommend at least having one or two.
Dresses and rompers are great because they’re easy to throw on, airy and versatile. I wore this romper multiple times during my trip- on hikes, out to dinner, on plan rides and for a day of adventuring in Maui (wearing a size XL). I also loved this tropical dress for a boat day (it’s water-resistant + cool and comes in multiple colors and prints), this gorgeous yellow dress to a special dinner (comes in several colors and prints), and this casual dress for a day of exploring. You can head to my Instagram to see me wearing these options!
Coverups are essential for days by the water. My favorite coverup styles are kimonos, sarongs and caftans. These are all versatile options that can be styled to wear by the pool or beach, as well as to all of your daily activities that require “shirt and shoes.” I love this striped kimono, palm leaf kimono, yellow sarong and colorful printed caftan.
Shop all of my picks below or click here to shop my Amazon picks.
9. Tropical accessories
When in doubt, accessorize! Even if you’re not a huge accessorizer, I recommend investing in a good hat and a comfy pair of sandals.
I wore this hat (under $20) almost every day while I was in Hawaii, and I’ve worn it several times since I got back as well. Not only is it super stylish, but it helps protect your face and chest from the sun. You can buy it here. For sandals, I recommend having a slide sandal that can be easily put on and taken off.
If you love to accessorize, then there are a few tropical accessories like these colorful drop earrings and puka shell bracelet and anklet that you don’t want to go without. See the rest of my tropical accessory picks here.
10. Sink washing laundry supplies for your wet swimsuits
There’s nothing worse than having your favorite swimsuit destroyed by lingering chlorine and gritty saltwater residue. Ensure your swimsuits and clothes get a thorough cleaning with laundry soap! I love this eco-friendly laundry soap bar or these Tide packets which you can use to wash your stuff in the sink.
11. Nutrients & self-care items
You know this girl is a big advocate of self-care, and being on vacation is no reason to skimp. A big part of my self-care routine involves nourishing my body and getting adequate sleep, so this veggie and fruit powder and portable white noise + fan machine were lifesavers.
There will probably be days where you will live on Mai Tai’s, Pina Coladas and chips and guac, so I definitely recommend this nutrient supplement. It kept me feeling healthy, tastes good and was really easy to make. Just stir it into water, tea or a smoothie and you’re good to go.
This portable white noise machine helped me get amazing sleep and feel well-rested during my trip! I can’t sleep without a fan, so it was a must. I also always bring my TENS machine for my back to make sure I get an amazing massage at the end of every day and on long flights. Here are some other self-care products you might consider bringing (like this motion-sickness wristband or mosquito repellent band I WISH I had with me).
12. Packing supplies & luggage scale
You know those people who have to take out a bunch of stuff from their suitcase and throw away their valuable items because their suitcases are too heavy? Yeah, don’t be like that! Get a luggage scale and avoid the drama at the airport, have peace of mind and room for all those souvenirs!
The other thing I highly recommend using if you don’t already are packing cubes. They will help organize all of your things, give you extra space in your suitcase and make unpacking so much easier- because we all know unpacking is way harder than packing. This cosmetic and toiletry organizer case was also an amazing find that was so useful!
My recent trip to Hawaii was 6 days and 5 nights, and I checked a bag, for reference.
Hope this was helpful! Let me know if you add any of these recommendations to your packing list on your next tropical vacation. I’d love to hear from you.
Have an amazing and safe trip, and thank you for reading and sharing!