What to pack for a tropical vacation where you’ll encounter sun, humidity, bugs, moisture and wind? This question is top of mind for me right now. My husband, two boys and I are preparing for 5 weeks in the South Pacific. Eeep! We are SO excited! We scored a 3 island package from Costco Travel that includes time on Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Moorea.
My family and I have traveled quite a bit and we have this thing about not liking to check bags. In some ways it’s harder and in other ways it’s so much easier. You do have to carefully limit what you bring along. But there’s no schlepping huge suitcases through airports, hotels, tiny winding cobblestone streets, etc. We will be gone for 5 weeks this time and are only taking carry-ons.
Here are the 12-ish things in my carry-on for this trip and what to pack for a tropical vacation. You’ll notice a lot of black and a lot of linen. Linen is great for hot, humid climates because it breathes so well. Black is great for travel because it hides spills and stains until you get home and can take care of them properly. Before I pack up, I try everything on to make sure all the pieces work together. You don’t want any surprises when you get to your destination!
Here’s my list:
- Linen Pants. I’m packing these Old Navy Mid Rise Linen Blend Pants in a tall 36″ inseam. For this trip, I’m taking black pants since we’ll be gone for 5 weeks and I’m hoping to minimize the amount of laundry I’ll need to do on vacation. Black is great for hiding spills, though it is a warmer color for a sunny location. When we went to Egypt, I chose a very light tan shade that was excellent for daytime sightseeing in 100′-plus temps. These are tall and say they have a 36″ inseam, but I measured the inseam and it’s closer to 33.5″. I normally need a 35″ inseam on a bootcut pant, but these are drapey and loose so the length needs to be shorter. Buy linen pants in the exact length you need at SearchByInseam.com. I’ll be reviewing these soon at blog.searchbyinseam.com.
- A Big Soft Wrap. I chose a Glint Metallic Wrap in black similar to this Glint Metallic Lightweight Wrap . It’s so soft and cushy and will be a perfect pillow on the plane, protect me from germs, and keep me warm. (I read that you should cover your mouth with a wrap/scarf every time someone near you on the plane sneezes or coughs.) Once we’re on the islands, it’ll be an excellent swimsuit cover-up and extra layer once the sun goes down.
- A Convertible Dress/Skirt. This Patagonia Kamala Convertible Jersey Skirt does double duty as a dress that can be worn two ways (straps can be worn as a halter or tied in front in a bow and worn as a strapless dress) as well as a midi skirt. 3 looks from the very same piece makes this a perfect space-saving item to take on vacation. I’m hoping to get some stunning Tahitian pearls to wear with this dress in strapless form! 🙂
- A Linen Dress. I chose this Old Navy Cinched Waist Linen Blend Dressto be a swimsuit cover-up or another dress for dinner. I only see the solid black available in plus sizes now, but I found it in a regular tall size this spring. This a great fit on my hourglass shape. It goes well with the black metallic wrap and is easy to dress up or keep casual.
- A Linen Tank Top. This Paige Analia Linen Tank is super lightweight and shouldn’t stick to me in humid weather. I got the white color pictured below so I could wear it with my black pants, black skirt, or blue shorts. If I need to hand wash this on the trip, it’ll dry in a snap!
- A Linen Tee. I have a linen tee from The LOFT that I’m taking this time, but this Old Navy Relaxed Linen Blend Curved Hem Tee is similar. Mine is white with black polka dots. It works with my black linen pants, my black skirt, and the linen shorts. I like to take tops that work with all the bottoms so I can make a bunch of different outfits.
- A Linen Long Sleeved Tee. It should be about 80′ every day, but there may be some wind at night. I also need something long sleeved for the plane. So I found this Old Navy linen blend long sleeved boyfriend tee. It’s looser than I like, but if I wind up with a sunburn I’ll be thankful to have something on the looser end than on the clingy end. 🙂
- Linen Shorts. Linen, linen, and more linen! This is the last linen item on my list, I promise. 🙂 These Old Navy Relaxed Linen Blend Shorts are fitted enough to be stylish, but loose enough to be comfortable on a hot muggy day. They have a 7″ inseam which is not too short and not too long, in my opinion. The blue in the shorts is the perfect match to the blue stripe in my linen tank!
- Birkenstock Sandals. I’m packing these metallic silver Birkenstock Gizeh Birko-Flor Thongs because they work with my linen pants, shorts, and dresses and they have arch support. They take up very little room in my carry-on as well.
- Chaco Sport Sandals. I do feel a little clunky when I wear these, but I just haven’t found a better pair of sandals for arch support than Chaco Z/1 Classic Sandals. They do get stinky after awhile, but wash up well in the washing machine with a load of laundry and air dried outside in the sun. I just washed mine before packing them, so they wouldn’t stink up my carry-on! 🙂
- Bug Repellent. I read the Consumer Reports Insect Repellent Buying Guide and lined that up with the CDC’s recommendation for 30% DEET. Then I bought a few different brands and types (spray, lotion and wipes) on Amazon.com to see what works best for me and my family. The wipes are nice because they aren’t liquid like the other types that need to fit in a quart-size bag. I hate that rule. 😐
- Sunscreen, swimsuits, and rash guards, of course! I have several 3 oz. bottles of sunscreen packed, because I’ve heard it’s very expensive to buy more in French Polynesia. For swimsuits, I’m going with a bikini top and short skirted bottom. I’ve found this style is great for coverage. I can play with my kids and not worry about the perfect bikini line shave every morning, either. I’m also taking a short sleeved rash guard and a long sleeved rash guard from Lands’ End to keep my back from getting scorched while snorkeling.
I’ll buy a cute straw hat from a street vendor once we get there. And there you have it: what to pack for a tropical vacation using only your carry-on! Bon voyage!
5 thoughts on “What to Pack for a Tropical Vacation Using Only Your Carry-on”
We never check bags either, and we love to visit Hawaii . I love your choices and how beautifully interchangeable /multi purpose the clothes are! Thanks for the great ideas. Next time my carry on won’t be so heavy or bursting at the seams!?
Excellent ideas! Wish I was going on that adventure with you ?
Great suggestions and information!