If it is your first time traveling to the warm Caribbean, or you just aren't sure exactly what to pack, this guide is for you. Traveling to the Caribbean can be tricky due to the somewhat unpredictable weather. It also depends on what time of the year you are traveling; for this reason, this article is divided into three categories: fall/winter, spring/summer and year-round/general tips. Here, you will be provided with a simple yet accurate guide for packing all the right goodies, whether it is the appropriate clothing, accessories or the right type of sunblock.
- First thing's first, before you get ready to pack, check local weather reports for the dates that you plan on visiting the Caribbean. Since weather in the Caribbean is somewhat unpredictable, it's good to be prepared for all possibilities, but checking the weather will let you know if there will be a major storm, fair weather, extreme heat, or windy conditions. A helpful website is the The Weather Channel's home page: http://www.weather.com or The Weather Network's homepage: http://www.theweathernetwork.com. Both have options to check the weather in international cities.
- (Fall/Winter): Prepare for wind by packing a comfortable windbreaker or light sweater. Generally speaking, it is still very warm in the fall and winter months. What might differentiate these seasons from the spring and summer is the wind. Therefore, make sure to pack a light sweater or jacket that you can throw on if you get chilly. Most likely, it will come in handy at night, especially if you are by the beach. If you don't own a windbreaker or are searching for new ones, you can take a look at websites like The North Face: http://www.thenorthface.com , The Sports Authority: http://www.sportsauthority.com, or your local outdoor sports store.
- (Fall/Winter): Regarding daytime clothing, make sure to pack light colored, outfits that you can layer - even if it is the fall or winter. Pack clothing that is made from cotton or cotton blends - the trick is to pack breathable material because during the day, whether you are in direct sunlight or moving about the city, the heat and humidity will make you sweat. Avoid dark colors, or fabrics that don't allow your skin to breath, such as polyester or thick, synthetic materials.
For women, it is common to wear in the Caribbean light dresses, shorts, capri-style pants or if you are in the Caribbean for business or a more formal occasion, pack a light colored linen suit or wardrobe pieces.
For men, if the occasion is casual, it is common to wear light colored t-shirts, linen button down, short sleeve shirts, bermuda shorts or cotton pants. If you're traveling for a formal occasion or for work, a polyester/cotton blend suit or linen suit will do the trick. For some Caribbean-inspired looks, you can try Tommy Bahama brand: http://www.tommybahama.com. They key is to layer because the winter in the Caribbean is unpredictable, where some days might be very warm and others cool and windy.
- (Fall/Winter): If you are planning on enjoying water sports while in the Caribbean in the fall/winter, you might want to buy or rent a wetsuit. Again, although temperatures are still warm, it is recommended that you pack a wetsuit, whether it is a full or half-length suit (full length covers arms and legs and half length generally stops above the knees). Most times, if you will be by the beach, there are outfitter stores that will rent wetsuits to you on an hourly or daily rate. If you are planning to travel often or just want one of your own, it is recommended to keep one in your suitcase. You can try well-known brands like The Body Glove by visiting their website: http://www.bodyglove.com or Billabong's wetsuit line, http://www.billabongwetsuits.com (or you can simply search sites like google with key words "wetsuits").
- (Spring/Summer): Since the spring and summer is especially hot, pack clothing that is light colored and made from cotton or linen. You can refer back to step 3 above, but generally, spring and summer seasons are hot and extremely humid (generally 80% humidity and above). Packing light clothing will allow your skin to breath, let you feel lighter and more agile and won't weigh you down when you are hot and sticky.
It is common for women to wear light dresses, cotton shorts or skirts, short sleeve shirts or blouses, or clothing made out of linen. For men, make sure to also pack light colored clothing made from cotton, cotton-blends or linen. It is common for men to wear bermuda shorts, pants made from a breathable fabric, t-shirts or short sleeved button down shirts.
You can try searching for concepts at websites like http://www.tommybahama.com or Columbia Sportswear: http://www.columbia.com. Although it is hot, you might want to bring along a light sweater or jacket for the evening, especially if you've been in the sun all day.
- (Spring/Summer): Putting it frankly, the summer in the Caribbean is rainy season, so pack an umbrella or light, water-proof jacket with a hood. You can search for these items at sports stores like the North Face: http://www.northface.com or your local athletic/outfitter store.
- (Spring/Summer): Pack a hat, the sun is brutal so it is imperative that you protect your head and ears. Preferably try to find one that is light colored and covers your ears. If you plan on being outside for most of the day, try to find a hat that also covers the back of your neck (one good example is the Columbia Bahama hat at http://www.columbia.com or you can find a hat at sites like Boater's World: http://www.boatersworld.com.
Now that you've checked the weather, determined the season you will be traveling and read up on season-specific tips for packing for warm weather in the Caribbean, the following will provide you with very important, year-round trips when packing for warm weather.
- Packing the right type of shoes is crucial, regardless of the season, so pack a few pairs but make sure they're the right type. If you plan on being out on the beach, pack a pair of light sandals (make sure they are comfortable and won't create blisters because there is nothing worse than sand rubbing against an open blister).
If you're going to be moving about the city or enjoying a day filled with activities, make sure to pack a pair of light-colored, closed-toe sneakers. The key to wearing closed-toe shoes in the heat is wearing white, cotton socks. Nowadays, some athletic socks are made with CoolMax technology that keeps your feet dry and cool, even in the worst heat. You can read up on this fabric by visiting: http://coolmax.invista.com/faqs.html or by googling the key words "coolmax fabric". Whatever you do, don't pack dark colored polyester socks - if you plan on being outside in the heat because your feet will feel the burn.
- Pack sunblock, sunblock and more sunblock. If you plan on being outdoors, combine a good hat with the right sunblock. The common misconception is the "one size fits all" theory for sunblock. It is recommended to buy one type of sunblock specially made for faces and another type specially made for your body. If you plan on being outdoors, chances are that you will sweat and just like those blisters on your feet, there is nothing worse than having the deadly combination of sweat and sunblock in your eyes.
If you don't want to splurge on sunblock, buy a good product for your face and use the cheaper, no-brand stuff on your body. Sunblocks made for faces now come as oil-free creams (not oils). A tip for women: as you're getting ready for your daily activities in the Caribbean and plan on applying makeup, use the sunblock as a base, letting it dry for about 15 minutes, and then apply your makeup. You can also find cosmetic brands that make a tinted sunblock for your face if you would rather use cosmetics instead of a traditional sunblock.
A good place to start is the Banana Boat line - they make products for both faces and bodies: http://www.bananaboat.com, Coppertone's Water Babies: http://www.coppertone.com or Bull Frog Sunblock: http://www.bullfrogsunblock.com . If you want to buy a higher quality sunblock, Kiehl's makes some great products. Visit them on the web: http://www.kiehls.com.
- A good pair of polarized sunglasses will help you out. The key to wearing sunglasses is making sure that they are polarized, so make sure that it is marked as such when you purchase them. Some good starting points are Oakley: http://www.oakley.com, Bolle Sunglasses: http://www.bolle.com or Ray Ban: http://www.ray-ban.com. Although these brands are on the pricey side, they are very good quality and usually come with guarantees.
- If you're in the warm Caribbean, chances might be that you'll require a swimsuit. Since there are so many preferences and an almost endless list of swimsuit brands/choices, the option is all yours. However, it is recommended to pack at least two swimsuits if you plan on enjoying the water daily (so as one dries, you have a dry suit to wear the following day).
If you're stumped on places to shop or don't have access to stores that sell swimsuits, you might want to look into the following brands: Roxy brand: http://www.roxy.com, Everything But Water: http://www.everythingbutwater.com, Speedo: http://www.speedo.com or simply google the key words "swimwear".
Tip for women: bringing along a beach wrap to go over your swimsuit or a light dress while you're at the beach or pool is easy and comfortable for moving around.
Tip for men: whether your style is shorts, surf shorts, or briefs, everything goes in the Caribbean - so wear what's most comfortable for you.
- Since the sun, again, is brutal, make sure to pack some aloe vera. Nowadays, Aloe Vera is sold as both traditional or "blue" (the blue aloe vera normally includes a pain-relief ingredient). It might be handy to have both products available, in case of a bad burn. It is also recommended to pack bug spray. If your skin is sensitive, you can check out Skin So Soft products.
- Lastly, but most important, don't forget your passport and enjoy yourself!