A Must-Read Before You Pack for Your Vacation to Jamaica or the Caribbean (Updated 1/3/2022)
After months of staying put, people are yearning to travel once again – and they are headed to Jamaica! So let’s talk about how to pack for your Jamaica vacation. Actually, this article will help you pack for any beach vacation, all-inclusive or non-all-inclusive.
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The Ultimate Guide to How to Pack for Your Jamaica Vacation
If suitcases could talk, my luggage would tell some interesting tales. I have probably sent almost everything to Jamaica at one point or another, except for the proverbial kitchen sink. Televisions, cooktops, microwaves, board games, dishes, sheets, towels, pool toys, pool floats, you name it. Such is the life of a Jamaica vacation homeowner who has to import a large percentage of items into the country.
Fortunately, you can travel light as we have done most of the heavy lifting for you. Read on, as we share with you secrets that regular travelers to the Caribbean know and that you should too about packing for a vacation to Jamaica.
What to Pack for Your Jamaica Vacation: 5 Things to Consider Before You Put Anything in Your Suitcase
What to pack for your Jamaica vacation depends on 5 things.
1. Who is traveling?
Men, women, singles, couples, adults-only, families, elderly, kids all have different needs. Consider the ages of your group …. babies, toddlers, teenagers. Kids generally require more changes of clothes than adults and also generally need more entertainment options to prevent boredom. Babies, of course, have their own special needs.
2. When are you going? What the weather is expected to be like during your stay.
The good news is that the weather is usually good! Check out the weather in Jamaica.
The only caveat is even though Jamaica is an island it is a fairly large island. The weather in Montego Bay or even Ocho Rios has nothing to do with Discovery Bay in terms of rain. Jamaica’s diverse terrain results in different weather conditions even in areas that are not too far apart.
Jamaicans notoriously don’t believe weather reports. They look at the clouds and signs from nature and decide for themselves whether they think it will be rainy or sunny, or hot or a little chilly.
3. Where you will be staying?
Does the property offer complimentary items that you don’t have to lug with you? Don’t pack what the property provides. Mais Oui provides pool and beach towels, pool toys, snorkel sets, and many other items for the use of our guests. Not all properties do so be sure to ask ahead of time. What about hairdryers?
Some villas, like Mais Oui, provide hairdryers but if you are looking for a professional-level hairdryer like the one your hairstylist uses you are likely to be disappointed. If that is what you need, you should bring your own. If you are traveling as a group, does everyone need to bring a professional-grade hairdryer or can you share? Decide ahead of time.
4. What’s the length of the trip? For how long will you be staying?
The longer the stay, the more tempting it might be to bring more items. Given weight restrictions on airlines these days, packing smart might be the better approach. By the time you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll know exactly how to solve this problem.
5. Why you’re going? How do you plan to spend your vacation?
What do you plan to do?
If you plan on lounging by the beach or swimming in the pool most of the time, you will need more swimsuits than someone who plans to relax in the cabanas and read all day long. If you plan on going hiking you should consider long pants and at least sneakers.
If you plan on eating out at upscale restaurant(s), you will at least want a nice summer dress or for men a collared shirt and long pants to not feel “out of place”.
For most people, summer dresses, tank tops, T-shirts, polo shirts, modest shorts, khakis, or dockers will be just fine.
6 Really Obvious … or Not so Obvious … Items to Pack for a Vacation in Jamaica or the Caribbean
1. Your passport and travel documents as well as insurance cards.
Jamaica is a foreign country so do not simply run out of the house in your excitement with only your driver’s license. you need a valid passport.
To be on the safe side, make sure your passport is good for at least another 6 months. I have not found this to be an issue with Jamaican immigration officials. (This has happened to me before.) If they find you “suspicious”, they do have the right to deny entry.
Where I would worry about an issue with the 6-month rule is with the airline. If your documents are not “in order”, the airline has the right to deny boarding. Honestly, I just can’t imagine that anyone checks the 6-month rule.
On the way back into the US, if you are a citizen, you are coming home so it wouldn’t make a difference.
Remember that US passports for children under age 16 are only valid for 5 years, and not for 10 years like adults.
You must have the name and address of the property at which you are staying. If you are staying anywhere other than a hotel, insist on having the contact name and number for the local representative. Also, make sure that they have a way to reach you while you are traveling!
Bring a blue or black ink pen with you to fill out your immigration form on the airplane. There are never enough pens on board. Keep all these items easily accessible while you are traveling, such as in the outside pocket of your carry-on bag.
As an added precaution, make copies of your passport and travel documents. Have your health insurance card with you on the off chance that you might need medical attention while you are abroad.
Hot tip #1: Take a picture of these items with your cell phone!
Hot tip #2: As of June 15, 2020, you need to obtain a travel authorization form to be able to board a flight to Jamaica. Go to https://VisitJamaica.com.
Hot tip #3: You will need a negative COVID test prior to boarding your flight for Jamaica. As of 1/3/2022, the test should be done within 72 hours of arrival. Requirements during COVID are very fluid and could change.
Hot tip #3: It isn’t get required but proof of COVID vaccination is not a bad idea.
2. Spending money and credit card.
Include some small bills – US$20 and under – for making change when you buy small items, baggage handlers at the airport, tipping, and so forth. Make sure to contact your credit card company ahead of time so that they know you will be in Jamaica. Look up the average currency exchange rate so you can have an idea of what to expect when you try to exchange money in Jamaica.
3. Personal entertainment devices and their chargers.
With travel, there is often wait time. Being prepared to entertain yourself and your group is always a good thing. Most people and their kids these days carry multiple electronic devices cell phones, Ipads, e-book readers, tablets, and laptops. Do not forget the chargers for these devices.
4. Whatever can you not live without.
Almost anything you would need for your vacation is available in Jamaica. The cost will probably be higher and maybe you might have to settle for a different brand name. Nevertheless, bulky disposal items take up valuable space in your luggage, can lead to unnecessary excess baggage fees and are best left behind. The best advice, therefore, is this – Bring with you anything that you consider a “must-have” or that you absolutely cannot do without. If you forgot something, don’t worry about it. You can most like buy it there.
5. Prescription medications.
Make sure you bring an adequate supply with you. Most of the medicines, including prescription medicines, available in Jamaica are based on the British system, not the American system. As a result, not all brands are sold in Jamaica and, if they are available, they may be expensive. Additionally, the pharmacy will need a prescription from a local doctor to be able to dispense the medication to you. This may also be true for items normally available over the counter in the USA. If you are on narcotic pain medicines, please make sure you have enough of your medicine to last you for the duration of your vacation and in the original prescription bottle. Refills of narcotic pain medicines are very difficult to obtain, even for Jamaicans.
6. A change of clothes and basic toiletries in your carry-on.
Luggage does get lost on vacation.
7. Face mask.
Jamaican law requires that everyone wears a face mask in public spaces.
8. Hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.
Frequent cleansing of the hands, as well as cleaning of frequently touched areas, are key to reducing the spread of COVID-19.
19 Things You May Not Have Thought to Pack for Your Jamaica Vacation But Will Make Your Life a Whole Lot Easier or Less Complicated.
Some are really cool!
1. Luggage tags
Distinctive or bright colorful ribbons will help you spot your bags quickly among the sea of black suitcases and get into the line for customs pronto! The sooner you clear customs the sooner you get to start your vacation.
2. Beach bag
Have a nice tote that you can toss your things in when you go to the beach. There are so many little things to bring like a book, sunscreen, glasses, camera, phone and so forth that a “catch all” bag will make your life so much easier.
3. Insect repellant/bug spray
So what really works to keep bugs away? Read Consumer Reports article, published 5/13/2015, on insect repellants which reveals new, safer options to keep mosquitos and ticks away. Surprisingly, of 15 products tested, the top-performing products had either 20% picaridin or 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus and not the controversial DEET. Products that worked had between 15-30% DEET. Higher concentrations of DEET were not more effective.
4. Insect bite relief cream
Don’t forget creams like Benadryl cream or Cortaid.
5. Medicine kit
Be sure to bring pain relievers such as Tylenol and or Ibuprofen, Benadryl or other anti-histamine, aloe vera ointment, medicines for common gastrointestinal ailments such as Imodium, Pepto-Bismol, and Tums, topical antibiotic ointments such as bacitracin or Neosporin, band-aids, alcohol pads. Don’t forget Dramamine if you are prone to being seasick and plan on going on a catamaran cruise or fishing trip. Desitin or baby powder are helpful with chafing. A medicine kit is one item that could be shared with the group or family. Talk with your doctor about whether or not you need an Epi-Pen if you have allergies, especially food allergies. It could be a lifesaver. Ambulance service is not very reliable in Jamaica.
6. Hand sanitizer and or disposable wipes.
This makes it so easy to keep your hands clean and to wipe down any questionable surfaces you might encounter as you are out and about. These are really valuable if you are traveling with children.
7. Water shoes
These may be rented but it is usually cheaper to purchase an inexpensive pair to take with you than to rent a pair for every water activity that you wish to pursue. Plus they are great to wear to the beach.
8. Lindsay Phillips SwitchFlops
My sister introduced me to these the last time we were in Jamaica together. It seemed like she had a different pair of sandals for each outfit. Being the older sister I proceeded to tell her that if she had brought two neutral-colored shoes she wouldn’t have to carry so many shoes when she traveled. The joke was on me because it was one pair of sandals with multiple different interchangeable straps and attachments. Really cool. Thanks Michelle!
9. Plug adaptor
If you are from the US, you don’t need this. Jamaica uses the same types of plugs and sockets like the US. The electricity cycle is 50 in Jamaica versus 60 cycles as in the US but for most things, you would not notice the difference. If you are not from the US, you might want to get an adaptor like this one. It has an AU, UK, US, and EU plug adaptor to be able to plug your devices into the sockets in Jamaica. It also has a USB charging port and surge protector all-in-one. Nice!
10. Waterproof camera like a Go-Pro
Many of the really fun activities in Jamaica involve water – whether it is in the sea or on one of the rivers. Many of the attractions have their own photographers who will take pictures for you and sell them to you but it is really nice t be able to snap some shots on your own. You could use your phone. Just make sure it is waterproof. A specially designated waterproof pouch for your phone is not a bad idea.
11. Camera supplies.
Don’t forget batteries and memory cards. Ideally, bring an empty memory card or a backup. Jamaica is a photographer’s paradise. Bring an underwater camera or camera sleeve protector if you have any interest in underwater activities.
12. All-natural fish food (pellets from the pet store) to feed the fish when you go snorkeling.
13. Portable water bottle
Jamaica is not quite with the times in terms of recycling. If you are a water drinker. please consider carrying a refillable water bottle instead of purchasing the small individual bottles of water.
14. Waterproof pouch or bags
You will need something to bring back wet clothing like swimsuits. The large ziplock bags work great for this purpose.
On a more practical note, you need a small discrete pouch for when you do on-water activities.
15. Luggage scale
If you are a shopper or tend to overpack, you need this. Weigh your bags ahead of time and never pay overweight baggage fees again. Most airlines these days limit luggage to 50lbs. Plus airlines are getting stingy with the number of bags you get for free. Don’t be the person at the check-in counter scrambling to remove items from your suitcase because it is too heavy. Yes, it does annoy other passengers. The EatSmart Precision Voyager Digital Luggage Scale gets high marks on Amazon.
16. An over-the-door shoe rack
Never thought of that. I have to thank ‘A Casarella for this tip. I’ll take it a step further. Use it to help you pack in the first place. Label each pocket so as you pack you know you have what goes in each. I have to work hard to not forget either a proper shower cap or toothpaste. You can either pack the shoe rack empty or pre-pack it and roll it up then put it in your suitcase. What an excellent way to get rid of all that bathroom counter-top clutter!
17. A multi-port charger that has USB ports as well as plugs
So many times in hotels there aren’t enough outlets and you have to plug things in different sockets. My fear is always missing a charger or device that is plugged in some obscure corner of the room. Especially since our son thinks we will be the ones to remember to check for his chargers and devices. Darrian!!!
18. Something in which to place your dirty clothes
You should bring a laundry bag or pillowcase or trash bag so that your dirty clothes don’t get mixed in with your clean clothes.
19. Most important – bring a good, relaxed attitude….
Be aware that things will be different from where you are coming from. That is part of the experience of travel. Life in the tropics is different. There is no rush. Just relax – Everything will be alright!
5 Essential Things to Pack for Your Jamaica Vacation, Especially if You are a Sun Worshiper
This deserves its own special section and applies to all travelers to the Caribbean. The sun in Jamaica, as in the rest of the Caribbean, is hot. The risk of sunburn is real and we don’t want that to be part of your memories of your trip to Jamaica.
There are UVA and UVB rays from the sun. UVB is primarily responsible for sunburn. UVA penetrates the skin more than UVB and causes tanning as well as premature aging. Direct sunlight is only one means of excessive sun exposure. The exposure is further increased as the sun’s rays reflect off the beautiful sand on the beach as well as water, including the pool and sea.
Your Jamaica Packing List to Reduce Your Risk of Sunburn and of Sun-Exposure During Your Caribbean Vacation
1. sun-screen … and not just any sunscreen
Let’s get educated about the whole sunscreen issue first, please. SPF stands for sunburn protection factor and informs users of how well the product protects for UVB light. Does a higher SPF sunscreen always protect your skin better than a lower SPF sunscreen? How high should you go?
Here is the truth. SPF 15 sunscreen blocks 93% of the UVB radiation, SPF 30 blocks 97%, SPF 50 blocks about 98%. Do you see where this is going? Buy SPF 100 if you want but make sure it is because you like the smell or the feel or merely for personal preference and not because you think you are getting more sun protection. You aren’t.
The US government is forging ahead to protect consumers by changing the labeling requirements for sunscreen.
Your sunscreen should
- block both UVA and UVB rays. Look for these words on your sunscreen – “Broad spectrum”
- be water-resistant if you plan on being in the water. Look for “water-resistant” or “very water-resistant”. The label should also say either 40 minutes or 80 minutes which refers to the length of time you can expect to get the declared SPF level of protection while swimming or sweating.
- be at least SPF 30. Note that products with SPF values higher than 50 can only be labeled as “SPF 50+” and are likely to be only marginally better than SPF 30, at best. Note that SPF only refers to protection from UVB, not UVA rays.
- don’t be fooled by anything that says “sunblock”. That is false advertising.
How much sunscreen should you bring? Don’t be skimpy with the sunscreen use so bring enough. The recommendation is to use about 2 tablespoons, about 1 ounce, over the whole body every 2 hours or after any activities that could remove the sunscreen. Don’t think that using sunscreen gives you a license to tan. And, don’t forget your ears and back of your neck. Men, if you are bald, you also need to protect the top of your head.
2. Lip balm with SPF … don’t forget your lips
3. Cover-ups for the beach and even just getting around.
Consider a sarong at a minimum. If you burn easily and or plan on pursuing activities with much sun exposure, consider, as strange as it sounds, loose-fitting long sleeves shirts and pants. Look at how people in the Sahara Desert dress? They aren’t wearing tank tops.
There are also clothes, including athletic gear, with an ultraviolet protection factor (UVP) of 30+. That means that the item only allows 1/30th of the UV rays from the sun to reach the skin underneath. If you are worried about sunburn on your back while snorkeling, you could wear a Rashguard shirt to try to lower the risk.
4. Wear sunglasses with UV protection.
5. Wear a wide-brimmed hat.
So, SPF is not the be all and end all in terms of sun protection. You need to consider proper sunscreen application, use of shade, sun-protective clothing, and limiting sun exposure. Avoid the sun between 10am and 4pm, especially between noon and 2pm when the rays are the strongest. Luckily we have beach umbrellas, if you choose to go to the beach during this time. Our roof deck and gardens have cool and relaxing cabanas that you can enjoy while limiting your sun exposure.
If you follow even a few of these tips, you will reduce your sun exposure and your risk of sunburn and can enjoy beautiful Jamaica without fear of the sun.
Be sure to bring along some Aloe Vera, preferably the one labeled 99% pure. This is very soothing for sunburn if you happen to get one.
Jamaica Packing Tips: 12 Tips to Help You Figure Out What Clothes to Pack for Your Jamaica Vacation.
For a week’s vacation in Jamaica, or the Caribbean for that matter, here is what my packing list looks like:
2 swimsuits, 3 tops, 1-2 pairs of shorts, 1-2 pants or capris, sandals, enough underwear, 2 sets of PJs. I might bring one wash and wear summer dress. Generally, I don’t because I like the option of mixing and matching which a dress does not allow. Of course, I have the obligatory toiletries such as comb, makeup, deodorant, lotion, tooth-brush and toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss, and so forth. Any other space left in the suitcase goes towards items for the villa or for charities that we support.
For the flight, I generally wear trouser-style jeans, a nice shirt, a wrap or jacket, and comfortable walking shoes. This is my attire for a few reasons. If I need a smart outfit for one evening, I already have one, or the components of one, ready. The airplane is usually cold so I have no worries about being uncomfortable. These items add to my options of mixing and matching even more. By having a few items laundered at the villa I have multiple combinations for outfits without having to pack too many additional items.
As you think about your own packing list for your Jamaica vacation, consider the following:
- Think casual and lightweight. Breathable fabrics like cotton or linen are best. Short of a cold front, Jamaica is warm, some would say hot, almost all the time.
- Leave the expensive jewelry at home, please. (You will only stand out as a tourist). It is simply not necessary.
- Bring a pair of long pants (jeans or khakis for example) if you plan to go horseback riding or ziplining.
- Jeans are easy but they are bulky, absorb dirt and odors, and take longer to dry unless you buy lightweight versions – Cotton or khakis are a better choice for packing.
- If you plan to go out in the evening a nice pair of slacks and a shirt would be fine. A few restaurants request that men wear jackets – Most have no such requirement. We do get guests who choose to get dressed up for dinner in the evenings; but, that is a personal choice, not a Mais Oui requirement.
- Avoid clothes that must be ironed and or dry-cleaned as that is way too much hassle.
- Bring clothes that can be mixed and matched. You will end up with more possible outfits with fewer pieces. Also, if they are in the same general color spectrum (light, medium, or dark), you have fewer loads of laundry to worry about! Khaki is the best neutral!
- You may need a light jacket or wrap for early mornings and late evenings depending on the time of year. This is also true if you are in the more inland or mountainous areas.
- Bring two or three swimsuits that way you won’t have to worry about putting on a wet swimsuit or if you break a strap. If one is a bikini, that is nice. Some people wear them during spa treatments. It’s up to your level of comfort. If you bring a solid bikini, say black, and a print bikini, you could easily mix and match to jazz things up a bit if that is your style.
- Comfortable shoes are important. Break in any shoes before you reach the island. The last thing you want are uncomfortable shoes. Sandals and flip-flops are great but again think of your activities. Flip flops are not great for activities that involve a lot of walking. Rubber or plastic flip-flops do better on the sand than canvas or leather which will easily get damaged with the sand and the water. Really ask yourself if you need fancy high heels. Please don’t be the person who shows u for ziplining in stilettos! Yes, it happened.
- If you want to carry one of those small fold-up umbrellas, that’s fine. If it is hot, you won’t look odd using an umbrella in the heat. This is done all the time in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean. You’ll confuse people. They will either think you are a local or a regular, which is not a bad thing
- Try to be modest in your dress. Men, unless you have it on good authority, and your wife or significant other doesn’t count, that you look like Tom Selleck in Magnum PI, please wear long shorts and not short shorts or speedos. Ladies, avoid skimpy or revealing clothing. Despite what the media may portray, such attire is not considered cool by mainstream Jamaica and could attract unwanted attention.
Did I forget anything?
Do you have a tip that worked for you or a cool gadget that you would like to share? Let me know about it. Maybe I’ll include your tip in a future update.
Where to stay for your Jamaica vacation
If you are traveling as a group, consider a stay at a villa. Mais Oui Villa in Discovery Bay is an 8BR boutique Jamaica villa that is perfect for families and groups. Amenities galore. Great central location to allow you to explore all that Jamaica has to offer. And, if you are traveling with children, you will be surprised at how light you can pack!
If you’re thinking of a villa vacation rental for your Jamaica vacation, here is a special cool freebie to make vacation planning easy …
Get our exclusive FREE BONUS to help you pick the perfect Jamaica villa vacation rental.
- 12 Question Cheat Sheet to show you what you absolutely must get right before you start searching for Jamaica villas to rent
- The Savvy Villa Traveler’s Worksheet to figure out your “must-haves” for your dream vacation
- The Villa Selection Worksheet to narrow down your choices and pick the winning villa rental
‘Til next time.
Think and dream Jamaica!
Sherry, Darrell, and Darrian
Considering a visit to Jamaica with a group? Contact us today for more information about, Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa, our boutique 8-BR ocean view Jamaica villa rental experience in beautiful Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Perfect for multi-generational families and groups, retreats, and intimate destination weddings and vow renewals.
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