If you’ve booked a holiday to the Caribbean then you could argue that your work here is done. While sun, sea and beaches is, granted, all you should really be thinking about (ok, you can think about the delicious food too), packing a suitcase for the Caribbean is actually tougher than it sounds. Bikini/swim shorts? Tick. Sun cream? Tick. Some kind of book for those shady moments? Tick.
Hold your horses and don’t zip up that suitcase yet. The Caribbean’s laidback reputation can be deceiving. While there’s certainly a lot of lazing to do, there are some essential items that should be packed to make sure your time spent in the tropics even better.
1. Disposable underwater camera
The Caribbean is home to approximately 9% of the world’s coral reefs. Trust, you’ll regret it if you don’t capture what lies beneath the waves off the coast of the various Caribbean islands. Standout sea life scouting areas are the Belize Barrier Reef (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the Great Mayan Reef. Snorkelling and diving are popular Caribbean holiday pastimes with plenty of trips available on the majority of the islands. Expect to see sea turtles, giant clams, colourful fish, fire coral (don’t touch!) and even rays. It goes without saying that when diving or snorkelling, you should take all proper precautions.
2. Disinfectant wipes
Everyone turns into their mother at some point – embrace it! The great thing about Caribbean holidays is that you will be spending much of your time on the beach. It’s a hard life. However, it will mean that you’ll need to wash your hands before you eat. The Caribbean islands are known for their beach food, with Trinidad’s Bake and Shark (fried shark in a delicious bun) making it onto multiple‘food to eat before you die’ lists.
3. Giant clothespins
How else will you tie your beach towel down? This hot travel tip might seem a bit over the top but there’s nothing better than lying down on your towel ready to sunbathe and know it won’t move around. You’ll be the queen/king of the beach.
4. Sun cream
Let’s debunk a myth: ‘If I use sun cream I won’t tan.’ That is absolutely not true, sun cream protects your skin and in the Caribbean, your skin will need plenty of protection so you tan happily and healthily. You’ll want to walk away with a good tan, not burnt to a crisp. Never go lower than factor 20 in any part of the Caribbean. Start at factor 30 and for those with fairer skin, take factor 50.
The Caribbean is hot with only two seasons, dry and rainy. It will rain even in the dry season (just to clear the air) and you’ll need an umbrella. Being British, you’ll have one with you anyway, but it’s good to mention.
6. Snorkelling gear
While this isn’t necessary, it’s a good idea to take a simple snorkel and mask set. You can rent these before going out on any boat trips but having one handy is useful for any impromptu dives into the sea.
7. Extra cash for airport tax
Most of the Caribbean islands will charge airport travellers a departure tax at the airport. Sometimes this tax will be included in your air ticket but you may still get charged. It’s hard to remember that you’ll need some currency before flying home but make sure you’ve got enough so you can get home hassle free. Here’s a rundown of what the different islands charge (in US dollars):http://gocaribbean.about.com/od/beforeyougo/a/Taxesandfees_3.htm
Pack as much protection from the sun as possible and look like you’ve stepped out of a glossy magazine at the same time. Opt to take a wide-brimmed hat that will protect your face from getting burnt. Putting it on will become second nature.
9. Bug spray
You might even want to consider taking mosquito nets to sleep under at night, such is the ferocity of some of the Caribbean mosquitos! Don’t let your toes, fingers or any part of your body become their next snack and make sure you pack a couple of bottles of spray and carry one with you at all times.
10. Bottle opener
The Caribbean sells soft drinks like sodas and fruit juices in glass bottles which often require a bottle opener. Keep one in your beach bag handy so you’re not restricted on what drinks you can buy at the beach.