A Must-Read Before You Pack for Your Vacation to Jamaica or the Caribbean

A Must-Read Before You Pack for Your Vacation to Jamaica or the Caribbean

  • 5 Things to Consider Before You Put Anything in Your Suitcase
  • 6 Really Obvious … or Not so Obvious … Items to Pack for a Vacation in Jamaica or the Caribbean
  • 15 Things You May Not Have Thought to Pack for Your Jamaica Vacation But Will Make Your Life a Whole Lot Easier or Less Complicated. 
  • 5 Essential Things to Pack, Especially if You are a Sun-Worshipper
  • How to Pack: 12 Tips to Help You Figure Out What Clothes 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, cook tops, microwaves, board games, dishes, sheets, towels, pool toys, pool floats. Such is the life of a Jamaica vacation home owner 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.


5 Things to Consider Before You Put Anything in Your Suitcase

What to pack for your Jamaica trip depends on 5 things.

  1. Who is traveling – male, female, adults only, families, kids – ages …. 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. 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. 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 complementary 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 hair dryers? Some villas, like Mais Oui, provide hair dryers but if you are looking for a professional level hairdryer like the one your hair stylist uses you are likely to be disappointed. If that is what you need, you should bring your own. If you are travelling as a group, does everyone need to bring a professional grade hairdryer or can you share? Decide ahead of time.
  4. 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. How 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. Make sure your passport is good for at last another 6 months. 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. 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.

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.


15 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.   Distinctive luggage tags 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.

Unique luggage tags help you find your bags faster.

Unique luggage tags help you find your bags faster.

2.  Beach bag

Beach bag

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 – pain relievers such as Tylenol and or Ibuprofen, benadryl or other anti-histamine, aloe vera ointment, medincines for common gastrointestinal ailments such as Imodium, peptobismol and Tums, topical antibiotic ointments such as bacitracin or neosporin, bandaids, alcohol pads. Don’t forget dramamine if you 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 among the group or family. Talk with your doctor about whether or not you need an Epi Pen if you have severe allergies, especially food allergies. It could be a life saver. 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

Water shoes have so many uses on a Jamaica vacation.

Water shoes have so many uses on a Jamaica vacation.

These may be rented but it is usually cheaper to purchase on 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 travelled. The joke was on me because it was one pair of sandals with multiple different interchangeable straps and attachments. Really cool. Thanks Michelle!

Lindsay Phillips SwitchFlops ... One shoe gives so many styles. Great vacation shoe!

Lindsay Phillips SwitchFlops … One shoe gives so many styles. Great vacation shoe!

9. Plug adaptor

Travel plug adaptor

Travel 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 cycle 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 the Jamaica. It also has a USB charging port and surge protector all-in-one. Nice!

10. Camera supplies. Don’t forget batteries and memory card. Ideally bring an empty memory card or a back up. Jamaica is a photographer’s paradise. Bring an underwater camera or camera sleeve protector if you have any interest in underwater activities.

11.  All-natural fish food (pellets from the pet store) to feed the fish when you go snorkeling.

12.  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.

13.  Waterproof bags to bring back wet clothing like swimsuits. The large ziplock bags work great for this purpose.

14. Luggage scale

Digital Luggage Scale

Digital 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.

15. 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, Especially if You are a Sun Worshipper

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.

How can you reduce the risk of sunburn and of sun-exposure during your Caribbean vacation.

Be sure to pack:

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 labelling 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 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 sun screen. Don’t think that using sun screen 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.

You could wear a Rashguard shirt to reduce the risk of sunburn on your back while snorkeling

You could wear a Rashguard shirt to reduce the risk of sunburn on your back while snorkeling

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 of 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 labelled 99% pure. This is very soothing for sunburn, if you happen to get one.


HOW TO PACK: 12 Tips to Help You Figure Out What Clothes to Pack for Your Jamaica Vacation.

Argh! What to pack for vacation. By Barbara Ann Spengler [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Argh! What to pack for vacation. By Barbara Ann Spengler [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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 tooth paste, 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 my clothes 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 light weight. 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 hiking.
  • 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 at least 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.
  • 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 🙂
  • 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. 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.

‘Til next time!

Think and dream Jamaica and Mais Oui.

Sherry & Darrell

Considering a visit to Jamaica? 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.

Visit our website: http://www.MakeItJamaica.com

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Give us a call:  866.624.7684 (toll free) or 914.709.0457

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About the Author Sherry

Sherry & Darrell, owners of Mais Oui Tenis & Spa Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Jamaica. They look forward to using their insider knowledge to help guests create priceless vacation memories. Feel free to say hi!

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