We've been coming down to the Virgin Islands for years now, and I always chuckle to myself when I see people at the airport or on the ferry struggling with these HUGE suitcases. (Picture a family of 4 or 2 couples with 4 big bags, 4 carry-on size bags and an assortment of "personal items''.) I realize it's probably just human nature to overpack when you are unsure of what you really need in a place you may not be familiar with...so that's why I decided to write this quick post about how to pack light for a weeklong trip to the Virgin Islands. I should point out that even after many trips, I am _still_ refining my packing list. Let's get into it.
The places we usually stay at have laundry machines, so that benefit alone allows me to take fewer clothes. I travel with a backpack and my soft-sided backpack cooler. The backpack goes in the overhead bin and the cooler goes at my feet, under the seat in front of me.
In my cooler, I place my laptop (if I bring it), my phone, wallet, passport, money, a camera and GoPro (if I bring them), a waterproof speaker, sunglasses, my various charging cords, chargers, etc. and 2 insulated tumblers.
My backpack is for clothes and sometimes I bring snorkel gear as well. I usually wear shorts, a short sleeve collared shirt, a lightweight pullover or sweatshirt, and sneakers on the plane. Here's what I pack for a week long trip:
- 4 pairs of underwear (remember we have laundry machines)
- 2 pairs of athletic socks for morning workouts or hikes (my sneakers and 1 pair of socks are on my feet and I only wear them for traveling or working out/hiking)
- 2 pairs of athletic shorts
- 4 bathing suits (I could get away with 2 but I like having a variety)
- 3 pairs of shorts (i.e. khakis) for going out to dinner
- 5 t-shirts for the beach/working out
- 5 t-shirts for going out to dinner (these are slightly "better" than my beach t-shirts)
- 1 collared shirt (my wife makes me bring it). Apart from the plane, I almost never wear it out to dinner. Really depends on where we are going.
- 1 long sleeve shirt for the beach
- 1 wide brimmed "lifeguard" hat (Yes, this fits inside my backpack. I usually stuff the hat with socks or underwear to fill it up then place it flat in the middle of the backpack and pack around it. Works great - no damage.)
- 2 pairs of sandals/flip flops. Once I arrive on island, I wear flip flops the majority of the time. The only time I wear sneakers is on travel days and on hikes or during workouts. Why 2 pairs? I recently started bringing 2 pairs because I didn't like putting wet flip flops on when going to dinner. So now, when I get back from the beach, I let my wet flip flops dry overnight and I wear the dry pair out to dinner.
- Toiletries (I buy my sunscreen after we arrive)
And that's it! That's all I bring. The amazing thing is that I finally convinced my wife that she too can survive a week in the USVI with only a backpack full of clothes. (She used to be one of those people dragging a HUGE suitcase through the airport or on the ferry.) Her first time trying the backpack method, she was really anxious about it...very nervous she would run out of clothes. Well, she didn't. Now, she is totally on board with using a backpack for a weeklong trip to the USVI.
There are a couple of other benefits to traveling "light":
1) You save $$ on checked bag fees.
2) You save time at the airport in St Thomas. On your arrival day, you don't need to wait for your checked bags. Head straight to the rental car counter or the taxi stand and get your vacation started earlier. On the way home from St Thomas, you also save a bunch of time as the line for screening checked bags is often very long.
The feeling of traveling light is very liberating. Give it a try. You won't be sorry.