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What to Pack For A Tropical Vacation

Updated on March 9, 2012

You won't need many clothes to enjoy a tropical sunset1

Pack Lite! There is a fee for checked luggage now!


We've stayed on Captiva Island on our family vacation several times and that's about as tropical as you can get. It's a small island just off the coast of Ft. Myers on the southern gulf coast of Florida. The first time we were there I quickly realized that I'd over packed. A lot. If I'd taken only half the clothes stuffed into our two suitcases, it would still have probably been too much.

Recently many airlines started charging a fee for checked bags, and the fee runs from $15 to $25 per bag. Invest in a suitcase that fits in the overhead storage compartment as a carry on and save yourself some money! Underpack, especially if you're staying at a condo or rental home with laundry facilities. Try to pack the same color laundry load - all white or hot pinks and oranges will mean you can wash most of your clothes in one load and it won't become an intrusive chore.

I felt it necessary to bring two dressy outfits to wear for dinner. I also packed some dressy shoes and accessories. I didn't need any of it, as nobody gets dressed up on Captiva Island, or Sanibel Island, or maybe anyplace on the entire gulf coast of Florida when they're on vacation. We went to several fairly upscale restaurants and the only nod I saw toward dinner wear were golf shirts instead of t-shirts for men, and maybe a very casual skirt for women. Well, there were a few men wearing Hawaiian shirts, and they looked almost formal. I also spied a few people wearing shoes, but I think they wore them for medical reasons. Flip flops are all you need, or if you want to step it up a bit, sandals. I never even unpacked any real shoes - which was a mistake when we drove home to Michigan in March - brrrrrrrrr!  Wear layers if you're flying.  On our recent flight from Flint to Tampa I wore a tank top, t-shirt, longsleeved top and a hoodie.  It was quite cold in Michigan but by the time we reached our cottage rental in Indian Rocks Beach it was in the eighties, so I removed several layers and was comfortable from below freezing to tropical by adjusting my layers!

We took a walk one afternoon and passed a group of people wearing business clothes. It seemed quite odd and they looked very out of place after we'd spent several days in the 'tropical' garb of t-shirts, shorts and flip flops. People actually looked at them as if they were trying to figure out why Martians were on the island or if somebody had died.

A friend of mine went on a tropical vacation in Hawaii and took only a back pack! One extra pair of shorts, underwear and a couple of tops and her bathing suit were all she needed. She purchased a small bottle of sun-screen, souvenir t-shirt and a tank top while she was there. Remember, they do sell everything and anything you'll need in tropical locals. A co-worker of mine bought her vacation clothes at the Goodwill on her tropical vacation. She washed them and donated them back when she went home. She says she does that a lot as she loves shopping at thirft stores and hates to pack. Another good reason to pack light is that some airlines are charging $15 to $25 a bag for checked luggage, so even if you buy a few things and leave them behind for someone else you'll be ahead of the game financially.

We drove from Michigan to southern Florida in March, so we had to wear warm clothes for the beginning and end of the trip, however we needed very little once we got there. Don't pack sweaters, dresses (well, maybe a sundress). There's no need for real shoes or dressy pants. A couple of pair of shorts, sandals, and t-shirts are about all you need! The real point of a tropical vacation is to relax and have fun. I'm sure there are folks who feel that dressing up is part of the fun, but they're probably all on a Cruise or in Miami. So, dress down and save on luggage fees and stress!.



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