Suggestions for Packing for a Vacation in Jamaica

Writing a packing check list will help take the a load of stress off your shoulders

Photo credit: © renée_k.

Packing for Jamaica

There are two types of packers in this world: those that plan for days (if not weeks) in advance, making lists of everything they will pack, and checking that list off as they place items in their luggage; and those that begin tossing random articles of clothing into their suitcases just hours before they are scheduled to leave.

Whatever category you fall into, every vacationer can use a little help determining what is and is not appropriate to pack for their trip to Jamaica – especially is this trip is their first to the island.

First and Foremost

In order to travel to Jamaica, you must provide customs officials with a few documents. These include your government-issued identification card (such as a driver's license), your passport, and a $27(USD) fee that will get you a tourist card that is good for up to six months. You will also be required to pay another $27(USD) when you exit the country. Some airlines include these fees in the cost of your ticket, so check with the airlines to determine if you will need the cash on hand. It would also be wise to carry with you photocopies of your identification card and your passport in the event that the originals are lost or stolen. Keep them packed in a location separate from the originals.

You will also want to make sure you have enough money to get you through your trip – be it in cash, debit, or credit cards. Expert travelers would recommend you always have cash on hand, in the event that a credit card machine is down. The official currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican Dollar, and you can exchange your money when you arrive at the airport, or at a bank and some hotels. ATMs are also great locations to get local currency, however, these can sometimes be difficult to locate.

Other important documents to have on hand include prescriptions for your medications, notes from your personal physician regarding any health issues you may have, and a list of emergency contacts.

Finally, you certainly won't want to forget your airline tickets, and confirmation of your hotel and rental car, and paperwork regarding and pre-arranged excursions and activities.

Read our Important Documents and Money checklist to find out more.


The great thing about Jamaica is that the typical clothing style of the island is not too formal, or too relaxed, but somewhere in the middle. This means that you won't have to worry about your personal style offending local sensibilities. Still, if you have concerns, check out our guide to Clothes in Jamaica to get a closer look at local style.

When planning what to pack, consider the activities you will be participating in. As you explore the island, you will want to wear comfortable, light weight clothing that is suitable for Jamaican temperatures – which is hot. Light-colored, light-weight cottons and linen t-shirts and tank tops are the best choice, with shorts and khaki pants being ideal for your bottom half. Women will likely want to save dresses and skirts for outings that do not require much strenuous activity, for example out to lunch, while shopping, or a short tour through a museum. Again, stick to breathable fabrics.

Additionally, don't forget enough pairs of under garments and socks to get you through your trip. You will also want to bring along at least one pair of pajamas. Where shoes are concerned, you will definitely want to bring along a pair of comfortable athletic shoes for traversing the island on particular tours – especially if you are planning to do some hiking and a lot of outdoor exploration. Sandals and flip flops are great secondary shoe choices.

Our Clothing Checklist can come in handy when deciding on what to pack.

Formal Wear

While you can certainly get away with spending your entire vacation in casual clothing and beach wear, there are some occasions at which you may be required to don something slightly more formal. Collared shirts and slacks for men, and sun dresses, skirts or slacks paired with embellished blouses, or party dresses for women will suffice for dining or nightlife entertainment. Make sure to bring along shoes that fit the occasion, such as dock shoes for men, and heels or strappy sandals for women.

Swim Wear

Depending upon the length of your vacation, you would be smart to pack at least two swimsuits. This will not only give you options, but allow you to leave one to dry in your hotel room while wearing the other. A rash guard may be necessary for you if you plan to participate in watersports like diving because it will protect your skin from the harsh rays of the sun which are amplified in the water.

Also consider bringing along a cover-up such as a sarong or pareo so you can quickly go from the sand into a local eatery or shop, a hat to protect your scalp, face, and neck from the sun, sunglasses, and a pair of sandals to protect your feet from the sometimes scalding hot sand.

Extras to think about packing include your own snorkeling equipment, a dry bag which will float on water and protect your valuables, and a parachute beach blanket. This nifty invention is made of nylon parachute material and remains cool in the hot sun, dries very quickly, and does not build up mildew.

Toiletries and Health Care

Any item that you would use on a daily basis, such as a toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, and hair care products should be brought with you to Jamaica, unless you feel comfortable using the items that the hotel provides for you. All of these items can be purchased in small, travel sized containers, and will be less expensive than waiting and buying them in your resort gift shop where the prices of toiletries are often marked up by 20 percent or more. The same goes for sunblock. Remember to pack any medications you will need to take during your stay, as long as you have a prescription slip or note from your doctor in the event you are questioned by customs officials. A first aid kit is a good idea also. Bandages, disinfectant, antiseptic, aspirin, ibuprofen, anti-diarrhea, tweezers, and a thermometer should be included. Make sure you do not forget any of these items by clicking here for toiletries, or here for some basic medication.

Jamaica is known to have some pretty nasty sand fleas and mosquitoes, which come out especially strong early in the day and late at night. Bring along insect repellent to apply to your body along with your sun screen before you leave your hotel, and some hydrocortisone cream or Benadryl to relieve you of the itchiness that comes if a bug does end up biting you. Sun block is another must have item, and you'll probably need more than you think you will, plus a lip balm with SPF. In the event you get a sun burn, a soothing aloe vera lotion will be nice to have on hand.

What Else To Pack

In Jamaica, the days are hot, but the nights can be a bit cooler. Packing at least one sweater or wrap would be wise. Additionally, Jamaica is known to experience brief and sporadic rain showers on a daily basis. If you fear getting caught out in the rain, an umbrella or rain jacket will keep you dry. If you plan to utilize your resort gym and get in your daily exercise, remember to pack the appropriate clothing for that as well. Extras that might make life easier include zip-lock bags, a collapsible cooler, a small package of laundry detergent, and a bottle opener.

Along with these weather-conscious items, you may also want to consider bringing along a few things to bring you comfort, and keep you occupied when you aren't out exploring the island. A good book or your e-reader, an mp3 player, a portable DVD player, a personal journal, a laptop, and a hand held video game system, are all items that fall into this category. Don't forget to pack enough batteries to get you through your trip. It is also important to be aware that the electrical outlets in Jamaica are different than those in the United States, so you will need to bring along an adapter for your electrical devices. Voltage varies by location, so call your hotel to determine exactly what kind of adapter you will need.

Finally, don't forget to bring your camera and all equipment needed to keep it up and running, plus an extra memory card to store the hundreds of pictures you are likely to take as you try to capture all of your Jamaican vacation memories on film. If you've been considering buying a waterproof camera, now is a great time to do so. Click here for a list of some electronics that you may want to bring.

If you choose, you might want to take a look at our list of Other Miscellaneous Items.

Packing Concerns

If you are visiting Jamaica for an extended period of time, or you're simply worried about packing too much, consider this trip from travel experts: pack items that are interchangeable, and can be worn a number of ways while still looking fresh. A pair of cloth shorts, for example, will go nicely with a variety of shirts, and a selection of colored shirts can be layered differently each day for a new look.

Some vacationers worry that their luggage will get lost or delayed by the airline when they fly to Jamaica. Although this occurrence is rare, you can arrive prepared for this possibility. Include in your carry-on bag one outfit and a swim suit, along with any small, but valuable items, and medications that are necessary for you to take. This way, you will have a few essential items available to you immediately, and you can shop for the rest when you arrive in Jamaica. Do keep in mind the rules regarding liquid toiletries in a carry-on bag which state that each person may bring one clear, gallon zip-lock bag filled with liquid toiletries that are only three ounces apiece.

Now is a great time to think about the cost of your luggage. Some airlines charge for both your checked and carry-on luggage, while others will only charge for a checked bag, and still others don't charge for luggage at all. To avoid being surprised at the check-in counter, review your airline's policy in advance.

Packing for your Jamaica vacation need not be a daunting task. Just attack your luggage with a plan of action. Determine how long you will be on the island, what activities you will participate in, and try to take into consideration any problems that may arise. Create a list and stick to it, and you are sure to arrive in Jamaica with everything you need.


Help us improve! We welcome your corrections and suggestions.