Suggestions for Packing for a Vacation in St. Martin

Packing for the dual island nation of St. Martin/St. Maarten doesn't mean packing double the stuff

Photo credit: © heather_on3

Packing for St. Martin
 

When packing your luggage for your St. Martin vacation, you have a number of decisions to make. From what clothes you'll wear, to which toiletries are most important, and even which items you want to bring to keep you busy during your down time.

Making some of these decisions can be difficult. Remaining unaware of the weather patterns that typically occur during the time you're staying, or not taking into consideration what the appropriate clothing for the activities you'll be participating in are can be a problem, as well. You could end up at best uncomfortable, or at worst, forced to make an unexpected shopping trip while you're on the island.

Luckily, there is help. Below, we will guide you through every aspect of packing for your trip, and even provide you with a mock check list that you can later adapt for your specific needs.

First and Foremost

In order to vacation in St. Martin/St. Maarten, travelers are required to present customs officials with a valid and up-to-date passport, a return or onward plane ticket, and an address at which you will be staying while you are on the island. Make copies of all of these documents, and keep them in your checked luggage. This way, if you lose any documents, or if they are stolen, you will have a backup.

Maps

When you travel overseas, it is best that you keep a good amount of cash on hand, in case you run into a situation where you can't use your credit card. One of the difficult things about traveling to St. Martin/St. Maarten is that each side of the island has a different official currency. In French St. Martin, the French Florin is king, and in Dutch St. Maarten the official form of currency is the florin. Neither side accepts the others currency as often as tourists would like.

If you're bringing prescription medications with you, remember to pack the prescription slip or a note from your doctor, in the event customs officials question you about the nature of the medicine. Also, make a list of emergency contacts, and keep paperwork with confirmation of your hotel, rental car, and pre-planned activities.

Click here for a checklist of the important documents you should remember.

Clothing

Active wear for vacationers touring St. Martin/St. Maarten should reflect the activity and the weather. As a general rule, light-weight, light-colored clothing in natural fabrics are the best choice. Linen shorts or khakis paired with cotton t-shirts or tanks are commonly seen on tourists, as well as athletic shoes. Don't forget to pack the appropriate number of undergarments, socks, and pajamas. Find a checklist on some items you should remember by clicking here.

Formal Wear

Although comfort is key during the day in St. Martin, when you go out at night, it is a different story. You don't have to plan on getting too fancy each night, but when you go out to dinner, a little more formality than the shorts you wore out hiking is in order. Men should bring along collared shirts and slacks with loafers or boat shoes, and women will want sun dresses or slacks, and perhaps the occasional party dress.

Swim Wear

St. Martin/St. Maarten's coastline includes a ring of beaches that you just won't want to pass up. Arriving on the island without a swimsuit – unless you have hopes of buying one when you get there – is almost absolutely out of the question. You may even want to consider bringing more than one, plus a rash guard if you'll be participating in watersports. This way you have options, and you can leave a wet swimsuit to dry in your hotel room while you go out each day in a clean, dry one.

Take your cue from locals and throw on a sarong, pareo, or t-shirt when you leave the beach. It isn't technically against the law for you to walk into a restaurant or store in your swimsuit, but it is considered to be in poor manners and is definitely frowned upon.

A sun hat, sun glasses, and flip flops or sandals are a few other beach side essentials that you won't want to forget, plus bringing your own snorkeling equipment, dry bag, and parachute blanket will amplify your experience. Parachute blankets are made from nylon material, so they are easy to clean and mildew resistant, they stay cool in the hot sun, and they dry off quickly. A dry bag is essential if you'll be out on the water, perhaps kayaking or sailing. They are airtight and keep valuables dry if they are dropped in the water, plus they float.

Toiletries and Health Care

If you arrive in St. Martin having forgotten your toiletries bag, it wouldn't be the end of the world. The basics, such as shampoo, conditioner, soap, and lotion are provided by your hotel, and some even have extras like toothpaste and razors. Whatever the hotel doesn't have you can easily buy, though you won't be able to guarantee that you get the brand you want. Click here to find a checklist to help you pack. The best option is to plan ahead and purchase travel sized toiletries back home, and pack them in a small toiletries bag alongside a small first aid kit.

Mosquitoes and sand fleas can be a problem in St. Martin/St. Maarten. Sand Fleas in particular can be an issue, because they are so small it can be hard to see them (in fact, locals call them No See Ums). Protect yourself by bringing along bug repellent, and some hydrocortisone cream or Benadryl to offer relief if you are bit. It is absolutely essential that you bring along sun block and go heavy on it, plus some lip balm with SPF. If you're unfortunate enough to be burned, aloe vera will provide soothing relief. Our Medication and Health Items checklist can help you make sure you remember everything.

What Else To Pack

Like anywhere else, weather can change in an instant in St. Martin. Arrive prepared for chilly nights and rainy afternoons by packing a sweater or wrap, and a rain jacket, poncho, or umbrella.

Many travelers like to make their trip with some entertainment items from home. These will keep you occupied during your down time, and make traveling between your home and the island a little more bearable. Here are a few options to consider: 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 St. Martin are different than those in the United States, while the outlets in St. Maarten are the same. If you are staying on the French side, 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. View our Gadgets and Electronics checklist for some more ideas.

One thing you definitely won't want to forget is your camera, and everything you need to keep your camera up and running. An extra memory card is desirable as well, as is a waterproof camera for when you are swimming, snorkeling, or diving. A few other items that add to making your vacation an easy one include zip lock bags, a small package of laundry detergent, a collapsible cooler, and a bottle opener. If you plan to do some shopping, an extra bag is a must. Other items can be found on our Other Miscellaneous Items checklist.

Packing Concerns

The possibility of the airline losing your luggage is low, but many travelers still worry about it. You can be proactive by packing a full outfit and your swimsuit in your carry on bag. This way you will have clothes to change into while the airline locates your belongings, or until you are able to shop for more. If you pack toiletries, make sure to contain them all in three ounce bottles, and note that they must all fit in one gallon-sized zip-lock bag under TSA's current regulations.

Another concern is packing too many articles of clothing so that you have something new to wear each day of your trip. The problem lies in the cost of your luggage. Some airlines charge pretty hefty fees to check bags, and tack on higher prices when your bag weighs over a certain amount. You can avoid this by packing a selection of clothing that is similar in style and complimentary in color. Having items that are interchangeable allows you to pack less, but still look fresh each day. 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 every day for a new look.

While that may have been a lot to digest, packing for your St. Martin trip is really much simpler than you think. Just make a list, check it twice, and you'll be on your way to the vacation of a lifetime – without having forgotten a thing.

 

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