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Packing for a tropical island getaway: the Minimum or the Maximum?

Some months ago my friends Steve and Patrick Bennett of the brilliant travel blog Uncommon Caribbean asked me if I would put together a list of Ten Must-Takes for a trip to the Caribbean. Patrick had already curated a list for guys; now they wanted a woman's perspective. So I happily put together my favorite things to take to the West Indies, and in fact cheated a little bit (counting 3 pairs of shoes as one "category")! But now, Zickie, our Island Runaways junior team member, and I are off on an escape. Real packing is upon us. It's no longer theoretical. We're headed off to the Florida Keys tomorrow and it's time to get ready.

(Trusty L.L. Bean tote waiting to be filled. Photos by Island Runaways/Z.A.)

But here, my fellow island lovers, is the challenge: we are going by car. It's only about a one-and-a-half hour drive from Miami to where we'll be staying in the Upper Keys. Do you know what that means? It means that I can take anything and everything that will fit into the trunk. This situation is like an overpacker's dream...or nightmare. Can I for once keep it to a minimum? Here, without any further ado, is what I (Laura) will actually be taking for our first island getaway this summer (2 nights, 3 days):

(All ready to go! Photo by Laura Albritton.)

O.K., first of all, honestly? Is this everything? In the interest of journalistic integrity, let me confess that it's everything EXCEPT a book (must-have a great beach read) and my underclothes. Otherwise, yes. First you'll notice at the top I'm taking my faithful Panama hat, which somehow can withstand being shoved into a bag and emerge unscathed. (Hats are key in the tropics, don't you think?) Next at the top? An easy, cool nightgown. It's very hot right now, so no need for warm pajamas. Then the one essential: a pair of flip flops! Mine are Havaianas. They take a lot of abuse and they're almost like going barefoot. As far as I'm concerned, the Florida Keys = flip flops. Or Kino sandals.

(More stuff to pack! Photo by Laura Albritton.)

As for make-up, doesn't it make sense to keep it minimal? With temperatures in the 90's, a lot of make-up will sweat right off. Not a nice sensation. So here's just some concealer, blush, and lipstick for going out at night. For day there's Elta M.D. tinted sunscreen. I've become a true believer in this product; its main ingredient is zinc and it doesn't contain parabens. Most of all, it really works. Stick-type sunscreens for the rest of your bod are so convenient (no sticky stuff on your hands and no aerosols blowing all over). Since I'm not taking a plane, though, a full-sized bottle of contact lens solution is going with me. Also full-sized deodorant, toothpaste, and my (hidden) toothbrush of course! (Is this too much information?)

Are you a one-piece or bikini person? For this trip it's going to be a bikini, because my stomach needs a little sun. Plus, my new pair of espadrilles, just in time for summer. These are made by UGG, and they are insanely comfortable. You've got to treat your feet right on vacation, because there's nothing worse than getting blisters when you're sight-seeing. As for jewelry? Some people pack a lot, but then you have to worry about losing a precious earring or bracelet when you're swimming and doing other watersports. This wood bead bracelet isn't fussy, and a pair of earrings adds a little glimmer for dinner. That colorful roll of fabric in the right corner contains: two sundresses -- for dinners out -- and a beach cover up. Rolling up clothes saves space and usually keeps them from wrinkling. Then we all need practical t-shirts and a pair of shorts.

(More essentials! Photo by Laura Albritton.)

Board shorts are, in my opinion, the best thing since sliced bread. They dry fast and literally cannot wrinkle. Some of them have stretch, so they're super comfortable. For an island vacation, they're just perfect. Those black shorts pictures above are by Billabong. (In fact, I'm taking a new white pair by the surf company called O'Neill, but they are in the washing machine as I write this. More journalistic integrity.) Did you notice my Island Runaways t-shirt?

For island heat, it's hard to beat a sundress for staying cool and just sheer convenience. They're also easy to hand wash if you really, truly want to keep your luggage to a minimum of stuff. Here are my two Target (!) sundresses and my black cover-up, unrolled.

(Island-y sundress at the ready. Photo by Laura Albritton.)

So, now I'm ready to go! How did I do? For once, I think I really got the minimalist thing down. (As long I don't sneak anything else into my old L.L. Bean tote bag...)

Do you have any packing advice, fellow island lovers? Be sure to share on our Facebook page!

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