Congratulations! You’re headed to one of the most beautiful places on earth, the British Virgin Islands, for a sailing adventure that will keep you in awe at every turn. You’ve been dreaming of all the amazing things you will see and do there but now it’s time to figure out what to cram into your suitcase. You’re in the right place because that’s exactly what we’re going to help you with. We’ve broken your packing list into a few broad categories below, however, here are a few important notes before we begin. First, check with your airline as your final flight into Road Town (airport code EIS) will be on a small aircraft usually accompanied by strictly enforced weight restrictions, often less than the other legs of your travel to that point. And second, realize that many of the items on this list are things the whole sailing party will use so consider spreading the weight out amongst your group. With that in mind, on to the lists.
It’s important to remember that the weather where you’re headed will be mostly sunny and windy during the day and sometimes cool at night. Rain is possible too but it’s usually brief and refreshing. You probably won’t need to pack as much as you think, after all you’ll mostly be wearing your swimsuit. So get thru this list and set everything out and, unless you’re a really light packer to begin with, consider thinning out your pack a bit and leave a few things behind.
- Women: Swimsuits, sundresses and coverups are the name of the game for the ladies on a sailing trip. We’d recommend 2 or 3 swimsuits (at least 2 so one can be drying), a few sundresses, shirts and tank tops, shorts, underwear and at least 2 bras. Remember that sometimes the evenings are cool when the wind is blowing so a cover-up and leggings or longer pants are nice to have. You’ll also want a nice sun hat both to protect your skin from the hot sun and for those amazing over-the-shoulder Instagram pics.
- Men: For men, really just swimsuits and a few shirts would do the trick. We’d recommend 2 swimsuits, a few pairs of shorts, 1 pair of light, long pants (linen are my preference), T-shirts, a nice polo or two for dinners in town, underwear, socks and a hat. In terms of fabric, linen is light and cool and for the shirts we’d recommend a fast wicking synthetic fabric. Thee are not only great to facilitate fast drying but are perfect to wear during your snorkel adventures if you got too much sun the day before.
- For both men and women, consider investing in a lightweight, long-sleeve shirt with 30 SPF or greater. Remember, in the BVI, the sun is hot and sunburns are easy to come by. It’s always nice to have a sun-proof top to wear so you don’t miss anything even if you got your whole trip’s sun tan on day 1.
While you will likely be either provisioning your boat in the BVIs when you arrive or eating out in town, it’s still a good idea to bring a few snacks with you. This is a nice way to save a little money and get some quick calories before or after an epic day in the water. Here’s what we’d recommend.
Simple snacks like protein bars and trail mix are available in Road town but will be expensive. Consider bringing a few things if you have the weight. Also, if your group is planning to make a few meals on the boat, consider bringing a few spices to cook with. And of course, if you have any dietary limitations, pack accordingly. You may also want to bring some water flavoring to motivate you to keep hydrated. We love Young Living Lemon Oil which can be added to water for a refreshing drink.
Many of the items on this list can be shared and used by your whole traveling party so plan and pack accordingly.
- Toiletries including soap and shampoo if you have a preference.
- Any regular medications you take and vitamins.
- Anti-nausea medications. These can be homeopathic options such as ginger tablets or cookies, over-the-counter medications such as Bonine or Dramamine, or prescription medications such as Zofran tablets or Scopolamine patches that can be worn for 72 hours. There are other options such as Sea-Bands, which are wristbands that apply pressure to your wrist to help prevent motion sickness.
- Consider bringing Aloe-vera or other creams to treat sunburns.
- Sunscreen, and our recommendation is Protect All Over Sunscreen from BeautyCounter, good for you and for the environment.
- Skin lotion, our recommendation here is this Hydrating Body Lotion in Citrus Mimosa by BeautyCounter.
- Flip flops.
- Athletic or water shoes. Two pairs are a good idea. Keep the sandy ones on deck and have a clean pair for inside the boat. Or just go barefoot inside like we did.
- Camera, an underwater one if possible, with extra batteries and plenty of space on your memory cards. Consider a mini, flexible tripod like the JOBY Gorillapod to get those awe-inspiring sunset pics.
- A black pen, always. Essential for your travel paperwork and nice for scorekeeping during those late night card games.
- Mosquito spray.
- Woolite or laundry soap. While some ports will have laundry facilities, we found it easiest to bring our own laundry soap to do laundry on the boat and hang our clothes to dry in the sweet Caribbean wind.
- Clothespins for hanging clothes and towels to dry. Essential to keep your personal items personal and not swimming with the fishes.
- Chargers for your camera and phone. You may want to consider a power bank such as the Anker PowerCore as the electricity on a boat has been known to be hit and miss at times.
- Ziplock bags of a few sizes, because you never know when you’ll need one.
- Scuba-diving certifications if you have them.
- A music playlist or 7.
- A small first aid kit, with anti-sting medication if possible. Also include plenty of band aids and Neosporin.
- A reusable water bottle, trash space can be limited.
Bonus items if you can swing it
We consider many of these essential but opinions may differ.
- Personal snorkel gear. Many boats or charter companies will have some for you to use, but if you have a mask that fits great consider tossing it in the suitcase.
- Dry sack such as the Earth Pak to keep things dry on those wild dinghy rides to shore.
- Waterproof case for your phone or ipad.
- Cards and board games.
- Sleeping aid if you are prone to trouble sleeping, although the rocking of the boat always helped us sleep.
- Head lamp.
- Hand sanitizer.
- AUX cable if your boat has a stereo.
- Small knife sharpener if you have one. While your boat will likely be stocked with kitchen knives, odds are they will be dull. Hence a small sharpener like this one by KitchenIQ.
- Towels and bed linens should be provided by your charter company, but it’s best to check with them than assume.
- Books or a Kindle as it would be tragic swaying in the hammock with nothing to read.
- And on that note, consider a lightweight hammock like this one from REI.
- Sailing guide with snorkel sites. Our recommendation would be Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands by Nancy and Simon Scott.
And with that, you’re ready to set sail. Of course, many of these items are subjective and you may opt to leave them home, but this is what we pack with us and it’s always worked well.