How to Pack for an Island Escape

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So, you’re heading off to a tropical paradise for a well-deserved break from reality. Good for you! You’ve got your tickets booked, your annual leave form has been signed, and you can almost taste the sweetness of that first Mai Tai.

But before you start planning your tanning time, you gotta get clear on what to take. Island hideaways are famous for awesome sunsets and cocktails, but notorious for a lack of (legit) shopping options. The last thing you want is to arrive at your beachside bliss and not have the right stuff to make the most out of your dream getaway.

This is my tried-and-true list of must-haves for any island escape. Every item is functional, adaptable, and easy to pack – even in smaller luggage. From Fiji to Tahiti, and every island in between, I’ve got you covered peeps.

Fiji bliss! Photo by Shanny Matterson
Fiji bliss! Photo by Shanny Matterson

The Fundamentals

When you think ‘tropical island’, you immediately think of warm days, breezy nights, and temperate waters. Getting the fundies down pat first is the easiest part to perfect packing.

My partner and I both swear by simple tank tops paired with cutoffs or walk shorts for both dudes and babes. They keep you cool, are easy to wear, and look good both day and night. I also love any lightweight cotton tees that can be worn over swimsuits, with shorts, or as a cool bed shirt to sleep in. Remember: versatile pieces are the key.

For the ladies, a good bikini is an absolute must. If you’re an adventure seeker like me, and looking to get your dive/snorkel/surf on, then you need a bikini that’s specially designed to look awesome while also staying firmly in place during vigorous water activity. Dudes, grab your best boardies.

Finally, you can’t forget a good hat to keep those bright rays off your face, sunglasses for those early mornings after the late nights and a trusty pair of thongs for all your wandering needs.

My top picks: Wanderers Co.  One Night Stand.  Cenote Swimwear. Havaianas.

Shanny's Island Escape essentials. Photo by Shanny Matterson
The fundies: Shanny’s Island Escape essentials. Photo by Shanny Matterson
Rocking her favourite Wanderers Co. snapback and tank in Fiji. Photo by Shanny Matterson
Rocking her favourite Wanderers Co. snapback and tank in Fiji. Photo by Shanny Matterson

The Beauty Case

Girls, listen up. If you’re heading to an island destination there are some particular beauty items you must include besides the obvious sunscreen. The increase in sunlight and heat can wreak havoc on your skin and hair, especially if you are just emerging from winter back home.

Before I go anywhere, I always invest in a fake tan to go under my daily SPF so that I don’t feel compelled to bake myself to a crisp (‘cause Melanoma ain’t cool, dude). I also make sure that I have a really good serum and moisturizer to coat myself in at the end of every day, to protect my skin from sun damage. Lastly, I pack a deep conditioning treatment for my hair, which gets trashed from all the saltwater and heat it is subjected to on holidays.

Sunburn sucks. Trust me, you don’t want to come back from your dream trip away feeling worse than when you left. Look after yourself and your skin and hair will thank you for it.

My top picks: My favourite go-to brand is Eco Tan because it is Certified Organic and Toxic Free, which is safer for your skin and the environment. Green is good travellers. Green is good.

Got a healthy glow? You do now with Eco Tan. Photo by Shanny Matterson
Got a healthy glow? You do now with Eco Tan. Photo by Shanny Matterson

The Extra Essentials

Part of travelling smart is keeping your luggage to a minimum to avoid those nasty excess baggage fees. With that in mind, there are some extra essentials you should definitely include.  Take note.

The first, and most important, is to invest in a quality travel wallet to keep all your valuable documents and ID safe. I have travelled to 18 countries with my purse in tow and it has never failed me. With purpose-built spaces for my passport, travel documents, cash, cards and a handy travel mirror, I never leave home without it.

If you do have a special occasion to attend whilst on vacay, or just looking to add a touch of luxe to your cool ‘n’ casual ensemble, then make sure you include some accessories, like a bangin’ statement necklace, to make your outfit pop. Remember: Simple is sexy.

Packing an extra-large beach towel or blanket is also a good inclusion for any holiday.  Choose something that can be used as a beach throw, a makeshift towel, or a blanket to cover you when falling asleep in hammocks under the stars.

Throw in a good book, your iPod, and your snorkeling gear, and you’re all set for your tropical adventure.

My top picks: Hattie. Lazurah. Lokoa. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.

Hammock lovin’ in Fiji. Photo by Shanny Matterson
Hammock lovin’ in Fiji. Photo by Shanny Matterson

Featured image by KrispyKat69

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How to Pack for an Island Escape was last modified: June 27th, 2019 by Shanny Matterson
Author: Shanny Matterson (21 posts)

Shanny Matterson wants to live in a world where plane tickets are cheap, visas never expire, hangovers don’t exist, and the next adventure is always just around the corner. Aussie freelance travel writer + wanderlust copywriter + travel photographer currently stranded on a tropical island in the South Pacific. Follow her adventures + work with her at