A Comprehensive Caribbean Carry-On Packing List



About a week ago I accomplished something that has always seemed unachievable. For the first time ever, I was able to pack for a week-long vacation to the Caribbean without checking a bag! It wasn’t easy but it is possible and I learned a great deal during the process. I thought it might be helpful to share my packing list in case you too find the idea of “carry-on only” to be daunting.

First, let’s talk about liquids. Having to limit my liquids to 3 ounces or less each was tough, but then choosing the most important ones to fit in that teeny tiny quart-sized Ziploc bag was stressful! Decisions, decisions. I will list a bunch of possible liquids below but please know that you will have narrow down the list based on your own needs. Size is key. Remember, smaller liquids (think 1 oz. or less) allow you to fit more of them in the bag!

-face moisturizer/face sunscreen (2 for 1 means one less liquid!)
-spray sunscreen (You can protect your back without needing help to apply it.)
-lotion sunscreen (for the rest of your body – Biodegradable is best if you can find it.)
-aloe (as a general after-sun lotion and for sunburns)
-bug spray (Biodegradable is best if you can find it.)
-face wash
-body wash (The resort will most likely provide this.)
-shampoo (The resort will most likely provide this.)
-conditioner (The resort will most likely provide this.)
-hair spray/product
-make-up (ex. lip gloss, mascara, foundation, etc.)
-prescription and OTC medicines (ex. nasal sprays, eye drops, etc.)

Next let’s talk about dry products. Some items that are available as liquids are also sold as solids (like deodorant or make-up remover wipes). Again, size matters. You are only going away for about a week so you will only need small portions of most items. For medicines, only bring what you might need for the length of your stay and choose packaging that is better for travel. For example, I found individually packed Dramamine and Pepto Bismol tablets that were easy to throw in my purse or back pack in case I needed them while out and about.

-lip balm with SPF
-upset stomach pills (ex. Imodium and Pepto Bismol and Tums)
-allergy pills (ex. Benadryl in case you have any funny reactions to bug bites, foods, or pollen)
-motion sickness pills (non-drowsy if possible)
-pain reliever (headaches, sunburn, etc.)
-Band-Aids (blisters)
-disposable razor
-toothbrush (Remember to use bottled water to brush your teeth in some destinations.)
-make-up (powders)
-make-up remover wipes
-prescription and OTC medicines (pills)

Now we can discuss clothing (a.k.a. the things that take up the most room in your carry-on bag) and accessories. I recommend placing the things you want to bring next to your suitcase before packing it. You will quickly realize that you need to narrow it down. Once you minimize your clothing and accessories, roll each item as tightly as you can. You will need to wear your bulkiest items on the plane (think sneakers, sweatshirt, etc.) to maximize the space in your carry-on bag. Also, if you stuff your carry-on bag as full as I did, you will want one with wheels since you will be stuck transporting it yourself. Trust me about the wheels. And try not to over-stuff your bag so that you have a little extra room for souvenirs when you come home. Keep in mind; it will need to fit in the carry-on luggage sizer at the gate in the airport. I may have had to kick mine a few times but I made it fit. Below is a list of suggested items but you can adjust it based on your specific trip and activities.

-bathing suits (3)
-shorts (4)
-t-shirts/tank tops (7)
-dresses (4 – You can wear each of these twice during your stay for nice dinners if needed.)
-hoodie (1 for the plane as a blanket or pillow.)
-beach cover-up
-flip flops
-dressy sandals
-dressy flats
-water shoes
-backpack (This will act as your personal item to hold items that do not fit in your carry on and is great for a beach bag or for shopping or excursions.)
-rain jacket
-jewelry (costume jewelry that looks good but isn’t expensive and matches everything)
-hair clip (for hot and windy days)

Finally there are a few other items that you might not want to forget. Some of these will fit nicely into the backpack listed previously as your personal item.

-ear buds
-luggage lock (Perfect if there is no in-room safe to lock up your valuables.)
-Ziploc bags (Keep small items dry around water.)
-trash bag (for wet/dirty clothes)
-cash (especially small bills for tipping)
-boarding pass

This seems like a very long list but I assure you that I brought most of these items with me to Punta Cana last week and I did NOT check a bag. You can avoid the added time, expense, and general inconvenience of a checked bag too on your next Caribbean vacation. Try it and I bet you will surprise yourself. Lots of luck and safe travels!


Great list. It’s worth checking to see if the resort includes sunscreen in the room if booking an all-inclusive. Typically, they only have 30spf but it is something. I have seen this at Secrets, Dreams and Zoetry properties.

Also, Benadryl is something easy to forget and it can cost a ridiculous amount at the resort (e.g., $15).