Jamaica is a popular Caribbean destination for more reasons than one. It is one of the largest islands in the Caribbean region, and is associated with being the birthplace of Reggae, the land of beautiful waterfalls, the home of sporting legends, and overall, a place where everything is always quite alright.
Veteran visitors know what to expect when heading to the island, but first-timers may have a little trouble deciding what to pack for Jamaica. Whether you’re heading to Jamaica to experience the lifestyle at one of the many all-inclusive resorts, or you’re planning to rent something for yourself, this check list will help you get ready to have the most amazing vacation of your life!
In this article on the Sandals Blog:
Read on to find out what things you want to consider before packing for Jamaica, or go directily to clothes to pack for 7-days in Jamaica instead.
Expert tip: Wearing clothing with camouflage print is illegal in Jamaica and only reserved for the local army.
Travelling solo means you’ll likely have to pack less. However, packing for trips where you’re bringing kids along, or other members of the family, might lead to you packing more. Babies, toddlers, and the elderly often need more specialized items to take along with them on a trip, and if any of these age groups are part of your party to Jamaica, you can expect your packing list to be more extensive.
The best time to visit Jamaica is from mid-December to mid-April annually, and the reason for that is you can expect stable weather conditions.
Picture: Overwater bungalows at Sandals South Coast, Jamaica.
As with most other Caribbean islands, you’ll still find good weather outside of this time, although you might want to pack accordingly, accounting for brief tropical rainfall. The difference between Jamaica and some of the smaller Caribbean islands though, is that because of its larger size, the weather in one area of Jamaica compared to another may be very different. The varied terrain on this island influences conditions in various areas, have a look at our Best Time To Visit Jamaica article to find out more.
Tip: Don’t expect any Jamaican to have a conversation with you about the weather. No one really pays attention to the figures, just what the skies and clouds are saying, which is usually pretty reliable!
Consider the complimentary items that are provided by the accommodation (like toiletries, beach towels and hairdryers) – the less you must bring along, the better!
You may feel the tug at your heart strings to take more things if your trip is longer than the average 5 to 7-day trip. Try to avoid this, as once you get there, you’re likely to find that you don’t need half of the items you brought along. Plus, most resorts have laundry services. If you are planning to stay at a resort for longer than a week, it’s probably best to simply pack for a week and use the laundry services available. This way you are packing smarter.
Are you going strictly for a Caribbean getaway, are you in Jamaica to do business, or do you plan on getting married in Jamaica? If you’re going specifically for a destination wedding, check out our article on beach weddings to get some advice on what to wear for this occasion.
The activities you will partake in, will influence what you will need to pack. Things to do in Jamaica include some of the most spectacular waterfall hikes, river rafting, cliff jumping and stunning beaches, including the popular Seven Mile Beach. You’ll also find a vibrant nightlife scene in Jamaica, which is perfect is excitement is what you seek.
Tip: Keep in mind that beach hopping trips require more swimsuits, while trips purely to enjoy the amenities of all-inclusive resorts like Sandals, may require you to bring along some more elegant options for dining at some of the specialty restaurants you can expect to find on property.
Packed your clothes? Have a look at these 12 essential travel items to pack for Jamaica.
Two words: Simplicity works. Getting through TSA can be a hassle, so the most important thing to remember is to be comfortable. Wear shoes that you don’t mind taking on and off if you’re asked to, and clothing that will keep you warm on the plane, that you can easily peel off once in the Bahamas. Cardigans or light sweaters over your casual airport attire (jeans, trousers, casual shirt), work just fine.
Keep these essential travel items either on you, or in your carry-on luggage.
Don’t leave home without it; and no, you can’t just travel on your driver’s license to the Caribbean! Check the validity of your passport to ensure you have at least six months remaining before expiry. Airlines have the right to deny boarding if your documents are not up to date.
Expert tip: Take photos of your passport and travel documents with your cell phone as an added precaution in case they get lost or stolen.
Bring along all information associated with your flight to the airport; you can store your information on your phone, just as long as you’re able to access and present the information, once you get to the airport. It's always good to have a printed back up, in case you accidentally drop your phone or run out of battery! Once your boarding pass is issued, keep it in a safe place or you won’t be able to board your flight.
You’ll need this to fill in your immigration forms, and to answer any questions that may come up once you arrive to your destination. Additionally, you might need this information handy when arriving at the airport, so your taxi knows where to drop you off.
PS. If you stay at any of the Sandals or Beaches Resorts in Jamaica, you will get picked up from and returned to the airport at no additional costs.
Don’t leave your insurance cards behind; they’ll come in handy if you run into an emergency situation or require medical assistance while in Jamaica.
Doing some exploring on your own? If you decide to rent a vehicle, bring a valid driver's license to Jamaica. You can use a US driver's license for the first three months of your stay. Beware that you might not be able to rent a car in Jamaica if you are over 75 or under 23 years old.
The answer is yes to all questions related to travel insurance; you never know when you will need it, and it is reassuring to know that you have it in the event that you do. Most travel insurance policies will cover lost or stolen luggage, flight cancellations, and medical expenses.
Good to know: Sandals and Beaches properties offer travel insurance at additional costs when booking a stay at either all-inclusive resort.
While it is not advisable to walk around with large sums of money, you’ll need to walk with some small bills for tipping purposes, or making small purchases at the airport. It is also important to let your banking institution know you will be traveling to Jamaica, so you don’t have any issues using your debit or credit cards. Keep in mind that not all vendors take debit or credit cards in Jamaica.
The United States Dollar (USD) to Jamaican Dollar (JAM) exchange rate is 1:40. If you pay in USD (which you can do at most establishments), be prepared to get JAM in return. Resorts like Sandals and Beaches have currency exchange points at the front desk, which is super convenient!
This might seem like a given, but if you’re a regular traveler you’ve seen how often people ask others to borrow pens, to fill in their immigration forms. Perhaps you’ve been one of those people. There’s nothing wrong with sharing, but it’s just easier bringing your own. Perhaps this time you can be the person with the extra pen to give to someone else. Keep your pen close by; preferably in your jacket pocket, or in the outside pocket of your carry-on bag.
Avoid any unnecessary hassle trying to source these in Jamaica by bringing an adequate supply with you. If you do happen to forget your medication, you may not find the same brands in Jamaica as in the US, because the prescription medication there is based on the British system. You may also be required to see a doctor before a pharmacy even considers your request. Keep in mind you may have just as hard of a time getting non-prescription items like pain medicines, and others. Take your own medications in their original packaging or prescription bottles, to avoid any problems.
Everyone has that one thing they can’t imagine living without, albeit for a few days. Try to narrow this down as much as possible for your trip. Remember, you can purchase most things while in Jamaica. If it isn’t essential, leave it behind.
Travel times and associated wait times in between travel points can be extensive. Other than books or magazines, you can bring along e-readers, tablets, and laptops to entertain you. This will come in handy particularly if you’re travelling with kids. Bring along the chargers necessary to keep these devises powered up!
Be sure to bring along some extra clothes and personal items in your carry-on just in case there is a delay in your luggage arriving to Jamaica. Walking with emergency supplies ensures that your vacation plans don’t come to a standstill while you wait for your luggage to arrive.
Staying at a resort or hotel? Toiletries and towels are often provided, so no need to worry about the shampoo bottle leaking in your luggage. All Sandals and Beaches Resorts in Jamaica provide toiletries like shampoo and conditioner, lotion, body wash, soaps and towels – directly from the Red Lane Spa.
There’s nothing worse than getting sunburn during a trip to the beach, much less while on vacation. Sunburns can be painful, so find a sunscreen that works for you. Make sure it is water resistant, 30 SPF or higher, and reef safe if you plan to go snorkeling or scuba diving. It is best to apply sunscreen liberally every two hours. Don't forget your ears, and the top of your head if you are bald!
Not a fan of sunscreen? Grab a wide brimmed hat and you’ll be good to hit the Jamaican beach front. Just wear the appropriate clothing, and you’ll be both fashion savvy, and sun safe. If you’re at Sandals and on the beach, head for a beach umbrella or cabana!
Instead of wearing bulky clothing over your wet swimsuit, opt for cover ups like sarongs, lightweight beach dresses and wraps, or even loose-fitting long sleeves shirts and pants. You can also try UV protection clothing, which can come in handy for activities such as snorkeling that leave your back exposed to the sun’s rays.
You can’t go wrong with a good pair of polarized sunglasses. These will protect your eyes from the elements, even when its overcast and you can’t even tell how the rays could possibly be harmful. Keep in mind that looks can be deceiving; protect your eyes particularly if you’re out on the beach.
Tip: Bring along a pair that you aren’t particularly attached to for your vacation, just in case they get lost while hiking one of Jamaica's waterfalls.
Beach bags come in handy when you want to bring everything but the kitchen sink with you on beach day – and especially when you plan to stay on the beach long enough to see the sunset. Pack everything you need from towels, to your favorite novels, sunglasses, and bottled water. Most people prefer beach bags with interior cooler storage, which is perfect for keeping your drinks cold!
You don’t realize how much you need a beach blanket, until you get to the beach and realize you don’t have one. Towels are never quite big enough, so take some time to select the perfect beach blanket, which will add to the comfort of your beach day. Choose one that is lightweight, and easy to pack!
You never know what can happen, so it helps to be prepared when you’re on an island surrounded by water. Whether you’re out exploring the ocean, waterfalls or rivers, a waterproof phone case will ensure that your phone is always kept safe and water free. Opt for a high-quality one that will last. Look for a case that makes it possible for you to take underwater photos, or even videos.
This will help ensure that you use less towels, whether you plan to explore a beach, or waterfall during a day. If you stay at a resort you can expect beach towels to be provided.
You’ll need something you can get off and, on your feet, quickly, so anything with laces is not ideal. Flip-flops will keep your feet cool, and you won’t have to worry about emptying a shoe filled with sand at the end of the day!
Tip: Just in case you do spend a little too long in the sun, Aloe Vera is worth packing and bringing along with you. Look for one that contains 99 percent Aloe Vera. It will work wonders to soothe your skin!
Water shoes are available to rent, but it’s easier to just bring along your own. Choose an inexpensive pair to bring with you for use during water activities while on island. Dunn's River Falls is a location where you may need to bring along water shoes, as the surface of the rivers and waterfalls in the area tend to be gritty. They will also come in handy for climbing the falls.
A good rule of thumb - don't bring jewelry on your vacation that you don’t want to lose during snorkeling and other activities. Like your engagement or wedding ring. Yet, that can be difficult to do, particularly if you’re travelling for a destination wedding or vow renewal. Some people bring cheaper replacement versions for their vacation and leave the real stuff at home for when they return.
If you’re packing light you may not want to bring along snorkeling gear, but you can rent some once you get to Jamaica. Customized or otherwise personalized googles, you can bring along, particularly if you wear prescription goggles. Besides, bringing your own is probably more hygienic. At all Sandals resorts snorkeling equipment is provided for free, to all interested guests.
If you’re into it, you can bring these along to feed the fish something safe when you go snorkeling. You’ll be happy you did.
If you don’t have a waterproof camera, perhaps this is the ideal time to look into getting one. There are so many interesting things to do in Jamaica, and many of them involve getting wet. Cherish and keep those moments by investing in a waterproof camera. Or you could just get a waterproof pouch for your phone.
You’re going to need something to put wet swimsuits into, and ziplock bags are ideal. Bring along 3 or 4 big ones, they’re sure to come in handy. These are also great to keep your cash and documents dry if you bring them on a boat trip!
Keep track of what you’re bringing with a luggage scale. If you get past 40lbs, start slowing down, as most airlines limit luggage to 50lbs. Investing in a luggage scale will keep you from paying overweight fees, both now and for future travel. This comes in handy when you plan to do some shopping!
Don’t leave home without batteries and at least two memory cards for your camera. Bring the original batteries, and an extra set of rechargeable batteries just in case. You’ll have plenty of photographic opportunities in Jamaica, don’t miss out because you didn’t plan properly.
Keep all your devices plugged into one place so you can keep track of them during your stay. The last thing you want to do is get home and remember you forgot to take your charger out from that outlet next to the lamp, behind the bed!
Rooms in select categories at Sandals offer USB charging ports, which will come in handy during your vacation.
You’ll be astounded how quickly you’re able to find your luggage with the simple addition of colored ribbons, or bright tags. Once you’ve tried it once, you’ll never want to go back to plain old luggage again!
This helps to keep your electronic devices protected against power surges, which are more common than you think. The last thing you’ll need is your laptop getting damaged by a power surge, or any essential device that you need to last through the duration of your vacation.
Money belts are the evolution of the fanny pack. If you choose the right one, you’ll feel at ease anywhere you go in Jamaica. Slim-fit designs make it look like you’re not wearing anything under your shirt, and some come with hidden pockets, which work well for keeping your money safe.
These always come in handy, especially if you plan ahead to bring the essentials, like band-aids, pain relievers, antihistamine medications, Aloe Vera ointment, alcohol pads, and antibiotic ointments. You may also want to include medicines for common gastrointestinal ailments, including Imodium and Pepto-Bismol. Pills for seasickness are worth bringing along, and baby powder always comes in handy for chafing. If you’re travelling with a group, everyone does not need to bring their own kit; decide between yourselves who will be responsible for bringing it along.
Tip: Ask your doctor whether you should pack an Epi-Pen. This is highly recommended if you have allergies, particularly food allergies. Keep in mind that the ambulance service in Jamaica is not as reliable as in the US.
Some resorts like Sandals make it a priority to keep guests safe while on property by having dedicated nurses on property, who are always available for emergencies and other occurrences.
You can’t avoid bugs and mosquitoes in the tropics, but you can go prepared to try to keep them away from you. Choose products with 20 percent picaridin or 30 percent oil of lemon eucalyptus for effectiveness. Avoid DEET, a controversial ingredient. Walk with insect bite relief cream, especially if you may be allergic to certain bug bites. Popular brands include Benadryl or Cortaid. Bug repellent can be purchased at all Sandals resort shops.
Even if you’re not bringing along a medicine or first aid kit, you’re going to want to walk with hand sanitizer and disposable wipes. This helps to keep your hands germ free, and helps you wipe down sketchy surfaces that you may come in contact with.
Or a pillowcase, or a trash bag… whatever works. All you need is something you can put your dirty clothes in, so they don’t get mixed up with your clean items and leave you smelling funky for the rest of your vacation.
Tip: Who wants to think about laundry while on vacation? Sandals offers laundry services for guests, which you’ll be grateful for when you get to reuse the same outfit all clean and crisp during your vacation!
Taking your own portable hair dryer is a good idea if your accommodation doesn't provide one. Traveling with others? Plan with your group (if you’re traveling with one) to determine who will carry a hair dryer in their luggage that you can all use.
Did you know? It's pretty normal for hotels to provide guests with hairdryers in their rooms nowadays. Sandals Resorts was the first resort in the world to provide guests with complimentary hair driers in their rooms!
Keep the environment clean by investing in a reusable water bottle, instead of purchasing bottles of water every time you get thirsty. The truth is, it’s hot in Jamaica, and you’re probably going to drink a ton of water. It’s best to walk with something you can safely refill.
Save yourself the back and forth at the bar. Invest in a big, ol’ insulated mug that will keep your drinks cold longer, while you take in the Reggae vibes in Jamaica. It’ll be perfect for your first cup of Red Stripe (or water if you insist)!
People not from the US who are traveling to Jamaica will find that travel adapters come in handy during their stay. These ensure that you can plug your incompatible devises in for use while in Jamaica. If you forget to pick one up before your trip, you can always purchase one at the airport.
Now you know what to pack for a vacation in Jamaica, don’t forget to bring your best self! If you can’t do that, then at least leave with your best self… which means you’ll have to kick back and enjoy all the cool things Jamaica has to offer, wasting not a moment thinking about how things could be better. You’re in the Caribbean, and it doesn’t really get any better than that!