This weekend we’ve been gadding about on the open water on the good ship West Virgin’Yah with Virgin Motors. It’s a three-day bank holiday weekend in the BVI and we’ve been taking full advantage. You might have seen a bit of what we’ve been getting up to on my Instagram here and you can still follow along on my stories.
I will be giving you the full low down on where we went and what we did in next week’s post but, in the meantime it got me thinking… I often get questions about sailing holidays in the BVI, itinerary suggestions, the logistics and what to bring etc. So I thought I would prepare a packing guide for your sailing vacation.
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We’re only spending three nights aboard, but I’m giving you the packing list for a week or a longer holiday on the water (you’re clever, I know you can adjust as needed).
Here’s my what to bring (and more importantly, what to leave at home) on your sailing vacation!
The key when packing for a boat trip is to only bring half of what you think you need! Boat storage is incredibly limited and overpacking will just mean that everything gets in a mess. Have a think about outfits that will mix and match well. Plan your packing list in advance so that you can streamline what you need and ensure that you don’t leave anything essential at home.
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WHAT TO PACK FOR YOUR SAILING VACATION
Rashguard Swim suit | Knot Bikini | Ruffle One-piece Swimsuit | Panama Hat | Travel Mineral Sunscreen Set | Rose Gold Flip Flops | Aviators | Print Maxi Dress | Kimono | Leopard Print Sandal | Seasickness Bands | Beach Shirt Cover-up | Apeman Camera | Print Board Shorts | Duffel Bag | Natural Mosquito Repellent | Dry Bag | Waterproof Speaker | Denim Shorts | Organic Travel Toiletries Set | No rinse Laundry Detergent Travel Sachets
Cabin space is small – and storage space is even smaller. Make sure to bring your soft duffel bags and leave any hard suitcases at home. You need luggage that can be collapsed and easily stowed out of the way. Duffel bags are ideal for this. This is the golden rule of packing for a boat trip! Don’t forget to bring a smaller beach bag/day bag/dry bag for trips ashore
Bikinis, swim suits and cover-ups
The most important item on your packing list. You will essentially live in your swimsuit all trip. Certainly all day, until perhaps you shower, rinse the salt off and dress for sun downers and dinner. Take 3-5 swimsuits depending on whether you’re going for a long weekend or a week. They’re only small so they aren’t going to use up too much of that valuable luggage real estate we were talking about. You can also hand wash and hang them out as they won’t take long to dry.
If you’re considering trying out any water-based activities; kayaking, paddle boarding, SNUBA, wake-boarding or the like, try one of the rash guard swimsuits. They keep the sun off your back and shoulders as well as being ideal for when you’re active (read: won’t slip down, ride up or move around).
Likewise, your beach cover ups are going to be heavily utilized this trip. Bring one or two so that you can be dry and comfortable. A sarong is also useful and it can be used as a shawl/scarf if you get chilly in the evening.
Two pairs of shorts, 3-5 tops and 2 sundresses.
Board shorts are great because they dry quickly, and then I’ll always take my denim shorts because they’re a staple. A couple of cute shirts and strappy tops and I’m nearly done. I just need one or two light summer dresses for going out for dinner. Maxi dresses are also a fantastic option and will help keep the mosquitos and noseeums off your legs as the sun goes down.
Flip flops/Flat sandals/Tennis shoes
You absolutely do not need heels on this trip. When aboard you’ll be barefoot, when ashore you’ll likely be on sand. You need a pair of pretty and comfortable flat sandals, a pair of flip flops and a pair of trainers or walking shoes (wear these on the flight to save the space in your luggage!)
LIGHT RAIN COAT OR JACKET
Obviously we are hoping for cloudless blue skies, breezy days and endless sunshine. But, the problem with the tropics is that the weather can be a little unpredictable. Despite the fact that I never remember to bring one myself, the sensible side of me suggests you bring a jacket.
Less is definitely more. Sweat and salt water are not a good combination with make-up. Invest in a good tinted sunscreen and embrace the natural look. A slick of lip gloss, maybe a swipe of waterproof mascara and some bronzer (to enhance that blossoming tan you’re getting) and you’re good to go!
Since you’ll be spending considerable amounts of your time in and out of the water – consider investing in a reef-safe mineral sunscreen that won’t damage the delicate marine life. The BVI has a great one available locally at EC Soap Co or you can find mineral versions of many of the big sunscreen brands either online or in your local drugstore. I like this set by Coola since it’s got everything I need in handy travel sizes
Depending on whether it’s a crewed charter or a bareboat charter, chances are your boat won’t come with little bathroom amenities the way that a hotel room would. Double check with your charter company or broker but be prepared to bring down travel-sized containers of your usual body wash, shampoo etc. Alternatively this set of shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion by Malie is a great little kit and is all organic with none of the nasty parabens or sulphates. Think about including a Tangle Teezer or a Wet Brush too as salty beach hair ain’t no joke.
Since you are taking less clothing with you, you might want to wash a couple of light items while on your trip. Pack a small amount of laundry detergent so that you can wash on the go. Soak is a no-rinse detergent perfect for your delicates and for washing and hanging out your swimsuits etc. These handy travel sachets take up no space at all and could even go in your hand luggage since they are TSA compliant! I
Just as important as your sun screen is a sun hat! Keep your face and ears covered and out of the hot sun. This Panama hat from Lanzom is a roll-up which means it’s perfect for traveling with and shouldn’t get damaged if you have to stuff it in your duffel bag. A hat with a tie is also a great idea as I can’t count the number of hats that I have lost overboard… if you have fair skin or are prone to burning, look into the neck and face masks for some additional sun protection. I like these ones.
Polarized sunglasses are recommended for concentrated amounts of time on the water, but they don’t have to be super pricey – Amazon.com has a great selection of polarized sunglasses starting from as little as $12 a pair. These Aviators by Pro Acme come in a pack of two for only $17 and come in 11 different colour combinations. Invest in a head guard for your sunglasses too.
I can’t think of anything worse than arriving for a weeks’ sailing vacation and then discovering that you are rather prone to seasickness… For the most part I am pretty lucky in this regard but, to be on the safe side, I would highly recommend bringing some seasickness bands or medication. These kinds of things aren’t always readily available in the islands and even if you don’t end up needing them, someone in your party might.
SMALL FIRST AID KIT
Bandaids, seasickness remedies, anti-diarrhea meds, antihistamines, antibacterial cream and bug spray/afterbite are essentials. Check with your charter company as to what is included on your boat to avoid bringing duplicates.
Since the outlets in your cabin are only going to work when the generator is running (which will likely be run sparingly, as it uses a lot of gas). Consider bringing a portable charger so that you can charge your phone and your tech devices, even when underway.
Boats mean lots of water, and getting things wet and soggy can be miserable. Ziplock bags are great for keeping money, wallet, phone and camera dry and free of sand in your beach bag. Also great for stashing wet swimwear. Also – while we’re talking about trying to keep things dry. Please, please, please consider getting a lifeproof case for your phone (?!) the potential for wet phone/dropped phone/bashed phone/smashed phone is exponentially increased while on a boat!
It should go without saying that travel insurance is a good idea for any trip away. For a sailing vacation, even more so. There are a number of ways that you can rack up minor injuries on a boat and it is always a good idea to ensure that you have cover in place in case of any accidents. As expats we have always loved World Nomads as they cover the variety of adventures that we enjoy. Be sure to read the policy details to ensure that it’s right for you!
Lads – if you’ve kept reading to this point, I haven’t forgotten you, I swear!
HERE’S WHAT CLOTHING YOU’LL BE NEEDING:
3 x swimming shorts or trunks
2 x smart shorts
5-7 x t-shirts/rash guards/short-sleeved shirts
1 x flip flops
1 x tennis shoes or trainers
enough underwear for your trip away
1 x lightweight rain jacket
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Check with your charter company regarding what is included – you don’t want to be carrying down beach towels and First Aid kits if all that is included on board. Our boat came equipped with linens, towels and all the kitchen equipment. You will likely need to bring (or include in your provisioning) garbage bags, clothes pegs, washing up liquid, kitchen towel, aluminium foil, wipes, coffee filters and other sundries.
Items NOT to bring:
- Hair Dryer/Hair Straighteners
- Hard Luggage
- Expensive Jewelry
- Anything your charter company/crew is already providing
Some fun additions – if you have the space:
Oftentimes your charter company will allow you to fly a flag – this could be from your Country, your State, your college maybe? Have fun with it.
A waterproof speaker
Your boat may have a sound system that you can plug into, but occasionally a little waterproof speaker can be fun, if you’re taking it to the beach or up to the bow. These Bose sound link speakers are great as they provide powerful audio despite their mini size. They can also be linked and produce great stereo sound. Don’t forget your battery chargers etc. that go with your tech gear and an adapter.
A waterproof camera
You’ll definitely want to bring a camera to catch all those holiday memories, or you can just snap away on your phone like I do. But, for a holiday on the water like this one, what about a waterproof camera? GoPro cameras are ideal for this kind of vacation because they are rugged and easy to stash in your beach bag, however they don’t fit everyone’s budget. The Apeman camera is a much more wallet friendly alternative, yet it still takes great underwater pictures! Don’t believe me? Check out my underwater post with BVI SNUBA – all those photos were taken with my Apeman camera!
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Noodles or float
Don’t be the guy that floats away on a unicorn and has to get rescued by the coast guard… but a small float or pool noodle can make life more comfortable when you’re just bobbing off the back of your boat. Just be sure to tie it to the boat or have a hand on a line so you don’t get pulled out by the current. This palm print ring is both practical and instagrammable.
A KINDLE/MAGAZINE/CARD GAME
Part of the joy of a sailing vacation is the ability to completely switch off and wind down. Lazy mornings on the bow are just crying out for a good book, while laying out in the sunshine. Playing cards and board games are great for pre or post-dinner with a drink or two.
Because no one likes warm beer. Enough said. Consider getting some cute personalised ones for your whole crew as a practical little momento from your trip.
Check with your charter company before you bring it with you – but if your boat doesn’t come with snorkel equipment it might be worth bringing some with you or renting it once you get here. There is so much to see both above and below the water line in the BVI and it would be a shame to miss any of it.
ITEMS FOR THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
This year, post-hurricane, many of our sailing visitors have been thoughtfully bringing down school supplies and other small items. Children’s books and games don’t have to take up much space and would be very much appreciated, if you have the room for them.
So there we have it – that’s everything that I will be taking with me on this trip! My ‘what to pack for your sailing vacation’. I have some more watery adventures planned for later this year so you can stay tuned for those. Am I missing anything that I should include on my next trip out to sea?
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If you’re lucky enough to be joining us in the sunny British Virgin Islands – consider checking out my post on the top activities to try while you are here!
Wishing you fair winds and following seas.