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Sailing just happens to be one of my favorite vacations. You can go any time of the year, it is always an adventure, and it can be tailored to suit how active or inactive you want to be. But being prepared is essential. You can't just throw a few clothes in a bag like for a beach vacation and be on your way. Since you may not have access to supplies you need and want at ports of call or may not even make landfall every day, it is imperative that you bring on board must have items.

That's where these packing tips come in. Cultivated over decades of sailing, these tips hold true whether you are gone for a 3 day weekend or a month long voyage. And for the most part, they also hold true whether you choose to sail your own boat or hire a crew. While I've only chosen the former, that's not to say one day I won't let someone else take the helm. Either way, armed with these carefully compiled packing tips for sailing vacations, all that's left to do is relax, soak up the sun, and enjoy the wind in your hair.

packing tips for sailing vacations enjoying a sunset in the British Virgin Islands

PACKING TIPS

Coordination. If you will be traveling with others, the first tip is to coordinate with them so you are not duplicating what you bring on board. Space is limited, so don't all of you pack say a first aid kit. Check to see which items you can share.

Luggage. As you need flexibility in storage on the boat, it is best not to bring wheeled and/or hard cases as they are more difficult to store. This is essential if all of your berths are taken with people. If you have extra berths, you should be able to store everything without a problem, but this is rarely the case. For a seven day sail, we each take one duffle bag for our personal items and clothes and then one for everything else. The kids can share or each have their own.

Clothing. The amount of clothing you bring depends upon the length of your adventure and if you intend on doing anything "nice". Most sailing trips are very casual so pack accordingly. In terms of being able to wash clothes, unless you are on that month long voyage you probably will not be doing laundry. Take enough with that in mind.

While you will have access to washers and dryers at many ports, I never advise spending your precious time on this activity. The safety lines along the side of the boat can be used as clotheslines for wet clothes and towels. You will also bring some detergent for use in a pinch. The clothing list is the same for kids or adults.

packing tips for sailing adventures like using a clothesline on the boat

Cash. In terms of cash, most every place takes credit cards, but bring some local currency just in case for things like tips and local markets.

Medical. DO NOT forget any medications you take or other healthcare items that you need. This must be a priority.

Food & Supplies. Rental boats come with supplies such as life vests, snorkeling fins, towels, and kitchen appliances/utensils and they will let you know what is included when you book. Also, there should be a grocery store close to the harbor where you pick up the boat where you can buy fresh food and plenty of water. But, if you are hiring a crew, this should all be included.

Exercise. If you are concerned about getting workouts in, you may need to think of ways to cross train. You won't have access to many, if any, gyms or even places to run. Instead, plan on more water activities like kayaking and paddleboarding. But if you must, there is a lot of easily packable equipment like resistance bands and you can even do yoga on the deck!

packing tips for sailing vacations that include paddleboarding in the BVI

WiFi. For good or bad, you will have wifi available. We have been able to purchase wifi on board and the full package last trip was $40 per day. While it worked quite well, be aware that you have limited ability to charge your electronics, so kids can't go "overboard" with playing games. So, be sure to bring some board games and cards as backup. Portable chargers are truly your best friend. I always made sure mine were charged first and ready to go.

What Not To Bring. DO NOT bring anything you would worry about losing or getting wet or damaged and pack casual clothes only. Even at the nicer restaurants, for most island excursions, beach attire is the norm. Seriously, this is one time not to overpack or bring anything very nice. Diamonds can definitely be left home.

packing tips for sailing vacations to Bitter End, BVI

PACKING LIST

This list has been carefully cultivated over the years from sailing both with kids and without. It is pretty inclusive and should serve you well. One tip here - Keep in mind how long you will be gone when determining which size of personal care items and healthcare items you bring. No need to pack a full size bottle of shampoo if you're only gone for a week.

This is also a great time to bring out those sample sizes you have received and tucked in a drawer. Besides, bathroom space and storage is very limited especially when you are sharing with others. The rule less is more definitely applies here!

Clothing

  • Long sleeve shirts, preferably with sunscreen built in
  • PJ's
  • Underwear
  • Bathing suits
  • Rash guards, short and long-sleeved
  • Shorts/skorts
  • Tee shirts
  • Hats, 1 with ties
  • Casual dress up outfit for dinners
  • Flip flops
  • Deck shoes/sneakers (non-slip soles)
  • Packable rain coat
  • Sunglasses, several pairs with head guard
  • Sports watch or one that can get wet
  • Costume jewelry - leave the good stuff at home

Personal Care Items

  • Sunscreen
  • After sun lotion
  • Lip balm
  • Soap
  • Skin care products
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Shampoo/conditioner/styling products
  • Shower cap
  • Hair ties/clips
  • Nail clipper and file
  • Make up
  • Brush
  • Hair dryer (if you must)
  • Whatever other items you personally need, such as contact solution and extra contacts

Health/First Aid Items

  • Benadryl
  • Aspirin/Aleve/Advil
  • Dramamine
  • Antacids
  • Pepto-Bismol
  • Allergy Medicine
  • Aloe
  • Calamine Lotion/Anti-itch spray
  • Eye flush solution
  • Bandaids
  • Liquid bandaid
  • Cold Medicine
  • First Aid Kit
  • Bug repellant
  • Tweezers

Sundries

  • Garbage bags
  • Zip lock bags
  • Wipes
  • Aluminun foil
  • Clothes pins
  • Small laundry detergent
  • Duct tape

Food

  • Coffee and filters
  • Splenda
  • Cereal bars
  • Snacks
  • If the kids are along, their favorites
packing tips for worry free sailing vacations when sailing your own boat

Sailing

  • Rental documents
  • Sailing Guides and Maps
  • Rope
  • Bungies
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Swim goggles
  • Snorkeling mask
  • Mesh bag for snorkeling gear
  • Sailing gloves
  • Flashlight on a rope
  • Headlamp
  • Coral and fish book for identification
  • Underwater throw away camera

Miscellaneous

  • Plastic laundry bags -- 1 per person
  • Take ashore bag/backpack
  • Nylon travel wallet
  • Copy of your passport; don't keep with passportDriver's License (you may rent a car)
  • Health Insurance Card
  • List of emergency contacts
  • Cheap reading glasses -- if you need
  • Cell phones/chargers
  • Computers/chargers
  • Games of your own choosing -- board games/cards
  • Books/magazines/kindle

Final words of wisdom...Be sure to check the weather forecast a few days before you leave so you know whether to bring more long sleeve shirts or sleeveless tops. Then, all that's left to do is to have an amazing sailing adventure!

packing tips for worry free sailing vacations
Sailing the ocean blue. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke.
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