I am the ultimate water sign and have spent summers sailing in Croatia and the Whitsundays as well as on a liveaboard dive boat in the Great Barrier Reef.
My next trip is sailing the coast of Turkey, so I’ve learned what essentials make a trip that much more relaxing. In my experience, most sailing trips don’t allow big bags, so leave as much back on shore as possible. In the case of the Whitsundays, most companies require that you only bring one reusable shopping bag and nothing else. This packing list for sailing trips will ensure that you bring what you need and ditch the rest.
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5 dresses – Dresses are ideal for throwing over your swimsuit.
2 swimsuits – You will spend most of your day in a swimsuit, so let one dry and wear the other.
3 tank tops or t-shirts – For when you reach land, it’s a good idea to have something else to wear.
2 pairs of shorts – If your trip involves hikes or anything active, be sure to bring shorts.
1 pair of leggings – I typically pack leggings to sleep in but they are good to have in case it gets cold at night.
2 bras – You will most likely be wearing your swimsuit most of the day if you’re sailing and won’t need bras as much.
5 pairs of underwear – If your boat isn’t docking very often, be sure to pack enough pairs of regular underwear or alternatively bring ExOfficio. You won’t need as many pairs if you plan on being in a swimsuit most of the day.
1 pair of socks – I pack socks to wear on planes, but you’ll be glad to have one pair.
1 scarf – Useful for covering your shoulders when it gets windy or for balling it up to use as a pillow.
1 light jacket – Keeps you warm on buses and at night.
1 sarong or cover up – If you’re not getting all the way dressed but want to cover up, pack a sarong.
2 towels– As with your swimsuit, have one drying while you’re using the other or have one for showers and one for ocean.
1 pair of flip flops – You’ll need to have something to wear in the shower and while on board.
1 pair of cute sandals – If your boat docks in towns each night or every few nights, it’s a good idea to have nice shoes that aren’t heels.
1 pair of tennis shoes or athletic sandals – I recommend Tevas or Chacos for this type of trip, but if you will be more active on your trip, it’s best to go with tennis shoes.
I typically travel with a hanging toiletry bag and found it useful for sailing trips where space is at a premium. Just hang it on the side of your bunk. It’s even better if it has a built in mirror.
Shampoo and Conditioner – Bring something to detangle your hair after all that salt water.
Eye drops and Vaseline – I found myself drying out after being in salt water all day, so I was glad to have eye drops and lip balm.
Soap or Body Wash – I brought body wash instead, but soap is usually easier to pack if you’re flying carry-on only.
Toothbrush/Paste – Also get a snap-on case so you don’t get anything on your toothbrush.
Deodorant – Keep yourself smelling nice!
Razor – You only need one.
Brush – Travel sized worked for me.
Hair ties – Necessary to keep the hair off your neck on those hot days.
Motion Sickness Medicine – Not everyone has a sea stomach, particularly on stormy days at sea.
Birth Control – Be prepared for anything.
Diva Cup – The last thing you want on your trip is to be tied down by lady products. The Diva Cup is ideal for this trip since you will be active and won’t always have time to change.
Prescriptions – Get as many of your prescriptions at home as you can. Emergencies arise and you can go to a local chemist, but the language barrier may make things more difficult.
Sleeping pills – I found it hard to fall asleep on a rocking boat sometimes, so sleeping pills were good to have.
Tide to Go – There are no laundromats on board, so if you need to wash, it will be in your sink. A travel clothesline is also a good idea.
Protection from the Elements
1 pair of sunglasses – I’m prone to breaking sunglasses or losing them in the ocean, so now I bring 2 pairs.
1 hat– It doesn’t have to be too fashionable, as long as it covers your ears and most of your face.
Sunscreen – A no brainer.
Aloe – For when you didn’t reapply quickly enough.
Extra phone battery or solar charger – There was only one outlet for the entire cabin, so we all took turns charging our electronics. I now have an extra battery for such emergencies. A travel sized surge protector is also a good idea!
Camera and chargers – For whatever electronics you bring, make sure to pack your chargers and appropriate adapters.
Waterproof case – I was glad to have a waterproof camera case to take some underwater shots.
iPod – There’s a lot of down time on boats, so you’ll want some tunes.
Books or e-reader – I went through 4 books on my last trip, so be prepared.
Earplugs and eye mask – The motor starts early in the morning and light comes into the porthole.
>> Check out more items to pack to help you sleep.
Water bottle – Some boats charge for water bottles, so I brought my own and filled up when I got the chance.
Deck of cards – Keep yourself entertained.
Dry bag – Have one bag for items that cannot get wet.
Day pack or reusable shopping bag– You don’t want to lug a big bag when you dock, so bring a smaller day bag.
What else would you add for a sailing trip packing list? Add your tips and insight in the comments below.
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Hey there Caroline,
It would be interesting to know for how many days of travel this list is made for 🙂
I ve been sailing in Turkey a lot lately (especially in the area around Marmaris). Its one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world imho.
Carol S. says
As someone who has owned a sailboat for 5 years, and who just did the worst job of packing for a sailing trip with our grandson (he’s off to start college in a couple of weeks), I am so grateful for these packing tips! TY! I seem to have a knack for grabbing too many items, at the last minute, that do fit on the boat, but with much shoving and stuffing. So much so that getting TO the items needed is an unwieldy and unpleasant process. Have done better with food (stored in the nav desk) and in a cooler, than I have done with clothes, shoes, toiletries, and linens.
One thing I do love is the plastic compacting bags for things like towels and galley dishtowels, and extra bedding for cold nights at anchor. Am VERY intrigued by your suggestion of dresses as swimsuit coverups. This Grandma’s body does not sport bikinis anymore, but nice one-piece’s instead. And a sarong? What a great idea!! Thanks so much! This could revolutionize my packing!! Fair weather and following seas, CAS
As someone who lives on sailboats more than six months out of a year I must say this packing list is pretty on point. You most definitely do not want to overpack but there are a few items I would suggest adding to this list that will come in handy, especially if you will be sailing for longer than two weeks.
1) Leave in conditioner- you will be in and out o the water and exposed to the harsh sun most of the time. A good leave in conditioner will make a world of a difference for smoothing and taming your locks. Just remember, a little dab will do ya!
2) A bandana or head wrap- if you have wild hair as I do you will thank me later. Not only will the wind always seem to find the right direction to whip your hair into your eyes ( and if your hair is like mine sometimes a hair tie just won’t cut it), but a cute head wrap will make for an easy transition from water to shore.
3) Nail clippers & tweezers- if you plan on participating in the actually act of sailing you are going to break nails left and right. Also a lot of sailboats have wood decks and wood interiors so the occasional splinter is likely to happen. Better to be prepared than hunting around an unfimilair island for a beauty supply store looking for these items that you most likely already have!
4) Zip lock bags- I know, I know, you already have a makeup bag, a toiletry bags and (hopefully) a dry bag, but when your sunscreen bottle explodes in the heat or your favorite bracelet breaks you will thank your lucky stars for bringing a few ziplocks!
5) Face and body wipes- it’s not always convenient to shower or get off last nights makeup when you head is pounding from a fun night out of dancing on a caribbean island. Keep them in your bunk for a quick freshen up. Trust me, they will become your best friend!
Other than making sure you pack light and smart sailing will be a breeze. It is honestly, what I find to be, the purest form of travel. The people you meet and the experiences you will have are going to stick with you forever. So let loose, open your mind an enjoy!
May you always have rum in your cup and wind in your sails!
Melodye Byrd says
Thank you for the tips. We are saling out of Belize in June for a week and onlbeen on a Criuise Ship so on a private charter this was very helpful.
Thanks!! I am going on my first sailing-trip abroad, in Croatia, and this list is very helpfull!
Betty Camacho says
I would add a headlamp. When jumping off the boat to the marina in the middle of the night, it’s nice to have a hands free headlamp instead of a flashlight.
i would add a long sleeved rashie and long sleeved business shirt for sun protection. Mask/snorkel/fins for swimming around in gorgeous spots and a few dry food products.
Benedryl cream for big bites, antibiotic cream, Imodium, laxative, bug spray, roll up water bottle ( ll bean) can be used as ice pack, band aids, reading glasses, gravol, extra clothes pins to hang up wet towels there are never enough clothes pins, and the adjustable tie you can buy to keep your sunglasses on in windy conditions. Great editing for the clothing list. Perfect!
The remark about the flat iron was on point and having curly hair (that I always wear blown out and flat ironed), I gave in to the curls on my trip because of this list and was glad to do it. I would add a visor, though, because my ball cap didn’t always fit around my bulky curls. A large hair clip (the kind with the rubber grips inside) really helped a lot. I brought two in case I lost or broke one. One more thing for everyone that I suggest is a travel sized container of baby powder. Your skin is always damp and it’s easier to slide on bras, shorts, etc. if you have it. Thanks so much for this list. I just went on my first charter in the BVI and was so grateful for this information!
Going on our first Charter in March! Thanks so much for this lists and the additions! I can’t wait to get packing!!
This was so helpful when I was packing for my 3 week trip to Grenada and the Grenadines. I would add headphones, pajamas, a bandana or headband, nail clippers, Ziploc bags, a raincoat, and dry shampoo. Thanks!
Karen fox says
I’m going on my first sail away trip to Bahamas these tips have been invaluable