If you are fortunate to take a sailing vacation with your family and friends, there are definitely items you need to bring on board for fun, hygiene, comfort, and safety. As you may be out to sea for days without immediate access to land, you have to come prepared. Friends of ours have been sailing both alone and with kids for over 30 years and have carefully curated the ultimate sailing packing list, which they shared with us on our vacation and I’m happy to pass on to you.
We recently spent a glorious week sailing with friends in the British Virgin Islands. I say glorious, because it was one of those rare perfect vacations when you never need to implement plan B. Flights were on time; the weather was warm enough, but never hot or humid; the water had the most amazing shades of blue I’ve ever seen; the winds were warm and facilitated sailing; and everyone got along swimmingly.
While fate seemed to work in our favor, so did coming on board well-prepared for any situation. That was due to the decades of sailing experience of our friends and knowing what to bring, whether you have young kids or are going adults only. From clothes to food to medicine to games, we knew just what to bring so we could relax and enjoy the adventure.
For a seven day sail, we each took one duffle bag for our personal items and clothes and then one for our Pack for a Purpose items and everything else. The kids can share or each have their own. We were advised not to bring wheeled cases as you need flexibility in storage on the boat and hard cases and wheels are more difficult to store. This is essential if all of your berths are taken with people. We had two extra berths, so we could store everything without a problem, but this is rarely the case.
The quantity of items that you take will depend upon the length of your adventure. Just be aware that you probably won’t be washing any clothes, so take enough with that in mind. You will have access to washers and dryers at many ports, but you probably won’t be spending your precious time doing laundry. We hung wet clothes, including towels, out to dry on the safety lines along the side of the boat with clothes pins. The clothing list is the same for kids or adults.
If you are concerned about getting your workouts in, perhaps now is the time to think of cross-training, because you won’t have access to many, if any, gyms or even places to run. We traveled with two triathletes and they spoke with their coaches before we left to prepare alternative work out schedules and did bring some easy to transport equipment.
We had several wifi purchase options on board and went for the full package at $40 per day. It actually worked quite well, but just be aware that you have limited ability to charge your electronics, so kids can’t go “overboard” with playing games. This is when the old fashioned board games and cards come in handy. Portable chargers are truly your best friend. I always made sure mine were charged first and ready to go.
The best advice we got was to NOT bring anything you would worry about losing or getting wet or damaged and to pack casual clothes only. Even at the nicer restaurants, people wore shorts. Seriously, this is one time to not overpack.
In terms of money, most every place took credit cards, but we also brought $600 in cash and the BVI does take US dollars. Make sure that if the kids are coming, you bring healthcare items for both kids and adults.
The boat comes with many supplies, such as life vests, snorkeling fins, towels, and kitchen appliances/utensils, but check with the company 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 taken care of for you.
The Ultimate Sailing Packing List
- Long sleeve shirts, preferably with sunscreen built in
- Bathing suits
- Rash guards, short and long-sleeved
- 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
- After sun lotion
- Lip balm
- Skin care products
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Shampoo/conditioner/styling products
- Shower cap
- Hair ties/clips
- Nail clipper and file
- Make up
- Hair dryer (if you must)
- Whatever other items you need, such as contact solution and extra contacts
Health Care Items
- Allergy Medicine
- Calamine Lotion/Anti-itch spray
- Eye flush solution
- Liquid bandaid
- Cold Medicine
- First Aid Kit
- Bug repellant
- Garbage bags
- Zip lock bags
- Aluminun foil
- Clothes pins
- Small laundry detergent
- Duct tape
- Coffee and filters
- Cereal bars
- Rental documents
- Sailing Guides and Maps
- Swiss Army Knife
- Swim goggles
- Snorkeling mask
- Mesh bag for snorkeling gear
- Sailing gloves
- Flashlight on a rope
- Coral and fish book for identification
- Underwater throw away camera
- Plastic laundry bags – 1 per person
- Take ashore bag/backpack
- Nylon travel wallet
- Copy of your passport; don’t keep with passport
- Driver’s License (you may rent a car)
- Health Insurance Card
- List of emergency contacts
- Cheap reading glasses – if you need
- Cell phones/chargers
- Games of your own choosing – board games/cards
Be sure to check the weather forecast before you go, so you know if you need to bring more long sleeve shirts or tank tops. Have an amazing time!