So, you’re on your way to Key West? Lucky for you, packing for a visit to this tiny island paradise is about the same as the attitude here—laid back and casual. So grab these top 10 things to pack and get set for relaxation, sun and the kind of fun only the Southernmost City can provide.
1) Light Clothing
It’s always warm in paradise, even in the dead of winter, so make it easy on yourself and pack light. Throw some shorts, t-shirts, tank tops and sundresses in your suitcase and you’ll be all set. If you’re planning on enjoying the most popular sunset cruise on the island, Fury’s Commotion on the Ocean, you could bring along a light sweater or jacket. But be prepared to peel it off the moment the music starts since this sunset cruise also features live music on deck! Once you start dancing, you’ll be warm no matter what.
This probably goes without saying but bring along a good pair of shades when you head on your Key West vacation. The sun’s rays are strong on the island and you don’t want to be blinded by the light, especially while touring the island on one of the sightseeing trolleys. Even though the orange and green Old Town Trolleys are under cover, checking out all the amazing island attractions will be difficult if the sun is glaring in your face. If you don’t own a good pair, head to Duval Street and you’ll find a multitude of shops offering everything from cheap to top-of-the-line sunglasses.
Everyone knows that getting a tan while visiting a tropical island is important, but we also know that too much sun can be bad news. Bring along the strongest SPF you can find or pick some up as soon as you arrive. Whether you’re just walking around Old Town or planning to head out on the water, you’ll need it. If you take the Yankee Freedom III ferry over to the Dry Tortugas, you’re not only in for the most awe-inspiring eco-adventure of a lifetime, you’re also in for a ton of sun. This tiny cluster of islands sits 70 miles west of Key West in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. You’ll be snorkeling in warm shallow waters so make sure whoever you’re traveling with slaps some sunblock on your back and shoulders. You’ll also have the opportunity to swim, kayak, bird watch, tour the ancient Civil War fortress Fort Jefferson and walk along the gorgeous beach. All amazing Key West experiences, and all require sunscreen.
4) Bathing Suits
Bring some bathing suits because, with any luck, you’ll be making a splash or two while in Key West. There’s nothing more enticing than a day on and in the water, and you’ll have many choices for which water activities you’d like to experience. Spend the afternoon aboard a Fury Catamaran and explore the reefs on any of their snorkeling excursions. Even if you choose to go parasailing, you’ll want your bathing suit if you’re feeling extra adventurous and choose a wet landing! Either way, you’ll need a few bathing suits for your Key West vacation.
So you’ve got your shades, you’ve got your sunblock, now keep the heat off your head with a comfortable hat. Baseball caps, floppy beach hats, whatever your preference, having a hat on hand in Key West is a good idea. It gets hot walking along Duval Street, exploring the sights at the various attractions and having a hat on your head will keep you cool.
While most of us have cell phones with excellent cameras, it’s still a smart idea to bring along a great digital camera. Although you’ll remember your Key West vacation forever, it would be a shame not to capture some of the beauty and majesty that is solely Key West in a photo or two or three. Be sure to get the must-do pic at the Southernmost Point marker, a shot or two of the wacky street performers during the Sunset Celebration and perhaps a photo of that playful dolphin you spotted on your way to the Dry Tortugas. Bring the camera – you’ll be glad you did.
7) The Right Shoes
Okay, we know you’ve got your flip-flops. If you prefer sandals, you’ll be in good company and, though your feet will probably be sweating if you wear sneakers with socks, you may have an occasion to wear them while you’re in town. When you visit the Shipwreck Treasure Museum and make the climb up the 65-foot lookout tower, your feet will thank you for wearing sneakers! You’ll love the view from up there and get a feel for what the wreckers must have experienced back in the day when many ships entering the Key West harbor sunk after crashing into the reefs.
8) Beach Towels
If you’re staying in a luxurious resort, most of them will supply you with all the towels you need. But if not, it’s a good idea to bring one or two beach towels. After snorkeling, jet skiing, swimming or doing any of the exciting watersports and activities available in Key West, you’ll want to wrap yourself up and get dry.
Most Floridians will tell you they don’t even own an umbrella, and that’s because it could be raining one minute and then sunny the next. That’s just the weather in the tropics. But, depending on when you visit this island paradise, bringing along an umbrella couldn’t hurt. If you’re doing a lot of sightseeing on foot, it’s a great thing to have in the event of a downpour. Even though the sun will most likely reappear within minutes, you’ll stay dry and be able to continue on your tour of the most popular Key West attractions, including the Key West Aquarium and the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory.
Bring your cash since it’s a necessity for partying Key West style. Even if you prepay for your hotel, your water sports and all your Key West excursions, you’ll want to have money on hand when you visit some of the legendary pubs like Sloppy Joe’s, Hog’s Breath and Captain Tony’s Saloon. It’s also a good idea to have extra money so you can buy kitschy souvenirs, or a mojito and hand-rolled Cuban cigars at Cayo Hueso y Habana Historeum in Mallory Square.
Wendy Meyerson Vogeley is an award-winning copywriter, travel writer and blogger who travels extensively throughout the Caribbean and the United States. She’s a contributor to several travel blogs and websites offering tips and reviews on sightseeing and unique things to do and see in various destinations around the world.