Hi, my name is Saaya and I used to be an overpacker.
There, I said it. I used to be a severe overpacker. Like "could not carry my own bags" overpacker. Like "my then-boyfriend/now-husband couldn't even carry my bag up the stairs so he had to get a co-worker to help him" overpacker. Like, "my father referred to him as my pack mule" overpacker.
In the spirit of Mother's Day, I'm going to blame the overpacking on my mother. Fortunately (or unfortunately, however you choose to look at it), I had to learn very quickly how to streamline my packing once I started traveling around the world as a roving scuba diving instructor. Since I had to be the one throwing my bags on and off buses and ferries and dealing with airline weight restrictions (which can be difficult to manage once you take into account how heavy scuba equipment is), I became much better at packing well. Quality, not quantity!
So what are our 5 most important packing tips for Roatan? Some of these tips will apply to packing in general and some apply to Roatan specifically, so check out our Top Five Tips and get packing!
Tip 1. Lay everything out
Before you start throwing things indiscriminately into your bag, lay everything out so you can see exactly what you're bringing. Making a checklist, preferably in writing, so you can note exactly what you will need for your trip. Packing 20 shirts, a pair of heels and just one pair of shorts may not be ideal for a 7 day trip to a beachy island, but you may not even know that you've packed all that if you're not keeping track.
Once you've laid everything out and made a plan, roll everything up and put it in your bag. Low on space? Head to Tip 2 for what to do next!
Tip 2. Need vs Want
There's a lot of stuff that we want to take on vacation, but how much of that do we really need? If you're visiting Roatan, you don't really need a pair of heels or hiking boots, just a pair of flip flops and maybe sneakers if you like to work out will do. Do you really need a fancy dress if you're staying in a hostel, or four pairs of long pants when the humidity is 90%? If you really want to bring those heels or those fancy dresses, go for it, but make sure that you've taken care of all your needs and that you have adequate space before you start packing your wants.
Tip 3. No shoes, still service!
On Roatan, shoes are a recommendation, not a requirement. Even at the fancier restaurants, like Oolonthoo or Roatan Oasis, you'll see at least one local sitting there barefoot. Now, your visiting city feet are probably not strong enough for you to wander around barefoot all the time here, but you also don't need to adhere to any strict dress codes here, either. I pull a Britney Spears pretty regularly and will scoot on over to the gas station without shoes on. Call me gross, but it's the way it works here.
While this tip applies to everyone visiting Roatan for an extended period of time, it doesn't apply to people traveling on cruise ships. Most cruise ships have a fancy dress night, and I'm pretty sure you can't walk into the restaurants without at least a pair of flip flops on, so make sure you pack at least one pair of nice shoes if you're cruise shipping.
Tip 4. Laundry is cheap on Roatan
If you're coming to Roatan for two weeks, you don't have to pack two weeks' worth of clothing. We have laundry shops all over the island, where you drop your clothes off and they'll have them washed, dried and folded by the next day. And I promise, no one around here will notice that you've worn the same shirt twice in *gasp* the same week, so save yourself the heavy lifting and pack light.
As a word of warning, your laundry is charged per pound. It normally runs about 45 lempiras, or $2.00-2.50 per pound, so make sure that you don't bring in sopping wet clothing or else the bill will be way higher. Also, dry cleaning is not an option here, so don't bother bringing down fancy silks. Cotton is the fabric of our lives.
Tip 5. Leave room for souvenirs
Anywhere you go, you're going to want to bring home souvenirs, either as a memento for yourself or as presents for family and friends. While Roatan doesn't have local souvenirs, per se (like traditional wooden or stone carvings), we do have some pretty cool souvenir options. You can visit the T-Shirt Shack in West End or other gift shops for some cute Roatan t-shirts, flip flops and accessories.
If you want to go slightly more unconventional route, you can check out Rusty Fish, where they train locals to take locally sourced materials from the dump, like Texaco oil drums, and turn them into cool wall ornaments and magnets. The Roatan Marine Park stores sell Roatan Marine Park branded t-shirts and sweatshirts and locally made honey, jewelry, vinegars and jams, all benefiting the marine park and local communities. Rusty Fish and the Roatan Marine Park have stores in West End and both cruise ships ports, so whether you're visiting for a day or a week, you'll find an awesome memento of Roatan without being kitschy.
And if you want your friends to really love you, pick up some good ol' Caribbean rum!
So there you have it, our Top Five Tips for packing for Roatan! Happy packing and we'll see you all soon!