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My ultimate packing list for a Pacific Island holiday

Travel is back! Post Covid, the world is slowly opening up again to people desperate to get away for a warm tropical holiday. Especially in the winter when the likes of Fiji, Rarotonga, Tahiti and Vanuatu are balmy and the water is Evian clear.

I used to pride myself on my packing skills. I’ve even got super popular packing lists on page 1 of Google for how to pack for Hawaii and how to pack for a cruise.

But I’ve lost my packing mojo!

Me on beach in Rarotonga
About to go snorkelling with turtles in Rarotonga

I just spent five nights in the Cook Islands (and wrote a post on things to know before you go) with three days on Rarotonga and two on Aitutaki and I waaaay over packed! I hate giving clothes a free holiday, but indeed some came back unworn.

I should have heeded my own advice and referred to this post, as I wrote it initially for Fiji, but of course it applies to packing for any Pacific Island vacation.

I didn’t think about writing this until I had a desperate email from a friend: I’m off to Fiji tomorrow, she said, and the thought of packing terrifies me!

She has got all her work finished and the house in order, but, she told me, her suitcase is sitting outside open in the sun getting some airing while she despairs about what to put in it.

She Googled how to pack for a Fiji holiday, she said, but a bunch of packing lists that you have to pay for come up, so she emailed me to suggest I write this post. So I did.

After packing look forward to drinking cocktails in Fiji
Cheers on my birthday at Malamala Beach Club, Fiji!

She had already found my post on how to pack a cabin bag, which covers my essential travel must haves for a long haul flight, but I didn’t think throwing a week’s worth of clothes together for a warm vacation was that hard!

I kind of thought it would be like teaching a someone how to boil an egg – and then I remembered, I can’t boil an egg. I have to ring my mum to ask her how long they need for soldiers vs hard boiled. Every time.

So if this is you, the idea of packing (and not overpacking or under packing) fills you with as much dread as my mate Kim, then I hope this packing list for a week in the Pacific Islands will help you:

Oh, and I’m going to assume you do not want to do any laundry on your one-week holiday (why would you??), although you may not be adverse to washing your smalls if need be (!)

I love Fiji, in fact it was the last destination I visited before Covid stopped all overseas travel.

I had my 50th birthday there recently and spent the day in our own private cabana at Malamala Beach Club – a private island near Denarau.

Pina colada
The best pina colada on the island is at Nautilus, Rarotonga

So here we go…

My ultimate packing list for a week in the Pacific

Note: if you’re a “list” person, feel free to jump here and grab my free printable packing list for any trip.

Undies x 8 : that gives you a couple of spares, but I have even been known to pack 10 or 12 so I can change into new ones out of my togs at the end of day for dinner.

Bras x 2 : you will be wearing one and you should pack only one more (maybe two if you plan to get physical and sweaty – like a sports bra). Why? Because you will spend most of your day in your swimsuit I imagine.

Nighty x 1 : yep I just wear one for the week!

Swimsuits x 2 : the reason for two is that you won’t need to worry about getting it dry in between swims. If you’re like me and HATE buying togs, then buying online will be your answer.

Sarong x 1 : this is just your little coverall for walking from your room to the pool or beach, or throwing around yourself when you’ve had too much sun but want to keep laying out. It’s also handy as a picnic blanket too.

Leggings x 5 : I pretty much live in my black 3/4 length leggings from K Mart ($7) and just switch out my tops and tunics. These roll up nicely too taking up less space.

Tops/tunics x 4 : I say 4 because you will not be wearing them ALL day every day, so you’ll end up wearing them again.

Sundress x 2 : if you’re a dress girl then you should switch these numbers with the leggings/tunic combo above. But take some easy to wear sundresses that can be worn over your swimsuit or as a dress. The kind of ones that will work for breakfast in your hotel and a trip out to the market, or for dinner.

Here’s my best ever tip for us girls with thighs that like to rub each other up the wrong way! If you think you can’t wear cute sundresses because of chafing, think again. This trick is a game changer!

Cardy/pashmina/light jacket x 2 : and if you’re smart you’ll wear one of them on the plane. Bearing in mind that temps in the winter in the Pacific can be around the low 20˚C in the evenings, you may need something a little warmer for sitting outdoors with your cocktail. Make sure they work with your dresses and tops.

Shoes x 2 : be ruthless here! Wear a little pair of slides or even trainers if you plan on doing any walking/hiking on holiday and pack one pair of jandals (flip flops) for the beach and one pair of cute sandals for dinners out.

Sunhat x 1 : put your sunhat, brim up, into your suitcase first and pack your smalls into the head and prop up the brim with things like your leggings. If you love sunhats, then packing two inside each other won’t take up any more space.

Malamala beach club
The tiny Malamala Beach Club on this tuft of an island in the pure waters of Fiji

Toiletries : this is where the most of my weight comes if I’m honest!

I really HATE being sick so I have Nurofen, Betadine throat gargle, asthma inhaler in case I get wheezy even though that’s hardly ever, as well as the usual shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste and tooth brush, day cream (with SPF at least 30 for an island holiday), night cream, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and that’s before I pack my makeup! Oh and a nail file. I hate snagging a nail when I can’t get to a cutter.

Earplugs are my secret sauce! You never know how noisy the air conditioner might be, or even the ocean waves – which don’t lull me off to sleep at all. And in many places there’s roosters going off like firecrackers before dawn. The best ones are the silicon ones. They squish like putty. I warm them up in my hands then make a little pointy end and push them right into my ear lug! Works a charm.

Electronics : confession… I’m not one for “going off the grid” when I’m on holiday.

One reason is that my business is online with this blog as well as my Travel Store, and I’m the only one who runs them. The other is that I just like being connected. I Snapchat my family, post Facebook updates to my friends and also on the blog’s Facebook page.

I take photos with my iPhone, listen to podcasts and music and use my phone to hot spot on my $8 per day data roaming plan (with Vodafone) to get online if I’m needing to email or blog. I find it enjoyable.

I understand people who want a vacation off the grid as their online use is not enjoyable, but for me, we’re all good.

So with that in mind, I’ll pack my chargers for my laptop and phone.

A multiboard is useful to get everything charged at once too, especially if an adapter plug is required and you just have one. I’ll take my earplugs for my phone to use on the plane to watch a movie.

See my post on how I lost 2 lithium batteries to airport security and my tips for retaining them >>

Reading material : I had bought a new novel specially for the trip, but I also splashed out on a couple of magazines at the airport. Pack your Kindle or a book.

Duty free : or not! I actually packed two bottles of wine in my luggage as the sauvignon blanc I drink is just from the supermarket and a LOT cheaper than duty free. However, picking up a bottle of duty free gin etc for your hotel room is a nice idea. Just make sure your flight is direct so you won’t get it confiscated if changing planes anywhere.

Currency: you can’t buy currency in (most) banks in New Zealand post Covid, so visit Travelex.co.nz (if you’re in NZ) and order it online then pick it up at the money kiosk at the airport.

Snacks and wine: for most Pacific Island countries, New Zealanders can take food items – even fresh meat! But I don’t go to those extremes. I would suggest taking breakfast cereal if you want to save a bit of money, or crackers, cheeses and other potential lunch snacks.

Take your limit of alcohol! It’s so much more expensive to buy over there. Even a bottle of NZ wine sold in our supermarkets for $20 is about $80-$90 in Fiji!

There! How’s that? Please feel free to add your must-haves in the comments below 😀

Megan with glass of bubbles
Bubbles on holiday!

What size suitcase should I use for a week?

I use a medium size suitcase whether I’m going away for a week or a month. On longer trips, remember you’ll do laundry about once a week, so really you only need to pack for a few extra days more than a week anyway.

Currently I use the Antler Juno in medium. It’s robust and cute, has 4 spinner wheels, TSA lock and I can pack on both sides to keep things in order. If you want to check that and more suitcases out, jump right to it here in my Travel Store

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And one more handy post for holidaying in hot and humid climates and avoiding thigh chaffing ….. this is my personal hack for the girls (trust me, if you don’t know this tip to stop your thighs chafing and your boobs sweating, you’ll thank me!)

How to pack for an island vacation
Cheers from Rum Point, Cayman Islands! Note the sunhat is fabric so just lay flat in my luggage 😀

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Kathy

Monday 8th of August 2022

Take peanut butter and you give it to the ones waiting on you. The locals will appreciate it. There family will feel like they struck gold with such a thoughtful gesture.

Diane Logan

Friday 16th of August 2019

Thanks Megan I would have overpacked and need to be frugal as we are away two weeks one Fiji 29c and one Auckland 16c so half case for each destination

Megan

Friday 16th of August 2019

Thanks Diane!

Bubbly

Monday 28th of January 2019

Should I pack a 12 pack of water and 12 pack of coke or is that dumb?

Megan

Monday 28th of January 2019

Depends where you're staying. They sell all that stuff in Nadi and little stores all over the island. At resorts it will be more expensive. If it doesn't take you over your luggage weight limit (since it will need to go in checked in luggage), you might as well!

Nilly

Saturday 12th of January 2019

I loved your list and tips from others. We are leaving for Fiji soon. Thanks heaps!

Megan

Monday 28th of January 2019

Oh, thanks Nilly. Have fun!

Janet

Wednesday 30th of May 2018

I have a wee packing cell for utilities - a plug in insect repellent with the little mozzie pads that slip inside, a sharp knife for fruit, an old gift card to put in the power thingy by the door. I like to leave the aircon on and things charging while I’m by the pool, and have found that if I leave the second key in the slot it’s nearly always taken by housekeeping. Have never had one of my different colour ones taken. Aloe Vera is also good if you’ve had too much sun.

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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!