What To Pack For Key West: 14 Things to Bring & What to Leave Behind

What To Pack For Key West: Key West is a beautiful island city and part of the Florida Keys. As the Southernmost island, Key West is in fact closer to Cuba than Miami, giving it it’s subtropical vibe. The city has a rich history which is evidenced by its cultural diversity with its strong Cuban and Bahamian influence. The natural beauty of Key West adds a romantic charm to an already alluring vacation destination. Many who visit can’t help but fall in love with the gingerbread-like houses and heritage conch houses as they stroll along the palm-lined streets. Excited for your trip yet? Now it’s time to plan what to pack for Key West.

You don’t want to be one of those tourists who land in Key West with a suitcase full of clothing and clutter you don’t touch the entire trip. Instead, packing smart is the best strategy. Key West is a very laidback and relaxed city so trotting around in heels and makeup you will stick out like a sore thumb. A causal, comfortable wardrobe is the way to go when deciding what to pack for Key West.

What to pack for Key West: Full packing list

What To Pack For Key West to Get the Most Out of your Trip
What To Pack For Key West to Get the Most Out of your Trip

Before we even progress to unpacking the packing list for Key West, let’s talk suitcases. Don’t lug one around so big and jam-packed that you’ll be paying extra when you check-in for your flight. Buy lightweight with wheels that swivel so you can either pull behind you or push alongside you. Tie a brightly colored ribbon on the handle and don’t forget to add an easily recognizable luggage tag. We also recommend buying a suitcase that has locks incorporated to keep your luggage secure from sticky fingers in baggage handling! Ok, now we can move onto what to pack for Key West.

  1. Shorts

With the casual island vibe across Key West, the most comfortable clothing to wear while strolling through town or along the beach is without a doubt comfortable shorts. Whether cotton or denim, bring along a couple of your favorite pairs, you will use them daily.

A good example of the type of shorts you’ll see people wearing on Key West are these Water Shorts by Columbia. Stylish with UV protection, and made to double as a swimsuit, these shorts were made for Key West.

  1. Flip Flops and Sandals

Leave the heels and formal shoes at home and slip those toes into something comfortable. Flip flops or sandals are all you will need for exploring the city, visiting restaurants and going on excursions.

  1. Bathing Suits

Bring along 2 or 3 bathing suits as much of your time will be spent on the beach or splashing around in the water. This way when one is drying, you’ve still got others to wear! If you’ll be surfing or you have very sensitive skin consider packing a rash guard to wear out in the sun for prolonged periods of time.

  1. Cotton shirts and dresses

As a subtropical paradise, Key West can get really humid. Avoid polyester and wool that will just cling to sweaty and wet skin (the worst!). Instead, let your skin breathe in cool cotton shirts, dresses and skirts.

  1. Coverups

Pack in beach coverups like kaftans and sarongs to throw on after a long day lazing on the beach or to walk around your hotel in.

  1. Tanks and Tees

It’s very unlikely you’ll need long sleeve shirts or sweatshirts. Pack in comfortable and lightweight tanks and t-shirts to pair with your shorts.

  1. Jeans

You can’t ever go wrong packing in a pair of your favorite jeans to wear out to dinner or on cooler days. If you’re visiting in winter, take two pairs.

  1. Sunscreen

You’d be surprised at how many folks forget to pack sunscreen for a beach vacation! Pack in a high factor, waterproof SPF for your body and a stronger one to apply to your face. Slather on each morning before you head out and don’t forget to reapply during the day, especially if you’ve been swimming. Sunburn is no fun!

  1. Sunglasses

Don’t leave these behind in the cubby of your car! Sunglasses make day trips and lazing on the beach much more pleasant than squinting into the sun all day.

  1. Sunhat

A cap, sunhat or visor will protect your face from sunburn and in our opinion, just make lying on the beach or around the pool much more enjoyable.

  1. Light jacket

When the wind picks up or on a cooler day a light jacket or windbreaker can be a life saver, especially if you’re fresh out the water!

  1. Beach bag

Bring along an easy-to-carry beach bag or backpack you can keep your wallet, phone, sunscreen and towels in when visiting the beach or pool. They’re also great to take on walks, visits into town or on day trips as opposed to a heavy handbag.


  1. Camera

Don’t go to Key West without a camera – or on any holiday without one! You’ll want to capture those wonderful memories as they happen. A disposable polaroid camera is also a fun idea to fill a treasure box or scrapbook with snaps from your trip when you’re back home.

  1. Hair ties

You know when you go to the beach and the wind is not blowing in a direction that favors you and you end up with hair in your eyes all day? Yup, it sucks! Keep hair ties and clips in your beach bag to keep your hair out your face.

What to pack for Key West: Leave these behind

One of Key West's Famous Beaches
One of Key West’s Famous Beaches
  • Anything wool like knit sweaters and jerseys, it’s too humid!
  • Ties – Key West is a casual city, there’s no need for formal wear
  • Don’t bring heels and other uncomfortable shoes, you won’t need them
  • Leave flashy jewellery at home, you won’t be wearing it on the beach or in the water
  • You won’t be needed your whole make-up kit in key west, leave behind the highlighter and bronzer in favor of a natural bronzing and lightweight tinted sunscreen!

Now that you know what to pack for Key West and what to leave at home, all that’s left to do is start the countdown to your trip!

See Also:

Where to Go in Key West: The 4 Best Beaches, Restaurants, and More

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