Packing for any trip can be a stressful experience but then you add the extra challenge of traveling on an adventure trip, like a sailing adventure, where your normal travel packing list might not apply. If you’ve never been on an extended boat stay before, you might be wondering “What the heck do I pack for a sailing trip?!?”
I just returned from an 8 day sailing adventure in Croatia with Intrepid travel, where I learned some valuable lessons on what to pack and what not to pack. This is the ultimate packing guide for a sailing adventure abroad, complete with items for everyday use, tips for maximizing your packing efforts and things to avoid bringing.
Here are my insider tips to keep you on track with everything you need for a sailing trip in Croatia!
Effective Packing Suggestions for a Sailing Trip
Sailboats, while roomy for passengers, don’t offer a lot of excess storage. I would recommend packing as a minimalist for this trip, using a smaller backpack or suitcase. The suitcase will need to be stored in your cabin or the common areas, so it is a good idea to keep it small.
I only recently started using packing cubes, but I found them to be incredibly useful for staying organized on this trip. In your cabin, you have a small wardrobe to hold all of your items so that you don’t need to dig in your suitcase each day. The last thing you want to do is dig through all of your stuff to find something especially when you are often wet from swimming or your hands are greasy from sunscreen. I simply unpacked my packing cubes right into the cabin’s wardrobe, sorted by outfit type, which kept them super organized on the day-to-day.
Regarding electronics, the interior of the boat stays really dry so you don’t have to worry too much about your phone or computer getting damaged. However, boats are hard to lock at night and someone could potentially climb on from the dock and raid your stuff. Bringing a small backpack lock isn’t a bad idea, even though it is rare that there are issues. It would also be a good idea to pack an extra battery charger. There are some nights when you’ll stay at a mooring (buoy) instead of a dock, which means your boat won’t have access to charging power from the boat’s main power supply.
Ultimate Croatia Packing List for a Sailing Adventure
Items I Used Every Day
- Hat: The sun gets intense during the day as it bounces off the surface of the water and even with sunglasses, I found myself squinting at the brightness. I wore my baseball cap every day to keep the sun off my face, and several other group members also brought sun hats to protect their necks from the sun. Be sure to pack a hat clip so it doesn’t blow off in the ocean with a gust of wind!
- Sunscreen: Being outside every day for 8 days means you are going to get A LOT of time in the sun. If you are more of an indoor person such as myself, that means your skin is going to be seeing more UV action than you are probably used to. My spouse and I went through 2 full bottles of sunscreen in 8 days!
- Refillable Water Bottle: On a sailing trip, it is recommend to drink 3 liters of water per day since you lose so much hydration to the sun, which means your group will be buying large jugs of water together using money from your kitty. It can get confusing (and wasteful!) to use plastic bottles, so I was really happy that I had my own refillable bottle.
- Clothespins: The interior of the cabin on a sailboat doesn’t get a lot of airflow, which means all of your towels, clothes, and swimwear need to dry outside. We hung up our clothes on the rails of the boat each day and we pinned them down from the wind using clothes pins. Your boat will probably come equipped with at least a few pins, but it would be a good idea to pack some just in case!
- Comfortable “Boatwear”: A good portion of your days are spent sailing around between various islands and in total, we spent about 3-5 hours a day on board. Any time we were on the boat, I found myself wearing the same few loungewear items that our group affectionately started calling our boat attire. This includes a swimsuit, comfortables shorts (like athletic shorts or something lightweight), and a coverup. These clothes are probably going to get sweaty and covered in sunscreen, so they should be things that are comfortable and that you don’t mind getting a bit dirty.
- Ear Plugs and a Sleep Mask: Noise carries really well over water and even if your fellow travelers are considerate about noise, boats docked nearby might not be as nice. Ear plugs were an absolute lifesaver for me! Same is true with a sleep mask. The sun comes up early, and there aren’t really shades so you’ll know as soon as sunrise hits. The mask will give you a few extra zzzz’s in the morning!
Items I Brought But Didn’t Use
- Slippers: I normally love wearing slippers or socks when I am lounging around, but on a boat, they are just impractical. They are too slippery and hot, so I spent most of my days onboard barefoot. Leave the slippers at home and save yourself some space!
- “Going Out” Clothes: I packed several outfit options to wear at night if we were going out or needed to get dressed up for dinner, which I found almost useless during our Croatia Sailing Adventure. Since I wore basically a swimsuit and beach coverup all day on the boat, none of my regular daywear got dirty and I was able to wear it at night instead. Plus, the islands of Croatia have a pretty laid-back vibe and there was rarely an occasion that I needed to get really dressed up. Bring one good nighttime outfit and that should be enough.
- Work Out Attire: Let’s be real… you’re on a sailing vacation and working out is probably going to be the last thing on your mind. I always seem to pack workout clothes to encourage myself, only to not use them at all. In the case of Croatia, gym shoes are especially bulky and not useful. Instead of a traditional workout, try swimming for exercise or doing stretches on the beach in your swimsuit!
Items I Wish I Brought
- Aloe Vera: As I mentioned above, I am easily susceptible to sunburn. Even with the most diligent sunscreen application, I still found myself with patches of red skin by the end of the trip. I wound up buying some aloe vera during the trip to treat my sunburn, but I wish I had just brought my own.
- Polarized Sunglasses: Even though these are more expensive than “normal” sunglasses, polarized glasses are well worth it on a sailing trip. My spouse had a pair, and after wearing them for an afternoon, I was quite jealous that I didn’t have some for myself. The polarization really cuts down on the sun glare from the water, allowing you to see more clearly and squint less.
- Beach Tote: Most days, we would arrive into our port in the afternoon, leaving enough time to explore the island’s beaches or walk around the town. I only had my purse and camera bag to carry around, and I really wished I had brought an easy tote bag. It would have been perfect for throwing in my towel, beach shoes, sunscreen, swimsuit, etc as I headed off for the excursions of the day.
- Rash or Skin Cream: Between all the sun, salt, and sunscreen along with less than ideal showering conditions, your skin takes a beating during a sailing trip. You might find that your skin is a bit temperamental and almost everyone on our trip had a minor breakout or skin issue. For me, I got a small sun rash on my ankles and I definitely could have used some skin cream to treat the redness. Trying to decipher those of types of products in a foreign pharmacy is a challenge and it is easier to have it with you just in case.
- Camping or Sleeping Mat: Sleeping inside a sailboat can be challenging, thanks to snug quarters and limited airflow. Sleeping on the deck is a nice alternative for the more adventurous passengers! I brought chair cushions up on the deck each night to sleep on, but I think a camping mat would have been more comfortable and a bit less disruptive. If you know you need cool temperatures and fresh air for sleeping, bringing your own mat will make you much more comfortable on the deck!
General Packing List Items
Below is a general list of what I packed for my trip, in addition to everything mentioned above. Of course, what you pack will vary depending on your own personal preferences but I would suggest keeping extra clothing to a minimum if you can help it!
- Tops: 5-7 options, preferably of different lengths and fabric weights to accommodate different weather
- Bottoms: 3-5 options, preferably of different lengths and fabric weights to accommodate different weather
- Cover-Ups: 1-2 items of clothing to wear as a cover up on the boat. Something like a poncho or dress are easy to throw on and off.
- Swimsuits: 2-4 should be enough
- Underwear: enough to cover your full trip in case you don’t find laundry
- Shoes: 3 pairs is ideal, including a sandal, a walking shoe and a pair for general use. Bonus points if you bring water shoes for rocky beaches and snorkeling!
- Toiletries: All the basics (lotion, shampoo, toothpaste, etc) will be necessary, and it is best if you can find biodegradable ones since your boat’s waste water gets dumped into open ocean.
- Chargers and Converters: Depending on your country of origin, you may need a power converter and adapter when traveling in Europe.
- Aux Cord or USB cord: Bring one to connect your device to the boat’s audio system for tunes on the deck!
My trip to Croatia with Intrepid Travel was a spectacular experience that I felt totally prepared for and with this helpful packing guide, I hope that you will be ready for your sailing adventure too! If you need any other suggestions, consult the pre-departure materials sent to you by Intrepid Travel. I found them to be robust and quite informative!