Indura Resort, Tela, Honduras

Packing for Central America

I have these moments before any ‘extended’ getaway (6+ nights, not just a long weekend): What do I pack (which is really my way of asking myself if I ‘need to’ go shopping)?  What’s appropriate given the destination and norms (and cultural sensitivities)? Can I try to go carry-on only?

During this getaway – six days in Honduras and two days in Panama – carry-on only was totally doable, and this experience made me a certifiable carry-on convert. Life is so much easier when you’re not waiting around baggage claim, praying for your luggage to appear. I’ll admit that this was a warm weather destination which meant that clothes were lightweight, but I still managed to pack more than I needed which was impressive, all things considered.

Indura Resort, Tela, Honduras

As you can see, this list isn’t all inclusive as I’ve just included clothing in this visual snapshot, and have not included any of my electronics which I also religiously tote on getaways. In addition to the items I’ll outline here, I also took my laptop and charger, my Canon T2i and charger, my iPad and charger, and our GoPro and charger. I also like to take my carry-on essentials, which I’ve talked about here.

Keep reading for more details on this list, plus a few pieces that I especially love!

Central America packing List

1. A Strong, Versatile Tote // My tote bag is a combo beach bag and carry-on ‘personal item’ (I put my purse inside of my tote to maximize space during travel). I like a canvas or jute variety – something I can take with me that’s strong and neutral-toned but nothing too valuable. It’ll be loaded up with heavy items for the plane and then will come into contact with lotions and oils during beach time. My current go-to is a white and tan jute tote that was less than $40. For an affordable piece, check out this lightweight, sturdy Madewell tote.

2. Shoes // I packed three pairs of shoes for this trip, though I admittedly wore flip flops nearly every day. I brought a pair of flip flops, a pair of tennis shoes, and a pair of versatile wedges that could be worn with a range of outfits. I wore the tennis shoes twice (at Pulhapanzak and during our cave tour), and wore the wedges twice (to dinners in Tela). My flip flops got a ton of use – all day and most nights. If you’re not a wedge person, definitely go for a nice pair of sandals that can be worn casually by day and dressed up by night. If you are a wedge person, be sure to wear them on the plane to save space if you’re trying to go carry-on only. [Check out these versatile wedges here, and these comfy flip flops here.]

3. Maxi Dresses // Maxis or short summer dresses are great for day or night, and they make life easy! It’s an entire outfit in a single piece. Score. Throw a scarf on if it gets chilly, dress it up with wedges and jewelry or dress down with sandals and a casual hat. I brought two maxis with me – one simple black variety and one super colorful. [For taller girls, I’m obsessed with this trapeze style for poolside and evenings out.]

4. Scarf/Sarong // For real, this is the best and most versatile travel item of life regardless of the trip. It’s a scarf when it’s cold, a sarong when you need something to throw on after the pool, or a head covering in a place of worship (or at the beach). In this case, I used my brightly colored sarong by the pool and as a blanket on the plane. I buy mine at the market in St. Maarten for under $15 each. If you’re okay with spending more than $15, check out this Jonathan Adler piece that appeals to globetrotters everywhere.

5. Tank Tops // Tank tops were my mainstay in Honduras, and I was happy that I loaded up for the trip. There’s little to be concerned about it terms of cultural or religious sensitivities so bare shoulders are fine from our experience. I brought a total of about 6 tank tops with me: some that were more athletic, some that were dressier, and some that could be used as a cover up or a casual top to wear with shorts.

6. Shorts // lived in shorts during our trip, and if you’re traveling in the region you’ll probably do the same. I brought a total of four pairs of shorts – two that could be dressed up or down, and two that were strictly casual for daytime roaming and beach or pool time. I wore them all, and wore two of the pairs multiple times. Here’s a pair of shorts (here) that I love for being incredibly versatile.

7. Accessories // Naturally, warm weather accessories are a must. I love a good quality Panama hat any time – they’re great by the pool to protect yourself from turbo rays, and also work to help mask a bad hair day. Sunglasses are non-negotiable in sunny locales like this. I typically take 2 – 3 pairs to be safe (these and these are my go-tos). Other accessories that I brought: Flash Tattoos, a versatile belt, and well chosen gold and silver jewelry. Note: I left my engagement ring at home and wore only my wedding band. When we’re traveling, I evaluate each destination individually and gauge whether or not I think fine jewelry makes sense.

8. Bathing Suit(s) // This particular trip was pretty heavily beach and pool focused so I brought a number of bathing suit tops and bottoms that I could mix and match (about 4 total suits). It was utter excess on the bathing suit front but bathing suits take up practically zero space so I erred on the side of caution.

9. Romper // I love rompers. Love them. Like dresses, they appeal to me in that they’re a one-stop shop. I usually bring a versatile piece that can transform easily from day to night (dress it up with jewelry and wedges) but this time I toted a beach-friendly version with me to throw over a swimsuit. Here’s one that I just bought that I love for day to night versatility.

Not Pictured // Not pictured are a pair of extra lightweight harem pants that are lounge + sleep pants, plus my go-to ToeSox for in-room Barre3 workouts. Scott always makes fun of me for taking these but they make any space yoga & barre ready!

What are your must-haves when packing for Central America? Any other must-have pieces that I’m forgetting?


Shannon Kircher, The Wanderlust Effect

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. Additionally, Shannon is the founder of Compass & Vine, a luxury boutique travel design firm, and is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort. Shannon holds an MSc in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and is a current candidate for WSET Level 3 in Wines & Spirits.