Everything a Packing Expert Takes on a Trip to the Bahamas

Lydia Mansel, founder of Just Packed, gives T+L a peek inside her suitcase to help us plan for all the beach vacations to come.

Woman looking out at the ocean on a hammock on a Bahama beach

Dorgie Productions/Getty Images

As a travel writer and professional packer, I've perfected the art of packing — after plenty of trial and error and overweight suitcases. It takes time and a little effort, but I've found that when you're prepared and confident in what you brought on your journey, you'll have a better, more fulfilling experience.

One of my most recent trips took me to the Bahamas, specifically Harbour Island. Just a half-mile wide and 3.25 miles long, the tiny Bahamian island is known for pink sand beaches and turquoise clear water. Packing for this trip took some thinking (it was my first time on the island), but I ended up with a flawlessly packed suitcase — one that contained everything I needed and stayed well under 50 pounds. Because packing is never straightforward or easy, I'm sharing what I brought in my suitcase to Harbour Island — from my favorite sunscreen to my go-to pair of travel-friendly sandals.

My trip to the Bahamas included a few modes of transportation — plane, another plane, taxi, water taxi, and, finally, a golf cart. A trip like that requires a quality bag that can do it all. This year, I've been traveling with the Briggs & Riley Medium Expandable Spinner Bag; it's larger than a carry-on, but it's not as bulky as a typical checked bag. Whenever I'm traveling somewhere remote, I like to keep my can't-live-without items on me, just in case my luggage goes missing upon arrival. For my Harbour Island trip, that meant my Underseat Duffle carried my essential toiletries (contact solution, toothpaste, face wash), an extra bathing suit, a bottle of Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen, and a book for the plane.

Briggs and Riley The Underseat Duffle

Courtesy of Briggs and Riley 

To buy: briggs-riley.com, $289

Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen

Courtesy of Supergoop

To buy: supergoop.com, $27

Recently, my airport attire has consisted of a basic layering tank, sweater, and wide-leg ribbed pants. The sweater, of course, came off the second I arrived on the island (in the summer, Harbour Island temperatures can be anywhere from 75 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit). While my go-to travel shoes are a pair of stylish sneakers — you'll always find me at the airport wearing this pair from M.Gemi — I also kept a pair of sandals in my carry-on. That way, when I landed in North Eleuthera, I could change into something more tropical. In the summer months, I travel with Birkenstock Arizona slides. Fair warning, though: Make sure you give yourself time to wear in your Birkenstocks. They're some of the most versatile sandals I own, but it took a few weeks of wear before I could wear them comfortably.

Tkees The Tank

Courtesy of Tkees

To buy: tkees.com, $35

To buy: vince.com, $225

To buy: dsw.com, $110

While the general tourist vibe of Harbour Island is casual, you'll want to bring a couple of nicer outfits for dinner at restaurants like The Landing or the Dunmore. This block-printed dress from Pink City Prints made an appearance a couple times on the trip as it perfectly coordinated with the tropical feel of Dunmore Town's florals and colorful houses. The other dress in my suitcase was from Marysia, a brand known for its scalloped swimwear and chic resortwear. Versatility is everything when luggage space is limited, and the Montagu Dress is a style I not only wore multiple times on Harbour Island, but continued to wear on repeat throughout the summer. It also gets travel bonus points for being machine washable. I packed block heels for both dresses — leave the stilettos at home if you're going to the Bahamas. I personally swear by Bernardo's Beaufort Sandals for most of my warm-weather trips; not only are they the most walkable pair of block heels I've ever worn, but they work with just about anything in my suitcase.

To buy: pinkcityprints.com, $230

Marysia Montagu Dress

Courtesy of Marysia

To buy: marysia.com, $569

Bernardo Beaufort Sandal

Courtesy of Bernardo

To buy: bernardo1946.com, $238

Anyone venturing to Harbour Island has to spend plenty of time on Pink Sands Beach — possibly with a Goombay Smash in hand. A straw hat and sunglasses are crucial (a hat holder clip is a life-saver when traveling), and you'll need a beach bag, of course. You can find a straw beach bag from A&A Hidden Treasures on the island, or bring one with you. I brought this basket bag from Amanda Lindroth, which doubled as a purse for exploring the shops along King Street. For a cover-up,  this versatile style from LOVEBINETTI can be styled different ways — and barely takes up any room in your suitcase. Pair it over a Summersalt one-piece or a Mara Hoffman bikini, and you're all set for a lunch of conch fritters and fresh seafood.

Amanda Lindroth Birkin Basket

Courtesy of Amanda Lindroth

To buy: amandalindroth.com, $115

One of the most often forgotten items in my suitcase is a pair of pajamas. Not this time, though. This seersucker pajama set from Desmond & Dempsey was one of the first items I packed. The fabric was light enough for warm nights, and the classic style was presentable enough for an early morning coffee run.

To buy: desmondanddempsey.com, $210

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