Packing for a short trip to Cuba

A few of us will be heading to Cuba in a few weeks.  This general geographic area of the world is great to travel to this time of year because it’s one of the few places around North America that stays consistently warm in December.

Warm weather trips are really easy to pack for since there’s no need for thick jackets, pants, or socks.

We’ll be staying in Havana for 5 days as part of a people to people travel tour.  Here’s a list of the 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba if you’re not familiar.  It’s stupid, and I hope that in the future these restrictions go away and Americans can just go hang out in Cuba without jumping through a bunch of fabricated hoops.

Here’s my packing list for this trip:

  • 3 quick dry shirts
  • 2 quick dry shorts
  • 3 quick dry boxer shorts
  • 1 regular cotton jeans
  • Chaco sandals
  • Toiletries, including sunscreen
  • Woolite
  • Flexoline
  • Electric razor
  • My standard pill collection
  • Cell phone & charger
  • Passport & visa
  • Lots of cash

That’s it.  I love packing for warm weather vacations because it’s so easy to pack light.  A few notes about my above list:

Since this is only a 5 day tour, I could easily take a slightly larger bag and just pack 5 changes of clothes and not worry about washing anything.  But I’m not going to do that.  I’ve tried both and found that even for short vacations, I’d still rather take a small, light bag than plan for a new set of clothes each day.

American credit cards and debit cards do not work in Cuba at the moment, so every transaction will take place in cash.  Since our lodging, transportation, some of our meals, and tour activities are all paid for, I’ll only be spending my money on food and beverages.  I don’t buy souvenirs and can’t smoke cigars without getting deathly ill, so I won’t need to worry about buying stuff to bring back.  Countries that rely heavily on cash tend to be picky about the quality of money they receive, so I’m going to visit my bank a few weeks before our departure to get a stack of fresh bills that aren’t damaged or dirty.  I also have some Euros and Canadian dollars from previous vacations that I’ll exchange first, since those currencies get a better exchange rate in Cuba than American dollars.

This will be the first major trip where I won’t be taking a standalone camera.  I plan on taking only my new iPhone XS to test it out extensively and see how it performs.  Based on what I’ve seen so far, its camera seems to have improved enough to produce technically good-enough images for most situations, so we’ll see how it holds its own as my primary picture taking gadget.  If this experiment succeeds, I will be super happy as that will further lighten my bag on some of my world travels.

There’s a requirement for American tourists to keep a detailed journal of all their activities on the island and hold onto it for 5 years.  I can’t imagine that a government official will actually ask for this at any point in the future and I have no intent on keeping around a physical paper journal that I need to keep track of, so I’m going to put the journal notes on my phone and save it as a text file on my computer when I get home.


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