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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What to Pack for Panama (Central America)

One of my most popular posts to date is “Packing for Paris and Provence”. I continue to receive comments about how helpful the information was and so, with that in mind, have penned this post.

Panama is located in Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It is in between Costra Rica to the North and Colombia to the South. Panama has a true tropical climate.

There are basically just two seasons: the High (also known as dry) season which occurs mid-December through mid-April and the Low (wet) season.

Temperatures are consistently high in Panama. While we were there in December the afternoons generally reached the mid 80’s °F. But these temperatures, combined with the humidity, can make it feel much warmer than it is.  For this reason I recommend cotton and linen clothing.


Starting from left to right: I wore a pair of jeans, long sleeve t shirt and a military jacket on the plane since it was cold in Texas.

TIP: Always wear your bulkiest shoes and clothing on the plane to save space in your suitcase.

I found my military (AKA utility) jacket at Nordstrom on deep discount. It is now sold out. But you can often find similar jackets at Old Navy.

Please note that I did not need a jacket or a sweater in Panama.


As always I start with one key element in which to build the color palette and contents of the travel wardrobe. In this case it happened to be a colorful bead necklace that I found on clearance last year at Ann Taylor Loft. It seemed to embody the image I had created in my mind of wonderful, bright Panama.

My other jewelry included earrings from TJ Maxx, a neutral necklace from Forever 21 and simple gold hoops.


Our itinerary included several water themed activities. As I am a bit older, as well as quite pale, I wanted a full coverup (also known as a kaftan or tunic). I found a great one this past fall on clearance from Boden that fit the color scheme.


It was a lightweight cotton and I loved the happy pink polka dots and turquoise green pom pom trim.


From there I began searching for what is probably a woman’s largest source of apparel flustration ~ the swimsuit. Although brazilian bikini’s are accepted in Panama I did everyone else and myself a favor by selecting a swimsuit with good coverage.  The La Blanca tankini style top and bottom in turquoise held up beautifully.


With the difficult elements selected it was then simply a matter of packing cool cotton t shirts and shorts.


I like a longer length cotton chino short and find that those from J. Crew wear well. All cotton t shirts are getting harder to find but Target, Loft and TJ Maxx  usually have a good selection for great prices.


As always I also packed one dress. This time it was a sundress I found last fall in turquoise blue. There are still a few dresses left. I wore it twice in Panama. Once to church and once to dinner.


You can see a peek of the dress along with my slide sandles from Target.

Isn’t this a wonderful old tile floor?


Speaking of shoes…while I wore a simple ballet flat on the plane in case I needed a comfortable closed shoe I wore these ultra comfortable Kork-Ease “Meegan” sandals for the majority of our long walks and climbs.


For my eagle eyed readers…yes, I do have this exact same shoe in sage green. As the saying goes…”If you love a shoe, buy it in every color.” I found mine at Nordstrom Rack on major discount but this online shop has a few left in champagne and black.

What To Pack For Complete Comfort

We’ve established that it is going to be hot. If you wear pajamas again pack something in all cotton or linen. Polyester, spandex and other man made fabrics will make you sweat more than a pig visiting a bacon factory.

Delicately said, your undergarments should also be 100% cotton. This item can be a bit tricky for women to track down as most retailers now mix in spandex. I finally found some 100% cotton undergarments and they worked well. As a side note they do make quick dry undergarments in other fabrics but they run about $12.00 a pair which, in my opinon, is ridiculous. It also states that they take just a few hours to dry. Hours? When you’re walking through a jungle? No.

If you tend to be bug bait make sure you take along some mosquito repellent wipes. A single packet fits in any pocket or purse. For sun protection you will want to pack a good sunblock. I like this brand of sunscreen. Also, make sure you have some good sunglasses.


What You Should Not Bother Packing

I made the mistake of packing both a hair dryer and mini straight iron. Even with an arsenal of gels and hairsprays it was no match for the high humidity. This goes for curling irons too. Leave it all at home. I made a few good attempts but by the third day quit trying.

Ladies, do yourself a favor and just pack some bobby pins, barrettes, or hair elastics. If all else fails buy yourself a wonderful hat in Panama and wear the heck out of it.


Don’t obsess, enjoy the hair break. Climb a mountain.


This is the view from atop Ancon Hill (which be forewarned is more of a mountain :).

On one side you can see all of Panama City…


…on the other side you can take in the Panama Canal.


The good news is that with this streamlined packing I was able to fit everything into a carry on suitcase. #noluggagefees

When returning through the D/FW airport individuals with only carry on luggage breeze through customs. Win win!

If you have any great Panama packing tips please feel free to leave a comment.


Linking to:

What I Wore Wednesday


marty (A Stroll Thru Life) said...

You always look amazing and pulled together. Great tips and love seeing more of your trip.

Linda said...

Very fun and interesting reading. :) I will not be traveling anywhere by plane anytime soon since I avoid that at all costs, but I am looking towards some Spring Break travel, though tropical places are limited within driving distance from Illinois and I'm getting bored with the Alabama/Florida coast, so I'm not sure yet. We may just save money and keep it close to home. As for the hair tips, I smiled, because since I do my daily 3+ mile run/walk in all sorts of weather, it's taught me to be much more relaxed about my hair style. I haven't had my hair cut in almost 2 years and yet it only grows to my shoulders, so my favorite style is simply pulled back which holds up well under all of my winter garments (hat, balaclava, etc.) because by the time I arrive back to my office at noontime after my run/walk, my hair is complete wet under all of that. I used to fuss so much about it, but now I've learned to just go with it. :) (It's below zero here now, which is why I have to wear all of that garb).

Enjoyed your post as always,

the cape on the corner said...

looks wonderful! years ago, we went to key west and i didn't even bother showering in the morning. i am someone who is all about hair and makeup, and to know that i didn't bother with either really tells you something about the weather, lol. you look so cute in that hat. sadly, i do not.

Vel Criste said...

Love your practical yet fashionable sense of style Laura! I enjoyed your pictures on IG, so glad it was a great and fun trip for all!

Fox and Finch Antiques said...

What did you think of Panama City? Flying over, I was amazed at the lush greenery of the country, but Panama City? As a person who isn't a seasoned third world traveler, it was a bit of a shock for me.

The Boston Lady said...

Laura, I was never as hot and sweaty as I was in December in Panama. I think I single handedly depleted the bottled water supply while in Panama City. And I was used to Florida. I was also there in the rainy season before Alan I were married and have pictures of me in jeans!! I don't know if that means the rains cooled things off or if I was oblivious.

We spent time inland in that dry season visit too and it was like being in a different country entirely. Jackets, pants, cool, no, cold winds at night. It is a very diverse country as far as geography and climate!

Your hair/hat advice is spot on. We stayed places where the showers were unheated, wonderful in hot spa Panama City, torture in cool El Valle!

We all got hit at one point or another with Montezuma's Revenge so I do suggest something like Immodium be packed.

How did Sweet Guy like seeing his dad's old stomping grounds? When was Eric last there and was he surprised at the changes to the Canal Zone area?


Louise said...

Great tips. I bet a pig really would swear in a bacon factory. Hahaha.

Auntie Em said...

Great ideas on packing for traveling but I can't see me heading off for Central America anytime soon. I am sooo not good with hot temps. I would have to look at all the scenery I could see from my air conditioned hotel room! Not fun.
But you managed to look so cool and fresh in all your beautiful outfits. It must have been great fun to see all the sites and enjoy the wonderful sites. Thanks for sharing your pics of all the amazing places.