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Vacation Fashion Essentials

With spring in full swing, many folks are thinking ahead to summer and upcoming vacations. We have two trips on the calendar this year, a week in Colorado and a few days in a cabin creek-side here in PA. Both trips will be heavy on outdoor activities, with hopefully a chance to unplug and unwind. For both vacays, I’ll be planning my outfits based on scheduled activities. Even something as simple as a day at the playground doesn’t necessarily require a “look” with a capital L, but you can’t go down the slide in just underpants, even though my 3-year-old has tried in the past. Pants are NOT optional at the park. No matter how packed or laidback your itinerary may be, it’s best to plan out what you’ll be wearing, even if it’s just a t-shirt and jeans. If you are scheduling a cross-country jaunt, a beach trip, or some international travel, here are seven fashion essentials, no matter your destination.

Speaking of t-shirts, they are definitely a travel must-have in your suitcase. Whether it’s a basic white v-neck or a navy crewneck, have at least two neutral t-shirts packed for any type of trip. I prefer both v-neck and sleeveless tees in white and gray, which go with just about everything from jeans to joggers, to wearing underneath strappy dresses on chillier evenings. If you’re in more of a metropolitan setting, a white tee looks great under a blazer, with khakis and sneakers. A t-shirt with jean shorts and flip-flips works for a poolside coverup, as well as around the firepit at the campsite.

Button-down shirts are another versatile essential for travel near and far. You may be thinking, why would I want to bring a work shirt on vacation? Well, an oversized button-down works as an extra layer in AC, whether that’s on a plane, in the car, or at the hotel. Button-downs are also an easy coverup alternative, whether you wear them buttoned, loosely unbuttoned, or tied up the ends for a more fitted silhouette. They also can be worn as a jacket over a tank top and jeans. If you only have fitted button-downs you normally wear in an office setting, no need to purchase something; simply borrow one from a special fella in your life, the more worn-in, the better!

The third vacation essential is knitwear. A lightweight cardigan, oversized sweater, sweatshirt, or even a poncho, can all fit this bill. Just be mindful of where you’re going and what you’re doing when making your selection. For instance, if you’re heading to NYC with a group for some Broadway action, a tie-dye hoodie doesn’t really capture the vibe of that trip. However, for a camping adventure, it’s perfect! And if you’re thinking, it’s summer, why would I pack a sweater? Trust that with blasting AC, chillier evenings, and potentially bad weather, knitwear is essential for travel. Plus, having a “third piece” is handy in bringing some structure and style to your standard t-shirt and jeans.

As for bottoms, besides jeans and shorts, I also like packing at least one lightweight trouser or jogger. Preferably a pant with a pull-on silhouette and wrinkle-resistant if possible. Of course, linen is notorious for wrinkles, but there are times I prefer a rumpled aesthetic like sunset walks on the beach or martinis on the patio; both are good settings for a linen drawstring pant, wrinkles and all. An elastic waist is not required if you prefer buttons and zipper closures. Just pick a pant with ease; you want to be comfortable, so leave the leggings and tailored trousers at home.

For airport travel, easy on-off shoes are key. I would argue for any mode of transportation (besides horseback), an easy slip-on shoe is preferable. Sneakers, sandals, crocs, flats, whatever option is most comfortable for you, because when you’re traveling, the last thing you need is an uncomfortable shoe. You may also be packing a dressier pair for an event you’ll be attending — looking at you, June wedding. But for getting to that destination, wedding or otherwise, easy and streamlined shoes are best. And don’t forget socks! I’m not too cool for school when it comes to socks and sandals. I can’t stand having cold feet, and with the right kind of shoe, socks don’t have to look frumpy, especially if the shoe and socks match. A black slide sandal with black ankle socks can look sporty, if not chic.

To complete your vacation looks, pack a fun and versatile accessory. Vacation outfits are all about being relaxed and comfortable, so a colorful accessory is an easy way to add some personality and, in some cases, bring some polish to a more functional look. A colorful scarf tied around the neck gives a little French flare to a button-down, joggers, and sneakers. Statement earrings can dress up a tank top and linen pant. A tasseled tote bag brings some flair to the beach.

Lastly, travel gear. These are the items and pieces that you functionally require to enjoy your vacation. Most obvious is a swimsuit, less likely a fishing vest, you get the idea. If you’ll be hiking, biking, canoeing, you’ll want to pack durable gear and apparel to protect and support your activities. If you’re going on an Alaskan cruise, pack a parka. A Caribbean cruise, pack a sunhat. Going to a wellness retreat, pack yoga leggings. Looking to get in a few rounds of golf or tennis games? You’ll need the appropriate attire.

In years past, I’ve been guilty of over-packing for vacations. This year, I’m hoping to stick to my essentials list and only pack what I need based on my outfit planning. Fingers crossed!