Packing Tips for Your Summer Vacation

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Vacation season is here again. While it might look a little different this year—many won’t be boarding an airplane for a long flight anytime soon—plenty of us are ready to jump in the car for a road trip to a destination within driving distance. Whether your summer vacation plans include heading to the beach for a few days, a weeklong getaway in a mountain cabin, or an extended weekend trip to visit family or friends, you will want to pack outfits that help you look and feel your best once you arrive.

Before we focus on what to bring, here is a word of wisdom on car trips: Even if you have a lot of trunk space for your bags, beware of overpacking. If you bring nearly everything you own just because you’ve “got room,” you will spend your vacation managing “stuff” instead of enjoying yourself. That is why I recommend sticking to one suitcase per person by creating a vacation “capsule wardrobe” that helps you get the most mileage out of the pieces you bring. Keep reading for my advice for stress-free vacation packing.

Maximize your suitcase space with packing cubes. Packing cubes come in all sizes. They are great for compartmentalizing your belongings so you can locate them quicker, and they also gently compress your clothing so you can fit more into your suitcase. By using packing cubes, you can fit so much more into a carry-on size or weekender bag. You might even have space left over for a few last-minute add-ins!

Pack basics that match with everything. It’s easy to overthink clothing choices as you pack. Try to keep things simple. For most casual summer vacations, you will need:

  • 1 pair of jeans—you can wear these several times with any number of tops.
  • 1-2 additional bottoms for warm weather, such as a skort and a pair of shorts in denim or khaki.
  • 3-4 neutral tops—for instance, a black/white striped tee, a couple of tees in solid colors, and a blouse. Most of these should be able to pair well with any of the bottoms you have packed.
  • 1-2 one-piece outfits—for example, one dress and one jumpsuit. These can be layered with a scarf or jacket in the evenings and worn alone during the daytime.
  • 1 outer layer, such as a denim jacket, a lightweight sweater, or a light blazer.

Bring minimal, versatile jewelry. You can create a number of looks with a few pieces of great jewelry. Choose one or two statement pieces like an oversize necklace and a pair of statement earrings. A statement piece will make those mixable, matchable basic tops and bottoms, along with any dresses, pop. You can either wear your statement piece alone or embellish the look with a few understated pieces. For example, I have a large, dramatic necklace made of Lucite that I love and wear often. When I wear it, I make sure to pair it with smaller earrings and other neutral jewelry so my outfit stays balanced.

Keep footwear simple. You will most likely need a pair of comfortable shoes for walking, like a cute pair of fashion sneakers, and a pair of flats (perhaps a sandal or ballet flat). If you plan to go out to a nice dinner, you might want to bring a dressier pair of shoes as well (e.g., maybe a heeled wedge). Remember to wear your bulkiest footwear on the drive. That way you will have plenty of room in your suitcase to pack the other pair(s).

Stick to one or two swimsuits. It’s always a good idea to bring a swimsuit on every trip. Even if you are not going to a beach, your rental could have a hot tub or pool. But don’t go overboard and bring every swimsuit you own. If you are going to the beach (and plan to swim or sunbathe every day), go ahead and bring a couple of suits for variety. Otherwise, pack one suit and you will be good to go.

Stock your travel tote. A tote bag makes an amazing travel companion. A small backpack also works great. Stock it with any additional fashion items that you might need along the journey, including a great pair of sunglasses, an accent scarf that goes with the clothes you have packed, and a light cardigan or sweater. It’s also a great place to tuck away a book for some summer reading.

Remember that the point of vacationing is to have a relaxing and fun experience, not to waste time stressing about whether you brought the right clothing. So, put a little effort into packing the right pieces up front. Then as soon as you hit the road, you can fully embrace the moment at hand. Happy and safe travels!


  • Marla Tomazin

    Marla Tomazin, Certified Image Consultant, established her image consulting business in 1990 with the goal of helping clients identify an authentic image and develop its effective expression. Marla utilizes her abilities in evaluating body shape, movement, and coloring as well as synthesizing optimal cuts, lines, colors, and textures. This results in balance and proportion that accentuate attributes and conceal flaws. Marla has appeared on numerous TV and radio stations and programs. Visit

1 Response

  1. Beth Martin says:

    I love your packing tips. And I can’t travel without those packing cubes. Plus the whole concept of not having to “manage stuff” is so freeing. I wish I had you advising me when I was younger and filling the biggest suitcase I could carry.

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