I bet you're dreaming of sandy beaches, turquoise water and swimming with dolphins right about now. (Or at least trading your puffer and boots for a sundress and sandals.) A brief midwinter break always sounds like a great idea — until the packing part. Have you ever crammed your carry-on with every possible thing, only to realize on arrival that you got it all wrong? Me, too! That's mainly because we overpack. At 50, a sunny weekend away could mean anything from pool-lounging and casino-hopping in Vegas to rides with the grandkids in Orlando or strolling the French Quarter in New Orleans. Here's how to dive in.
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PHOTO BY: Hybrid Images/Getty Images; Maskot/Getty Images; RealPeopleGroup/Getty Images
1. Dress up for the plane
Sure, you're headed toward sun, but don't pull out the flip-flops just yet. Transitional pieces in lightweight fabrics like ankle pants or cropped jeans and a stylish light sweater or blazer provide a pulled together look with enough coverage for icy plane temperatures and chilly airport delays. And it never hurts to look a little polished when you check in, either. It just might snag you an upgrade or better service at resorts, hotels, inns and restaurants.
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PHOTO BY: Gap; Target; Old Navy
2. Do more with less
We're used to packing lots of tops and bottoms for mix-and-match options. Sounds good in theory, but just two stylish one-stop items like a loose dress (see item No. 3) and a jumpsuit make more multitasking sense now. Choose a solid-color ankle-cropped jumpsuit in a soft stretch knit or light woven fabric — like the Old Navy Jersey Tie-Belt Plus-Size Jumpsuit ($43, oldnavy.gap.com); A New Day Women's Sleeveless V-Neck Jumpsuit ($30, target.com); Gap Gauze Jumpsuit ($90, gap.com); or Banana Republic Sandwash Modal Cropped Jumpsuit ($95, bananarepublic.gap.com). Look for wide legs, an elasticized waist or tie belt, and your favorite sleeve length (everything from sleeveless to cap to long). Accent this and all your trip-wear with hoops or dangly earrings, as well as slim-stacked bangles that take up no room and are literally cooler than necklaces or scarves.
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PHOTO BY: Old Navy; Target; H&M; LOFT
3. Add a loose-fitting dress to your list
Like jumpsuits, this one-and-done outfit is a suitcase- and time-saver. Pick your preferred length — short, midi or maxi — and wear it as a beach cover-up by day, dinner dress at night. Leave the Spanx at home and choose a short, swingy A-line trapeze shape — like Old Navy Sleeveless Plus-Size Jersey Swing Dress ($33, oldnavy.gap.com) or a longer style like the A New Day Women's Sleeveless Tiered Dress ($30, target.com) — or go with a roomy shift such as the H&M V-neck Dress ($25, hm.com/us) or maxi dress like Loft Plus Beach Short Sleeve Maxi Dress ($90, loft.com).
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PHOTO BY: Gap; H&M; Old Navy; Target
4. Pack clever shorts substitutes
Instead of agonizing over leg veins, wiggly thighs and the shorts situation — just ignore them. Let a lightweight midi skirt and a pair of cropped pants provide an airy solution; they look great with any black or white tank to tee. A bright mid-calf skirt — like the Gap Embroidered Midi Skirt in Yellow Mustard ($70, gap.com) or the H&M Flared Skirt ($35, hm.com/us) — and loose relaxed pants — like the Old Navy Mid-Rise Cropped Linen-Blend Pants for Women in Feather ($40, oldnavy.gap.com) or A New Day Women's Plus Size High Rise Cropped Wide Leg Pants in Cream ($30, target.com) — make choosing between Bermuda shorts and cutoffs unnecessary.
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PHOTO BY: kali9/Getty Images; Kraig Scarbinsky/Getty Images
5. Treat yourself to two new swimsuits
Your old black tank isn't going to cut it, so splurge on two “this season” suits to ramp up your body-positive attitude. You'll always have a dry spare — and no excuses to hide in a sarong! A holiday away from home is the best time and place to get out of your fashion comfort zone and experiment with a swimsuit in a print, color or style that you haven't worn before. Whether you're going to a fancy beach resort or spending a weekend at an Airbnb with family, choose swimsuits that make sense with your activities.
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PHOTO BY: Swimsuits for All; Target; H&M
6. Choose one swimsuit with some sizzle
You don't need a bikini or a plunging halter neckline (although if that's you at 50, just go for it). Look for a one-piece suit that highlights your fabulous shoulders but keeps body-flattering benefits like a power mesh lining, molded cups or a ruched torso your secret. Choose a one-shoulder suit — like the Swimsuits for All Manhattan One Shoulder One Piece Swimsuit ($98, swimsuitsforall.com) or the H&M One-Shoulder Swimsuit ($30, hm.com/us) — or a flirty cold-shoulder style such as the Sea Angel Women's Plus Size Cold Shoulder Ruffle One Piece Swimsuit in Leaf Black ($45, target.com) for the subtle sex appeal of a good cocktail dress without going dangerously bare.
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PHOTO BY: Swimsuits for All; Old Navy; Dreamsuit By Miracle Brands
7. Choose a second swimsuit to move in
If you plan to do laps, yoga, teach your grandkids to swim or go boating, make your backup suit a practical choice — but don't scrimp on style, either. A one-piece suit with sturdy straps, trendy square neckline or a V-neck provides a more fashionable alternative to a basic athletic tank. Choose a cheery animal print — like the Swimsuits for All Wild Side Tank Wrap One Piece Swimsuit ($88, swimsuitsforall.com); the Old Navy Secret Slim Plus-Size V-Neck Underwire Swimsuit in Leopard ($55, old navy.gap.com); or a bright floral like the Dreamsuit by Miracle Brands Women's Plus Size Slimming Control Shirred One Piece Swimsuit in Red ($70, target.com) — to keep your festive mood going.
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PHOTO BY: Banana Republic; Target; Gap; Target
8. Update your bag and sun hat
It's time to lose the baseball cap and stained cotton beach bag. A sophisticated neutral toned tote in canvas or straw — like the Banana Republic Plaid Canvas Tote ($68, bananarepublic.gap.com) or the Universal Thread Straw Tote Handbag in Brown ($37, target.com) — is casual enough for swimsuits and sunscreen but urban enough for sightseeing and daily life later at home. Stash a few plastic baggies inside for wet swimsuits, sunscreen and snacks. Pair it with a chic, foldable wide-brimmed sunhat — like the Gap Packable Panama Hat ($50, gap.com) or A New Day Women's Bucket Hat ($17, target.com) — to keep your neck and face in the shade and prevent highlights and hair color from fading out due to UV rays.
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PHOTO BY: Old Navy (2); H&M; Target; Okabashi
9. Bring five pairs of shoes and get a pedicure
When you pare down clothes, shoes make the look. Stick to lightweight styles that pack easily at sides of your suitcase. Flat black sling sandals with skinny straps turn anything dressier. Choose a thong style such as the H&M Sandals ($25, hm.com/us) or a no-thong version like the Old Navy Strappy Faux-Leather Slingback Sandals for Women ($30, oldnavy.gap.com). Add an espadrille like the A New Day Women's Andi Espadrille Flats ($30, target.com); contoured flip-flops like the Okabashi Women's Splash Sustainable Wedge Flip Flop Sandals ($19, target.com); and a polished closed-toe mule such as the Old Navy Faux-Leather Braided-Strap Pointy-Toe Flats for Women ($30, oldnavy.gap.com). Be sure to treat your tootsies to a soak and pumice, and finish with a trendy polish so you're ready to rock.
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PHOTO BY: Scunci; Goody; Revlon (2); H&M; Aveeno; Sun Bum; Garnier; ILIA
10. Minimalize your beauty routine, too
We all take too many products, styling tools and way too much makeup on vacation. Keep it simple, but include these six things. Sunblock: A sunny holiday means a serious sun upgrade from moisturizer with SPF to the real deal. You need extra sunblock and continued application protection — even on cloudy days. Be sure to include an SPF 30 lip balm, too. Bold UV lens sunglasses: Let a big pair of sunnies in black or tortoise do all the eye-defining work and function as makeup during the day — no need to do a tricky water-resistant liner and mascaras. Save it for evening. A styling/drying brush: Look for a dual function wet-to-dry version that smooths and dries in one go, or a heated styling brush to smooth air-dried hair. Wipes: Let them effectively but gently remove sunscreen, makeup and perspiration. Stick makeup: Dual foundation/concealer/ touch-up sticks do the job of several products, as do blush/lip stick makeups. Store them in your minibar with a “do not remove” sign to keep them fresh after a day in your bag. Scrunchies and hair elastics in neutrals and hair-toned colors: These buffered ties are gentle on wet hair and can make ponytails and knots at the nape chicer.
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