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The What-to-Pack Getaway Guide

Choose the right combination of clothes and accessories for a hassle-free trip


spinner image A woman at home packing a suitcase for a trip
kali9/Getty Images

There are plenty of worldly, wise and wonderful people who overpack or take all the wrong items when preparing for a trip. This has nothing to do with having the right suitcase, a stack of compression cubes or knowing when to roll or fold your clothes — though all do help. The real problem is the inevitable “What was I thinking !?” moment on arrival. As a fashion editor I’ve spent decades traveling for photo shoots and vacations with just a carry-on and the right clothes for every situation. Here’s how you can too:

spinner image Quince 100% European Linen Blazer in Driftwood; Garnet Hill Washable Cashmere Sweatshirt in Bronzer; Amazon Essentials Women’s Slim-Fit 3/4 Sleeve Solid Boat Neck T-Shirt in Oatmeal Heather; Old Navy High-Waisted Cropped Linen-Blend Taper Pants for Women in Sisal
(Left to right) Quince 100% European Linen Blazer in Driftwood ($70, onequince.com); Garnet Hill Washable-Cashmere Sweatshirt in Bronzer ($119, garnethill.com); Amazon Essentials Women’s Slim-Fit ¾ Sleeve Solid Boat Neck T-Shirt in Oatmeal Heather ($14, amazon.com); Old Navy High-Waisted Cropped Linen-Blend Taper Pants for Women in Sisal ($40, oldnavy.gap.com)
Quince; Garnet Hill; Amazon; Old Navy

1. Dress up for the plane, airport and arrival

A “go” outfit that’s pulled together can help you snag an upgrade or better service at resorts, hotels, inns and restaurants. Pull-on pants, a tee, light sweater or stylish sweatshirt and loafers or slip-on sneakers may seem casual but in neutral colors with a relaxed blazer thrown on top it becomes an elevated look that offers climate control in icy planes and terminals and during flight delays. Be sure to select colors that are in sync with your packed items to extend the vacation wardrobe. Some items are better packed than worn en route, such as leggings (too sporty for authority), dresses, skirts and sandals (you’ll be cold on the plane and they make dashing for the gate or hefting bags tough) and trendy multi-pocket cargo pants (these always seem to get a TSA pat down).

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spinner image Ecupper Women’s Casual Loose Elastic Waist Cotton Trouser Cropped Wide Leg Pants in Dark Blue; LilyCoco Women’s Short Sleeve Vogue Fitted Off-Shoulder Modal T-Shirt in Elbow Sleeve Red Stripe; L.L.Bean Women’s Heritage Mariner Top Boatneck Three-Quarter-Sleeve Stripe in Classic Navy/Sailcloth; Easy Standard Rib Fitted Racer Tank in Cherry; Boden Women Jersey Maxi Skirt in Navy
(Left to right) Ecupper Women’s Casual Loose Elastic Waist Cotton Trouser Cropped Wide Leg Pants ($28, amazon.com); LilyCoco Short Sleeve Vogue Fitted Off-Shoulder Modal T-Shirt ($20, amazon.com); L.L.Bean Women’s Heritage Mariner Top Boatneck Three-Quarter-Sleeve Stripe ($50, llbean.com); Easy Standard Rib Fitted Racer Tank ($36, easystandard.co); Boden Women Jersey Maxi Skirt ($90, bodenusa.com)
Amazon (2); L.L.Bean; Easy Standard; Boden

2. Create a color theme

Limiting your packed items to one or two rich neutrals like black, navy, brown or khaki plus white is a foolproof formula. However, those who want more color can add one bright hue to the mix. For example, navy, white and red may work for you or brown, khaki, white and yellow. The big mistake is trying to add all the colorful pieces and prints in your closet to engineer a more festive look. Color restriction creates a tighter but more versatile capsule wardrobe for maximum wear from the least amount of clothing. It’s a strategy that designers, retailers and stylists use to create a “look.” Copy that.

spinner image Faithfull One-Shoulder Maxi Dress in Cherry Tomato; Garnet Hill Prato Knit Jumpsuit in Black; J. Jill Knit Patch-Pocket Jumpsuit in Black; Everlane The Linen Cross-Front Jumpsuit in Cocoa Brown
Faithfull One-Shoulder Maxi Dress in Cherry Tomato ($229, anthropologie.com); Garnet Hill Prato Knit Jumpsuit in Black ($149, garnethill.com); J. Jill Knit Patch-Pocket Jumpsuit in Black ($119, jjill.com); Everlane The Linen Cross-Front Jumpsuit in Cocoa Brown ($148, everlane.com)
Anthropologie; Garnet Hill; J. Jill; Everlane

3. Choose pieces that pivot day to night

Contemporary jumpsuits and midi/maxi dresses work equally well for sightseeing in Charleston or Paris, a wine-tasting foodie trip to the Napa Valley or a fancy resort in Miami. Their one-and-done appeal is irresistible and can reduce the number of separates you need to pack. Be selective. The ultimate multitasking styles won’t have super-low necklines or backs, lots of frills and ruffles, peekaboo cutouts or be clingy. For a destination wedding or party, a one-shoulder midi or maxi dress in cotton is a great choice and can be repurposed for real-life wear and summer days/nights long after the event. Here are some examples that spin from urban to dressy to beachside perfect.

spinner image Athleta Triumph Hybrid Wide Crop in Magnolia White; Chico’s Striped Poplin Ruched Sleeve Dress in Wisteria Blue; Knox Rose Women’s Flutter Short-Sleeve Embroidered Kaftan A-Line Dress in Red Floral; Summersalt The Perfect Wrap One-Piece in Sea Urchin & White Sand
(Left to right) Athleta Triumph Hybrid Wide Crop in Magnolia White; Chico’s Striped Poplin Ruched Sleeve Dress in Wisteria Blue; Knox Rose Women’s Flutter Short-Sleeve Embroidered Kaftan A-Line Dress in Red Floral; Summersalt The Perfect Wrap One-Piece in Sea Urchin & White Sand
Athleta; Chico's; Target; Summersalt

4. Solve body dilemmas a new way

Post-winter weight gain and the idea of baring skin in shorts and swimsuits can push stress buttons for even the most eager traveler. Take the fashionable way out and swap traditional basics for body-positive alternatives. You might try a color-blocked swimsuit like Summersalt’s The Perfect Wrap One-Piece in Sea Urchin & White Sand ($95, summersalt.com) to whittle a waist and celebrate curves; wide-leg crops like the Athleta Triumph Hybrid Wide Crop in Magnolia White or Black ($109, athleta.gap.com) instead of Bermudas; or make loose dresses like Chico’s Striped Poplin Ruched Sleeve Dress in Wisteria Blue ($139, chicos.com) and Knox Rose Women’s Flutter Short-Sleeve Embroidered Kaftan A-Line Dress in Red Floral ($32, target.com) your vacay signature look.

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spinner image Coolibar UPF 50+ Women’s CYD Travel Beach Hat in Sand; & Other Stories Angular Cat Eye Sunglasses in Black; Birkenstock Arizona EVA Sandals in Gold; By Anthropologie Beaded Flower Earrings in Yellow
(Clockwise from left) Coolibar UPF 50+ Women’s CYD Travel Beach Hat in Sand ($49, amazon.com); & Other Stories Angular Cat Eye Sunglasses in Black ($39, stories.com/en_usd); Birkenstock Arizona EVA Sandals in Gold ($50, anthropologie.com); By Anthropologie Beaded Flower Earrings in Yellow ($58, anthropologie.com)
Amazon; & Other Stories; Anthropologie (2)

5. Choose accessories that work harder

It’s tempting to stuff last year’s baseball cap, flimsy flip-flops and lots of jewelry into your carry-on — but don’t. Every accessory you pack should deliver style payoffs. Splurge now and wear all summer long: a wide brim packable sun hat with UPF 50+, waterproof metallic contour sandals for comfort, bold angular sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection. Choose a cross-body bag that doubles for beach or sightseeing and add a bunch of lightweight bead or raffia earrings. The latter take up nearly no suitcase space but add a little style to a look even when you’re sporting wet, pulled-back or air-dried hair.

spinner image Maybelline SuperStay Ink Crayon Lipstick in Make Moves; Morfone 16 Pack Travel Bottles Set TSA approved; CeraVe 100% Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 50
(Left to right) Maybelline SuperStay Ink Crayon Lipstick in Make Moves ($11, walgreens.com); Morfone 16 Pack Travel Bottles Set TSA approved ($17, amazon.com); CeraVe 100% Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 50 ($9, target.com)
Walgreens; Amazon; Target

6. Scale down your beauty kit

You can’t take it all thanks to space limits and the TSA 3-1-1 rule for carry-ons so don’t try. Before you leave treat yourself to a pro mani-pedi (a gel or dip powder one will last two to three weeks) and transfer your top must-haves into TSA-approved 3.4-ounce or less bottles. All must fit in one quart-size resealable clear plastic bag along with your mascara, lipstick and a mini fragrance sample for security clearance. Tuck a mineral stick sunscreen in your handbag and buy a full-size tube on arrival. Remember: Lipstick or tinted balm, sunscreen and sunglasses are all the day “makeup” you really need. Save the eyeliner drama for evening and depend on wipes to remove makeup, sunscreen and perspiration.

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