Packing Essentials: Summer

With summer here that means road trips, weekend getaways, and if you’re lucky longer excursions. As I plan my own summer adventures I thought I’d put together a list of items to get you through your summer trips stylishly. Living in Texas the only temperature variations we experience during summer is hot and hotter. However, traveling anywhere else you can expect cooler temps in the mornings and evenings which means layering is your friend.

The 11 articles of clothing I recommend (1 light jacket, 1 light sweater or other coverup layer, 1 Blouse/Button Down, 2 sleeveless tops, 2 tees/tops, 2 bottoms, 1 day and 1 evening dress) should get you through a typical city getaway. If you are doing more of a beach getaway adjust the items to fit your activities. For example instead of bringing jeans and a skirt just stick to shorts and / or skirts. Check out my packing light guidelines for more tips.

In the summer I feel you can add a little more color to your travel wardrobe instead of just sticking to basic neutrals. Blue is the main color in this palette but amped up to a bright cobalt level. This pairs well with the subdued green of the army green denim jacket, the black skirt, and of course jeans. It even looks refreshing against the coral of the optional shorts. I kept the dresses black because black dresses prove themselves to be the most versatile and always look chic. I love chambray and the chambray button down makes for a great top layer during the summer. Don’t be afraid to do the double denim thing and pair it with jeans. Of course if you feel unsure matching up colors stick to basic neutrals.

1. One Light Jacket
Unless you are traveling to a tropical climate you will need a light outerwear layer. Wear the outerwear layer to get you through temperature fluctuations in transit and during cool evenings. I love a denim jacket silhouette and went with one in a faded army green color to switch it up. Familiarize yourself with the weather conditions at your destination to determine if an outerwear layer is even necessary. Some tropical locations might be experiencing a rainy season so a raincoat or poncho might be all you need. Uniqlo Women’s Stretch Jacket.

2. One light cover up / Sweater
Another top layer option during cool mornings and evenings would be a light sweater or the example I listed, a very lightweight chambray shirt. Stash this light layer in your purse so that you can use it in cold restaurants or museums that crank up the air conditioning during summer months. I chose the chambray shirt in this example because you can casually layer it over a dress or skirt by tying it in front. J. Crew lightweight Chambray Shirt.

3. One Blouse or Button down
A blouse is another versatile option to include in your travel wardrobe. Pair it with boyfriend jeans for a smart daytime look or tucked into the black skirt in the evenings for a more dressed up look. If blouses aren’t your thing or if you don’t need that many dress up options switch it out for another lightweight top. Zara Blouse.

4. Two Sleeveless Tops
Sleeveless tops keep you cool when the temperatures rise. You can go casual or dressed up here depending on your needs. One of the sleeveless tops I selected is a dressy blouse style. You could also go more casual with a typical tank style. If you aren’t comfortable showing your arms you could always layer on top or swap out this category for two sleeved options. Madewell Silk Cargo Tank and J. Crew Vintage Cotton Tank.

5. Two Tees / Tops
A tee works with everything and is a great item to include in your travel wardrobe. Make sure to go with a lightweight knit that is not too bulky. On an extended trip you’ll most likely to be doing laundry on the road and you don’t want to deal with a bulky cotton tee. You can also include a dressy short sleeve top into your summer travel wardrobe to take you easily from day to evening activities. Zara Nautical Stripe Top and J. Crew Vintage Cotton T-shirt.

6. Two Bottoms
Boyfriend jeans are loose, casual, and comfortable. Less restrictive than skinny jeans they work well in a summer wardrobe and can pair with anything from sandals to wedges to pumps. They also look great with everything from tank tops to blouses. While in transit I always have to wear some sort of pant, airplanes get cold and I can’t imagine flying in shorts or even a skirt (unless it was a maxi). If jeans seem to heavy, look for a lightweight cargo or drapey trouser. The other option I featured is a plain black skirt which will mix and match easily with just about anything. You can also belt it to add an extra layer. Adriano Goldschmied Ex-Boyfriend Crop and Topshop Black High Waisted Skater Skirt.

7. Day and Evening Dress
A day dress can be a lifesaver during summer travel. It keeps you cool and is versatile enough to get you through a variety of activities. However, you may want something dressier at night so I’d go with a black maxi dress. Add a pair of wedges to either dress and you are ready to hit the town. Target Mossimo Sleeveless Shirt Dress and Target Merona Kimono Sleeve Maxi Dress.

8. Optional
Summer travel does not always equate a beach getaway. If your activities do involve swimming or lounging by a hotel pool of course you’ll need swimwear. Choose whatever makes you comfortable. If you’ll be doing a lot of swimming consider bringing 2 swimsuits so you don’t have to re-wear a wet swimsuit. If you pack a swimsuit you’ll need a cover-up and I suggest a little kimono jacket. The kimono jacket could do double duty and serve as a lightweight jacket.

Also shorts are an optional item but you can swap them out for one of the bottoms if that suits your travel needs. Check the cultural conditions of the places you plan to visit before deciding to pack shorts. For instance, if you’re traveling in Italy some churches won’t allow you to enter if you’re wearing shorts. Most Europeans in general don’t wear shorts but that doesn’t mean the influx of summer tourists won’t be donning them, so it’s your call. In some Muslim and modest countries wearing shorts is not recommended. Of course if your travel is within the states shorts are perfectly acceptable. J. Crew Tulle Bandeau Tank, Zara Flowing Printed Kimono, J. Crew 7″ Chino Short.

9. Footwear
Three pairs of shoes should get you through your summer travels: a close toed walking shoe, a sandal, and a dressy option. The best way to explore a city is always on foot so pack a comfortable pair of walking shoes. Every foot is different so I can’t recommend a shoe that works for everyone. In this example I went with a pair of Superga’s. They are casual yet they match easily with all the items shown plus this Italian brand is big in Europe. A cute sandal is also a must-pack item for summer. With so many sandal options it shouldn’t be hard to find a style that is comfortable for you. Next you’ll need a shoe that dresses up your outfits. I went with a wedge because they are dressy and fairly comfortable. Superga 2750 Linu, Naya Hillary Sandal, Franco Sarto Sonoma Sandal.

10. Accessories
If you’re going to be out and about in sunny weather a hat gives you an extra layer of protection for your face. Plus, a straw hat just screams summer. Along the same lines a great pair of sunglasses are also essential not only to keep you looking glam but also for eye protection. A sturdy tote will get you through the airport and your day-to-day travel activities. The Longchamp tote I selected is a classic that will hold your in transit needs (like a tablet) and your tourist needs (camera, etc.). Of course we can’t pack our bags without some sort of scarf or shawl. If your travel outfits work with a slim belt by all means pack it to change up your looks. A clutch purse is also an easy accessory to use to change up looks, especially for evenings out. As far as jewelry goes, you can go simple or statement or both whatever your taste. J Crew Panama Hat, Ray Ban High Street Sunglasses, Longchamp Le Pliage Large Tote in Slate, Jack Wills Stoneyfold Belt, Target Global Girlfriend Summer Ikat Wrap Scarf, Kendra Scott “Rayne” Tassel Pendant Necklace, Banago Manila Small Clutch, BaubleBar Grand Link Necklace.

Cheers and Happy Packing!

Packing Light Summer Checklist

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  • I always find boots go great with just about anything. I think also to keep in mind is to pack a parasol as one of your accessories (it’s about 5 degrees cooler underneath a parasol). Also, I stick to black or nuetral tones, like you said with the blue. So, blue jeans. =)

  • Would you consider making a post with outfit ideas for this summer pack list, like you did with the spring/fall list? Absolutely love this post, and love your taste. It’s so helpful! I am currently traveling for 5 months in Europe with my family.

  • I’m going to be in the Colorado mountains next week – day temps may range from 73 to 85 degrees, night temps as low as 45 degrees. Definitely not cosmopolitan packing! Also, things like hats and shoes are sooo bulky for me to pack. Any tricks you can share? Thank you for this post!

  • Lynne,
    Over the summer I spent a week in the mountains in Ruidoso New Mexico with a similar range of temperatures. Layers really came in handy for dealing with cold mornings that led to warmer afternoons to cold evenings. My activities were mostly hiking with just a few trips into town so I didn’t have to worry about dressing up and Ruidoso is a pretty casual town. I mostly wore:
    cropped ankle length jeans + tank top underlayer + simple tee shirts (LS & SS) + Marmot thin fleece jacket or down vest + trail runners / comfy flats.

    The cropped ankle jeans looked good with my trail runners and comfy flats so that kept bottoms to a minimum. I also packed a more technical wicking pair of crops that worked well with trail runners for longer hikes and yet also looked good with sandals or casual flats (the street to studio crop from Lululemon, they are expensive but can be worn more than one way so that makes it a value for me, plus they take up little space .

    The down vest I usually wore over a long sleeve tee on cold mornings and then just stuffed it in my purse when temps warmed up. If it got really cold I’d layer my vest over my jacket and I’d be fine.
    Shoes are bulky so make sure you only bring those that match your activities (3 pairs maximum). You will always want to pack a good pair of walking shoes no matter where you go. A pair of comfortable flats or short low heeled booties would be my next suggestion. That should be plenty unless you want to bring a slim low profile pair of sandals that won’t take up too much room.

    I would definitely not skimp on the hat, the sun can get pretty strong up in the mountains and you need a little extra protection. I brought a sports visor that took up little space in my purse (not fancy at all but I didn’t get sunburned)-you may also want to consider a thin wool hat or beanie for cold temps. A light to midweight sweater will also come in handy as well as a scarf. Sorry for the long-winded answer. Happy Travels!

  • Great post! I’m getting ready to take a long week-end trip to Miami and am scrambling to put a bag together. This is really helpful!