Your closet is open. Your suitcase is ready. It’s packing time and you’re all set to build a vacay wardrobe that makes your followers double tap. Where do you start? These days, trends move fast and a vacation is the perfect time to prove that you’re at the top of your fashion game. But add in air travel, culture clashes, and unpredictable weather and the style choices you make become even tougher.
No matter where you plan on going, there are a few universal rules for packing a vacation wardrobe. Number one: plan, plan, plan. Outfit planning can help you make the most of that precious real estate inside your suitcase. If you know exactly what pairs with what, you end up packing full outfits instead of just optional pieces. This includes shoes, hats, and accessories. Great fashion takes planning!
The second rule of vacay wardrobes is to be prepared. You might think your destination is always hot and sunny, but why risk it by packing only tank tops and shorts? The same goes for places that are generally chilly. You wouldn’t want to be caught off guard by a heat wave with only your sweaters and jeans. No way should you give equal space in your luggage to all kinds of clothes, but it’s important to consider packing a few just-in-case items.
If you’re preparing for a killer trip in the next few weeks or months (you should be!), follow our guide for what to take and what to leave out of your vacation wardrobe. Here are the cutting-edge trends and vacation don’ts you need to know.
25 Airport Athleisure (Take)
No true travelista is hitting the airport in heels and their best dress. Leggings all the way, baby! It makes sense to wear sleek athletic wear for your journey not only because it looks sharp and on-trend but because it is probably the most comfortable thing in your wardrobe anyway. Besides, maybe some ex-boyfriend’s t-shirts which you should DEFINITELY leave at home.
All the most jet-setting celebs wear trendy athleisure looks these days, from LAX to JFK and beyond. Take inspiration from A-list it girls like Kendall Jenner, Lili Reinhart, and Hailey Baldwin who are all frequent flyers. They’ve been photographed looking like they’re on their way to the gym while walking to their departure gates. Comfort and style make this travel outfit a must.
An added bonus to wearing your best athleisure getup on the plane is that it can double as sleepwear or workout wear throughout your vacation.
These outfits are perfect for lounging around an airport or a hotel on a rainy day. It’s never a bad idea to hit your resort’s gym while on vacay to keep your fitness goals on track. Usually, you’ll be able to hop into a pool or hotel spa right after anyway! What a life.
24 Long Layered Shirts (Leave)
For summer, most of your shirts should either be cropped or literally cropped out of your wardrobe. This doesn’t mean we’re asking everyone to show their Taylor Swift midriffs. Designs from recent years are showcasing the natural waist, with shorter shirts and pants/skirts with a higher rise. A tank top that goes all the way down and hugs your butt under a shirt that hits you at hip-level might fit into your comfort zone, but it doesn’t fit into a modern summer wardrobe.
We remember when Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie ruled the scene wearing double tank tops and extra-low-rise jeans. Those days are long gone. Try updating your vacation wardrobe by cutting one of your shirts to just below your ribs. If you cut a deep V at the side or right at your bellybutton, you can tie both arms of the V into a knot and give yourself a shirt that looks like it was designed as a crop top. There are more tips on styling crop tops at number 17 on this list, in case you missed them!
Be brave and step into 2018 with a shirt that doesn’t droop below your hips! It’s time. Plus, less shirt material means more space in your suitcases for souvenirs.
23 An Off-Shoulder Look (Take)
If there’s one item of clothing that screams “summer 2018,” it’s an off-shoulder dress. Easy to pack and easy to wear, an off-shoulder dress or top is absolutely essential. It leaves your shoulders free from strappy tan lines and offers an easy breezy vibe perfect for any #travelgram post.
Take it from Bahamian royalty Rihanna, Selena Gomez, and Bella Hadid, all snapped in off-shoulder styles this summer. Take inspiration from them by wearing off-shoulder dresses that ruffle at the top in a bright bold hue. More subdued colors work well with long dresses or off-shoulder tops paired with tapered bottoms—think dark denim shorts or jeans.
An off-shoulder neckline lets you easily feature a simple necklace as part of your look. On the other hand (or other shoulder), you could swipe some liquid highlight on your collarbone and dare to go bare-necked. Both look fab with off-shoulder tops and dresses. Throw on a sun hat, shades, and a cross-body bag and you’re all set for any warm weather adventure.
Worried about pulling off this look because of your bra situation? It’s definitely best to go strapless with an off-shoulder top, but nobody will call you out if you keep it strappy. Consider wearing a bikini top underneath instead, or just go braless under the ruffle. It’s your vacation after all!
22 Blingy Embellishments (Leave)
These days, fake jewel appliques are also dated and can come across as looking pretty cheap. That’s for good reason: when manufacturers make two styles of shirt for the same price and one shirt has embellishments on it, they’re cutting corners on quality to make up for spending extra on the bling. The shirt with a simple cut and no embellishments will be of better quality for the price at hand.
Watch celebrities if you don’t believe us. It’s much more chic to wear simple single-fabric pieces of clothing (a cotton top and denim skirt) than it is to wear pieces with bits of rhinestone and sequin sprinkled across them. The one and only exception to this rule is Beyonce’s jacket from her Formation tour which was blinged out to spell “Mrs. Carter” in rhinestones on the back. Is there anything this queen can’t pull off?
Find those sequin-embellished pieces in your closet and either donate them or pack them away—DO NOT pack them for your trip abroad. They’ll only cheapen your wardrobe and take away from your own more natural beauty. Make like a true jet-setter and sparkle all on your own.
21 A Relaxed Romper (Take)
Rompers are essential packing for any 2018 vacation. Yes, they’re adorable and super versatile–they’re also absolutely on trend–but the main reason to pack one is for how much space it saves. These looks are outfits all in one, not requiring you to pack a separate top, bottom, belt, etc. that other outfits often entail.
A romper is SO unbelievably easy to wear, which is a perk for any travel look. You don’t need to waste those precious vacation moments deciding how to style yourself. Just throw on the one-piece romper and a pair of stylish slide sandals and you’re ready to explore any beachside or city street. You wouldn’t look out of place on a day trip through a museum or a stroll through a busy marketplace. Some fashion-forward folks call rompers “playsuits,” and that’s exactly what they’re meant to be worn for. Play away!
Keep your vacation wardrobe versatile by choosing a color and style of romper that coordinates with some of your other key pieces. Think, does this shade suit several pairs of shoes? Could I wear it under my open jacket if it gets cold? Could I dress it up with the right accessories? The answer should be a big YES.
20 Summer Scarves (Leave)
Long, skinny, and everything in between—the only place for a scarf on your summer vacation is in your hair or tied to your bag strap for a pop of color. A scarf around your neck makes you look like you’re from a different fashion season or like you’re a flight attendant. Most flight attendants we know are pretty gorgeous, but their ascots are part of their uniforms, not their personal style choices.
If you’re traveling to a part of the world where women of the culture usually wear head coverings, or if scarf head coverings and stylish scarf headbands/turbans are part of your everyday wardrobe, you are the exception to this rule. If you’re not usually a scarf wearer and you’re unsure about visiting religious monuments like historic churches and mosques on your travels, don’t worry. Usually, when these places are accustomed to receiving tourists, they will lend you a scarf covering for your time in the space. At the end of your visit to the attraction, simply hand the scarf back. That way, scarves don’t take up unnecessary space in your luggage.
A scarf around your neck in the summer is not a look you want to feature in your Facebook vacation stories. Take a tip from Tyra Banks and opt to show off your neck whenever you can!
19 Soft Pastel Layers (Take)
Layering is always smart when you have to dress for a long day of adventure. You never know when you’ll end up indoors, outdoors, or caught in a quick change of weather. Why not choose to layer pastel on pastel, one of this season’s most popular palettes?
Millennial pink, baby blue, lilac purple, butter yellow—the softer the shade, the better. When these colors are brought together in one head-to-toe look, the effect is sweet and chic. You could look like a Nashville Instagram filter follows you everywhere you go. Pastel looks also make for great photo ops whenever you see other pastels in nature or in art. Find a pink street mural and pose like you planned the matching moment. Spot a bunch of pale-colored wildflowers and take your place as the flower photo fairy. So artsy and adorable.
Since these colors are so pale and loft, they lend themselves well to soft fabrics. Flowing linens, distressed light denim, tulle, and ultra-light cotton add to the floaty baby-soft effect of pastel style. Pack one complete outfit made up of pastel tones and then wear it all together as well as piece by piece to add a touch of summery sweetness to your holiday wardrobe.
18 Micro Short Shorts (Leave)
Tiny shorts–especially jorts–that look like underwear? Hard pass. They’re so tight that they tend to ride up in the back and front, making for some of the least comfortable bottoms you could ask for. Wedgies, amirite?
Short shorts can be cute if you’ve got a good sense of proportion and you’re comfortable looking a little cheeky from time to time. Maybe with the right Instagram filter, you could pull them off. But we’re sure that after you get the shot, you’ll actually want to pull them off of your body and possibly burn them in a fire. Vacations are all about living your best and most comfortable life. That life does not include uncomfortable and unflattering micro shorts.
This season, micro short shorts will look extra dated since trendsetters like Zoe Kravitz and Nicole Richie have been spotted showing off longer short styles. Bermuda shorts–particularly waist-hugging ones that end just above the knee–are making a big comeback with the help of Kim Kardashian West’s clothing line. Kim might have the most famous butt of our time, so if she chooses to flatter it with longer well-fitting Bermuda short options, you should too.
17 Seriously Steamy Swimwear (Take)
Even if you happen to be vacationing in the Alps, you never want to be caught without a killer bikini or one-piece. Any hotel or resort worth its stars will have some kind of pool, hot tub, and spa situation, no matter where it is in the world.
Stay on trend with a velvet bikini in a jewel tone. The color and texture class it up and photograph well against beachy backgrounds. One-pieces are easily dated depending on their cut, so go for high-cut legs and low-cut underarms/back. The side-skin showing style is back in a big way! Think Kelly from Saved By The Bell or any of the classic Baywatch babes.
If you’re traveling to somewhere hot, one swimsuit is just not enough. They don’t take up much room in your suitcase, so no excuses! Bring a small selection of bathing suits with diverse vibes if you can. These will basically be your outfits for some days of your trip, so if there’s any place in your budget to splurge on quality items, this should be it. Comfort and style are available for every single body type if you know what to look for! Choose your dream one-piece or bikini and live it up under the sun.
16 Ultra-Distressed Denim (Leave)
Depending on where you're traveling to in the world, distressed denim might be considered cutting-edge style. For places with their own editions of Vogue Magazine and certainly for places known for being ahead of the style game, overly distressed denim reads as last season's leftovers.
Jeans with statement holes also offer up vibes that are aggressively casual. Yes, you should kick back while you're on holiday, but save the homely boyfriend jeans for weekends in your hometown. You've saved up your hard-earned money to take this vacation! Take the opportunity to create outfits worth remembering.
The benefits of ultra-distressed denim are beat out by other options on this list. For example, if you're looking for a laid-back relaxed pair of pants to wear while you travel, bring your best athletic leggings for the plane trip and beyond. If you're looking for a trendy casual piece, a chic and easy romper is ready for any adventure. There's just no need to sacrifice so much suitcase space for a stiff and stringy pair of jeans.
If you've invested in a great pair of torn-to-shreds jeans, leave them in your closet for this trip. Don't fret. You can bet that they'll come back around into style again within the next decade.
15 Palm Springs-Inspired Prints (Take)
Remember last summer’s succulent-style trend? Cactus print graphic tees, prickly houseplants, and all the rest? Well, this summer, it’s all about the tropical palm tree vibes. Palm Springs-inspired prints are ultra modern and effortlessly fun.
Imagine rocking in a hammock on the gorgeous California coast, gazing up to the leaves of the palm trees above you. Total bliss! The pattern these leaves make against the bright sky has inspired countless prints ready to freshen up your summer closet. Pack patterns with plenty of contrasting colors, especially green and white, to give this trend a try. It’s especially great on shorts, skirts, and dresses balanced out with neutral shoes and accessories. Another great rule of thumb is to wear bigger, bolder print patterns on sleeker and smaller clothing items and more subtle prints on larger, less structured items of clothing. But, you do you!
Palm Springs, California is all about vintage tropical vibes—laid-back, naturally beautiful, and kind of tacky-chic. Palm trees tower over the roads like streetlights, casting patterned shadows across the hot, hazy landscape. It’s a must-see vacation destination all its own, but no matter where you’re headed, patterns inspired by Palm Springs plant life will look fab.
14 Flower Crowns And Headdresses (Leave)
Are you thinking about packing an Aboriginal headdress or festival flower crown for your next vacation? Unthink about it. These are now fashion pieces that we don't believe will ever come back in style. They may have been staples at festivals of the past, but you’ll get far more likes on your selfies if they don’t feature tacky flower crowns or tone deaf headdresses in 2018.
You could not look less woke than you do with a faux First Nations headdress on your non-Aboriginal head. Cultural appropriation is a big no-no for any traveler. It's one thing to immerse yourself in a culture different from your own and another thing entirely to bring your own crafty interpretation of their culture and wear it as your own personal fashion statement. This goes for kimonos, hijabs, and virtually any clothing item exclusive to a culture's own set of beliefs and customs.
Flower crowns are a less serious offense, but their fashion popularity is definitely past its peak. You can still get away with wearing fresh flowers in your hair if your hippy heart demands it, but leave the glued-on daisy headbands out of your 2018 Instagram posts. Future you will be grateful.
13 Swimwear As Streetwear (Take)
You’re already packing at least one swimsuit anyway–and you’ve probably dropped some real cash on it–so why keep it hidden? Why not turn it into a #look? The days of the swimsuit “cover-up” are long behind us. Nothing looks more laid-back than a bathing suit peeking out of a summer outfit.
To make it work, rock your bikini top instead of a bra (or even a regular top) all vacation long. One-pieces look especially smart because they tuck neatly into any bottoms you choose, kind of like a trendy leotard or bodysuit. If you have a bandeau-style bikini top, take advantage of its “straplessness” by pairing it with any plunging neckline or a stylish off-shoulder shirt/dress.
Get creative! This is one of those rare, amazing occasions when creativity and laziness work really well together. Can’t find clean underwear in your suitcase? Dry bikini bottoms are cute AF. Forgot to bring that crop top that goes with your high-waisted shorts? Go all in with a bikini top as a shirt or stay modest with that one-piece/leotard trick. The options are legit endless. If there’s one time to push out of your comfort zone and get your money’s worth out of your swimwear, it’s holiday time.
12 High-Low Skirts (Leave)
These are the kinds of skirts that remind the average person of a mullet. Just like you wouldn’t wear a mullet on your head, please don’t wear a mullet on your butt. High-low skirts were popular about five years ago, on both star-studded red carpets and metropolitan city streets. Now, we can see that they were a passing trend. The trend has PASSED.
One fatal flaw of the high-low look was always how the cut of the skirt seemed like it could be accidental. Does she really want it that long in the back? Did the front part get bunched up and tucked into her belt somehow? Nope, it's an intentional way to show off some leg while still having a flowy part to your outfit. Being able to trick people from behind into thinking you're wearing an evening gown? We just don't get it.
Skip the high-low skirt in your wardrobe for this vacation. You've probably got a bunch of pictures from 2013 of yourself in it anyway. Swap it out for either a waist-hugging short skirt or a long and beachy full-length option. If no high-low skirt leaves you without something formal in your wardrobe to wear on holiday, check out number 15 on this list for chic evening wear inspo.
11 Plastic Statement Makers (Take)
SS2018 runways were all about the life in plastic. It’s fantastic. You can wear the plastic fashion trend easily while on vacation anywhere in the world this season. Designers went wild making jackets, pants, tops, shoes, and most importantly, accessories that all fit the plastic profile.
Wearing plastic IRL might sound insane to you. The reality is, you might already have some plastic elements in your wardrobe! Man-made leathers are actually derived from plastics, along with a lot of faux precious stones in popular jewelry. But the key to making this trend feel modern is to go for plastic options that are completely transparent.
If you’re vacationing somewhere cold, firstly, why? Secondly, plastic coats and pants are the best way for you to keep warm while showcasing your cutting-edge style. If you’re vacationing somewhere hot, it’s best to keep the plastic trend to your shoe and accessory choices. For footwear, a leucite heel or plastic slide strap makes for a modern-day Cinderella moment. For accessories, the bigger the better! No risk of getting robbed of your best jewels or setting off any metal detectors at the airport. These offer a great opportunity to show off your own quirky style while keeping up with trendy brands like Balmain, Balenciaga, and Calvin Klein.
10 Cargo Shorts (Leave)
We know. Pockets. We all love pockets. Still, there are just some tourist stereotypes that you don't want to feed into. If you happened to pair your brightly-patterned top with cargo shorts, athletic sneakers, and a big ol' camera, congratulations, you've become a candidate for Miss Obviously A Tourist, 2018. There are just some things that frequent travelers avoid, and these are some of them. The travel lifestyle is better suited to luxury leisure looks than construction crew realness.
Cargo shorts are having their moment in menswear collections for spring and summer 2018, but we can't say the same for women's collections. If you rock menswear on the regular, we totally applaud your style. Go grab some cargo shorts and make it work. If you're more feminine-of-center, however, it's best to steer clear of cargo shorts this summer. At least, steer clear from putting them on your own legs. Getting close to guys who are wearing them is completely fair game.
Why look baggy and slouchy when you're exploring the world and having the time of your life? Cargo shorts are incompatible with young carefree vibes. Get yourself a cute side-body bag to carry your essentials and call it a day.
9 Neutral Crop Top And Skirt Combo (Take)
You definitely need to pack a crop top and skirt combo in neutral shades. Think nude, cream, stone grey, navy blue, and olive tones. Why? Because not only does this make a great outfit on its own, but it also features items that are incredibly easy to pair with the other items you’ve already packed.
Crop tops are fresh and young, and you don’t need to show a lot of skin to pull them off. Pair them with skirts that hit you at your natural waist and you’ll look like you’re barely showing any tummy. Wearing the outfit with a peek of skin at the waist also gives your proportions a flattering boost, highlighting your waistline and making your legs look longer.
Make this your #OOTD for at least one of your laid-back vacation days and then mix and match the top and bottom with any of your other pieces. High-waisted skirts look killer with a one-piece swimsuit as a top. A neutral crop top will go with any fun palm-patterned shorts or pants you pack too. If you don’t already own a crop top, make like casual celebs Cara Delevingne and Kendall Jenner and tie a full-length tee in a knot at your waist. Instant summer fashion update.
8 Daring Slogan Tops (Leave)
What might seem like an innocent joke to us might come across as truly offensive abroad. This is ESPECIALLY true for graphic tees featuring the language of the country you’re visiting. If you don’t speak Japanese but you have a jacket with Japanese writing on it, you might be embarrassed wearing it in Japan around people who actually know what the writing says. You only need to look at bad tattoo translations to see how truly embarrassing foreign language labels can be.
Slogan tees are fun and can be totally hilarious or meaningful in the right context. A candidate's merch at a political rally is perfectly acceptable, but taking that merch on the road and using it to advertise your politics abroad is less well-advised. Even a simple Coca-Cola logo on a t-shirt can be misinterpreted by people of different cultures. According to the Coca-Cola company itself, the phonetic interpretation of its name translates to "Bite the Wax Tadpole" in Chinese. When the company realized this, they were quick to modify their Chinese branding campaigns.
You might be likely to forget that something you pack has words on it, so double-check and make sure everything will come across as respectful to the locals you meet. How often do you look at your clothes from a foreigner's point of view? It's worth taking a moment to make sure you don't pack anything accidentally offensive.
7 Day-To-Night Sleepwear (Take)
Again, this is all about making good choices about what to PACK for your next great vacation. In the pursuit of saving space and staying on trend, dare to take sleepwear to the streets with a breezy slip dress, silky dressing gown/kimono, or straight-up satin PJs.
Celebrities have gone so far as to wear underwear as outerwear, like the bra-over-shirt-wearing Kendall Jenner and her lingerie-and-leather-pants-wearing sister, Kim. Kylie has probably done this at least once too. When your underwear costs as much as a luxury coat, why not wear it outside? We’re not sure we could go that far, but sleepwear is fair game. Whether you wear them beyond the boundaries of your hotel room or not, you’ll need to pack at least one third as many sleeping outfits as there are nights in your trip.
If you can picture yourself having an awesome day of exploration and adventure, tiring yourself out and then slipping into bed with just a few modifications to your outfit, then this option is for you. Stylish sleepwear made with luxe fabrics and pretty lace makes for lovely lounge wear too for those days when you just want to stay in and soak up the freedom of not having to go to work. PJs all day!
6 Your Best Jewelry Looks (Leave)
No matter how stunning your best jewelry is, you probably want to leave it at home while you travel. Remember when Kim K lost her diamond earring in the ocean? This is a REAL possibility, people! Why risk it?
This is especially true for pieces of jewelry that are sentimental to you. How awful would you feel if your grandmother's ring or your graduation present necklace got lost along with your luggage during a plane transfer? Leave your most meaningful jewelry pieces safe and sound at home if you can. Engagement and wedding rings are pretty safe since they're always within view, but don't underestimate the skill and determination of international criminals to swipe your best items from your suitcases while they're in transit to your hotel or left unattended at your resort.
Alternative options include cheap dupes of great jewelry pieces or purchases that use interesting fabrics and materials. Plastic jewelry is hot right now and so easy to wear, as explained in item 18 on this list. Another perfect option is simple string tassel earrings and necklace, made of cheap and lightweight fabric. They add so much color and texture to a simple beach look and won't set you back a few grand if they end up lost or stolen.