Expert Packing Tips & the Perfect Summer Travel Outfit

Happy Tuesday, friends! I’m back with the 3rd of 5 posts in our Coast-to-Coast Summer Survival blog hop, and today we’re talking about surviving summer travel.

Summer Survival: 8 Expert Packing Tips & the Perfect Summer Travel Outfit

Whether you fly or drive, packing for a family can be quite an ordeal, so for today’s post I’m sharing a list of expert packing tips from a frequent traveler as well as my favorite luggage and my go-to summer travel outfit.

While our family isn’t jet-setting around the globe on a regular basis, every summer we road trip it to Maine to visit family, and we usually take at least one other family vacation during summer break, so I’ve had to do a lot of packing over the years.

My best family travel tip is to keep a master packing list on your computer. Mine looks like this. (This is a generic version that I created to share. You can CLICK HERE for a printable if you’d like to have it.)

Family Travel Packing List Printable

Yes, it is old; note the @musings of a housewife in the footer! That’s a blast from the past, yes???

I try to update our personal family packing list regularly so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time we go somewhere. Then I can just adjust it depending on where we are going and what we need to bring. (For example, the sheets and towels are for when we rent a house, but obviously we don’t need that section if we’re going to a hotel or staying with family.)

When it comes to packing, I am not the most efficient packer. I subscribe to the theory that there is no such thing as over-packing. Ha! Just ask my husband, who has to carry my suitcase(s).

But we happen to have an expert in our midst! Mary Fowler is a long-time blog reader and commenter and an active part of our Fashion Over 40 Facebook Group, and she has traveled the globe and pretty much mastered the art of packing light. She sent me these amazing packing tips a while back and gave me permission to use them on the blog.

Here is what she said:

8 Expert Packing Tips


I have traveled quite a bit over the years for both business trips and now only for pleasure, but I’ve got it down now where I can go anywhere in a carry-on — for up to a month. It’s like the capsule wardrobe but with some tweaks. Here’s my top tips:

1) Figure out your shoes first. It’s a strange place to start but I find your activities dictate your shoes. I think about what activities we will be doing and select the shoes for it. I usually take 3 pair, plus one pair flip flops for slippers/beach wear. All shoes have to be useful for walking which is why I bought Vionic flip-flops with arch support for Maui.

2) Make clothes choices based on weight, and always wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane. This makes for a lighter suitcase, and less bulk means you have space for more items. More items means more choices for outfits. Lightweight clothes are also easily layered and dry quickly if you wash them out. I’ve made some purchases targeted for traveling. For example, I have a Patagonia parka that is about 8 oz and compresses easily into my travel purse. My raincoat fits in the outside zipper compartment of my suitcase, and my hiking shoes weigh 7 oz each.

3) Don’t think in terms of outfits. Instead, choose a basic color or two for bottoms and add tops and accessories that work with all of the bottoms. Make sure the shoes you’re taking work with all outfit combos. I don’t take anything that does not interchange, and I don’t add shoes to make an outfit work.

4) Think through various possible scenerios. For example:

  • What would I wear if it rains while we are hiking?
  • Will I be comfortable walking in my dressier shoes if we take the subway to a restaurant?
  • What’s my plan if not? Can my pashmina work with this outfit if it’s chilly?

This part takes time, but it’s worth the effort to make sure you’ve got everything covered.

5) Roll the clothes and use mesh zippered packing cubes. Ziplock baggies also work. Clothes stay compressed nicely in the suitcases using the bags and nothing is loose. I use one for underclothes/pjs/scarfs/swimsuits/misc, one for tops, and one for bottoms.

6) Invest in quick drying underwear. I take three pair — one to wear, one to wash, and one spare. I have ExOffico brand but Soma has some lace ones that work too. Every night I wash the ones I wore that day in the shower or sink, and they are dry by the next day. I usually wash out my top nightly so I have most of my clothes clean and available to choose from on any day. If it is an extended trip, we visit a Laundromat every 8-10 days or so. That’s always a fun adventure in a foreign country.

7) Bring only the essential cosmetics in the smallest sizes. I don’t use a lot of products so this is pretty easy for me. I have 3 oz travel containers for my shampoo, conditioner, and Woolite. The liquids go into a ziplock for TSA. Makeup goes in small zippered case in my Baggalini travel purse. The Baggalini bags are really functional, but they are kinda ugly so I put a cute small crossbody bag in my suitcase too.

8) Packing in a carry-on is, in my opinion, a huge safety precaution when traveling out of the country. (Actually anywhere when you fly.) If you have a huge suitcase you are trying to move thru airports or into cabs or trains, you are not as alert to your surroundings. You can avoid iffy situations better with a carry-on, and with a single bag, you look like a traveler and not a tourist.

I’ve got some other tricks but these are the basics that work for me. Once I got the hang of this, I found it very freeing, and I still feel I bring too much.

So there you have it, some fabulous packing tips from someone who has this packing thing down to a science. I especially love the tip to start with the shoes. I am definitely going to try that next time I pack to go somewhere! And I’d never heard of quick drying underwear. Who knew!?!

I kind of had to giggle at #7! Of course a cute crossbody is a necessity no matter how efficient a packer you are! Says the fashion blogger…

And that is the perfect segue. Now let’s talk about what to wear when we travel. (And thanks, Mary, for sharing all of your expert tips with us! I can’t wait to try them the next time I go somewhere.)

The Perfect Summer Travel Outfit

I’ve shared this outfit before, but I pretty much wore a variation of this on every trip we took this summer, and it really is the perfect summer travel outfit.

Summer Survival: Expert Packing Tips & the Perfect Summer Travel Outfit

cardigan // tank // shorts // similar tote // Sam Edelman Greta Sandals // bangles c/o Alex and Ani // belt

The shorts are super comfortable, but they look nice enough if we stop to eat or sight-see along the way. The tank is cute, but I will admit, it does wrinkle. Often I’ll wear a cotton tank or tee instead.

And this draped cardigan is one of the best investments I’ve made this year. I find myself throwing it on over everything, and even though it’s been a hot summer, I’ve worn it on many a cool morning or evening or when I’m indoors and the A/C is overzealous. (I hate to be cold.) The long flaps even cover my legs a bit if I’m getting chilly sitting in the car.

Sandals are a must for easy-on and easy-off at rest stops, etc. And finally, a large tote holds all the extra stuff we seem to accumulate as we travel.

That’s what I wear for summer car travel. On a plane, I always wear pants (even in summertime) because I don’t want to be cold, plus I try to wear my heavier clothes on the plane to save room and avoid extra weight in my suitcase. (This was also mentioned above. I was glad to know that I’m doing at least SOMETHING right when I pack to travel! Ha!)

Here is what I wore on the plane earlier this summer.


cardigan // tank // skinnies // leopard flats // bangles c/o Alex and Ani // Dalton Pendant

Yes, this is the same draped cardigan in black. I am obsessed with this thing. I have the medium, and it is the perfect size. It’s big enough to be cozy but not so big as to be overwhelming.

I’m even wearing the same tank, but I swapped the shorts for jeans and the sandals for ballet flats.

My Favorite Luggage

I get a lot of questions about my luggage when I post pictures. These are the Delsey Chatelet Spinners, and the black that I have has been discontinued, but they still carry brown and white.

I highly recommend the Delsey brand. This stuff holds up. Airport travel is rough on luggage, but so far so good with these pieces. They’re sturdy but lightweight, and the inside is completely lined with a nice, thick cotton material. Each piece of luggage also includes a garment compartment with a hanger and removable pouches for packing toiletries and small items. Take a peek.

delsey inside

I had never spent this kind of money on luggage before I purchased these, but what we have is getting really beat up, and I wanted something that would last longer and be easier to maneuver around the airport. I have a 24″ and a 28″ and I really want 21″ to add to my collection, but I can’t find it in black. Boohoo.

If you travel very often, I do recommend getting the best luggage you can afford. It makes a huge difference — especially with airport travel.

One other thing I’ve started doing when I travel is bringing along a few of these laundry travel pouches. I ordered them when I saw another fashion blogger recommend them, and now I don’t travel anywhere without them. I throw anything wet or stinky into these bags and it keeps them separated from my clean clothes.

These are especially useful to those of us who work out regularly and have stinky workout clothes to bring home. It is also helpful when traveling with the kids. When I’m alone, I can keep my own stuff separated out, but when kids are involved, everything seems to get mixed up. These bags are easy for them to use, and it helps keep some order to things when living out of a suitcase. (I’m dying to try those mesh packing cubes Mary mentioned!)

And that’s all I’ve got! I’d love to hear from you if you have any packing tips to add or product recommendations.

Coast to Coast Summer Survival

CCSummerSurvivalWeek2Jo-Lynne || Gina || Rachelle || Cyndi || Caryl

Now follow through our coast-to-coast blog hop by heading to the Midwest for Carylee’s take on this week’s theme, or simply use the links above to meet each blogger in this series.

Did you like this post?

Subscribe to get updates in your email inbox! You can also connect with me on Instagram and Facebook.

This post contains affiliate links. When you shop through my links, it helps support my business (at no additional cost to you) so thank you!