Expert Packing Tips & The Perfect Summer Travel Outfit

Happy Tuesday, friends! I’ve had a busy weekend with out of town guests, and I haven’t been working much so today I’m republishing a popular post from the archives — Expert Packing Tips & the Perfect Summer Travel Outfit.

Expert Packing Tips & The Perfect Summer Travel Outfit

Whether you fly or drive, packing for a family can be quite an ordeal, so 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. In addition to that, I travel a bit for work, so I’ve had to do a lot of packing over the years.

My best 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, who 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

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 scenarios. 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, and Soma has some 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. 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.

The Perfect Summer Travel Outfit

This outfit is from several year ago, but I didn’t update it for today’s post because honestly, it’s still pretty much exactly what I wear for summer travel. In fact, I still own and love this cardigan.

Expert Packing Tips & The Perfect Summer Travel Outfit

cardigan // tank top options // similar shorts // sandals // tote bag options

These Joe’s jean shorts (similar) are super comfortable, but they look nice enough if we stop to eat or sight-see along the way. Any tee or tank will work — I try to wear something that looks nice with or without a layer on top.

And this cardigan is one of the best clothing investments I’ve ever made. I throw it on over everything — I wear it on cool mornings or evenings over my clothes or pajamas, I bring it along when I’m going out to eat or to the grocery store in case 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. Mary’s advice about wearing your heaviest shoes makes sense for air travel, but I when we travel by car, I prefer to have something light that I can put on and off easily.

Finally, a large tote holds my laptop, purse contents, and all the extra stuff we seem to accumulate as we travel.

That’s what I wear for summer car travel, but I always wear jeans on a plane (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 typically wear on the plane.

Expert Packing Tips & The Perfect Summer Travel Outfit

cardigan // tank top options // skinny jeans // flats // tote bag options // suitcase

Yes, this is the same 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 swapped the shorts for jeans and the sandals for flats. I often wear my Tory Burch Minnie travel flats, but if you have TSA pre-check, be warned that these will set off the metal detector. Another comfy ballet flat is the Sam Edelman Felicia.

My Favorite Luggage

I get a lot of questions about my luggage when I post pictures. I have several Delsey Chatelet Spinner Trolleys, and I love them. They aren’t the most lightweight of suitcases, but they’re sharp looking and they hold up pretty well. I did have one leather strap that came unglued, but I think that was a fluke. My other three pieces have held up great.

The insides are completely lined with a nice, thick cotton material, and 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

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

And that’s about all I’ve got! I hope Mary’s travel tips are helpful, and my outfits give you some style inspiration for your summer travels. I’d love to hear from you if you have any packing tips to add or product recommendations.

Also, consider joining my JLS Tribe Facebook Group! It’s the one I started for the #NSale, but I kept it open because it has taken off and become a fun community of women chatting all things fashion and style.

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27 thoughts on “Expert Packing Tips & The Perfect Summer Travel Outfit

  1. Wow!  I should send you and Mary a thank you note for this post.  

    I’m beginning my vacay packing today and this is full of brilliant tips!  There are a few that I knew but forgot, and some I never heard before.  I was freaking about all I wanted to bring.  And though I can’t cure myself in one trip, I think you’ve given me all I need to calm it down and git ‘er done.   

  2. Very timely post as I am finishing my packing for a long vacation.  I love the cubes…actually have a lot more room in my suitcase for more shoes, of course!!

  3. Wow, great tips.  Never thought about picking the shoes first!  When we do our Maine vaca, I always being a collapsible pop up hamper (Dollar Tree)  to use during the week.  Since we have a washer/dryer in the condo, I’m able to wash everything the night before & repack. I need to keep this in mind for my 3 day Girlfriend Cape May trip, where I somehow manage to take a large PLUS a carryon suitcase, what??

  4. Really helpful post!  I don’t travel often (dog sitter woes) but when I do, I always overpack 🙁

    This was good, practical advice.  

  5. Thank you so much for information. I am getting ready to fly by myself for the first time and this helps a lot. 

  6. I’ve managed to get my packing down to “ just right”. I no longer take a large suitcase. And  what I pack, I wear, as before I would come home with things never worn. I’ll never get to the point of a itsy bitsy carry on for anything more than a weekender. I need a bit of variety. I do pick a coloured coded wardrobe so I can mix the various pieces. I roll my clothes and stuff little things into my footwear. 
    The packing cubes sound interesting. I may invest in a few of those. 

  7. Great tips!  I have never heard of quick dry underwear before!  I loved your cardigan when I first saw one of your posts about it, but figured it would be way too long for me.  I found one last year at Old Navy that is similar, but shorter, and I love it!  It is multi-purpose and great for travel.  I’m definitely an over packer, but try hard to keep it under control.  Ha.  The packing cubes really do allow more items, while using less space.  Also, one of my favorite things to pack is collapsible hangers that I found on Amazon.  They come in handy when the place you are staying doesn’t provide enough.  

  8. So fun to see my tips pop up again! I’m on the road today myself. Off for a two week road trip in our travel trailer from California to South Dakota as our furthest destination with a few days in Denver to hang with our son, DIL, and new little granddaughter. I happily overpack for these types of trips since I don’t have to drag a suitcase anywhere. Even though we are ‘camping’ I always bring a cute dress and some date night kind of clothes. Happy travels to everyone! 

  9. Thanks for this appropriate topic! I have a bunch of mini trips planned over the next few months so this will proof useful. Do you have any suggestions for a travel make up mirror. No matter how nice the hotel that’s always one of my issues. have a great day!

  10. I always use ziploc snapbags for shampoo, conditioner, hand cream etc. Then I don’t have to come home with any containers or need to wash them out. Put all the little ziplocs in a bigger ziplock and you are good to go. I have never had one leak on me, even in a backpack.

  11. Great post I was just on a trip this weekend and all it did was rain. So this was kind of a business trip, so I packed a lot of white dress pants and cute tops in yellows and creams. And my favorite shoes to match. Well after one day of the rain in my cute shoes and white pants I am slipping on my workout clothes and hitting the stores. Maybe next time just one pair of white pants Ugh what was I thinking.

  12. Your post inspired my travel outfit last month to the Bahamas. Wearing my sneakers and layers was perfect. But next time, I will skip the tank top with the tie at the waist. TSA didn’t like it, LOL.

  13. Another tip I recently heard was to pack an extension cord. That way when multiple people are trying to use the bathroom in a hotel, you can use the mirror in the room to do your hair in case there isn’t a plug near by. I think it was from Kelly at Adore Your Wardrobe

    I snagged some packing cubes on sale for prime day and will get to try them out next week. 

  14. Great tips! Flying soon so I’ll use these.

    I’m confused by the wording on #8 though: “packing in a carry-on is, in my opinion, a huge safety precaution” but then ends the paragraph by saying “you can avoid iffy situations better with a carry-on, and with a single bag, you look like a traveler and not a tourist.”

    Huh? Maybe I’m interpreting it wrong. Haha.

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