If you’ll be traveling this summer, it’s not too early to start thinking about your packing list. A little advance planning can prevent both overpacking and those “nothing to wear” conundrums.
A 12-Piece Summer Travel Wardrobe Capsule
Packing for city travel in summer (or any warmer months) can be especially challenging. You may be spending lots of time on foot, using public transit, and moving between warm, humid exteriors and chilly air-conditioned interiors. Comfortable clothing that breathes and can accommodate a range of temperatures is essential. For that reason, I’ve tried to stick to fabrics with a high percentage of natural fibers.
Top row: Jacket | Tee (similar) | Shirt | Cardigan (similar)
Second row: Tee | Tee | Blouse (similar) | Shirt
Third row: Bag | Hat | Sunglasses
Fourth row: Pants (similar) | Pants | Pants | Dress (similar)
Shoes: Sneakers | Sandals | Loafers
Plus options: Jacket (similar) | Tee | Shirt (similar) | Cardigan (similar)
Tee | Tee | Blouse (similar) | Shirt
Pants | Pants | Pants | Dress (similar)
I’ve created this capsule predicated on consistently warm-to-hot weather. You may want to adjust the weight of some pieces for destinations with milder summers, or where temperatures may fluctuate. I always include at least one “unseasonable” piece, this time a lightweight cashmere-blend cardigan, which may be handy for the plane or if conditions turn unexpectedly chilly.
This wardrobe would be appropriate for both city and country sightseeing, and accommodate day to evening activities. If you have a fancy occasion (such as a wedding), or will be doing “outdoor adventure” type activities (e.g. hiking, horseback riding), you’ll need to add pieces accordingly. Otherwise, we’ve found that for most venues, “smart casual” is as dressed up as we need to be.
Although I will be including a few black pieces in my own summer travel wardrobe, I wanted to create this hypothetical one without any black. Navy is the primary dark neutral; beige and white lighten up the mix. I’ve attempted to provide maximum variety without sacrificing wardrobe cohesion. Any of the tops should work with any of the bottoms.
- I included both an unlined linen jacket and a warmer cardigan as optional top layers. I find a light jacket like this a lifesaver in heavily air-conditioned restaurants and theaters. You could substitute a linen cardigan if you prefer.
- When it’s just too hot for an outer layer, tops with color and/or pattern add visual interest. I’ve kept colors mostly neutral here, but you can always go for more color if you prefer.
- I’ve included both short and long-sleeved tops. You can adjust based on your preferences. When considering longer sleeves, look for those that can be pushed or rolled up to provide more options.
- A button-front shirt can also be worn open over a tank or tee, increasing your options.
- Travel-Friendly Linen Pieces
Bottoms & Dress
- I’ve included 3 pairs of lightweight pants. All are ankle length or shorter, which will be more comfortable in the heat.
- You can always swap out one or more pairs for skirts, if you prefer.
- I included a midi-length shirtdress, which can be worn belted as shown, without the belt, or even worn open as a duster. It’s all about the options! 😉
Shoes & Accessories
- Usually 2-4 pairs of shoes will be all you need. I’ve included one sneaker, one sandal and one loafer in this capsule, but you can change up to suit your preferences.
- Unless you’ll be attending a wedding or other “special occasion,” leave the heels at home.
- Be sure all of the shoes you’re planning to bring have been “road tested” and are comfortable.
- How To Choose The Right Shoes For Travel
- You may want to add a lightweight scarf or two, and a warmer wrap for the plane. A light cotton bandana not only adds color, but can keep the sun off your neck, or be used as a hair tie.
- Jewelry can be another way to add color, but I’d advise leaving your precious pieces at home.
- I’ve included my favorite travel handbag (other colors available) but if you need a larger handbag, this one is lightweight, and has a crossbody strap.
This 12-piece Summer travel wardrobe should easily fit into a carry-on. I like to use packing cubes to keep everything neat and organized, and to minimize wrinkles.
More Summer Travel Wardrobe Ideas
Will you be traveling this summer? What’s your destination?
Thanks Susan for another timely and useful post. No doubt that pulling together these selections is time consuming and the information is much appreciated. I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years ( Toronto area) and have found many useful tips. My husband and I will also be in France/Italy this summer and the UK and Brittany in a few weeks. We have worked hard and saved our money and are travelling while we are able, as so many advise. Thanks particularly for the packing and Eileen Fischer links.
Leaving for Amsterdam on Sat. Your blog has been so helpful with my packing!! Suitcase weighs 22 lbs!! Amazing!! Thanks so much for all your tips and help!
As always, a carefully considered travel wardrobe that will meet the challenge of hot weather chic.
Your travel capsule wardrobes have revolutionised how I pack for overseas travel, thank you!
Would you believe packing my holiday clothes is actually fun to me? Hahaha I know that sounds crazy but I love working out my outfits, it’s almost as fun as the holiday!
We’re doing a road trip to North Carolina this Summer so I’ll be packing a slightly different holiday capsule than usual. I always take a wrap dress no matter where we go. It’s just the easiest piece to wear, pack and layer in my opinion.
You have some stellar pieces here too Susan.
Love your Travel Wardrobe Resource page. So helpful.
Heading to Berlin, Prague and Budapest from June 2-13. I have a large foot (size 11.5/12) and shoes are my biggest issue – comfort, style and versatility. LInen is my go to for comfort and variety – I don;t mind giving it a press in the hotel!
My UK cousin also has feet about your size & often buys her shoes/boots in Germany. She prefers more feminine styles & usually finds a good selection in her size.
Enjoy your trip.
terrific info! I’ll be in Berlin for 4 days so will definitely go shoe shopping. If she has any suggestions as to where, let me know – thanks!
Beth, Germany and the Netherlands are both great sources for long feet and long people. There is a blogger on Sue’s list from the Netherlands (No fear of fashion) and I believe, another from Germany. Good luck!
Yes, I agree with Lagatta’s comment. I think the German blogger is Annette H & her blog is ladyofstyle.com
I also follow Annette’s blog to help keep up my German. Lagatta, my French is also as weak as my German!
This is the best travel wardrobe you have done in my opinion! It has variety while still being practical. I particularly like the wide leg pants and the shirtdress. The absence of black is very refreshing and encourages the bits of color you have included. So many travel wardrobes are just different combinations of black, white, and gray. Practical maybe but not much fun and not flattering on some complexions.
The sandals in the middle of the fifth row above by Naot allow for custom orthotics. I purchased these a few weeks back and they accommodate my arch supports and are so comfortable.
Susan, this is your best yet! Love it all and especially the accessory tweaks! So refreshing! Job well done and so much appreciated. I’m not travelling this summer but you can bet I am going to copy your look for my jaunts around town! Please don’t tire of entertaining and educating us in fashion, we really appreciate your time and efforts.
Yahoo!!! Just in time – merci beaucoup!! I’m leaving to go to southwest France in 2 weeks. I’ll be gone for the whole month of June….most of the time I’ll be teaching 2 painting workshops, but in between I’ve got 5 days on my own. I’ll be driving over to Provence to see a show, Carrières de Lumières. I can hardly wait!!!
I agree that this is your best travel wardrobe ever.
Well done, Susan. Not only will this work very well, I think you will look European. I like your choice of short and long sleeves. I am over three-quarter sleeves. One question: no jacket?
Love the wardrobe, now if only I was going on a trip….. Lol
I agree this is a lovely wardrobe, but not so sure about the ‘travel’ bit. Those shirts would surely require ironing if they are to look good (speaking as someone who has just returned from a 2 week trip living out of a suitcase).
And while we’re on the subject of said trip – for the first time I really thought hard about what to pack (thanks to all the tips in your blog) and was quite happy with the capsule I took.
Thanks for your blog – you do a fantastic job.
I enjoyed the post. I’m leaving in 3 days for 2 weeks in and near Bordeaux, usually bring all black or grey pants and multiple coordinating shirts but trying to branch out. Navy, maybe…
I also enjoyed this post and capsule ideas, thanks Susan! Have just arrived in Vancouver (from Oz) to spend the summer in BC with family so some good ideas here to help me refresh my wardrobe, which will then be used in later summer/early Spring in Europe. PS My first two pieces of French Kande jewellery arrived yesterday and I love them!!! Hoping to buy more when I pop down to the USA as the import tax to Canada was a killer!
Going to Nova Scotia for 2 weeks in July (first time – planning to drive from Baltimore and stop in Maine along the way) and then to Milwaukee for Milwaukee Irish Fest in August. I’ve been there before (I grew up there) and I’m not worried about attire for that. Not quite sure how to pack for the NS trip, though.
You will love Nova Scotia – beautiful scenery, lovely people and great food, especially if you like seafood. It can be warm & sunny and then blustery & rainy. Pack a folding raincoat ( like kind that goes in a pouch ) and/ or poncho, sturdy footwear to withstand rain and for going on some amazing hikes/walks ( especially in Cape Breton, the south shore and Bay of Fundy areas ).
Enjoy your trip,
Going to Poland in August, supposed to be coolish, but the outer layers will make sense.
Going to the West Mediterranean in November as well, just will need to add some heavier layers for that trip, and different shoes, too.
Another great travel post. I’m currently on a trip to the Italian and French Riviera where it’s quite unseasonably cool. As you’ve suggested in the past I started with the shoes and worked from there. I have 2 pairs of athletic shoes Fit Flop and Puma plus a pair of Rothy’s and a pair of Hermès flats. The Rothys did not have enough support for the cobblestones but they packed very light. Otherwise I’m wearing mostly layers and long sleeves. It all packed into a small roller bag so I may have room for small gifts. It was a struggle to edit down so much but worth it for all of the traveling we’ve done. Thanks again!
Leaving for a late June/early July 2 week trip near Pau by way of overnight stays in London (saved $1000 per ticket that way!). The stay in France will be in a small village and will include some hiking. I love the above travel capsule but I would like to include jeans, a pair of shorts, and will not bring a dress. Like you, black is my favorite, but navy is a possible base color. I would love to see your planned actual capsule for your upcoming trip.
Hi Elle, your trip sounds like a lot of fun! I’ll be posting my actual travel wardrobe in a few days. I like to wait until close to departure to make my final selections based on most updated weather forecasts.
Susan, I am also waiting until I have a better feel for the weather. The weather is now cool, but it could become hot rather suddenly–and of course, rainy. Choosing the best layers is always the hardest part of packing for me. I’ve recently been searching for TV events with European venues to determine what seems to be in style. I’m seeing a lot of white jeans and court style white sneakers. What do you think?
I’m planning to pack my white Cole Haan sneakers (they’re one of the few sneaker styles I find comfortable) and I’m seriously considering including a pair of white jeans. We’ll have access to laundry services for most of the second half of our trip so…
Susan, have you ever packed for a girls’ week at the beach? We will be celebrating turning 65, staying in a condo at a Florida beach for a week with no plans other than reading books, eating shrimp, and lounging by the pool/shoreline. There will be no dressy evenings. Do I even need a full 12 pieces?
Hi Lisa, for casual beach vacations, you can certainly get by with much less! (Especially if you’ll have access to laundry facilities.) For 1 week I’d pack 2-3 swimsuits, 2-3 cover-ups (e.g. pareos or caftans, which can also be worn off the beach) and either 1 dress or 1-2 tanks + 1 pair of lightweight pants. A couple pairs of sandals, and you should be all set!
LOVE this! My husband and I are going to Montreal for a week in August and have limited choices in luggage space. This gives me everything I need, with lots of options to mix and match outfits. Thank you!