The one thing I always pack for warm weather travel…

If you’re planning to travel someplace warm, and want to stay cool but need some coverage, consider packing a relaxed linen shirt or top.

In comments and responses to my post on 12-piece travel capsule wardrobes, some of you mentioned that you’ll be traveling to warmer climates, and asked for suggestions. While the wardrobe ideas I shared in that post are intended for milder transitional seasons, I wanted to address this common question.

My top pick to pack for warm-to-hot weather

Perhaps your itinerary includes visiting churches, temples, or other sites where “modest” dress may be required. Or perhaps you just want to minimize your sun exposure. Staying cool and covered can be challenging. One piece I always pack for warmer seasons or destinations (and have never regretted) is a relaxed linen shirt. Linen is lightweight, breathable, washable, and dries more quickly than cotton.

How to look polished in the heat: Susan B. wears a green no-iron linen shirt, off-white slim utility pants, leather sandals.

I wear mine alone as a top, or as a lightweight topper over a tee, tank, or sleeveless dress. I also find a linen shirt helps keep me from getting chilled in air-conditioned interiors.

It may be hard to wrap your head around if you’re still dealing with freezing temperatures, but I’ve found February and March are the best months to shop for linen pieces (especially with sleeves). By May, the styles available skew more bare and beachy.

Susan B wears a linen shirt tied at the waist over a tiered maxi dress.

Cool & covered linen shirts for travel

I purchased an earlier version of this shirt several years ago. After many trips, and many washings, it’s still in my wardrobe. (Shown above with a maxi dress. I’m thinking about dyeing it to more of an ivory color.) The Absinthe color is also tempting. Autumns, the Pacifica color is for you! Summers, check out Plume, a soft lilac. Most colors are offered in Petite and Plus sizes too.

Here’s another good one for you Autumns! This linen button-front tunic is available in Regular, Plus, Petite, and Tall sizes.

I like the subtle stripes on this one. Sizes XX-Small to XX-Large.

This one’s quite budget-friendly, very well-reviewed, and available in several colors. Sizes XS-XL.

Nautical and nice, this sailboat-embroidered top is available in sizes 2-14.

They call this a “beach shirt,” but you could probably also wear it as a casual dress. Or unbutton the bottom few buttons and wear over a pair of slim pants. Sizes XX-Small to 3X.

This cheetah print shirt is pretty cute too

Personally, I don’t mind a bit of rumple, and put it down to one of linen’s unique charms. But if the wrinkles are a deal-breaker, you might want to try no-iron linen.

The shirt I’m wearing at the top is last year’s version of this one. While it may pick up a slight crease or two over the day (especially if you’re sitting), it will still look crisp and un-rumpled. And any creases will usually fall out if you hang overnight. It’s available in 4 colors, sizes 00(0-2) to 4(20/22). Here’s one in a navy and white stripe that’s perfect for you Winters!

A linen tee or knit is another option. Here’s a simple crewneck tee with long sleeves. This could be a good layering piece for travel too. It’s available in 5 colors, sizes Petite P to 3X.

To wear with your linen top…

And if you need a bottom piece that’s not shorts or a skirt, I highly recommend these stretch crepe pants. I’ve found them comfortable even in heat & humidity. They’re available in a bunch of neutral shades, sizes Petite P to 3X.

Check out the SHOP for more travel wardrobe ideas, or you can shop by your seasonal color palette:
Spring | Summer | Autumn | Winter

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  1. I don’t think linen works for a trip or vacation. It works only if you have an ironing board in your hotel room!

  2. Hi Susan: I’m interested in your idea to dye your EF linen shirt. Let me know what dye you use. I have the same white shirt and couldn’t bear to give it up. That being said, as a warm season yourself, would you get the white linen long sleeved tee or the Pacifica as a wardrobe staple? (im kicking myself now for ordering those NYDJ’s jeans!)

    1. Pacific is great for most Autumns (and very close to your Marine Navy). If I were to pick one as a Spring, I’d probably go with Absinthe.

  3. Ha! I’m at the tail end of a beach vacation. I’m very pleased with everything I packed (in a carry on) but going in, the one thing I was missing was a beach cover-up. Just couldn’t find anything before the trip. That longer JCrew beach shirt is just the thing Imhad in mind!

  4. I always travel with linen shirts in the summer! They work for such a wide range of temps and climates – so perfect for hot, sticky summer days in Paris with the sleeves rolled up, or as a ‘shacket’ or under a sweater on cooler, rainy days.

    I like the J. Crew Irish linen button downs and have them in all colors that work for me, and I usually travel with my core colors of black, beige (they call it flax) and olive.

    This is a great recommendation!

    1. It’s nice to see you in a dress!! I’m a big dress person…one and done!! I travel with dresses (I know not much variety with a dress) but I don’t mind wearing a couple of times, you are never going to see the people on vacation again!!
      Casual dresses for the summer are so cool!! Please show more in your posts!!!

  5. Poetry is my favorite store for linen. I have purchased two beautiful linen dresses, several pairs of pants as well as tops. While you have to pay for shipping it arrives from London in 4 days and they do have free exchanges.

  6. Along with a linen shirt or two, pack an empty small spray bottle — fill it with water at your destination, then hang and lightly mist your linen tops with water in the evening, and within an hour, the shirt will be wrinkle free. I love linen and never iron it — water works!

      1. I did the mist bottle trick on a river cruise a few years ago, not just with my linen shirt but also with tees. It also helped to “brush” out the wrinkles with my fingers while the shirt was damp. Worked great!

  7. Thank you for all the linen looks you showed. I love the EF linen tee shirts and pants but have been reluctant to tr shirts. I don’t mind wrinkles but wonder how collars and the front will look with wrinkles. I wish you had explained how Chico’s could have wrinkle free linen. Does it feel different, or breathe as much? Also does the quality of the linen affect the amount of wrinkling? Or is this something I just need to take the plunge and experiment?

  8. I could have used this suggestion last year when the weather turned out to be much warmer than I packed for. I had actually held the perfect linen shirt in my hands and then decided not to pack it. I thought about that shirt every day of my trip,
    Meanwhile, I am going to test out that spray bottle tip at home!

  9. I recently bought the Quince linen shirt in driftwood. I’m absolutely sold on the quality, and the price is amazing. Shipping takes a while, but the return policy is generous. I wish they offered some brighter colors. I’m going to try the navy, although I’m not sure it’s a good navy for a Spring.

  10. With warmer weather right around the corner I appreciate the terrific tips. Especially using a linen shirt as a jacket while visiting museums, shops, or other often over air conditioned places. Thank you!

  11. Great timing as I am packing for a week long Caribbean cruise ( PONANT) next week. My bin of linen tops and pants are down from the closet shelf, and I will reacquaint myself with my favourites… some from White Stuff purchased last summer in better colours for me.
    I have 2 white linen tops ,and dyeing never occurred to me . What a plan!
    Since toning up and slimming down, everything fits better.
    The spray bottle idea is a gem! On my to do list now!

  12. I wear shirts like this all summer for a third piece over various linen tanks. I also appreciate a bit of arm coverage and sun protection.

    My linen tanks tend to be from Flax and my linen overshirts are from Foxcroft.

    1. I haven’t seen this one in person yet, and it’s hard to tell from the (filter-applied) photos. But I’ll report back once I’ve had a chance to look at it up close.

  13. Love linen, wrinkles and all, but beware the EF linen jersey tee in white. Very sheer! You can even see how sheer it is in the photo they have on their website (your link). I’ve ordered it in black and haven’t decided whether to keep it not- wish I could find one in flax!

  14. Thank you, Susan, for this post. It’s so hard for me to find things that fit in my particular seasonal palette. I just this week purchased an Eileen Fisher linen tank and matching linen tunic shirt in the beautiful Pacific color, but being petite, the tunic was huge and looked way too long on me. No way to alter it. (But I did keep the tank and matching pants.)

    Being petite (short, not slim) makes it harder, so I appreciate the JJill tunic you posted above, which comes in a petite size range. I think the Dragonfly/navy combo will be ok with my dark Summer palette/coloring.

    I’m traveling this spring to move from Seattle to Arizona, at least temporarily. The JJill tunic should be useful on the road and in Arizona.

  15. Just got back from several days in SW FL and was so glad I packed some linen separates – I lived in them. Yes, they got a little wrinkled, but they quickly relaxed in the high humidity. Everything was either FLAX or Quince, two brands I learned of from your clever readers, so kudos!