Seaside cottages, sunny city streets, and cocktails with those tiny umbrellas await. But before you depart for your summer vacation, you need to put together a well-packed bag. So follow our blueprint for picture-perfect summer packing. Find out which 10 essential apparel and accessory items you should bring on every summer trip, no matter where you're headed.
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On a summer trip to the Galapagos, I wore this ugly hat like it was my job. Sure, I looked like a crocodile hunter. But I also avoided burning my face in the severe equatorial sun, and the neck cord kept the thing on my head while fellow travelers' brims were flying off in the wind. I definitely needed a sturdy safari-style hat for my Galapagos adventure. But there are, of course, more stylish options available, depending on what kind of trip you're taking. This pretty straw hat from H&M is a bargain at only $12.95. San Diego Hat Co. sells cute hats that come in UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) and packable styles.
A more practical, though not very fashionable, idea: Magellan's BugsAway Hat (on sale for $29.98), which repels pests with "Insect Shield" technology.
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Plainly, a swimsuit is a must-pack for any summer trip featuring a body of water and some sun. But for women, a one-piece suit is an especially smart thing to bring. Lots of water activities, from snorkeling to surfing, are best served by a swimsuit that will stay on your body in spite of savage waves. Bring your bikini. But tuck a maillot or, at the very least, a very sturdy two-piece into your bag just in case.
Hate tank suits? ModCloth offers a fabulous selection of vintage-inspired one-piece bathing suits that look nothing like the Speedo you wore in middle school.
Men, take note too. If your swimsuit is even a touch too large, get a new one that fits, lest rough waters turn your wake-surfing excursion into a public embarrassment.
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It's summer vacation. So you might have to get your feet wet, both figuratively and literally. To the rescue: shoes that can withstand water, from packable Wellies to jellies to waterproof hiking boots. Depending on where you're going, consider packing footwear that will be comfortable to wear on soggy national-park trails, on rainy cobblestone streets in Europe, or, if you're really lucky, on a yacht off the coast of Cape Cod.
Packable rain boots are a great option for drizzly destinations. Try foldable Hunter boots ($140) or Target's more budget-friendly version of the knee-high rain boot ($44.99). Keen sandals for men or women are a popular waterproof shoe for hiking. Seeking something a bit more stylish? Bid adieu to soggy socks with these rainproof flats for women ($41.99).
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White Cotton/Linen Shirt
For both men and women, a lightweight cotton shirt in a neutral color is essential for summer travel. Whether it's a button-down, a polo, or a crisp cotton tee, it'll keep you cool in every sense of the word. I love white, which is the classic clothing color of summer and goes with everything. But if you think white washes you out or you fear food stains, try a neutral navy, black, or olive green.
For men, this Irish Linen Shirt ($79.50) from J.Crew is a perfectly packable option that'll stay in style for years. J.Crew offers lots of smart shirt options for women, too, like the Perfect Shirt in Linen ($79.50). The long sleeves offer protection from the sun and can be rolled up if need be.
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Scarves are the Swiss Army Knives of accessories. A good lightweight scarf can be used to dress up an outfit, as protection from the sun, to cover up bare skin in churches or mosques, or even as a makeshift pillow or eye mask on the plane. Further, if unexpectedly cool weather arrives during your vacation, a scarf will come in handy. For a warm-weather trip, choose a breathable scarf made of cotton or linen, and seek out something in a neutral color that will go with lots of outfits. This cotton lace infinity scarf from Anthropologie (on sale for $29.95) is an elegant option for women.
You could also try a sarong, which is basically a really big scarf that can be fashioned into a cover-up. Vera Bradley offers a collection of colorful cotton ones (on sale for $43.50 each).
Men wear summer scarves too. Don't believe us? Here's proof. Guys comfortable rocking said accessories can find them at most major department stores.
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Summer travelers should always be prepared for unanticipated chilly or rainy weather—especially if you're headed to coastal destinations. A lightweight Windbreaker or anorak will help keep breezes at bay. For women, something like this hooded water-resistant anorak from Target ($39.99) will work well. For men, the Classic Squall Jacket from Lands' End (select colors on sale for $49.99) is a practical option.
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They make you look cool and mysterious. But, more importantly, sunglasses protect your eyes from the harmful effects of the sun. When purchasing a pair, look for the American Optometric Association's seal of acceptance, which means your glasses "meet AOA specifications … including blockage of UVA and UVB rays." It's an easy way to find sunglasses that get the job done.
When packing sunglasses, use a hard case to protect them from breakage. A case like this Vera Bradley one ($15.40) will help keep your glasses in one piece.
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Comfortable Sandals That Aren't Flip-Flops
It's flip-flop season. But that doesn't mean you should affix plastic thongs to your feet through Labor Day. In fact, if you're not at the beach, on the boardwalk, or getting a pedicure, you should opt for something other than the shoes you purchased at the drug store for $3.99. Fortunately, comfortable, affordable, and breathable summer sandals that would be as appropriate for dinner at an upscale restaurant as they would on a beach abound, from strappy flats ($68) or espadrilles ($69) for women to leather slip-ons for men.
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The right kind of summer dress is endlessly versatile. It can be worn as a beach cover-up, donned on the plane, or dressed up for dinner with some jewelry and a pair of heels. Go for easy-breezy options like this jersey tulip dress from Gap ($59.95), Gap's chambray shirtdress ($29.99), or an ultra-affordable simple knit maxi ($13.80) from Forever 21.
(Photo: Man on Beach via Shutterstock)
For men or women, a breathable summer-weight sweater will come in handy on blustery boat rides, on cool evening beach walks, or while napping in a shady outdoor hammock. As I've mentioned, summer travelers should always pack a thing or two that will help them handle cooler temperatures if need be. And even if the destination you're visiting is guaranteed to be sweltering, your air-conditioned hotel room might nonetheless cast a chill. So pack the inverse of the wooly winter turtleneck: a light and airy summer sweater. For example, this linen sweater for women from Madewell (on sale for $29.99) will pair well with pretty much anything. The equivalent for men? J.Crew's lightweight rugged cotton sweater ($64.50).
What are your must-pack clothing items for summer travel? Share them in the comments.
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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Essential Clothing Items for Every Type of Summer Vacation.
(Lead Photo: Summer Packing via Shutterstock)