What to Pack: Tropical Vacation

You know what the worst part of vacation is... (besides coming home!) Packing. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. You want to feel and look your best while you are traveling, while also not overdoing it and schlepping your whole closet with you so you can have “options”. 

One of the most frequent questions I get from clients as we are getting ready to send them off on their adventure is what to pack. What I’ve learned (through many failed attempts) when packing for vacation, is that you should try to pick essential and wearable pieces so that you have a lot of choices that all work together.

what to pack for a beach vacation

Packing for a week or less is always possible in a carryon if you bring the right pieces. Another reason to not overpack? You’ll have room to bring home a thing or two you pick up while there.

A favorite formula I learned a while back is to implement the 5,4,3,2,1 method

5 tops (including outerwear) that are easily adaptable and flexible with the rest of your wardrobe.

4 bottoms including shorts, skirts, and jeans (depending on where you are headed will help you with the spread) in complimentary fabrics and colors

3 dresses/rompers you can just throw on and look fabulous that compliment your color palette

3 pairs of shoes. No seriously — you just need 3. (okay maybe 4)

2 bags of differing sizes. Preferably a large tote and a smaller clutch type for evenings

2 bathing suits so you have a dry one at all times. Bonus points if they are mix and match patterns/colors

1 each of the necessary extras like a fabulous hat, sunglasses, and maybe a great watch. Throw in all the extra jewelry you want, as that is a fun way to spice up the wardrobe.


This type of travel wardrobe capsule will get you through 7 days looking and feeling fabulous. Heck, you could probably stretch it to 10 days if you wanted. 

Since many of you are probably planning your summer holiday packing lists, I’ve created a great free resource to keep your load light and your wardrobe game tight. It includes all the essential pieces you’ll need for swimming and the beach, shopping, exploring, and dining out in your beautiful destination of choice.

Make sure to check out my Tropical Vacation Packing Guide before you head off to your next exciting adventure. Heck, maybe you just use it as inspiration to start dreaming of your next trip!