How To Pack For Summer Vacation, Part 2: The Capsule Wardrobe

When my son chose Greece for a trip of a lifetime, I was completely stoked. Ancient ruins in Athens, the beautiful beaches of Antiparos, and the island of Santorini were different packing style-wise (city verses beachwear verses high scale athleisure-wear), but the climate and temperatures would be similar. When we decided to add northern and thoroughly-modern, dressier London onto our trip, I realized packing might be harder than I expected, but it turns out, it was nothing this Church Girl couldn’t handle.

Here’s the second installment of “How To Pack For An International Vacation.” If you missed Part 1: Airplanes & Travel, be sure to click HERE to read it.

How To Pack For A Fourteen-Day Summer Vacation

Kissing on the Tower Bridge in London required a warmer shirt and pants than Greece. This outfit was from @stitchfix

The trick to packing for an extra long vacation is bringing things you can mix and match easily. Choose colors that go together well. My palette included blues, grays, blacks, with pops of yellow and red. My Rule Of Thumb: Be sure that anything you bring goes with at least two other outfits. This is includes belts, shoes, hats, bags, hair accessories, and jackets. (Yes, I had multiples of it all! This Church Girl isn’t going on vacay without some fashion love.)

My 14-day Capsule Wardrobe:

(For the record, I had just about the right amount of clothes for four diverse climes and styles.)

  • 4 bottoms (two pairs of shorts and two pair of jeans–one white and one faded)
  • 8 tops (two long sleeve, two tanks, two t-shirts, and two cotton blouses) – I didn’t  wear one of the tops.
  • 3 dresses (one maxi, one halter dress, one cap-sleeve city minidress)
  • 2 one-pieces (one romper and one full-length jumpsuit)
  • 1 bright cotton scarf (to use as a head and shoulder covering in conservative churches, to protect hair and skin from the sun, to use as a prop for those IG photos!)
  • 2 swimsuits (one to wear while the other was drying)
  • 1 jean jacket
  • 3 belts (two white, one black) this was two too many…
  • 4 pairs of shoes + socks (one sport Teva sandal, two dressier sandals, one pair of Chuck Taylors) – wish I would have brought some real trainers instead the extra sandals!
  • 3 necklaces (one long, one short, one choker)
  • 5 pairs of earrings
  • 3 pairs of sunglasses
  • 3 bags/purses (one very light cotton crossbody, one very small leather clutch, and one medium tote)
  • 2 scrunchies, 4 barrettes, 1 hair bow
  • 3 different types/colors of bras
  • 6 pairs of underwear based on the clothes I brought
Santorini, you make me smile! (Especially in this cute jumpsuit from @freepeople )

If you want to do a little #fashionmath
3 bottoms X 7 tops = 21 outfits
4 bottoms X 6 tops = 24 outfits (this is what I told my kids to pack)
4 bottoms X 8 tops = 32 outfits!

I had 32 possible outfits just with tops and bottoms interchanged+ 5 full outfits with the dresses and jumpsuits. When you are dressing for daytime touring/hiking and then going out for dinner at night, do you really wanna be a sweaty mess? I think not. Plus, with the difference in climates between Athens and London, this math worked out just right for me and it all fit into a single carry-on.

Most of the places we chose had a washing machine (no dryer!). As long as you have a sink, you can do a quick clothes-washing for undergarments and light shirts.

IMPORTANT TIP #1: Check the weather before you leave.

Your packing choices might be drastically altered when you check the weather in your vacation location right before you leave especially if you know there will be inclement weather. You can save yourself from some tragic vacation photos (not to mention time and money from having to buy basics in a foreign country!) if you remember to do this one little trick.

IMPORTANT TIP #2: Consider your itinerary as you pack.

Are you visiting lots of churches and museums, hiking ancient ruins, going to music shows, or camping? Consider your day-to-day itinerary as you pack.

Most of our vacations are highly varied – we do tons of walking/hiking, have an occasional fancy dinners or museum tours, spend time in both city AND country/beaches, and thrift shop. Knowing your daily itinerary is key to packing well.

Sometimes you encounter unexpected dress codes. In many traditional sacred places and palaces around the world, women must cover their shoulders or heads, or have to wear a dress. This is why I always pack a scarf each day when touring (and it’s nice to have something other than a ball cap to cover my head from the heat!).

Long ago, when the Elder and I visited the national palace in Bangkok, Thailand, we were turned away outright. Men had to have long pants and not shorts (even though it was a hundred degrees!) and I was required to wear a dress and have my shoulders covered. We had to come back another day when we were more properly dressed.

Carefully Choose Makeup and Personal Items

In the end, I think I left most of my makeup home and only brought my necessities (which included a set of false lashes!). However, I made some mistakes in my hair and skincare game.

Packing Mistakes I Made

  1. Don’t bother bringing a hair straightener if the polarized plug doesn’t fit the converter! DOH! Should’ve checked!
  2. Don’t bring too much of your skincare regimen. Honestly, I’m not going through my normal five steps each night on vacation, are you? I wasted weight and space here. Wash, moisturize and be done, Hun.
  3. Don’t bring a liquid skin bronzer. Another silly waste of weight.
  4. Humidity = Frizzy Hair. Prepare and bring something to calm that mess!
A few more things to consider packing: international plug converters, Ziploc sandwich baggies, a smoothing boar bristle brush, and a portable charger.

In The End, I Was Glad I Packed

  1. A Lighted Compact Mirror. Not all light is created equal.
  2. Key Medicines. Motion sickness, pain, headaches, insect bites, and rashes
  3. Ear Plugs. The area where we stayed in London was ridiculously noisy!
  4. Q-tips. In all their multitasking glory.
  5. A Beautiful Nail Polish. After all, nothing says vacation like bright nails! (And you’ll want it along to fix any chips while you”re gone.)


How do YOU pack for vacation? Share your best travel and packing tips in the comments. If you’d like some help with outfits for your next vacation, EMAIL ME and I’ll send you a link to my handy-dandy DAILY VACATION OUTFIT PLANNER!





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