summer style

How To Pack Strategically--And On Trend--For Summer Vacations

Packing For Family Vacation.jpg

Ah, summer vacation. For some, the term conjures up endless days of relaxation, reading, doing whatever you want in the sun or beside a body of water. For others, it simply means a break from your normal routine. If you're a parent, summer vacation might also mean a little bit of stress...especially when it comes to packing. 

For the next two months on This Is Thirty Four, we'll be talking about time and possessions. If you're like me, when heading out on a trip with your kids, you tend to throw half of all you possess into your suitcase; and once you reach your destination, you don't even use a lot of what you packed...and you hate all your outfits.  

This summer, my family will spend three of the next five weeks living out of suitcases. Our kids are still young and require a lot of cargo: clothes, snacks, toys, books, car seats, etc. So, in order to cut down on the baggage my family is taking on flights and road trips, I'm getting strategic about the way I pack for myself on our family vacations. Not only am I taking fewer items in my suitcase, but I'm also excited to wear the outfits I've chosen.  

Below are three steps for packing strategically--and on trend--for a summer vacation, interspersed with actual outfits I'll be wearing on my trip to Lake Michigan this week. Warning: These steps will require some effort to implement. So, don't start packing late at night or an hour before you have to leave. If you already know where you're headed, you can start implementing some of these steps RIGHT NOW. 

Outfit one.jpg

Step 1: Analyze your vacation before you begin packing

Here are a few questions that I asked myself before packing for our week-long trip to Lake Michigan: 

What types of activities will we be doing?

What types of clothes and shoes will these activities require?

Who will be going on these various activities?

What will the weather be like while you're there? 

(Pro tip: If you use a day planner, you can write out the answers to these questions in there and use it to make your packing list.) 

During our trip to Lake Michigan this week, our whole family (my parents, brother and sister-in-law included) will be hiking, going to the lake, getting ice cream and doing a lot of putt-putt and other kid-friendly activities. We rented a cabin, so we'll probably eat most of our meals in; but Russ and I might be able to sneak away for a date one night. The weather is supposed to be in the high 70s and low 80s with decent humidity. 

Armed with the aforementioned info, I packed mostly shorts, tank tops and sandals in my suitcase. I included one romper...because rompers are basically socially acceptable pajamas...and a cute, cotton dress for a potential date night. All my clothes are kid-friendly...because hikes mean dirt and ice cream means sticky hands...and my shoes are comfortable and won't get ruined if caught in a late afternoon rain storm. 

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Step 2: Visualize your outfits

I consider myself a fairly stylish person, and I have a decent number of clothes in my closet. But every morning--and consequently every time I pack for vacation--I think the same thoughts many of you probably think: What am I going to wear? I hate all my clothes.

The truth is, I have a lot of cute things to wear--and so do you. We just need some outfit inspiration. My go-to places to get inspired? and Pinterest.

If you're not familiar with the app, it's basically where fashion bloggers go to show off their outfits and link to the clothes they are wearing so you can buy those items from their affiliate links. It's dangerous for your wallet, but it's a WEALTH of outfit ideas. 

If you're trying to avoid spending money, like me, you might want to try Pinterest. There are a ton of fashion bloggers to follow on there, OR you can simply search for the type of outfits you're looking for. While I'm no fashion blogger, I do have a Summer Style inspiration board that I refer to often. 

As you're saving on or pinning on Pinterest, try to find outfits that have similar color schemes, styles and even incorporate some of the same basic elements (ex: a white tank top, denim shorts, etc). This will make step three much easier.

(Pro-tip: Only save or pin outfits that are similar to pieces you already have in your closet. The idea behind step two isn't to save money on new clothes, it's to find new ways to wear what you already have!)

Once you've saved some outfits on or pinned them to a Pinterest board, go to your closet and set the pieces that you think you might want to pack aside. It's ok if it's a huge pile, we'll whittle it down to a carry on in step three. 

Outfit number two.jpg

Step 3: Only pack pieces that can be worn more than once, in different ways

This is the key. This is how you go from a mound of clothes that will never fit into the overhead bin, to an easy to manage carry-on. First, sort through the clothes you set aside after you got inspired in step two. Then, create outfits that incorporate similar pieces. I packed all four of the outfits in this post in my suitcase for Lake Michigan this week. You'll see the same shoes, denim vest and shorts in multiple photos. Finally, put away any clothes that can't be worn more than one way...unless it's a romper...ALWAYS. PACK. A ROMPER; and put the remaining items in your suitcase. 

(Pro tip: If you still have too much stuff, go back to step two. It might be helpful to lay the outfits for each day out on the floor side-by-side, so you can see how everything works together.) 


Lake Michigan Outfit Four.jpg

I hope this post is as helpful as it was fun for me to put together. None of the clothes in this post are linked because most of them are way too old to still be in stores. BUT, if you see an outfit or a piece of clothing you like and want me to try to find something similar for you, just send me a message! I love helping people find cute clothes and feel more confident in their own skin. 

Happy summer, friends! We'll return to our regularly scheduled (and a bit more introspective) content next week!