4 Perfect Outfits Your Next Vacation Needs

For those who spent all summer traveling to and from the shore, it’s safe to say your weekend-getaway packing game is down to a science. Your tote is filled with the perfect number of effortless pieces that you mix and match into sensible — and stylish — off-duty looks and a perpetual sprinkling of sand you can never get rid of. For everyone else, we can help you get there. (And that sand in your bag? Optional.) While most would assume that the window for long weekend vacations closes after Labor Day, we believe that a short getaway is something that defies seasons. And along with Cotton — the fabric that can be translated every which way — we’ve crafted a complete sartorial guide for slipping away for some tropical R&R when temps start to take a dive. With just four versatile looks plus a few pro hacks, an expertly curated beach carryall is possible without a must-bring-everything panic. From wearing your swimsuit as a bodysuit to rethinking your breezy PJs as a coverup, we've got some tricks up our sleeve that will prove you don't actually need that fourth pair of shoes. Or tenth, for that matter.
The En Route Ensemble
Every getaway starts with a great travel look, but it’s not for aesthetic reasons alone. The best examples are ones that provide a combination of comfort, adaptability, and ultimately, incorporate pieces from the rest of your vacation so that they don’t take up as much room in your bags. Layer on the bulkiest pieces.
A great piece for a low-key destination is a button-up dress. For a day of transit, keep the look fastened 3/4 to the top and tuck one of your swimsuits beneath — in case check-in is late, you’ll be thankful you can kill some time on the sand. Finish this off with some of the largest pieces in your carryall, such as a jacket for when the ocean air (or the AC) cools things down, and a classic pair of Chucks. Make it personal (& practical).
Personalize your look a bit further by piling on accessories instead of carrying them with you. Only bring one pair of sunglasses, but make sure it has personality, like these subtle cat-eyes. And be sure to keep a wear-any-which-way printed hanky close by. It can be easy wrapped around your weekender as a pop of color or tied around your head to keep the fly-aways in check. Bring styles that can do double duty.
Your button-up dress does not get shoved to the bottom on your carryall once you arrive. This light, cotton piece provides many more options than just wearing as-is. Try it undone as a long vest, layering with a pair of shorts, or toss it on as a last-minute coverup.
The Sun Salutation Suit
Make a splash with your beach look. When you treat your swimsuit just as you would a bodysuit and pair it with breathable, patterned, wide-leg pants, this look becomes ready for bumming it on a blanket and polished and pulled-together should you need to break away for lunch or a much-deserved libation. The perfect clash of patterns and colors is the cherry on top. Rethink your beach essentials.
As for a blanket to bum around on, look for light, cotton ones rather than thick or fluffy options. These are easy to stash away in your beach bag, will attract less sand, and will dry quickly. Do it Russian nesting doll style.
Consolidate your arsenal of accessories, handbags, and any beauty products for your trip by keeping them all in the one place. Put toiletries inside a dressier handbag (you'll likely need one — and only one — for a weekend) and that bag inside your beach tote to conserve space. Furthermore, choose accessories in soft, foldable fabrics, instead of stiff, structured ones. They can be rolled up, squished, and packed up easily into a small space.
The Night Owl Outfit
The challenge with planning a going-out look for vacation is that you may not necessarily know what your exact plans are. But no matter how your evening goes, we lean toward an easy, adaptable piece, such as a cotton jumpsuit. It's comfortable for mingling on your hotel's rooftop bar as well as tearing up the dance floor at a nearby club. Wear your bikini top as a bandeau.
Instead of layering with a tank or tee — although you can, and should, for daytime — use one of your swim tops as a bandeau for the evening. Accessories lend a vibrant hint of tropical color and playfulness, a.k.a pom-poms galore. (You can wear your swim bottoms, too, in case a night out leads to an impromptu dip.) Keep footwear to a minimum.
By far, shoes take up the most space when packing, so only bring ones that go with multiple outfits. We selected three for this getaway: a sneaker that's great for travel and lots of walking; an everyday sandal in neutral colors that can also be worn to the beach; and versatile espadrilles that make a statement with texture rather than with a spindly heel, color, or shape that's only suitable for one specific outfit. Mix, never match.
Some people can last a week by the water in the same swimsuit. But we get it, you like options. In order to include as many as possible, keep a 2 to 1 (or 3 to 1) ratio between tops and bottoms to allow extra possibilities, including those with your non-beach outfits. You’ll repeat individual pieces, but never a full look.
Ancient Greek Sandals sandals, Hampton Sun Continuous Mist Hydrating Aloe, John Frieda Beach Blonde Sea Waves Sea Salt Spray, and La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid.
The Laid-Back (Not Lazy) Look
Packing loungewear and PJs tends to be an afterthought. But with a little planning, you'll check them off your list as well as prep your bag with impactful pieces that can be worn during the day, too. Un-basic your basics.
Unless you’re a white-tee devotee, pack only non-basic essentials. Here’s where you can incorporate plenty of color, pattern, and texture that can come together to create exciting combinations. This pairing of striped shorts and a clashing sports bra and tee can be worn to bed or to relax in your Airbnb. But it's also great for a day strolling through the local sites and markets. Just check the label to be sure it's cotton — you'll want to make sure it's breathable for all-day wear. Accessorize on the light(weight) side.
Beach vacations, by their laid-back nature, don’t call for tons of accessories and add-ons. But if you’re someone who feels naked without a little something extra, opt for alternatives to heavy metal statement pieces or chunky stackables. Delicate jewelry made of natural fibers with roping, tassels, or beads keep an ensemble looking special and personal without weighing you down. Plus, you won't have to stress out if they accidentally take a dip in the ocean with you.

More from Fashion

R29 Original Series