A Summer Travel Capsule Wardrobe Will Keep You From Overpacking

A Summer Travel Capsule Wardrobe Will Keep You From Overpacking

No matter what your travel plans are, you can build your packing list around these essentials.

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Finding reliable clothing staples to rewear again and again helps us all to become more sustainable travelers—and refrain from overpacking. When building a summer travel capsule wardrobe, versatile and comfortable basics are key: Rather than packing a suitcase full of trendy items or statement outfits you'll only wear once, consider investing in basics you can pair with several outfits and wear from day to night. To lay the foundation, we've put together a list of top summer wardrobe essentials, whether you’re headed to a beach vacation in Mexico or are planning to eat your way through Italy. No matter where your upcoming travel plans take you, these are the pieces you’ll be glad you packed. From crisp white button-downs and packable slip dresses to walking sandals and everyday sneakers, you can count on them to keep your packing list short and your outfit options long.

Below, 13 pieces to build a summer travel capsule wardrobe, with men's and women's styles from brands we love: Everlane, Lulus, Buck Mason, Teva, and more. Keep scrolling to see them all or jump right to your section of choice.

The basic tee

Every traveler needs a favorite tee. A basic T-shirt pairs well with almost any pair of shorts, linen pants, jeans, or skirt you pack this summer (sometimes I even throw one underneath a sleeveless dress). For something a little more polished than the fit of a classic cut tee, a seamless bodysuit tucks neatly into every pair of bottoms and looks flattering  on every body type. 

Everlane The Organic Cotton Box Cut Tee

Abercrombie short-sleeve cotton seamless bodysuit

Buck Mason Pima slim crew

J.Crew Men’s cotton crewneck t-shirt

Hanes men's T-shirt pack

The classic button-down

Along with a plain white tee, I never travel without a button-down—I wear these with denim, as a cover-up by the pool, or over a slip dress at night if it gets a little chilly. For something ultra lightweight, a linen button-down looks put together and keeps you cool. 

Buck Mason Mainstay cotton shirt

Everlane The Linen Relaxed shirt

Rodd and Gunn Seaford Linen button-up

Buck Mason Men’s Perfect Oxford one pocket shirt

The perfect short

Finding a trusted pair of shorts can feel nearly impossible. We chose options that aren’t too short, so you can avoid unwanted chafing while still keeping cool. We turned to a few of our favorite brands, like Buck Mason, Everlane, and Lululemon, to bring you the perfect pair of shorts you'll actually want to wear on a hot day.

Buck Mason Stretch Ridge Twill Rider short

Everlane The A-Line denim short

Buck Mason Men’s Carry-On Short

Lululemon Commission Classic-Fit short

The lightweight denim

While not always necessary if you’re traveling to a particularly hot destination, it wouldn’t be a list of essentials without including a pair of tried-and-true denim, like these straight-leg jeans from Madewell and classic Levi’s. These pairs can be worn and washed again and again—they only get better with age. 

Madewell The Perfect Vintage Straight jean

Levi’s Men’s 505 regular fit jeans

The linen pant

For something a little more breezy, opt for a pair of linen pants. Whether I'm headed to a barbecue or lunch by the pool, I'm always gravitating toward linen in the warmer months. Lightweight, packable, and chic—it's the ultimate summer pant. 

Everlane The Linen Way-High Drape pant

Uniqlo Men’s Linen Blend Relaxed pants

The breathable tank top

Hot summer days mean you’ll need a few basic tanks. Ribbed tank tops are always a smart choice—they're both comfortable and flattering. If you want something that looks a little more put together with a pair shorts or a midi skirt, I wear this seamless bodysuit from Amazon constantly (it’s double-lined and I have it in multiple colors). Nike and activewear brand Vuori make some of our favorite performance tanks for men—they’re available in a variety of colors, too. 

Buck Mason Surplus rib tank

Buck Mason Surplus rib scoop neck tank

Reoria sleeveless racer back halter neck bodysuit

Reformation Tasha tank

Vuori Men’s Strato Tech Performance tank

Nike Men’s Dri-Fit training tank

The midi dress

One of the most fun items to pack for summer: midi dresses. Staple pieces like this rib tank dress from Buck Mason and Mara Hoffman’s mega-popular wrinkle-resistant popcorn dress are always smart options, but for something with a little more flare, I’m eyeing colorful picks from Lulus and Abercrombie. Whether you’re headed to a dinner party or want to explore a new city in style, these dresses scream summer and are easy to throw on with any pair of sandals. 

Buck Mason Surplus rib tank dress

Buck Mason Silken Twill Studio shirt dress

Lulus Fresh Picked Mustard Yellow floral print maxi dress

Lulus Total Appeal Blue Ruched one-shoulder bodycon midi dress

Abercrombie slip dress midi

Mara Hoffman Sloan dress

The exercise dress

Ideal for active travelers and especially hot destinations, exercise dresses are supportive enough for hikes and workout classes, while doubling as a chic day-time outfit. I don't always work out on a trip, but when I do a sporty yet feminine exercise dress is the way to go—I'll wear one for a morning walk and still feel put together enough for breakfast at the hotel afterwards. I love that these have built-in shorts underneath so they're just as practical as they are cute. 

Abercrombie Traveler mini dress

Halara Everyday Cloudful 2-in-1 flare activity dress

The white sneaker

When it comes to essential shoes, every traveler needs a crisp pair of white sneakers. It’s always my most-worn shoe on every trip, especially when there’s a walking tour on the itinerary. Some of our favorite comfortable white sneakers come from Veja, Everlane, Allbirds, and Adidas, with men’s and women’s sizes available for all of them. 

The walking sandal

Summer sandals can be a tricky shoe to purchase: You want a pair that can withstand a good amount of walking without leaving you with blisters, and that still leaves you looking put together. Sandals from Teva fit the bill, with a variety of color options available and some designed specifically for hiking. Our editors also rely on Birkenstocks once the weather turns warm—these classic sandals last for years. 

Teva Universal sport sandal

Everlane The Day Twist sandal

Birkenstock Arizona Birko-Flor

Suicoke Depa V2 sandals

Birkenstock Men’s Soft Slide sandal

Adidas Adilette Comfort Slide Sandal

The comfortable heel

For those summer nights when you need something a little more elevated than your favorite pair of sandals, a comfortable heel is a must-have. Black, ivory, or nude heels match just about any midi dress you toss in your carry-on. The height of these heels is just right—high enough to wear to any destination weddings you're attending, but low enough to actually dance the night away in. 

Everlane The Day Twist heel

Vivanly criss cross stappy heels

The quality bathing suit 

No matter where I’m headed—beach vacation or not—I always pack a bathing suit. You can't go wrong with a supportive one-piece (bonus points if there’s some ruching, like this blue J.Crew suit has). The brand makes comfortable swim trunks for men, too; we also love the beachy board shorts from Fair Harbor.

Left on Friday Weekender Suit

J.Crew ruched bandeau one-piece

J.Crew Men’s 6” swim trunks

Fair Harbor Men’s The Nautilus Floral Print board shorts

The crossbody bag

To carry all of your essentials, you’ll need a versatile bag that transitions well from day to night. The Coach Tabby bag, Cuyana Saddle bag, and Tory Burch Pebbled crossbody are a few great options, whether you’re headed to a museum or are shopping for souvenirs. If you’re planning to be a bit more active, our editors swear by the Lululemon Everywhere belt bag—it has a cult following for a reason.

Tory Burch Mercer Pebbled zip crossbody bag

Coach Tabby Shoulder bag 26

Cuyana Double Moon Saddle bag

Madewell The Sydney Crossbody Bag

Lululemon 1L Everywhere Belt Bag

Monos Metro sling