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13 best travel clothes and accessories, according to experts

Here's how to pack light and look stylish for your next trip.
Female traveler with suitcase at airport
Virojt Changyencham / Getty Images

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As more people get vaccinated and cities continue to open up, it finally feels like the right time to plan that summer getaway you've been dreaming about for the last year.

Your return to travel should be as stress-free and uncomplicated as possible — and that includes the packing process. There's nothing worse than lugging a big bag through the airport, only to realize at the end of the vacation that you wore less than half of the clothes in your suitcase.

One way to simplify the packing process is by creating a capsule closet for your travel wardrobe. The idea is pretty straightforward: Instead of throwing every item you own into one bag, you strategically pick 10 to 12 quality items that can be mixed and matched to dress up or down.

"When building a capsule wardrobe for travel, select pieces that are interchangeable and can work in multiple settings," fashion stylist Stacee Michelle said. "Be mindful of the temperature and planned activities and select layering pieces that can be added or removed throughout the day."

"You should focus on versatile pieces that don’t wrinkle, can keep you warm, withstand water and can be worn from day to night," added style expert Melissa Chataigne. Try keeping all of your items within one color palette, to make styling easy, she said.

With that in mind, we asked the two fashion experts to share their picks for the essential pieces that should make up your vacation wardrobe and keep you stylish and stress-free, from departure to return.

Lululemon Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve 2.0

While this Lululemon long sleeve shirt is technically made for workouts, Chataigne said it can be a great casual option for travel. "Pair it with shorts, jeans or leggings for an everyday look that will still keep you cool," she said. "The fabric is a soft nylon blend and has a four-way stretch, which wicks away sweat."

Numi The Signature

Numi's stylish tops feature a moisture-wicking gusset under the armpits and are made with a thermo-regulating TENCEL material, which makes them perfect for summer, Chataigne said. You can choose between a variety of styles, from tees to bodysuits and crop tops, but you can't go wrong with the brand's top-selling Signature shirt. It comes in five neutral colors and can be worn under a jumpsuit or styled with a pair of shorts.

J. Crew Ruched Bandeau One-Piece Swimsuit

"This jewel-toned one-piece swimsuit is a must-have for easily alternating between sand and city," Michelle said. "Wear it to the beach, then quickly transition to an on-the-town look by pairing it with denim shorts or a flowy skirt."

Old Navy Breathe ON Cross-Front Sleeveless Jumpsuit

A jumpsuit can be worn for every occasion, Michelle said, and she likes this pick from Old Navy. Made from soft, breathable and moisture-wicking fabric, it's made to move with you, regardless of what you have planned for the day. "Dress it up with heels and statement earrings for a night out or keep it casual by layering it with a denim jacket with sandals," she said.

Gap Icon Denim Jacket With Washwell

"A denim jacket is a closet staple that will stand the test of time," Michelle said. "A light wash is essential in warm weather but also makes the perfect layering piece all year long. Save room in your suitcase by wearing it on the plane and using it as a pillow."

Chico's Travelers Classic Crops

Chico's Traveler's Collection features a range of elevated fashion staples that can take you from day to night. Chataigne recommended these cropped pants, which are made from a wrinkle-resistant fabric to keep them looking their best for your entire trip.

J. Crew Drapey Paper-Bag Short

Paper-bag shorts can be paired with almost anything. And these ones from J. Crew are colorful and polished and can be worn for a range of activities, from road trips to day hiking excursions, Chataigne said. "They hit at the small part of your waist so they’re universally flattering and make your legs look supermodel long with sandals and sneakers," she added.

Madewell High-Rise Denim Shorts in Watt Wash: Summerweight Edition

"Cutoff shorts take up minimal space in your suitcase and are suitable for multiple situations," Michelle said. "Complete the look with a loose fit T-shirt or fitted tank top."

New Balance Women's Impact 2-in-1 Running Short

If your vacation plans include plenty of hikes or runs, you're going to want to have a good, comfortable pair of shorts in your suitcase. Chataigne likes these ones, which she said, "check all the boxes." They're made with quick-drying fabric, to keep you cool, and have pockets on the inner shorts, so you can keep your phone and hotel key on you at all times.

Loft Tie Back Strappy Maxi Dress

While this maxi dress is nice enough to wear to a romantic dinner, it can also double as a cover-up for the beach or pool. "Add a straw belt or colored stone necklace for variety," Michelle said. And right now, you can use the code SURPRISE at checkout to get 50% off.

Birkenstock Arizona Hex Slide Sandal

These comfortable shoes can take you from the city streets to the beach and just about everywhere in between. "They are the perfect walking and travel sandal, with a contoured footbed that mimics the shape of your foot and provides excellent support," Chataigne said.

Amuse Society Bolero Too Hat

Look stylish and keep cool with this straw hat. "Hats are a great way to accessorize while also protecting yourself from the sun," Michelle said. "This flat-brimmed style will add just a subtle touch of flair to any outfit."

Dr. Scholl's All Day Lace-Up Sneaker

Everyone needs a pair of white sneakers in their summer wardrobe and the Dr. Scholl's All Day Lace-Up Sneakers get Chataigne's seal of approval. The cushioned footbed offers comfort and support and the leather accents and knit material make them a fashionable and versatile pick.

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