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I lived in Miami for 20 years: This is what you need to pack if you’re visiting

Easy yet elegant looks to enjoy your tropical vacay.
Courtesy Jannely Espinal

It's been a minute since I've packed for a Miami trip, but every time I plan my travel outfits, I make sure to include three main attire categories — casual, poolside and nightlife — along with various travel essentials to make the getaway as seamless and comfortable as possible.

As a Miamian who worked in the swimwear industry and attended Miami Swim Week for seven years straight, I understand the basics and must-have essentials you need for this on-demand destination. From resort wear to fashion-forward looks, I pack everyday pieces you can mix and match, plus elements that transition well into different activities.

For the past decade, the Magic City has landed on top lists for culinary experiences, outdoor recreation and nightlife events. Therefore, it's crucial to plan versatile (and colorful) outfits to fit your Miami itinerary.

Here, I've compiled a wardrobe guide that works day to night, including a few hidden gems for unique eats, bespoke boutiques and secret venues.

What to pack for Miami | Flight essentials | Casual attire | Poolside and beach attire | Nightlife attire

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What to pack for a Miami trip

What to pack for Miami

Generally speaking, Miami is a trendy city with a laid-back mindset that emphasizes aesthetics, comfort and a bit of boldness. From casual Miami Beach to elegant Coral Gables and chic Brickell, you'll see well-dressed women and men looking to showcase their latest fashion finds. However, there are a few essentials you need to make this trip memorable:

  • Sunscreen: While obvious at first thought, you want to pack an SPF with a minimum of 30 UV protection, plus one that reads "broad spectrum" on the label. From dawn to dusk, especially during the summer months, you'll likely experience a UV index between 10 and 12 (which is the ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin damage.)
  • Bathing suits: With miles of pristine beaches and eternal sunshine, packing at least two bathing suits for a Miami vacation is a smart move. There's always a nearby pool or beach to relax and sunbathe until the sun sets.
  • Comfortable shoes: Comfort is key when exploring buzzy neighborhoods like Wynwood or enjoying a food festival at the beach. I recommend you pack flip-flops and sneakers for your trip to ensure blister-free moments.
  • Dresses: Flowy frocks are easy to style, breathable and can be dressed up or down, especially in the heat. In Miami, you can get away with wearing dresses all day for most occasions.

Flight essentials

Whether you are traveling from far away or taking a road trip to the 305, there are a few travel accessories that will provide a quality commute experience. From best tech for checked bags to expert-approved carry-ons, here are some of my favorite flight essentials to make the trip more enjoyable.

Perfume Pod Pure

What we like
  • It's leak-proof
  • Fills up quickly
Something to note
  • Can't clean interior

Keep your signature scent nearby whenever you travel and need to freshen up. The Travalo pod has become a favorite in my purse because I can carry my most expensive fragrance without having to carry the original bottle. This is TSA-approved and features a leak-proof design that won't cause messy spills.

Dude Wipes Face and Body Wipes

What we like
  • Wipes are soft
  • They have enough moisture
Something to note
  • Packaging is bulky

Aside from being a travel essential, the body wipes are great for last-minute changes in the car. Also, if you're not heading back to your hotel, these wet towels will come in handy when you head from the beach to the bar.

riemot Luggage Travel Cup

What we like
  • Fits different luggage sizes
  • Ideal for coffee drinkers
Something to note
  • Needs another Velcro strap

Keep your coffee and phone accessible while schlepping your belongings at the airport. All you have to do is slip the cup holder over your luggage handle and organize your things. It's an easy organizational accessory to quickly grab items on the go.

Thule Compression Packing Cube

What we like
  • Keeps item organized
  • Extra zipper to expand cube
Something to note
  • Not ideal for heavy sweaters

I love keeping my wardrobe organized with packing cubes. These have an extra zipper to expand and will keep your items separated. Plus, is an efficient way to maximize space in your suitcase.

Thule Crossover 2

What we like
  • Holds cables in place
  • It's compact
Something to note
  • Not ideal for small purses

Are you always traveling with your electronics? This small travel organizer has become a favorite for organizing my chargers, headphones, cables and wall adapters. Plus, you can easily take it out from your bag before take off.

Apple AirTag

What we like
  • Can be engraved
  • Easy to track items
Something to note
  • Battery is not rechargeable

Avoid losing your items and add some extra security with these AirTags. Attach these to your precious belongings and track your luggage through your iPhone. Once, I started using my AirTag, I felt more comfortable in checking in my carry-on.

Monos Carry-On Pro

What we like
  • Nice laptop compartment
  • Smooth wheels to roll around
Something to note
  • Button handle is hidden

Monos is one of my favorite brands for carry-ons. (Plus, it complements my Miami wardrobe.) It comes with a padded front compartment where I can fit my laptop and planner. Also, it features a combination lock to keep things secured, along with smooth rollers to help you sprint down the airport gates in case you're running late.

Casual attire

A day in Miami can compile museum walks, "cafecito" tastings and shopping sprees. And with a city as diverse as Miami, you will encounter many activities for the family (or even alone). The ubiquitous mall centers reign supreme in Dade County and mouthwatering eateries play a part in the Latin culture of the city.

So, keeping comfort as a top priority will save you from a few shoe blisters and unnecessary outfit changes.

There's a lot to do during the day other than laid-back beach R&R, tennis tournaments or Formula 1 events. Below are some of my go-to items when I want to keep it casual and fresh.

Uniqlo Faux Leather Puffy Bag

What we like
  • Very roomy
Something to note
  • Handle is not adjustable

I like carrying a bag that holds all my necessities, and this one from Uniqlo is spacious enough. It comes in three colors and features two interior compartments.

Buck Mason Surplus Rib Tank

What we like
  • Very breathable
  • Fitted construction
Something to note
  • Need a strapless bra

Buck Mason makes one of my favorite tank designs, and this one comes in nine different colors. The material is soft and fitted, and it features a hidden snap closure to hold bra straps. You can match it with elegant pants, denim and shorts for an easy capsule collection.

Dynamite Skye T-Shirt Midi Dress

What we like
  • Form-fitting
Something to note
  • Needs a lower bra

Look effortlessly chic in this midi dress from Dynamite. You can add a denim jacket and heels for a more elevated look or keep it casual with sneakers or wedges.

Banana Republic Wide-Leg Pant

What we like
  • Fully lined
  • Features front pockets
Something to note
  • Extra long

One way to keep things casual yet elegant is with silky pants. Banana Republic offers an array of weather-friendly clothes made with cooling fabrics and minimalist styles easy to pack. These are now on sale and are great to wear with your one-piece bathing suit.

Dynamite Midi Dress

What we like
  • Very flattering
Something to note
  • Material is thick

I can't wait to wear this design during the summer. While it's hanging in my closet, just waiting to claim the Miami runway, I've been creating different looks for the near future. The dress features a crisscross halter neckline that looks chic, and the silhouette is ultra-flattering – perfect for going into the night if you're out in the city.

Bzees Time Square Slip On

What we like
  • Easy to slip on
  • Great arch support
  • Feel lightweight
Something to note
  • Straps can be too snug

White sneakers are a must if you're strutting around Miami's neighborhoods – especially Wynwood. Aside from its versatility, this pair is super lightweight, and the best part is that they don't require a knot. You can easily slip them on and voila!

Aetrex Marz Adjustable Sport Sandal

What we like
  • Great ankle and arch support
  • Ideal for plantar fasciitis
  • Waterproof
Something to note
  • Tend to run large

I own these sandals in the orange hue and have become my go-to pair for casual settings. The style offers great arch support which is ideal for days when the heat is unbearable.

Poolside and beach attire

Miami's inclusive, exciting beach culture is different than many other areas in the country. You can find the LGBTQ community located on Ocean Drive and 8th Street, or a more family-friendly scene towards the end of Art Deco district (between 17th and 23rd Street).

Whichever hideout you decide to spend the afternoon at, you'll want to mix flirty dresses and colorful beachwear into your wardrobe. There's a chance you'll grab dinner by a hotel restaurant or make your way into Lincoln Road for a coffee break. Loose fabrics, linen shirts and maxi dresses are a great combo when planning your Miami packing list.

What we like
  • Breathable material
  • Semi-fitted
Something to note
  • Can be slightly see-through

Old Navy always offers great basics for summer and warm destinations. This flowy skirt is on sale and can be worn on top of a bathing suit for an elegant poolside brunch.

Cupshe Midnight Elegance Tummy Control One-Piece

What we like
  • Figure-flattering design
  • Tummy control
Something to note
  • No plus sizes

When it comes to swimwear, Cupshe has many great style offerings for 2024. This one features removable soft cups and shows a classic bum coverage.

Lands' End Packable Beach Tote

What we like
  • Can be folded
  • Very roomy
Something to note
  • Doesn't have compartments

A large tote is substantial when you're carrying towels, sunscreen and other beach necessities. This one features side mesh pockets to carry your bottle of water and is made with a sturdy laminate polyethylene that will help keep things dry and neat.

Chaco Women's Low Down Flip Flop

What we like
  • Have arch support
Something to note
  • Tend to run small

When it comes to choosing a pair of flip-flops, opt for styles that have arch support. Aside from their comfortable construction, these are sturdy and ideal for those with plantar fasciitis.

Petal + Pup Val Knit Shirt

What we like
  • Great quality
Something to note
  • Runs large

If you want to be more playful with your outfit, choose a crochet shirt. This one is breathable and serves as a cover-up when you are taking a break from sunbathing.

Hat Attack Traveler Continental

What we like
  • Has SPF protection
  • Folds easily
Something to note
  • Not ideal for breezy days

UPF clothing is a great option when you are heading to warmer locations. This hat is packable and comes with an adjustable headband to fit your head size.

Randolph Amelia 23K Satin Gold

What we like
  • Polarized
  • Comfortable nose pads
Something to note
  • Not ideal for outdoor sports

In my opinion, Randolph makes one of the best high-quality sunglasses in the country. Not only are these handmade, but they also feature polarized lens that provide great vision during sunny days. These are a classic pair and a must-have if you want to keep it chic.

Nightlife attire

Miami nightlife compiles bottle services, VIP treatments and DJ sets at iconic venues like LIV, Space or Ball and Chain. There's also a quieter scene at chic restaurants nestled in Miami Design District or MiMo District.

No matter the place, the city is known for its tropical fashion characterized by color, texture and modern elements. From straw bags to neon stilettos, there is a piece of everyday relaxation that pays homage to the laid-back culture.

Rebdolls Textured Mermaid Maxi Bodycon

What we like
  • Stretchy material
Something to note
  • Not ideal for petite women

Think mermaid-core when you are putting together your evening looks. Rebdolls offers a selection of colorful pieces that are ideal for Miami party scene.

Venus Ruched Bodycon Mini Dress

What we like
  • Thick fabric
  • Hugs the body
Something to note
  • Shoulder strap can fall

Heading to a swanky restaurant? This white dress is perfect for a waterfront dining experience or when heading to that new rooftop in the city. Short dresses are a must when you are dressing up for Miami nights.

Dream Pairs Women's Low Heels

What we like
  • Comfortable to walk
Something to note
  • Material feels low quality

Though you'll see many women donning 4-inch heels in Miami, I recommend you opt for kitten heels. Whether you're in your 30s or 50s, dress up comfortably if you are going out to dance.

Marcella Manhattan One Shoulder Midi Dress

What we like
  • Plus sizes available
  • Lightweight fabric
Something to note
  • Runs big for small chest

I prefer to wear midi dresses when in Miami because they look more elegant for different kinds of venues. Marcella has become one of my go-to brands for evening wear for their simplicity and modern inventory.

Madewell The Essential Convertible Crossbody Mini Bag

What we like
  • Great size for essentials
Something to note
  • Top handle is not long enough

Zhuzh up any look with a bit of silver. This evening bag comes with a convertible crossbody strap and is made from sustainable leather. Think quiet luxury without the hefty price tag.

Dolce Vita Meeza Heels

What we like
  • Comfortable heel
Something to note
  • No arch support

Here's another shoe style to keep things chic yet walkable when you're gracing the hallways of Miami Beach hotels throughout the evening. Dolce Vita is another favorite brand when it comes to choosing classic styles for my capsule wardrobe.