The Best Summer Travel Clothes for Style and Function

Jessie Beck, Shawn Forno

Summer travel means breaking out all of your fashion faves, but make sure you’re not forgetting to choose functional pieces as well.

There’s something particularly exciting about packing for summer trips: breaking out your favorite sundress, swimsuit, or sandals, and fitting them neatly into your travel backpack. Not to mention, the warm weather makes everyone feel a bit more relaxed and explorative. It may be peak travel season, but we’re going to enjoy every minute, and look good doing it.

When it comes to choosing the right summer travel clothes, you’ll want pieces easily mix and match into fashionable outfits. At the same time, you’ll want functional fabrics with sweat-wicking and odor-resistant abilities that you can confidently for the entire day — even in 90-degree heat.

Whether you’re taking a summer vacation to relax and refresh, or embarking on a warm-weather adventure trip, use this list to find the perfect set of summer travel clothes and outfits for your packing list.

Summer Travel Tops for Men and Women

For summer tops, bring a mix of tanks and tees. Look for fabrics, like merino wool, that will resist odor and sweat, so you can (yes, seriously) go a couple of days without washing them.

Summer Travel Tops for Women

ADAY’s line of technical, eco-friendly clothes mix simplicity with fashion-forwardness. Although any of their tanks are a good choice for a summer wardrobe, I’m particularly fond of their Shell Yes Tank, which has a flowy, low-back cut perfect for hot days. It’s also versatile enough to wear casually or dressed up for a night out.

Fashion aside, their tops are impossible to wrinkle, pill-resistant, odor-resistant, and sweat wicking. So toss it in your bag, wear it all-hot-day-long, and trust that this magical tank has got your back.

Especially if your trip has an active or outdoorsy component, a merino wool t-shirt is an essential addition to your summer packing list. Merino wool, unlike other forms of wool, is lightweight, sweat wicking, and soft. I actually find most wool too itchy to wear, but can live in a good merino wool t-shirt. Most importantly for those summer months, though, merino wool is naturally cooling and sweat-wicking.

While there are a ton of great merino wool brands, Seattle-based Woolly tops the list for its quality and affordability. They have both t-shirts and tank tops for women.

Adding a simple tank in a light and airy color is an easy way to give your travel wardrobe a summery look. Affordable, comfortable, and — most importantly — not see-through, Everlane’s Air Cami fits that bill and more.

However, this shirt is 100% cotton. While that does mean it’s soft and easy to wash, it lacks the technical features of other fabrics.  Of course, cotton usually comes at a much lower price point and it’s a good option if you’re on a budget. To keep it from wrinkling, roll it (don’t fold it) in your luggage.

Summer Travel Tops for Men

Western Rise StrongCore Merino ($96) and Bluffworks Threshold Tees ($45) also make a great travel t-shirt. They’re both a little lighter than the other merino shirts on this list, so if you’re going somewhere super hot this summer, look into them.

Pack two of these bad boys and you will stay odor free and comfortable during your entire summer vacation—I don’t care how long you’re traveling. I’m currently on day 15 of my trip through Spain and Portugal in June, and I’m alternating between two Unbound merino tank tops as my base layer. I haven’t washed either of them yet and I still smell amazing. It’s actually getting kind of ridiculous how good these shirts are at wicking away sweat and odor.

Dima Zelikman, co-founder of Unbound Merino, explains why merino wool is good for summer travel:

“Unlike cotton, merino doesn’t absorb moisture. That means in hot, humid and tropical climates, you stay dry and comfortable. It’s also really breathable and acts like a great body temperature regulator. Once you travel with Merino, there’s really no going back.”

At $55/each these are on the more affordable side of merino travel clothing, and they’re built to last. The pocket is actually useful for holding my headphones when I’m out and about, and I like the way these tanks fit, not too snug, not too baggy. If you’re on the fence about sizing, go up one size (I’m 6’1” and I love the M). Toss one of these in your summer packing list and you’ll be able to stretch your wardrobe for days—even weeks—between washes.

If you want a 100% merino t-shirt that just plain goes the distance, I’ve been rocking the Outlier Merino wool t-shirt for the past four years, and that includes taking it on a six-week hike across Spain. Outlier merino is on the pricier end of the spectrum, and they can frequently run out of stock due to limited runs on certain pieces, but they’re one of the best merino brands in the business. It’s all about those microns. Snag one of their premium quality merino t-shirts (or their excellent travel pants) if you plan to travel for a while this summer, and you’ll be ready for just about anything.

If you’re noticing a theme it’s because merino wool is the best summer fabric. Too often, we only think of wool as something that keeps you warm and dry, but this temperature regulating, moisture wicking fabric is great for summer and winter. I’m on a long haul round the world trip for the next year and I have five merino t-shirts in my bag. And that’s honestly probably too many. I only need three or four because they’re just so danged good at what they do.

I opted for the Wool & Prince Pocket Tee over the 100% merino wool crew neck tee ($78) for one simple reason—durability. The pocket tee is made from a 78% merino / 22% nylon blend, meaning it’s able to handle the use and abuse of a long trip across Europe and Asia. Don’t get me wrong, the 100% merino t-shirt feels better, looks better, and performs great, but you should hand wash 100% merino and you have to treat it with a little care. I don’t want to do that. My pocket tee is still packed with tons of merino superpowers, but I can wreck it on the trail, toss it into a washing machine, and basically treat it like a travel shirt without worrying about the fabric stretching or warping. And that’s what summer is all about.

This might seem a little out there, but I’ve really been enjoying the Brazos fishing shirt from American Outdoorsman. Yeah. A fishing shirt.

This thing is oddly stylish thanks the the slim fit and colorful patterns, and it’s jam packed with travel-friendly features for summer adventures on or near the water.

The seam-sealed chest pocket will keep your gear (pr your passport) safe and dry while you’re hiking or exploring in a sudden shower, and the UPF 30 rating, high collar, and comfy, breathable long sleeves with a cotton/poly/spandex blend will protect you from the sun and heat. This shirt is quickly becoming one of my go-to summer shirts for trips to town and the trail.

If chic fitted fashion and comfort are what you’re after, the Unbound Merino V Neck is my t-shirt of choice when I’m going out on the town or heading to a local beerfest along the Douro River. The medium fits like a glove and just plain looks better than my other shirts. It’s a nice upgrade, and I usually save the v neck for “nicer” nights out that don’t quite require a collar.

If you want an even more dapper shirt for hitting the beach clubs or just plain looking fresh and clean, get a printed short-sleeve Bonobos shirt. These shirts are lightweight, super stylish, and travel well. Pick your favorite pattern (there are a ton to choose from) and bring your A-game to the next meetup at the plaza mayor this summer.

If you prefer something a little more stylish, opt for one of the long sleeve (or short sleeve) henleys from Public Rec. They’re breathable, lightweight, won’t wrinkle, and are crazy comfy with plenty of stretch. You’ll look right at home anywhere in the world in one of these classic designs.

Summer Travel Shorts for Men & Women

Growing up outside Washington D.C., summer was always synonymous with “wear as little as possible” for me. But that’s not the case everywhere. In San Francisco, I rarely wear shorts. And during a summer road trip across Spain and France, I frequently wore the yoga pants I had packed.

So, break out your best-looking summer shorts — but, depending on your destination, consider packing some lightweight pants as well.

Summer Travel Shorts for Women

If you’re not a fan of wearing denim in hot weather, hold on a second. DUER does it differently. Their line of denim shorts were designed for active individuals after founder and avid cyclist, Gary Lenett (formerly of Levis), set out to create purposeful fashion that wasn’t on the market.

Durable, breathable, and really damned comfortable, DUER’s denim jean shorts are a far cry from the DIY jean shorts you wore in high school. In these, you can move, sweat, and actually take them off without a struggle. They’re also a great, fashion-forward option for women who prefer longer shorts. Oh, and did I mention they’re stretchy? (No undoing-the-top-button required post chips and margarita binge).

They also make a sleek, lightweight jogger ($120) that’s an ideal option for plane rides or cool summer evenings.

While most outdoor wear shorts are practical, it’s hard to find a flattering or fashionable pair. So, instead, I reach for a simple pair of fitted, black yoga/run shorts I can throw on for hikes, beach days, or impromptu yoga classes. I’ve even gotten away styling them under a longer shirt for a cute day look (hey ath-leisure). 

If you also hate hiking shorts, take a look at Girlfriend Collective’s Classic Run Shorts. With four-way stretch fabric that’s breathable and sweat-wicking, you’ll barely know they’re there — no matter how hot it gets on your travels.

If you’re traveling somewhere more conservative, or visiting a destination with more temperate summers, you’ll need more than just shorts in your pack.

So, instead, reach for a pair of loose-fitting pants, like prAna’s Soledad or Mantra Pants. Lightweight with a relaxed fit, either of these will keep you comfortable and covered during your warm-weather adventures.

They even have UPF 50 in the fabric, giving you additional sun protection.

Summer Travel Shorts for Men

I’m surprised by how much I love the All Over Shorts from Olivers. I’ve always been a fan of structured travel shorts, but the comfort, freedom, and breathability of these crazy stylish elastic waistband shorts have completely changed my mind about what I look for in a pair of travel shorts.

The cut and length of these shorts makes them hip enough for exploring fashion capitals like Paris, walking on the beach, and more importantly, hanging out at night in your hotel, hostel, or AirBnB. These shorts are comfy enough to sleep in yet tough enough for a day hike and even a quick dip in a lake (although I’m not treating mine like a swimsuit just yet).

The two front pockets are deep enough for my wallet and phone, and the draw string is a nice addition if I need to cinch up my pants to carry a few extra items. I do wish these shorts had at least one rear pocket, and they don’t feature any zippers or velcro closures, so that’s something to be aware of, especially if you wear these shorts on a bus or flight. However, I can’t give these shorts enough praise. 

The incredibly soft and comfortable Trail Shorts from Vuori make my short list of great summer shorts, mostly because of the fit, feel, and travel-friendly features.

These shorts feature a zippered rear pocket (nice), and anti-odor liner (which means you don’t have to wear underwear while hiking, working out, or lounging, meaning you can pack less stuff), and the overall comfort and look of these shorts out in the wild.

They do resemble board shorts, so they’re maybe not your everyday city shorts, but if you like jumping in a lake, taking a hike, or just lounging comfortably on a long bus ride or around the hostel, these are fantastic shorts for active travelers looking for a little comfort.

Summer Travel Dresses & Skirts

No summer travel wardrobe is complete without that perfect wear-anywhere dress. Dress it up, dress it down, this is your secret to an instant cute outfit — especially when you get tired of shorts and tanks.

Who doesn’t love a good travel dress you can wear multiple ways? With the ADAY Over in One Dress, you get exactly that: a stretchy, breathable, wrinkle-resistant — and not to mention cute — dress you can wear loose, cinched at the waist, or as a tunic over pants. Made to resist the trials of travel, this dress is one you can rough up, get dirty, and still have it last you years (I’ve been rocking the same ADAY pieces for 2+ years with barely any signs of wear).

Also, this dress has pockets. Real. Damned. Pockets. Get excited, pocket-deprived ladies of the world. 

Everlane Japanese GoWeave Line ($100+)

For travel, I’m obsessed with Everlane’s GoWeave line. This fabric is almost impossible to wrinkle, breathable, and comfortable. It’s also lightweight enough for warm weather, without being see-through.

Any GoWeave dress or jumpsuit in Everlane’s lineup (and they’ve added many new ones this season) is practically made for summer travel. However, their Tank Wrap Dress ($100) and Essential Jumpsuit ($120) are two simple but chic classics you can wear just about anywhere. Change up your accessories to dress them up or down, depending on your activity. 

Style is so personal, and I love that Everlane has a lot of cuts and colors to choose from in this travel-ready fabric. So poke around and, who knows? Maybe you’ll find your new favorite travel dress.

Toad & Co Moxie 230 Skirt ($65) and Hillrose Skirt ($60)

The eco and travel-friendly brand, Toad & Co’s, makes skirts that are soft, comfortable, and come in a variety of cuts and colors — all of which can be styled multiple ways. They also don’t compromise function for fashion, and prioritize features like sweat wicking and stretch in their fabrics.

If you prefer a more fitted look that you can dress up or down, consider their Moxie 230, a sleek pencil skirt with a hidden waist pocket. If you want a skirt that will act as your statement piece, while also serving up functional features like pockets and odor control, try their Hillrose skirt.

Summer Travel Swimsuits for Men & Women

No summer vacation is complete without a swimsuit. While you’ll want a swimsuit you can wear confidently by the pool or beach, it’s also worth considering additional travel-friendly features. Does it have antimicrobial fabrics that’ll keep it from smelling between washes? Is it quick-dry? Is it reversible or can you wear it multiple ways? All of these qualities mean the difference between regular ol’ swimsuit, and travel friendly swimsuit.

Summer Travel Swimsuits for Women

Londre Bodywear ($98 – 140)

Londre’s swimsuits were designed for intrepid women. Made from quick-dry, antimicrobial fabrics, their line of one-pieces and bikinis will stay fresh between washes — so you can confidently make it the only swimsuit in your bag. Several of their designs, can be worn multiple different ways, so you can have a different look even while wearing the same suit.

Plus, you can opt to buy their one-pieces in a matte fabric. Without the typical swimsuit sheen, it can now double as a bodysuit — seriously, I wore one under a skirt for a New Years Eve party in Mexico and no one was the wiser.

L*Space ($70+)

The swimwear by California brand, L*Space, is beautifully designed and comes in a variety of different cuts and colors.

They’re also a great brand to look at if you plan on a water-sport filled summer vacation and want more coverage as you surf, SUP, or kayak. For that, go for one of their full coverage bottoms ($70+) and top with support, like their Ribbed Tara Bikini top ($79).

A bathing suit doesn’t take up that much room in your bag, but why bring two when one can do double?

With a reversible bikini, like those by surf, swim, and skate brand Billabong, you can mix things up a bit, without having to bring an extra.

Summer Travel Swimsuits for Men

These shorts pack down to practically nothing—it’s almost like tossing in another pair of underwear, which is actually how I use these shorts sometimes, especially if I’m traveling for a few weeks at a time (or doing laundry).

If “short” swim shorts aren’t your thing (even though they really should be), H&M has a ton of other longer swimsuit options that you’ll be more than comfortable wearing. Sometimes the best option for travel gear really is the budget choice. That’s the case with H&M swimsuits. They just plain work.

I’m actually also a fan of the Vuori Trail Shorts as my swimsuit (thanks to the built in liner), although they take a little while to dry.

Summer Travel Accessories: Hats & Sarongs

Accessories are a great way to dress up any outfit, but also serve a practical purpose. Hats protect your face from the sun, and you can use sarongs and scarves as a beach cover up or extra layer in chilly airplane cabins or excessively air conditioned restaurants. Here are our picks for summer travel:

I’m not a hat guy. At least I wasn’t, until I got my hands on the Tillak Wallowa Trail Hat. This mesh top trail hat is lightweight, comfy, and adjustable without looking like any old snapback hat. I wear this hat in the ocean, walking around European plazas in the heat of the day, and while I’m hiking in the afternoon.

It looks great, feels awesome, and packs down to nothing if I don’t feel like wearing it (it only weighs 1.69 ounces!). The style is modern and hip, the mesh breathes on warm summer days, and while, yes, a ball cap immediately marks you out as “American” if you’re traveling abroad, I’ve gotten a few compliments on my cap from locals and other travellers. If you want to keep the sun off your face and look good doing it, snag this travel-friendly hat.

I know scarves aren’t necessarily everyone’s first thought when you say “summer clothes”, but between cold restaurants and flights, they come in surprisingly handy. For a scarf that’s truly versatile, I recommend the travel scarf/blankets by Seattle-based brand Travel Tube Blankets. They’ve quickly become my new favorite travel accessory (which is saying something for a writer who obsesses over travel accessories), since they can easily be transformed into a scarf, blanket, shawl, and even a dress.

prAna sarong ($49)

These bright and colorful sarongs are a versatile addition to your beach bag.

In addition to serving as a beach cover up, they’re oversized enough to also work as a beach blanket, or tossed over a simple t-shirt and pants as a scarf. 

Unlike most fashion hats, Lanzom’s roll-up fedora beach hat is super practical for travel. Its design allows you to fold it up and stuff it in your luggage or beach bag, and it comes with SPF 50, giving you extra sun protection. It’s also adjustable and comes in a variety of different colors — perfect for unwashed travel hair, sun protection, and even light rain.

Merino wool might not sound like something you’d want to pack for a summer trip, but you’re wrong. It’s the best. A merino wool scarf will cool you down when it’s hot, wick away sweat on a hike or muggy day trip, and most importantly keep your neck from getting roasted. I don’t like to wear a lot of collared shirts when I travel—mostly just merino t-shirts for me—so keeping my neck safe from the sun is a big deal.

You will look a little touristy when you rock the Buff scarf, but the plain color merino scarf looks pretty stylish (I avoid bright colors or patterns), and after wearing it for a few days you’ll become addicted. Ignore the haters.

But the biggest reason to pack a merino scarf for summer isn’t the heat or the sun, it’s the cold. Summer can be deceptively cold, even at famously warm destinations. I spent one of the coldest summers of my life in Iceland a few years ago, and currently I’m enjoying the delightfully brisk Portugeuse coastal summer complete with frigid nights, windy days, and a surprising need for layers.

Packing a compact, easy to carry scarf for summer lets you avoid packing more bulky layers like a heavy jacket or needless cotton sweatshirt. Buffs are made for carry on, and they’re useful all year round (even summer!).

If you’re going to spend more time on the trail than the city, opt for the specially rated UV protection Buffs (in more interesting patterns for increased visibility). They can even double as a hat on chilly mornings.

Summer Travel Shoes & Sandals for Women & Men

Like any trip, stick to 2-3 pairs of shoes, max. For summer travel, pack one pair of sneakers or hiking sandals you can use for outdoor activities, and one pair of comfortable sandals for urban adventures and nights out. Usually, I’ll pack a pair of sneakers, a casual pair of sandals, and a more dressy pair of sandals or flats to wear out at night.

Summer Travel Shoes & Sandals for Women

Soludos Sandals ($79-129)

For sandals cute enough to pull your perfect summer outfit together, but comfortable enough to walk around in all day, Soludos has been my go-to brand. Inspired by travel, their line of fashionable sandals look great and feel great, making them an ideal summer travel sandal.

For your packing list, opt for a simple, versatile slip-on, like their Woven Slide Sandal. Or, make this pair of shoes your statement piece in an otherwise neutral wardrobe with a bright and colorful slide like the Anouk Sandal.

My only advice: break them in before your trip. Also, their slip ons and espadrilles tend to be more comfortable than anything with an ankle strap.

There’s no denying these sturdy, adventure-ready shoes are ideal for outdoorsy summer trips. Built to last, and keep you lasting, Tevas will keep your feet happy over miles of mountain, lakesides, or beach. They also pack down small, and will take up less room in your pack than a traditional pair of hiking boots or trail runners.

Not going anywhere outdoorsy? Don’t shrug them off just yet. While Tevas haven’t exactly been synonymous with the word “fashion forward”, they’ve recently broken into the fashion scene. Even if you’re not going anywhere outdoorsy, bring them along to pair with a dress or shorts and tank combo for a cute and casual day look. 

TOMS have long been one of our top, trusty travel shoes. They’re comfy, pack down small, and come in so many different fabrics you’re sure to find something you love.

Lesser known secret: they also make some pretty cute sandals and slides, like their Viv Sandal ($60), you can wear all day.

Summer Travel Shoes & Sandals for Men

Yup. Wool shoes. For summer. Sounds nuts, right? It’s not. The wool runners from Allbirds are super comfy, and ultra stylish for just about any summer destination. Seriously, you can rock this in Ibiza. The upside of wearing wool shoes during summer is that they actually work to eliminate foot odor even when you’re not wearing socks. I’ve worn mine for months without socks and they’re still going strong.

The only downside of these shoes is that they don’t pack especially flat (the sole is on the thicker side) and they’re not super durable, at least on top. I scuffed mine up playing tennis, so keep that in mind if you plan to do a lot of hiking. There’s no “toe box” on these, so you’re not gonna wanna run an Ironman in them.

But, if you just plan to stay on the move and want to look good this summer, these are great summer travel shoes. I went with grey, but they’ve also got a ton of other great colors if you’re feeling zany.

I’m a rock climber, so that means I usually plan to get a little out there, especially during the summer. When I do get out on the trail, I like to wear (not pack) my Scarpa Crux Approach Shoes for two simple reasons:

  1. They’re amazing hiking shoes
  2. They still look really good when I’m not hiking

I haven’t found another shoe that does both of those things. Seriously. I’ve tried. The Scarpa design aesthetic just looks great to me—I work these approach shoes to my job in Manhattan for months—and they’re to date the best hiking shoe I’ve ever worn. And I’ve put them to the test. I walked across Spain in them and they still look pretty new.

The sole is durable, the shoe fits perfectly, they’re lightweight (but not featherweight like a trail runner), and they provide me with all the security I need to do just about anything I want, including scaling crags or running around the streets of Rome.

I dig the Crux approach shoes, but the Iguana and Gecko are also both solid, lighter approach shoes options for less rugged summer travel.

You just can’t go wrong with Toms when it comes to summer travel. Seriously. I’ve tried a lot of other shoes—that I really liked—and I just keep coming back to these comfy, lightweight, durable little shoes, especially for warm weather travel.

Toms fit like a champ, look great on the beach (where I spend a lot of time), and at the bar, and they travel insanely well thanks to the slip on design. You don’t even need to pack socks! Toms are particularly great for coastal travel since they protect your feet infinitely better than sandals. They’re also all-stars in Asian countries where taking your shoes off before entering a building is the norm. No more futzing with laces.

I’ve enjoyed the barefoot feel and lightweight packability of the Xero Cloud barefoot sandals for the past few months. The huarache strap system took a little getting used to, and the barefoot sole can be a bit disorienting for first-timers, but these lightweight comfy sandals are great for relaxing at the end of the day, or exploring along the beach or the nearest river.

I’m a California kid, so I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for the exquisitely crafted Rainbow, double layer leather sandals. They take a little while to break-in, but that’s only because they want to mold to your foot. And once they do… oh man. You’re in for a treat.

I wore my last pair of Rainbows for over ten years. They took me from high school through college and into my life in New York City. One pair of sandals. If you want to invest in a quality pair of comfy flip flops that are stylish, and built for the long haul, pick up some rainbows.

TL;DR

Summer travel means breaking out all of your fashion faves, but make sure you’re not forgetting to choose functional pieces as well. Go for fabrics that are sweat-wicking and odor-controlling, but can also resist wrinkles when tossed in your bag. Choose shoes that are both cute and comfortable. And, of course, don’t forget your hat.

 

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