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These Are The Essentials I Am Packing For My First Trip Post-Vax

Read: travel capsule wardrobe.

Courtesy of Kathy Lee
A carry-on tote bag and a check-in sized luggage

It’s been a hell of a year. Regardless of which shoes you stand in and what you’ve been through, I think it’s a safe bet to say that you can use a vacation right about now. But the pressing question is not where you’ll go (although that matters, of course), but what you’ll wear and pack for your first vacation post-vaccination. This is a chance to look and feel great, emerging out of your cocoon of a quarantine uniform, and planning what you’ll take can be as much fun as the trip itself. But, if you’ve experienced anything like me the past few weeks as the world opened up, I’m a bit rusty when it comes to getting dressed again, let alone packing an entire suitcase of clothes, shoes, and bags to last me the whole summer. Enter: a travel capsule wardrobe.

What is that you ask? It’s essentially an edited group of, well, essentials — think jewelry you never take off that works for day and night, shoes that can be worn comfortably while walking around the city square as well as the beach, or versatile pajama sets that can be taken apart and be worn as real clothes (there are many great options of this now, you’ll see below). A travel capsule wardrobe is smart and effective, and you won’t be bogged down by unnecessary volume of “stuff” that you won’t wear. You’ll also look more like a traveler and less like a tourist sans multiple luggages.

If my past summer trips to Italy are any indication, I found solace in having fewer, but better choices in my wardrobe. I’m a light packer by nurture, a skill I took years to hone (disclaimer: my husband says I still am not), but as someone who works in fashion and beams over every lux iteration of a Teva sandal and gingham print anything come spring, I’m almost certain that I am. I mean, I am able to pack all my things and my two kids’ in one check-in bag. I think that’s pretty darn good. I’ll let you decide.

Courtesy of Kathy Lee

So, what will I be packing for my first international trip since being vaccinated? Locale and culture determine a good part of it. I will be heading to Italy, specifically Bologna and a town in northeast Sardinia, to spend long awaited time with family. Since one is a city and the other a beach town, I’m conscious that whatever I bring must work for both destinations.

I’ve been going to these two spots for ten years now, so I’m quite familiar with the climate, walkability to and from places, and the general scene. But how and what I pack can be translated to other summer city and beach destinations, as well. Below, a guide to what I am packing to minimize my time deciding what to wear during vacation and maximize my time living in the moment and enjoying la bella vita.

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Easy, Breezy Dresses

Courtesy of Kathy Lee

It is hot in Italy during the summer, and to get around is usually by walking or public transportation. Add the fact that culturally, Italians don’t tend to put the AC on till, say it reaches 95 degrees (or at least my in-laws), I know that I will want to wear clothes that have proper ventilation and aren’t form-fitting to my overheated body. I prefer mid-length to maxi flowy dresses and caftans that cover my skin from the oppressive sun. I will be away for almost two months and will pack five dresses in total. I’ll make sure to include a variety of sleeve and hem lengths, printed and monochromatic, and color that is not a neutral.

Stylish Flat Shoes

Even in NYC I tend to wear flats more than heels. So, for me, choosing flat shoes over heels is a no brainer. To get to the city square from my family’s home is about a mile, which includes cobblestones, so I make sure to bring along a range of options — a pair of soft, white sneakers that work for dresses and shorts alike, fashionable options, like the mary jane and leather slides, in case I stay around for an aperitivo, and sandals that work for both the city and the beach (see the thong pair below).

Mix & Match Pajama Sets

I’ve always been fond of wearing pajamas as clothing outside of the bedroom, but with this market expanding over the years, the options are even better. From my favorite Italian brand Loretta Caponi to stateside Lake, the sets include puff sleeves and tie tank tops that can easily be worn with your favorite cotton voile skirt or this season’s biggest trend, Bermuda shorts. While the PJ shorts and pants are the perfect cover-up for your swimsuit when heading down to the beach. I will be taking two pajama sets with me for this trip.

Elevated Shorts

Finally, shorts I can wear and not feel like my pre-adolescent self. These straight-fit numbers — plus one lux version of a biker short — are styles I can sport with a crisp cropped tee (this one’s my favorite) as they all come in a high-waisted fit, as well with a swimsuit when heading down to the beach. This is what I will likely be wearing the most, and will be packing one in white and one in blue.

Island Life Swimwear

I’m sort of obsessive when it comes to swimwear. I’m enamored with beach life and how women in different regions wear different variations of swimsuits. When in Sardinia, the style tends to skew minimal in design and less coverage when it comes to the bottoms. Beyond aesthetics, I also have to think about functionality. One of my favorite things to do is swim from the island to island, and I have to ensure sure that my suit doesn’t fall off or chafe when doing so. I pack one set for more sporty outings like this and others that are purely for leisure. Since they are small and light and I will be there for some time, I will be packing four sets for my trip.

Transportable Hats

Unless you plan to travel with a hat box or pack a packable hat, it’s quite a feat bringing one that won’t get easily ruined. I know, I’ve tried. I once wore a hat all the way from New York City via Amsterdam to Bologna, and boy did I regret it! And felt stupid, nonetheless. But no sweat. Below, I included hat styles that are easy to transport and won’t require you to don an oversized straw hat down the airport terminal.

Versatile Jewelry

I prefer not to wear jewelry that’s too precious or ones that require to be taken off and put back on. I like a nice mix of layered necklaces, yellow gold stack rings, and a thin bracelet or two as part of my daily uniform. Since it’s summer after all, I opt for pieces with a pop of color like the Davidor cord bracelet and stones like jade that will complement any outfit I put together. Sometimes, I’ll swap out my earrings for more statement ones, but knowing me, I’ll stick to a smaller sized pair of drop earrings like the Dezso by Sara Beltrán ones below. Just remember to take off that jade pendant before jumping into the sea.

Neutral Carryall Bag

I know micro bags are making a comeback, but for me, I need a solid, carryall bag in which I can easily put my stuff away, and that can hold more things than just a wallet and a phone. I like a tan shade for the summer as it tends to go with all my clothes, but most of the options I included below come in other neutrals, too. I will be bringing only one handbag on my trip.