Vacation Packing Tips

Anything more than a day trip is becoming a rare treat for me. So, spending a week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina was balm for my soul. The mornings and early evenings involved walking on the beach, looking for shells. At one point, I was the only person on the beach as far as I could see in any direction, and there were no buildings in sight. There were countless sea and shore birds. A pod of dolphins traveled parallel to my walk down the beach, and I even saw a whale!

My travel look included soft, comfortable black pants, a shell, and a white denim jacket since I needed the option of layers for warmth. Unfortunately, it was thirty degrees cooler at my departure than at my arrival destination.

The base of black would also allow me to build a look for going out to dinner if I had changed my plans. The black pull-on knit pants are very comfortable and perfect for dressing up or down. I bought them here. The tee or shell is here. The white denim jacket is here. The nail color this week is Cajun Shrimp here. A similar current handbag is here.

Since this was a solo trip for solitude and I planned to browse in bookshops and occasionally go out for lunch, I packed casual clothing and accessories. Also on my agenda were visits to the Elizabethan Gardens, Pea Island Refuge, Historic Old Manteo, and The Town of Duck. After arrival, I set up the tripod and camera in the extra bedroom of my cottage to share the day’s looks with you. I hope this practice is helpful as you plan your vacation.

I stayed in a humble beach cottage steps from the ocean and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. My priority was a location allowing me to walk down to the beach at sunrise each morning.

The top is here, and jeans are here, sandals here, hat here, similar bag here.

I often ate the garden medley from the prepared foods section at Conner’s Supermarket. The best lunch places I found included Tavern on Twelve, Diamond Shoals Restaurant, The Froggy Dog, and Muffins and Scones.

No Iron Strech Shirts are here. The white jeans are here.

I didn’t wear makeup this week, but I did cleanse and moisturize twice a day. Of course, sunscreen is a must, and you’ll note from my itinerary I mostly stayed out of the sun during the middle of the day. I’ve never been one to lay on the beach, so I walk the shoreline, taking in my surroundings while engaging in my favorite exercise.

The white jean jacket is here. The tee is here. The jeans are here. (I ordered a size smaller to get this fit.)

The Eyelet Sleeve Tee is here. The jeans are here. (I ordered a size smaller to get this fit.) Similar shoes here.

The jacket is here. The tank is here. The jeans are here. A similar bag is here.

The tank is here. The white jeans are here.

The best tunics button fully to allow the option of leaving them open over a tank and jeans. This lightweight cotton one is perfect as a bathing suit cover as well. I found it at Banana Republic last year. Here is a similar one.

My look for the long drive home included a tee, jeans, and sneakers. The tee is here. The jeans are here. (I ordered a size smaller to get this fit.) The sneakers are here.

I rented a Kia Sorento from Enterprise and drove eight and one-half hours to Buxton, NC.

Before packing, I check the weather one more time. Then I finalize my itinerary. Lastly, I include items for comfort based on the previous two points. (Always dress for the weather, the event, and to suit your personality.) I pack mix-and-match outfits for more variety and include three types of shoes for various comfortable walking options. I also bought new ACTIVE-X high-cut socks before the trip. The best no-show socks I’ve found are here.

The sneakers are here – The sandals are here – Similar block-heeled sandals are here.

Not pictured are two bathing suits here and here, leggings here, a tee here, a hoodie here, hiking shorts here, a shell bag here, and river shoes here. All these items were for beach walks only. I also took three pairs of sunglasses with me.

As always, some of the links in this post may allow me to earn a small commission, but there is never an extra cost to you.

  1. Susan, l could really use a getaway such as this. Thank you for sharing. I hope we see more of your trip.

    1. Thank you, Jackie. This was a therapeutic trip, so I was engrossed in my activities rather than taking pictures, so I don’t have more than the links to the places I visited.

  2. It’s funny this came at the perfect time for me as I am leaving tomorrow for a short trip to Florida.
    I do love the ocean and the peaceful life of the beach.
    Now I have some ideas for outfits
    Because I’m flying and not checking in a bag I wanted to tell you the Beautycounter travel sizes work well when packing. This is a first flight in a long time. I’m a little nervous!
    Glad you had a wonderful trip.

  3. Welcome back. As much as I enjoy your scenery pictures, I am glad you took the time you needed to be in the moment instead of snapping photographs. I understand how important down time is when you’re a caregiver. Glad you are back and refreshed.

  4. Welcome back Susan! You look wonderful and like you had a wonderful time as well 🙂 So happy for you to be able to have the time away. Bless you and stay well.

  5. The Outer Banks is my favorite place to go. So peaceful. Connors Market is great! You should have included a day trip to Ocracoke. I could go on and on about Cape Hatteras! So glad you had such a nice relaxing vacation!
    Was so happy to see this blog!

    1. Thanks, Tammy. I have been to Ocracoke before and planned to go on this trip, but the ferry line was two to three hours long, even when I thought I was getting there way early. I can’t imagine what it’s like in full-on summer!

  6. I was happy to see yet another post from you today, with so many inspiring tips. Thank you for all that you share, I have learned a lot from it. Hope you feel refreshed after your vacation, sounded like a lovely trip.

  7. Welcome back! I’m sure I’m not alone in saying you were missed. When I opened this post there was a smile on my face because then I knew you had been in the Outer Banks, one of my favorite places on earth. Brought tears to my eyes too for all the memories made there. I can still recall the beautiful performance, outdoors on a moonlit night of The Lost Colony. Your time spent there sounded perfect in all that you experienced in so many ways.

  8. Susan, what a wonderful trip! Thank you so much for posting the links! I really appreciate that. And welcome back!

  9. Walking out onto an empty beach at dawn is my idea of a perfect getaway too! Thank you for sharing your links and the details of your trip. I love your casual vacation looks. The one with the blue and white striped shirt is my favorite – it has ‘sun, sand and sea’ written all over it!

  10. Your blog is such a pleasant read- thank you. Please consider putting together your thoughts and tips on a woman traveling by herself, even going locally to a restaurant by herself. Thanks again!

    1. I don’t read or look at my phone when I dine out, but I enjoy watching people and being fully present. TripAdvisor is an excellent site to help you find places to eat and things to do in your area. Read the reviews and browse the website or menu before you go, and be prepared to move to the next restaurant on your list if the first choice doesn’t work out. I almost always enjoy lunch or brunch rather than dinner. By the time the sun sets, I am usually inside for the night, relaxing after a full day.

  11. I am a frequent reader from Europe and would like to thank you: for sharing your experience and wisdom, for great inspiration and very illustrative photos. Every post is a pleasure.

  12. I really admire your sense of adventure. I have followed you for many years and have enjoyed it immensely. I am finding more and more single ladies who enjoy solo trips.. you’re such an inspiration!

  13. So glad to read your blog this morning! Glad you had a good trip and that is my kind of packing! Casual all the way!

  14. We had a beach vacation last summer at Cape Hatteras and enjoyed it so much. Your solitary trip sounds so relaxing!

  15. Refreshing change from your more “dressy” outfit suggestions! I also think you look younger in these more casual outfit options! Maybe it’s the colorful, but not busy prints as we often see on others, choices that give you a more youthful look! Your color choices give off a “happy” vibe without going overboard! Thank you, as always for sharing your wise fashion advice. It is much appreciated!

  16. We are planning a week at a resort in Mexico. Your packing tips really helped me finalize what I want to make sure I pack. Thank you for sharing.

  17. “Adorable” may not be the usual word to describe a woman, but you, in that hat…Adorable!!! Love all these outfits and how youthful you look!

  18. So happy for you! You were able to relax and enjoy a quiet vacation away from all the hustle of everyday life. I’ll add, you looked great while doing it too! I looked at those cute sandals. They are not available at the linked store, but I found them on Amazon. Take care and have a wonderful week!

  19. Perfect east coast spring beach attire! Glad you had a good get-away; walks on the beach are good mental health therapy

  20. Nothing comes up but “error” when selecting “here” for where items of clothing have been purchased. Didn’t know if you were aware of it or not.

  21. Hi Susan, just want to compliment you on your hair – the length/cut looks great on you!
    Minor question – do you get pedicures or do your own?
    Thank you for reading. Cheers

  22. I love the Carolina coast and also find it relaxing. My son lived there for 10 years and the family has enjoyed visiting him while he was flying for the Marines from that area. He is now in Monterey; another very pleasant place to visit. I have a question regarding the sizing of the jeans. You indicate that you sized down for the fit, however when you introduced us to the jeans I understood that you purchased a size up for a more relaxed fit.
    Am I confused?

  23. Thanks so much for this post … I’m leaving tomorrow for a trip to the OBX with a few friends! I’m especially curious about the ‘sized down’ denim jacket. I love this look! Did you pack both your true size and the sized down jacket? Looking forward to learning which (or both) to pack Love your blog!!

  24. I love your tips for travel ideas. I have a HS Reunion coming up. The dress code is casual, but it’s in someone’s home. Do you have any suggestions as to what I should wear/purchase? Thank you for your help..

    1. I always suggest wearing what makes you feel confident and pretty. Of course, you must be comfortable for the weather, but nice slacks and a cute top would likely be appropriate.

  25. Susan, Hope you had a wonderful time. I love the look of the hiking shorts, how were they? The bathing suits are beautiful. Could you talk about the fit of the shorts and bathing suits? Thanks so much, Judy

    1. I usually wear the hiking shorts over leggings, but this time I wore them over swimsuits. The fit and function of the shorts are loose and very comfortable. This bathing suit provides better coverage and doesn’t ride up as much as the other one. Because I can choose cup sizes, I shopped for my suits at Land’s End.

  26. I have not commented previously but have read you for a year now, including your back posts. You are an inspiration and role model for me. I retired a year ago and you are how I want to dress.

  27. What perfect timing…we’re thinking of traveling down the Natchez Trace in our convertible. I have a good idea of what to pack, but seeing outfits on you just gels what would be comfortable and look great! (Because you look great!). Thank you for this post…have been missing you!!

  28. Hi Susan, you needed your vacation to re charge your batteries mentally and physically and you looked rested .
    I noticed a couple of readers say how lovely you look with out make up , thumbs up to you pretty lady as I think it’s
    sad that some women won’t be seen dead without their make up on. Yes make up applied subtly can enhance pretty
    coloured eyes lips etc and what I love about your make up it is ALWAYS subtle and even when you go out for a date night
    with Mr Mickey and wear a bit extra it’s great that the true blue of your eyes shine through and not rimmed in thick black kohl
    eyeliner, think Joan Collins very pretty lady but sooty eyes, such a shame. I have copied your little trick of not putting
    mascara on lower lashes or I sometimes just put one coat. ( helps to if I have a cry lol).
    Susan what would us ladies do without you. Hugs and thank you.,
    Pamela from Wales UK.
    PS looking at your neat slim figure reminds me I must loose a few pounds , it’s my tummy where my excess weight lands
    and being petite I look like a little pudding , I must loose 7 lbs and then I will be comfortable. I forget my portion sizes.

  29. Susan, I love this post! You look lovely, as always. We are leaving for vacation in three weeks so the timing is perfect. I’m so glad you were able to get away to relax and rewind.

  30. One of your best articles. Very informative. Sounds like a wonderful get-away, which can be very beneficial. Great clothing choices- practical and pretty.Sounds like a lovely travel spot- any beach location sounds great…

  31. So glad you got to take this trip. I am living vicariously through you. I could really use a trip like this, but unfortunately it’s not in the cards for me. Thanks so much.

  32. As usual Susan you look wonderful and relaxed..No makeup looks good on you! Thanks for the travel clothing ideas. I leave for an English garden tour in a couple of weeks. I am going to use the basic capsule concept of a column of white and one of black to build around so I won’t overpack since I will be in 5 different hotels and on a bus every day.

  33. Wow! It looks like you had a wonderful time. I’m so happy you were able to get away and enjoy your time alone. I realize you stopped using Facebook a while back. That said, if you ever find yourself on the site again, there is a group called “Solo After 50: Women Traveling Solo and Loving It.” The group is filled with women who travel in the world, or just a few hours from home. They offer travel tips, safety, tips, luggage, tips, and general encouragement. Until I’m able to travel to such faraway places, I experience them through their excursions. You may want to check it out Again, happy you were able to get away. And of course you looked fabulous at the same time.

  34. As always, your posts are a pleasure to read and follow. I look forward to opening your articles each time I see them in my email because I know I will learn and appreciate the classic, sophisticated looks you present. Your outfits are styled to perfection and are so wearable. I have used your suggestions to pair down my wardrobe to items that are more classic, coordinate and contain pieces I will actually wear – more than once! They have also led me to make purchases with more thought. This one in particular ticked many boxes with me. I hope you know how much your followers enjoy them. Kudos to you for your solo getaway!

  35. Hi Susan your article has been so helpful as I am going on a two week trip in June. Would you please comment on what luggage you might suggest for such a trip? Thanks Diane Chapman

  36. Sounds heavenly and you look amazing as always. We haven’t taken a real vacation since Feb 2020 when Covid hit. Maybe next winter now that the garden season is upon us.

  37. Now that sounds like a relaxing time & love the outfits. I am going to arrange a long weekend away to Seaside, Or. or maybe a new coastal town to explore! Hmmm

  38. Susan,
    Thanks for the packing tips and example. I really need to stop overpacking on trips and plan ahead. Your example of black pants would eliminate my need for “just in case” pieces that are seldom worn.
    I attended my nephew’s wedding at Pine Knoll Aquarium quite a few years ago and always wanted to return to North Carolina. We stayed at a little coastal hotel a few minutes away. Miles of beach just outside.
    “Balm for my soul” indeed!

  39. What a wonderful trip! I visited the Outer Banks for the first time last May, traveling from Idaho. It was so lovely. Thank you for your positive, uplifting, inspiring posts and beautiful stylings.

  40. I hope you know how much of a difference you make, Susan. You are so generous to share your holidays with us. You make it seem possible with you kindly advice on what to wear, how you plan your days and mostly your inspire us with your attitude.
    It is autumn here in NZ. It is the textures of clothes that are also enjoyed as it is getting colder. There is also the connections to my past with the types of fabric and patterns – like the tartan effect in a scarf to connect to my early Scottish folk who came in in 1850 from Scotland.
    Have you explored charcoal as a colour to play with? I think it is lovely with silver and white or maybe rose?
    You are beautiful and your smile warms my heart,
    very grateful, Carolyn

  41. You look amazing Susan! And thank you for wearing white jeans. I just bought a pair and then thought I’m too old for them.

  42. This was awesome. So much inspiration and information. I rarely comment, but I never miss one of your posts. Thank you so much!

  43. In addition to the great wardrobe suggestions, I have written down the places you chose to visit. So often when we go to the outerbanks, we don’t do any touristy stuff – well, except be on the beach! Thank you for the great ideas.

  44. So glad I found this post today, Susan. It’s very timely.
    In a fortnight’s time I’m going to Israel for a fortnight. It’s a last minute decision and I only got in by the skin of my teeth! The closing date was 10th March and I only booked my place 5 days ago!
    Having recently lost 77 lbs, I’ve been all of a flutter deciding what summery clothes I should buy. Last summer I was a UK size 22/24 and now I’m a UK size 12/14. So you can see that I needed to do some clothes shopping because I had no summer clothes! Thankfully I’ve found nearly everything I need online.
    Seeing as we’re going to Israel (I’m in a church fellowship group) I need to be respectful when choosing clothes. This is no problem for me as I wear mostly dresses anyway and they’re always modest. I liked the look of the shoes you took (apart from the heels which would aggravate a back injury) and I absolutely loved your denim jacket. Like you, I’ll be mostly make-up free apart from wearing a little in the evenings.
    There are 31 of us in this group and it’s being led by our pastor who has been leading tours in Israel since 1978.
    Thank you for your tips. This is going to be a trip of a lifetime for me and I truly appreciate any advice about travelling clothes.
    Kay in Cornwall, UK

  45. Susan, please don’t let your hair grow long unless you are planning to wear a French twist or a nape-of-neck pony tail. I am so tired of everyone having long locks.
    Barbara Hoffmann

  46. Susan, your neck and your décolleté area look fantastic. Do you do any special routine? If so, details, please!

  47. For 5 years in a row, my Mom & I used to spend a month each year on one of the smaller islands in the Bahamas. Empty beaches every single day, fresh fish and wonderful locals. Those vacations certainly ticked all the boxes for rest & rejuvenation!
    Carry-on packing with a basic wardrobe makes a world of difference in travel ease and no stress.

  48. Wondering if you could please share who made your tan bag shown on this post in addition to the similar bag link you shared. Yours is the perfect size and I love color. Am hoping to find it online somewhere. Thank you Susan!

  49. Please share with me who makes the tan bag you have in this post. It’s the perfect size and color and I’m hoping to find it online somewhere. Thank you Susan!

  50. Hi Susan,

    First of all thank you so much for all your tips. Although I have had many years of clothes shopping I never analysed my choices as you have now taught me.
    I am only 5’1 tall and although I can walk short distances I have mobility issues. Any particular tips for Petite fashion and clothing in a wheelchair?
    Coats get too crumbled and some jackets or even tops in certain colours or design can overwhelm me. I know there are lots of Petite ranges in Department shops but I never knew what to choose until I came across your blog about 18 months ago. So again a big thank you.

    Love the food and travel bits that make your blog so engaging as I never know what you are going to show me next.

    Well done!
    Kind regards
    Aileen Goodwin

    1. Hi Aileen,

      Think about keeping your bottom half covered in warm or cool pants or skirts as needed, and look for cropped versions of jackets and coats. You won’t have all that extra fabric and will still be comfortable. Small prints and fewer details, such as large collars or puffy jackets, will be good choices for you.

      Thanks for your comment.

  51. I too have an unworn black, long sleeve t shirt, which came in a multipack – I’m inspired now to wear it with jeans this Spring.

  52. I am curious about your three pairs of sunglasses. Different shapes, different lens colors, or something else?? I would appreciate a recommendation for a good
    brand sunglasses.
    I always learn something new from your posts. Thank you!

  53. Absolutely love the sheec socks! I was hesitant to purchase because I’ve never had luck with finding ones that would stay on my feet! But WOW the sheec brand is perfect … I wore them all day without any problems!

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.