Here are cute summer outfits ideas to show you how you can pack your beach vacation outfits in a carry on!

How to Pack Your Beach Vacation Outfits in Just Your Carry-On

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Whether you’re going somewhere soon for spring break or you’re in an eternal summer state of mind, there’s probably a good chance you’ve thought about your beach vacation outfits lately.

If you’re in the midwest like me and barely survived the polar vortex, how can you not find your thoughts slipping away to palm trees and tan lines?

Please let me just think about something that doesn’t have anything to do with snow unless it’s a snow cone on the beach.

I’m headed to LA soon for my first time ever (yay!!) and it’s had me thinking about my own outfits and how I’m going to look LA cool without bringing my whole wardrobe with me.

Because once an airport lost my luggage and I vowed to become a “carry-on only” girl ever since.

Now, that sounds a little dramatic. But then again, most things I say are probably a little overdramatic.

The point is, by packing only a carry-on, you’re not just saving money, but you also don’t have to worry about your luggage getting lost, and if you’re like me, it takes out lots of stress knowing all you need is with you.

Admittedly, it’s become increasingly harder with fashion blogging because of course I want to pack all I can and take as many different photos as humanly possible.

But I do what I can and try to make it work.

Yes, it’s very hard being me. Thank you for asking.

Though carry-ons might not work all the time, depending on the length of your trip and destination (thin dresses are way easier to pack than bulky winter boots for example), there are some general principles that can help you pack your beach vacation outfits in a carry-on! This is what I’ve learned.

Here are cute summer outfits ideas to show you how you can pack your beach vacation outfits in a carry on!

So first things first,

Make a list

I’m a list girl and this really helps me but does require a bit of work on the front end.

Even on vacations, I like to plan out everything I’m doing so no time is wasted (I sound fun to travel with don’t I?), so this means I have a list of what I’m doing and what I need outfits for, instead of just throwing things in willy nilly.

making a schedule = making a list of outfits that fit the schedule = your packing list

Another extra thing I do when traveling is to put my outfits together ahead of time and snap a photo of what I’m going to wear so I don’t forget what accessories and pieces I had planned to go together.

I used to write it down in a notebook, but this way I don’t have to bring an extra item with me. Plus, everyone always has their phone with them anyway.

Also, if I was styling a shirt in a certain way, i.e, tucked or knotted on the side, then I won’t forget my vision and the actual execution of the style.

Here are cute summer outfits ideas to show you how you can pack your beach vacation outfits in a carry on!

This next thing is very important to know as you move forward in packing:

Accept the fact that you won’t bring as much as you want to

You’re not going to be able to bring as much as you want, but really, you don’t need as much as you think either. Gather up what you want to bring and throw half of it away.

Okay, don’t do that, but the first step to packing in a carry-on is to know that you’re going to be bringing way less than what you originally planned on.

But have no fear because you can still look cute!

The key is to pack items that can be used in different ways, like your one-piece swimsuit moonlighting as a snazzy bodysuit or your swimsuit cover-up becoming a dress.

You also want to pack colors that match and complement each other.

Though you’ll see in my examples (that we’ll get to) that I use mostly neutrals, this doesn’t mean you only have to wear black and white. If you like looking fun and tropical on your beach vacays, bring out those bold colors. Just make sure they complement each other and pack neutrals as well.

You just want all your colors to go well together. Whatever the colors you choose. A printed kimono or coverup is a great way to tie in colors and add that extra print.

And don’t forget to…

Check the weather

It’s pretty impossible to predict this 100%, but if you can check as close as possible to your departure date, then you’ll know if you need to bring that extra rain jacket or not.

Now with those basic tips out of the way, let’s move on to the actual outfits!

I put together some outfits to show you that it actually is possible, using basic pieces that you probably already have in your wardrobe. And if not, this is the start of a good shopping list! 🙂

Here are cute summer outfits ideas to show you how you can pack your summer vacation outfits in a carry on!

As you can see, it just takes some creativity and mixing and matching, but you can get a lot of outfits out of just a few pieces!

black one piece // sandals // espadrilles // denim shorts // linen pants // striped tee // white button down // floral kimono // white dress

Accessories don’t take up a ton of space and they can be what gives your outfit new life, so don’t forget these!

straw bag // straw hat // sunglasses

Here are cute summer outfits ideas to show you how you can pack your beach vacation outfits in a carry on!

If all this fails you and you still find you don’t have enough space, well then maybe you can take over your husband’s carry-on space too. Not speaking from experience. I’d never do that…

Whether you’re brainstorming beach vacation outfits just for fun or getting ready for spring break, then you’re going to love these additional outfits in this post about A Minimalistic and Chic Tropical Vacation Capsule Wardrobe!


Founder and editor of My Chic Obsession, Carolyn is your trusted fashion maven. Carolyn's drive to help others achieve a classic and timeless wardrobe fuels her posts, making a go-to resource for style seekers worldwide. Beyond the wardrobe, she resides in the heartland of the Midwest, dreaming up new ideas and raising her two lively boys - her biggest fashion critics.