Let me be real with you guys. In theory, I envision myself on vacation in some sexy new bikini with my hair perfectly “beach-waved” under an adorable Panama hat with glowing skin and perfectly poised for an Instagram-worthy photo op. In reality, my vacations (the last real one I took was three years ago) are an opportunity for me not to have to wear makeup for a week, pull out the eight-year-old bikini that I haven’t worn for two summers, and slather my pale-ass skin in SPF 50 every 30 minutes so I don’t burn to a crisp. And those sunset photos where I’m casually laughing on the beach with my family? They look more like me running after my toddler who got naked because she didn’t like the sand in her butt, a baby crying because his sister knocked over his pile of sand, and a husband catching up on emails because there’s no such thing as a real vacation from work. It’s not a pretty picture.”

Although my inclination is to pack a couple of oversized tees, one bathing suit, a pair of jean shorts and call it a day, I’m also acutely aware of the fact that I want to look and feel good while away from the office and our everyday chaos. Over the years, I’ve honed in on a few tricks to look good (or, more accurately, good enough) without packing everything but the kitchen sink. Because, let’s face it, when the portable crib, baby monitor, car seats, diapers, and 150 pairs of clothes for the kids are coming, there just isn’t room for that full-size bottle of spray wax to get my curls just right.


1. Minimal Makeup. My everyday makeup routine takes 5 minutes or less, so I’m never putting on fake lashes, but on vacation, I’d prefer not to wear makeup at all. I used to spend my weekends completely makeup-less, but I don’t have naturally glowy, beautiful skin, and I just don’t feel great with nothing at all. My vacation makeup is the same as my weekend makeup: a complexion correcting, SPF primer, a swipe of mascara (waterproof for beach vacations), and a dab of multi-purpose cheek/lip gel. For a night out, I’ll add a brown eyeliner and a swipe of a neutral, shimmery eye shadow.


2. A Neutral Wardrobe. I stick to one color palette to maximize the ability to reuse items and minimize decision-making once I’m there. 2-3 mix and match bathing suits allows me to change it out and feel like I’m wearing a different suit each day, which is also great for photos. For sunny vacations, lightweight dresses are easy to pack, and a neutral sweater can be used for chilly nights or to change the look of a re-worn outfit.


3. A Few Key Accessories. I’m not hugely into accessories, so these tend to be my “fancy” items for a dinner out or day date, but they also help mix up the outfits. I like to bring a bright cross-body bag, which pairs nicely with any of the neutrals in my wardrobe, a wide-brimmed hat, which is both practical for pool- or beach-side lounging and cute with a dress for a dinner date, and one or two fun necklaces.



4. Strategic Hair Products. My hair is naturally somewhere between wavy and straight, but if I let it air dry, it’s flat on the top, wavy-ish on the bottom, and frizzy as hell all over. I’ve invested in a small hair dryer (not always needed as most hotels supply one for you), a good wave spray, a multi-tasking straightener, and a travel-sized lightweight texturizing spray to cover all my hair needs. If I put wave spray in my hair after showering, I can blow dry it and just finish off the look by using the straightener to wave the pieces framing my face and set it with the texturizing spray. Alternatively, I can blow dry and straighten my hair, and use the texturizing spray in my hands to tame flyaway pieces. Most often, though, I’m pulling my hair into a high bun or ponytail, but having these products means I look one step above hot mess.


I’m no glamour girl when I’m on vacation, or ever, but these little changes have made a world of difference.


Now packing light for kids? That is a whole different beast, but I wrote about my best efforts here.