Summer is Europe's peak season. We are already daydreaming about leisurely alfresco lunches and sunbathing along the Mediterranean with the locals. And then we screech back to reality when it comes to packing. No matter your destination, there are some hard and fast travel style rules for dressing chic, packing smart, and not looking like a tourist.
1. Rein in the Bling: "Whether the gems are real or not, bling will mark you out as a potential mugging victim or lady of dubious fashion sense—less is usually more in Europe," says Sarah-Leigh Shenton, director of marketing for Red Savannah, a luxury bespoke travel company based in UK. Instead, pick more casual options like colorful gems and costume jewelry pieces that accent your outfits.
2. Skip the Synthetics: Having worked in the industry for 23 years and traveled extensively throughout Europe, Shenton notes that for those visiting France, Italy (her two faves), and warm Mediterranean climes, it's best to steer clear of sweaty synthetics in favor of "crisp, loose linens and cotton in light colors." Believe us, you'll see tons of locals wearing linen pants and light fabrics like a summer uniform.
3. Convertibles, Reversibles: Designers have put a lot of thought lately into multi-way tops, swimwear, and dresses, which makes packing convertible or reversible clothes (previously considered a faux pas) a big travel and style convenience. This orange and muted coral reversible top by Tibi ($285) is simple, but gives you two colors to work with. Several swimwear brands, like the hip Basta Surf, now make reversible separates as well. And you'd never know by looking at Abi Ferrin's one-shoulder frock ($258) that it can actually be worn five different ways.
4. Be Comfortable: Especially with footwear, fashion shouldn't trump comfort. Just think of all those cobblestone streets. That said, there are smart styles (not including sneakers) that still score high on the style meter, like sandals with a padded foot. You'll find them sprinkled throughout many lines, like Lilly Pulitzer and the new Grove thong sandal ($128) from Cole Haan, which comes in a variety of colors.
5. Leave the Fleece at Home: There is nothing wrong with a great fleece for workouts or outdoorsy vacations, but in some of the more fashion-forward European cities, like Barcelona or Paris, Sarah Doyle, global brand director of W hotels, suggests going for a little leather jacket instead. "It is perfect to throw over a sexy silk dress or blouse and jeans. My all-time favorite is a Rick Owens classic leather jacket," she says. "I consider it a staple of my wardrobe." For less of a splurge, try this belted leather bomber jacket from Madewell ($495) or this Boutique by Jeger style available on ASOS.com ($497).
6. Closet Case: You don't need to start feverishly online shopping just to get ready for this trip. Chances are, you've got most of what you need in your closet already. Stretchy black or dark blue denim leggings are great for flights and train rides. Once you've arrived, throw on a cute top or sweater and a thin, colorful belt and you're done. If you're in the market for these closet staples, try these black J Brand denim leggings ($150) or these 1969 legging jeans by Gap ($70), which you can wear with this splashy belt in "neon azalea" from JCrew ($32.50).
7. Backpack Blues: When it comes to accessories, Doyle says nothing quite screams tourist like "an awkward handbag or backpack." Instead, she suggests packing an Alexander Wang square zip bag ($675) with a shoulder strap. "You can wear it by day for shopping, so you can use both hands, and also for a night out on the town," says Doyle. We also love this similar Marc by Marc Jacobs black cross-body bag ($198) and the classic-looking styles from Camrbidge Satchel Company, like this Chelsea bag in Honeysuckle ($177).
8. Maximize Space: Rolling your clothes is an easy way to fit more items in your carry-on. But we also suggest trying to pack loosely to leave space for new purchases or small souvenirs. It's worthwhile to separate some of your more delicate items in a designated lingerie bag ($18 at Flight 001), and some travelers like compression bags to reduce volume. Be sure to use your shoe bags—some brands come with them in the box, always save them! There are affordable cotton flannel versions at Allen Edmonds ($8.50 for a pair), or if you're feeling crafty, make your own.
9. Don't Go Too Skimpy: "Most southern European countries are staunchly Catholic," Shenton points out. "And at religious sites, from St Peter's Basilica to small rural churches, skimpy clothing is considered insensitive earning you a frown at the bare minimum, or even being unable to go inside." Her style solution? "Pack a beautiful scarf that can be used to cover shoulders when entering such sites," Shenton suggests. "Also make sure legs are covered—shorts and mini-skirts are not acceptable attire."
Photo credits: Jewelry shop via Shutterstock; Top: Left, Courtesy of Nordstrom, Inc.; Center, Courtesy of Gap Inc.; Right, Courtesy of EMINENT, INC. Collage 2: Left, Courtesy of Cole Haan; Right, Courtesy of Lilly Pulitzer; Collage 3: Left, Courtesy of Gap Inc.; Center, Courtesy of BOP LLC; Right, Courtesy of J.CREW; Collage 4: Left, Courtesy of Neiman Marcus; Center, Courtesy of www.cambridgesatchel.com; Right, Courtesy of BOP LLC; Collage 5: Left, Courtesy of Net-a-porter.com; Center, Courtesy of Madewell Inc.; Right, Courtesy of Jaeger Company's Shops Ltd.; Bottom: Left, Courtesy of Allen Edmonds Shoe Corporation; Center, Courtesy of Eagle Creek; Right, Courtesy of www.flight001.com