For the last several years, my husband and I have taken our family on an annual beach trip to New England. We have two young children (for reference, my son is 2 years old and my daughter is 9 months old) and—living in Central New York—find the New England states to be an approachable travel destination. The drive isn’t too long and the location lends itself to a very laid back and truly relaxing vacation (one day we’ll fight the Disney crowds—but today is not that day).
Over the last couple of years, we’ve been to Maine, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and are planning to return to CT this summer. While of course I most look forward to hanging out on the beach and indulging in at least one lobster roll per day, I also very much look forward to planning my coast-inspired outfits. As a fashion writer, it probably goes without saying that I really love clothes. But as a mom who works from home, I don’t often leave the house beyond daycare pick-up. This sometimes leaves me missing the act of dressing with intention, knowing I have somewhere exciting to go. Vacation is a much-needed fashion pick-me-up—and I thoroughly enjoy packing for it.
Here are some of the different components I consider when packing my clothes for a summer trip to New England (with two small children in tow).
New England Fashion
There’s something to be said about understanding the style culture of a geographic location before packing your bags. While some might be looking for ways to best “blend in,” I find the benefit is almost something of the opposite. In my personal experience, understanding the general fashion of your destination can help you make the most of your trip or travel experience. It’s another way to “escape” from your everyday life and can add to the enjoyment of being in a place that isn’t home.
When it comes to New England fashion, the repeating themes are easy, elevated, and timeless. During the summer months, it’s a style that speaks to jumping aboard sailboats, sipping wine on an oceanfront patio, and strolling beach and garden alike. It’s both casual and elegant, preppy and relaxed. If my poetic descriptions aren’t quite resonating, an easy way to stay true to New England fashion in the summer is by reaching for staple materials such as linen and raffia. Common silhouettes include collared tops and tailored bottoms, and patterns such as seersucker and nautical stripes are always a win.
For an added example, if you’re at all familiar with the Tik Tok-driven coastal grandmother aesthetic, that trend is essentially New England summer fashion in a nutshell.
Fashion Essentials to Pack for a New England Trip
Having taken three different summer vacations to New England in the past two years, I’ve definitely learned which items I’ll reach for most often and now know how to pack accordingly. Living in Central New York, I’m also at an advantage of knowing what to pack in regard to the weather—our general climate is pretty similar to that of the New England states. While of course everyone has their own personal style and differing opinions as to what are “must-haves,” the following list can perhaps help get you started if you’re planning on venturing to New England during the summer months. These items are practical (a big consideration point if you’re a mom) and in-line with the style you’ll witness along the coast.
These are the fashion items I’ll be packing for my family beach trip to New England this summer:
I always bring at least one basket when traveling to New England. They fit the timeless aesthetic of the area and are well-suited for a number of different settings (from restaurant dining, to the beach, to a walk through town, and beyond). My favorite is a large shoulder basket from Sézane. It’s a gorgeous summer staple and the size allows me to easily carry a number of different items, including my camera and plenty of snacks for my toddler. In addition to this larger basket, I also like to pack a smaller crossbody bag or basket option as well. I find having a smaller bag option to be convenient when a family outing also necessitates bringing a diaper bag (such as a trip to the aquarium). This allows me to keep my phone, wallet, kets, etc. separate from the bottomless abyss every diaper bag inevitably ends up being.
A Pair of Jeans or Linen Pants
If you’ve been to New England, then you know it’s not necessarily the warmest destination. In the evening hours, it’s helpful to have a pair of jeans or linen pants to change into when the temperature starts to drop. Mosquitos can also come out as the sunlight disappears, so you’ll likely thank yourself for the extra skin cover. I tend to default to a pair of Abercrombie mom jeans as my one-pant-in-my-bag option, but (with the rising popularity of looser styles) I’ve also been loving my pair of wide-leg jeans from Carly Jean Los Angeles. Both silhouettes are modern and can be paired with a number of different tops.
When it comes to coastal-inspired tops, linen is always a safe bet. I also enjoy wearing traditional nautical stripes. If you’re a little bit cheugy like I am (don’t get me wrong—I wear it as a badge of honor), you can also shop around for some lobster-themed tops. In fact, I just recently ordered this top with my upcoming trip in mind. Afterall, when in Rome—erm, Maine.
A Sweater or Sweatshirt
Again, New England isn’t necessarily the warmest place you’ll ever visit. If it’s a rainy day or you’re planning to get out a bit in the evening, you’ll probably want a sweater or sweatshirt. I usually pack one of each to be safe. I am particularly obsessed with just about every product Kiel James Patrick designs and never venture to New England without one of their sweaters in tow. A collared sweatshirt can also help you add a little convenient prep to your step.
I don’t need to tell my fellow moms the importance of having comfortable shoes while going on vacation with your children. They’re a necessity. This summer I’m planning on bringing a pair of classic Sperrys (always a safe choice in New England) as well as a pair of beach-friendly slide sandals. I’m not sure elevated dining will be in the cards for our family (again, toddler and baby on board) but in the past I’ve also brought a pair of platform sandals to pair with a nicer dress when dining at a sit-down restaurant. I’m also planning on packing a pair of raffia mules which are both chic and comfortable for outings beyond the beach.
Sun and Shift Dresses
I love wearing dresses on vacation. First, they’re super convenient—a whole outfit in one makes planning and packing easier. They’re also really comfortable in hot weather. Since we don’t usually do any fine dining while on vacation in New England (again with the baby and toddler), a handful of casual or elevated-casual outfits typically gets me through the week. Classic white, seersucker, and gingham dresses are all appropriate for the coast.
A Bathing Suit
We go to New England specially to spend time at the beach, so I always pack at least one bathing suit. That being said, I prefer to pack two. I personally hate putting on a wet swimsuit, so having a second option tends to make my beach experience more enjoyable. Additionally, I like having both a two-piece and one-piece option on-hand. If you’re vacationing to New England, avoid tropical prints which will feel out of place on the rocky coast. Instead, opt for neutral, classic colors and patterns.
available in sizes S-1X
I always pack at least two pairs of shorts. While I’ve historically leaned on denim (and will be packing a pair of denim shorts this year as well), I’m also adding tailored shorts to the mix this summer. I know this classic style will be well-suited on the East Coast and their versatility make them easy to mix and match with a number of tops (always a bonus when living out of a suitcase).
For me, sunglasses on vacation are a non-negotiable. While there is no inherently “wrong” style to bring to New England, I have found that embracing vintage shapes can be a fun way to lean into the old-world class associated with the region. Since we always hit up the beach, I also tend to throw a cover-up into my bag. A white button-down fits the aesthetic of the location and is easy to throw on as you’re chasing your children through the sand).