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Want to look photo-ready on vacation? Here's how to pack for Instagram

“On Instagram we are selling a fantasy, and we want it to look like we have these amazing lives,” one stylist says. “But it can’t feel forced; it has to look easy.”

Want to look photo-ready on vacation? Here's how to pack for Instagram

It's all about blending in and standing out at the same time. (Illustration: Lars Leetaru/The New York Times)

Perhaps you know how to pack (edit ruthlessly, use packing cubes) and how to take vacation photos (remember to take advantage of the golden hour).

But which outfits both travel effortlessly and make for enviable posts on social media?

The answer combines colour coordination, personal style, destination mindfulness and knowing what pops on Instagram.


Preparation is key to Insta-worthy travel photos, said the fashion stylist Rasaan Wyzard. “I think ahead about my environment when I travel,” he said, “where I am going, and what I’m going to wear.”

Colours matter, and a short cut to standout photos is to choose clothes that contrast with your destination’s colour scheme. For poolside photos, bright red, orange, white or hot pink are better choices for swimsuits or cover-ups than blue, to better stand out against the colour of the water. For settings with warmer tones, like the brown of the desert or beach, try jewel tones, deep blues and whites.

Darker clothes will get lost in the lush greens and shadows of a forest. For a vacation in Bali, Mr Wyzard said he was planning on wearing neon or a bright, printed shirt on a hike, “like I could be an exotic flower amongst the greenery.”


Review your past travel photos to see which clothing or colours work best. If you’re not sure about some pieces, practice photos can show you how they translate to the small screen.

Check out what works at the site too, by following the destination’s hashtags.

Marco Milani, a fashion stylist who specialises in celebrity dressing, says in a hectic cityscape, a timeless coat can add a note of quiet.

“The city is already a busy place,” he said, don’t make it busier with what you’re wearing.

Sunglasses can be an important accessory, providing insurance against closed eyes, dark circles and the need for eye makeup. Bring a couple of pairs – one with a chic black frame and another brightly coloured pair for a playful vibe. Baseball caps and sun hats can look cute, but be careful that they do not shade your face.

Travel photos can also be tongue in cheek, Mr Wyzard said. “Heels on the beach can work if they are worn ironically or humorously,” he said.

Destinations have their own vibe. For travellers at South Korean airports, dressing up has become a trend.

“K-pop stars show up at the Seoul airport in statement-making outfits,” said Courtney Lee, a Duke University student who travels to South Korea to visit family. Ms Lee joins the fun by wearing something fashionable for her departure travel photos there.


A flowy full-length dress in a bright color or print, or a large colorful scarf can give your photos a sense of movement and more options for posing. But if you don’t want to traipse through the jungle or a dusty city in a billowy garment, throw a light crushable one in your bag to pop over T-shirt and shorts. Or tote around two or three different coloured scarves to don if you see an Insta-worthy opportunity.

Packing clothes that “are all in the same palette or can mix and match” give you the most options, Mr Milani said. “It’s nice to have a lot of versatility without a lot of clothes.”

It’s harder to vary outerwear in colder weather while minimising your packing volume, but photographs in the same ski parka every day can get a bit monotonous. Layers of sweaters, compressible puffy vests and jackets with a couple of accent beanies and neck gear can offer more variety.


Going to a wedding with a plus one? Choose a palette like earth tones, neutrals, pastels or blues. A colour scheme allows you to coordinate without looking too matchy.

“As a stylist I think how we will look in a photo together,” Mr Wyzard said. “Do we look like we are going to the same place?”


It’s easy to be consciously or subconsciously influenced by celebrities’ social media accounts and trends (see duck lips), so use those feeds and these guidelines in conjunction with your own style and personality, rather than as a replacement for it.

Be mindful as well of the history of your location. Leave your bright frocks behind when visiting somber places like memorials. “Follow customs,” Mr Wyzard said. “Don’t go into a temple with a halter top.”

And in every setting, consider what your sartorial choices and pose are saying about you. Are you trying to make yourself the centre focus of a place that has been home to pivotal historical events, or are you more of a wonderful and appreciative addition to it? The latter is, of course, more #grateful #blessed.

By Julie Weed © 2018 The New York Times