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This Fashion Writer Knows Exactly What to Pack for Tropical Destinations

Updated: Aug 27, 2021

There's a secret to packing for a tropical holiday—and Sophie Hay is in on it. The London-based fashion writer has taken her linen-and-raffia-stuffed suitcase to Cartegena, Sri Lanka, Ibiza, Tulum... the list goes on. Her social media presence—find her at @sophievhay—is a testament to her ability to find vacation spots that are equal parts sun, sand, and photogenic Instagram spots.

Sophie also has an unrivaled understanding of the styles that are trending each season, pieces you'll bring with you trip after trip, and where to find the types of outfits that will take your vacation snaps to an influencer level. Given the arsenal of fashion names on her resume—Lyst, ASOS, Smythson, and, currently, Mr. Porter—this should come as no surprise.

Upon meeting Sophie, her experience as a stylish traveler is immediately apparent. She's an avid reader of magazines like Suitcase and Conde Nast Traveller, and you can bet your last dollar she's familiar with the up-and-coming haunts featured in the travel section of the latest British Vogue. She's probably wearing an understated piece of jewelry or two—picked up the last time she was in Los Angeles—and the ever-so-chic straw tote she's carrying was found in a market in Provence.

Sophie's the type of traveler who does a vacation wardrobe perfectly—a simple pair of sunglasses, an easy linen dress, and strappy sandals paired with a locally-made tote—and now, she's sharing her packing secrets.

Below, see what Sophie Hay always packs for a spring or summer tropical vacation.

Travel Style Q&A with Sophie Hay

My travel style is…

Low-key and beachy. I always plan lots of outfits before I leave, but end up throwing on a linen shirt or a pair of denim shorts over a bikini.

My favorite tropical destination...

Sri Lanka. I visited for two weeks before the pandemic set in and have been plotting a trip back ever since. The South Asian island really has something for everyone—whether you’re a history buff or into beaches and surf. We spent the trip beach-hopping, traversing cross-country on what is said to be one of the most beautiful train trips in the world, and of course, elephant spotting.

My dream trip...

When the world opens up, I'm desperate to go to the Philippines. I’ve had some rustic little surf shacks bookmarked on the island of Siargao for the last couple of years, and I’m counting down the days until I can book a trip. I would spend every day reading in the sun, taking surf lessons (I've never tried), and exploring the various islands.

I won’t go on vacation without…

The perfect linen dress I picked up at The Kip hotel in Sri Lanka, at least four pairs of sunglasses, and my Kindle. And embarrassingly... English Breakfast teabags.

My tried-and-true travel outfit...

Having traveled a lot for work, I would love to say I’ve really nailed what to wear on a flight, but I can’t say it’s very chic. For me, I always want to be as comfortable as possible, so I'll wear a pair of Sweaty Betty leggings, an oversized cashmere jumper, and sneakers. I always, always pack a pair of cashmere socks for the flight (my current favorite pair is from Johnstons of Elgin), my dark grey Slip eye mask, and my giant Acne scarf that doubles as an extra blanket when the AC is inevitably cranked up too high.

My go-to travel bag...

I am fanatical about my AWAY carry-on suitcase. It’s the only bag I’ve ever enjoyed packing, and the brand’s packing cubes have been game-changing in allowing me to fit as much as humanly possible into a single carry-on. I’ve used it for 10-day trips (and still didn’t wear everything).

My favorite shoes to travel in...

I always like to travel in sneakers as they can be slipped easily on and off at security and you're always ready to run for a connection. At the moment, it would probably be a pair of low-top white Converse that I could also wear on the trip with denim shorts.

Favorite brands for travel-friendly clothing...

For summer dresses, I always look at Faithfull the Brand. They’ve really nailed the perfect throw-on holiday dress and look just as great over a bikini as they do dressed up for dinner.

When it comes to sandals, I tend to pick a pair that looks like I could have picked it up on holiday. But seeing as I can’t just nip to Greece every time I need some more, I tend to return to Ancient Greek Sandals.

I’m a sucker for a bikini and like to have a different one for each day of my trip (I know…) I love & Other Stories swimwear for on-trend styles that are really affordable. If I were to splurge on a new bikini, I think it would be a Hunza G style because they really are universally flattering.

What to Pack for Your Next Tropical Destination


I don’t go anywhere without sunglasses—I have about 30 pairs and always like to pick something a little wild. This summer, I’m looking for some rectangle shades.

Basket Bag

I love a basket bag that can double as a handbag. These three will work well at the beach but could still be used to go for dinner.

Mini Dress

I love a mini dress, especially on holiday. There is nothing better than that feeling of getting dressed up and going to dinner and drinks after a day in the sun. I will cover myself in aftersun, throw on one of these, and be ready to dance the night away.

Bikini (or 5)

I love getting a new bikini when I go on holiday; like I said before, I'm really into Hunza G and & Other Stories.

Linen Shirt

Throw on over a bikini, throw on over sunburnt shoulders, throw on when it gets chilly in the evening. A linen shirt is always so useful on vacation (and I think it looks even better a bit rumpled). I buy mine in bulk from Gap and Uniqlo.

Denim Shorts

I’ve had the same pair of vintage Levi's cut-off shorts for nearly 10 years, and I wear them constantly on holiday. This year, I’m looking to invest in a pair that are maybe a little longer.

Good Sunscreen

Supergoop for my face, always. And for my body, I love Caudalie sunscreens—they smell so great.

Tropical Vacation


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