Beauty & Fashion

Unpacking My Style for a Southeast Asia Adventure

What To Wear in Vietnam & China

Do you like to travel to unusual places and learn about other cultures? It’s one of the things our family loves to do. We recently took an adventure-filled trip to Vietnam and China. Vietnam was a country I’d always wanted to visit, and my husband Chris was super excited to see China, so we decided to go for both! I’m sharing our itinerary for both countries, what I loved, and more on the blog over the next few days so make sure you’re subscribed to the newsletter so you don’t miss those posts.


Carry-On Suitcase Packing TipsCarry-On Suitcase Packing Tips

Vietnam Packing List in A Carry-on

The family packed everything in a carry-on suitcase for this trip due to the intensity of the travel. And let me tell you…packing for a 2-week trip in a carry-on suitcase, with an itinerary full of activities, in two countries with very different climates, was REALLY hard. As you can imagine, packing for such a diverse trip presented its set of challenges and learning curves. From the humid streets of Hanoi to the cool evenings in Beijing, each destination required thoughtful outfit planning to blend practicality with style. Along the way, I encountered a few packing hiccups—like underestimating the quick weather shifts! But I’ll share more about that at the end of the post.

Below, I’m sharing everything I packed for this trip, what worked, what didn’t, and what I would do differently. I hope that these insights will help you navigate your own Southeast Asia adventure with confidence and style.

Carry-On Vs. Checked

If you are a regular traveler then you know that the more intense the itinerary, the smarter and easier it is to carry on! You also know that packing with a carry-on versus a checked bag is a completely different game. I joked to a friend that it’s the difference between running a 3:30 marathon and a 5-hour marathon…it’s like a different sport! (A little running humor for all my marathoners! ;)) Checking a bag can make things a whole lot simpler on the front end, but it definitely eats into your travel time because you spend so much time waiting for bags. It also becomes more complicated if your bags get lost or you need to change a flight at the last minute. Having carry-on-only bags just makes the whole experience a lot more seamless.

Carry-On Suitcase Packing Tips

Outfit #1) Travel Outfit

Have you ever traveled really far distances?? Think 9, 10, 11, 12+ hour flights?? Our family has traveled all over the world including faraway destinations like Africa, Japan, and most recently Southeast Asia. One of the most important outfits when traveling is… the travel outfit itself. For me, it’s very important to look polished and pulled together of course, but to also be cozy and comfy AND wear some key layers you need on the trip. So…let’s start there. You’ll see these travel outfit pieces again and again throughout the rest of the post. I break it down in more detail including the strategic layering in this post, but here are the Cliff’s Notes.

On my top half, I have on a chic longline tan blazer by Camila Coelho over a white knit sweater by Varley. The blazer elevates the outfit, and I knew I’d use it as a sophisticated 3rd layer for the rest of the trip. The Varley sweater was super lightweight, stylish, and breathable. It was the only sweater I packed for the trip, which was mistake #1. If we only went to Vietnam, taking one sweater would be perfect. But China was much cooler and more springlike than Vietnam was, and I should have packed 1-2 more sweaters for China. You can’t see it, but underneath the sweater, I’m wearing a white short-sleeve ATM tee that I wore throughout the trip as well.

On my bottom half, I’m wearing a pair of Nili Lotan jogger sweatpants in a super soft but breathable fabric. They have a drawstring waist, cool raw edge details, a slouchier fit, and a tapered leg. I wore these nonstop on the trip and you’ll see more ways I styled them next. I could have swapped my sweats for jeans or pleated pants, but I don’t think those are ideal on those long-haul flights and travel days.

On my feet, I have on a pair of New Balance sneakers that are comfortable and stylish and worked perfectly for days on our trip with lots of walking. Never underestimate the importance of comfortable shoes and happy feet while traveling! Shoes can literally make or break your experience! I completed the look with a neutral-colored scarf by Reiss that ended up being a heavy hitter in China!


Now let me show you 3 more ways I styled these pants during the trip…

Outfit #2) Jogger Pants & White Tee

In this look, I styled the same Nili Lotan joggers with a white long-sleeve tee by Nation LTD. I love that this top has balloon sleeves and subtle puff shoulders that make it feel more elevated than a basic white tee. I completed the look with the same New Balance sneakers, the only two necklaces and bracelet I packed, and a Telluride baseball cap. I wore this while we were cruising down the Yangtze River in China. I wanted to be comfy, warm, but still look pulled together.


Outfit #3) Jogger Pants, Tank & Rain Jacket

Another tour day in China, I sported the same joggers. (Mistake #2, not packing another pair of pants for the chilly weather in China.) On my top half, I have on a ribbed tank by Splendid that’s super soft, stretchy, and comfortable. I layered my North Face rain jacket over it because there was a high chance of rain, and threw on the Reiss scarf for extra warmth. I completed the look with the same sneakers and a tan Quince crossbody. This crossbody was perfect for the trip and the only bag I brought…I loved the size, weight (it’s light as air), crossbody functionality, versatile color, and fold-over style. The bag also looks very much like a Bottega Veneta bag, only for SO much less money. Plus, you don’t have to worry about ruining it on the trip like I pretty much did with my BV Cassette bag.

A moment to discuss The North Face rain jacket, if I may? I LOVE this neutral color and slightly looser fit. I am always torn between bringing technical gear you need and the fashion factor. This is still a technical jacket, but the color and fit made it feel more stylish and chic.


Outfit #4) Jogger Pants & Sweater

Another day, another way I styled the joggers. 😉 This time, I’m back to my travel outfit basics pairing them with the white Varley sweater. I wore this outfit while we were in Vietnam on Ha Long Bay visiting a cave (more about this and the rest of our trip coming tomorrow). Since we were in warm Vietnam, and it was warmer, I didn’t need a scarf or a third layer. I completed the look with the same sneakers and my everyday jewelry. BTW, can you believe how tall Gage is??


Outfit #5) Trouser Pants & White Button-Down Shirt

For a day of touring and sightseeing in Hanoi, I wore these ivory trouser pants by Reiss. I love the drawstring waist, roomier legs, and breathable fabric. I bought them in petite and they’re perfect on me. I definitely wanted cropped pants for Vietnam because anything long would get too dirty on the streets and in the markets. I styled the tapered pants with a white button-down shirt by Frank and Eileen and the same ribbed Splendid tank. I liked having the tank underneath in case I got hot, but we were going into a few places where my arms needed to be covered so the long-sleeved shirt felt necessary. On my feet, I’m wearing a pair of super comfortable double-strap sandals by Madewell. We walked for hours, and these never hurt my feet. Even if you’re not headed on a trip, these are a great pair of sandals to have in your closet! (For those familiar with the Birkenstock fit, these Madewell sandals are similar-ish, but show less “toes,” which I appreciate.)

One of my takeaways from the super humid climate, that activewear fabric is probably the way to go. I know, I know…cotton and linen are often the gold standard, but even in the picture above you can see how my button-down is kind of wilting. Tech fabric with dry wicking would have held up better and I think there are so many options now that combine fashion and function.


Outfit #6) Trouser Pants, Knit Sweater & Puffer

I styled the same Reiss pants with the white Varley sweater and New Balance sneakers for another day of sightseeing in China. If you’re getting tired of seeing this sweater by now…so was I by the time we got to China! I literally wanted to burn everything in my suitcase ;). The sweater is SO great, though. Truly. But, I DO wish I had packed just one more sweater to mix things up. When it was much cooler (think 50’s, 60’s), I threw on this 3/4 sleeve, Herno puffer jacket. This puffer jacket is unbelievably lightweight and packs beautifully taking up almost NO space in your suitcase. It’s the perfect travel piece for any trip you have coming up, even Europe in the summer.


Outfit #7) Wide Leg Pants, Knit Sweater & Puffer

While in China, we popped into the Nike store to grab Gage some new sneakers, and I was SO excited to buy another pair of pants. Yes, they are sweats, but I didn’t care. I was so sick of the 2-pairs of pants that I had, I was practically giddy over the purchase! The color and silhouette of the pants felt elevated and exciting. These pants are also very comfortable, versatile, and paired perfectly with the rest of the items I packed. Have you noticed the neutral color story yet?? 😉 I styled the wide-leg sweats with the white sweater and threw on the Herno puffer for added warmth. And, did you see, I’m standing on the Great Wall of China! It was ‘a moment’ for sure!


Outfit #8) Printed Top & Matching Shorts

Now that we’ve covered all the neutral, classic, everyday outfits, I wanted to show you some of the “fun” items I brought to mix in with the neutral pieces. First up is this pretty blue printed Farm Rio top and matching shorts. I love this print because it’s so unique and the blue is a great color for my skin tone. I wore this around our hotel and on a night out to dinner in Hoi An, but I did swap the shoes for a pair of espadrilles (you’ll see in the next look) when we went to dinner. The other amazing thing about packing matching sets like this is that you can mix and match them with other pieces…


Outfit #9) White Tee & Printed Shorts

I styled the blue printed Farm Rio shorts with the white long-sleeve Nation LTD tee that definitely made the shorts feel a little more casual. Styling them with a pair of espadrilles also helped dress them down a bit. These Sam Edelman espadrille loafers are 1 of 4 pairs of shoes that I took on this trip and I really loved that these elevated an outfit but still felt casual and were super comfortable. Packing note: I typically only bring 3 pairs of shoes total, including the pair I wear on the plane, but I pushed it on this trip and brought 4.


Outfit #10) Tan Blazer & Matching Shorts

Remember this Camila Coelho blazer I wore on travel day? Well, I also packed the matching shorts! I wore this look to dinner and a show in Hanoi and felt pulled together and chic. I wore the ribbed Splendid tank underneath to keep it comfortable and casual and completed the look with a pair of espadrille wedges. I also wore the same outfit with flat espadrille loafers. We walked a long way and I had not broken in these shoes properly (mistake #3). I often feel compelled to bring new shoes on trips so I can recommend them to you all, but it’s a rookie travel mistake. You should only bring shoes that are tried and tested so you won’t have issues. I DID bring my blister kit so I was able to doctor up my heels and carry on with the trip without a problem. Please, please, please….learn from my repeated mistake, don’t pack new shoes!!


Outfit #11) Tan Blazer, Matching Shorts & White Button-Down Top

Another way I wore the blazer and shorts was for a day of sightseeing, but I swapped the wedges and loafers for my New Balance sneakers. This was merely a survival move as my poor heel blisters couldn’t handle anything else. I also swapped the tank for a white short-sleeve button-down shirt by Hevron. I’ve worn this top with a lot of different bottoms and love the fit, rolled sleeves, and collar. It made the overall outfit feel more polished. By the way, the family picture above was taken at a private residence in Beijing where we ate lunch. It doesn’t look like much, but it was worth an estimated $10 million dollars!! The house didn’t even have a bathroom. Because there is such a huge population, there is a premium on “houses” in Beijing.


What I packed and wore in southeast asia, vietnam and china

Outfit #12) White Top & Denim Shorts

While we were on the trip, I didn’t have time to snap a picture of everything but I did take photos of all my outfits before I left. In this look, I’m wearing a white gauzy cotton top by Bobi that can be worn on or off the shoulders. I styled it with a pair of denim shorts by Moussy Vintage that I’ve had for years and come with me on pretty much every trip I’ve been on…yes, they’re that good! I completed the look with a reversible belt, the Madewell sandals, and a crossbody bag.

One of my biggest packing tips? Take photos of your outfits so you remember what you were going to wear for each day. Find more of my packing tips here.


What I packed and wore in southeast asia, vietnam and china

Outfit #13) Black Cotton Top & Shorts

I love this top so much that I also bought it in black! This is the same Bobi cotton top styled with a pair of black cotton shorts. The shorts have a drawstring waist and pockets. This top and shorts combo is great, but I really loved being able to wear these pieces separately too. For example, I even wore the shorts as a swim coverup while we were hanging out by the pool and beach in Hoi An, Vietnam.


Outfit #14) Printed Dress

While you’re on a trip like this you don’t need too many dressy pieces since most of what you’re doing is more casual and activity-heavy. But having a few items that you can wear to nicer dinners or when you want to feel sexier, and more feminine is ideal. I really cherished being able to wear my dressier options. I brought 3 dresses and 1 jumpsuit total, I definitely could have left one of my dresses behind.

I loved wearing this super sexy sweater dress by Camila Coelho above especially after wearing sweats for so long! The neutral colors are gorgeous, the cutouts are sexy, the length is perfect, and I love the halter neckline. I wore this to dinner one night in Vietnam (it was too chilly in China). I paired the dress with my See by Chloe espadrille wedges. If you’ve been a long-time reader, these will come as no surprise. I bring them on almost every trip. They provide maximum height while also being very comfortable and easy to walk in.


Outfit #15) Black Jumpsuit

Oh, thank goodness for this Reiss jumpsuit! I could wear this beauty during the day with flats and also wear it out to dinner. It was a go-to piece on the trip and I was so happy wearing it!! The wide-leg silhouette and the contrasting white trim make this jumpsuit incredibly flattering. It also has such beautiful movement. The fabric is breathable and comfortable. I was able to wear this piece in both Vietnam and China and always felt chic when I put it on. I bought it in the petite length. Shopping note for my petite beauties: the Reiss petite selection is quite inspiring! The pieces ship from the UK, but they arrived pretty quickly and included an adhesive return label if the size doesn’t work. Yay for those! Also, I think when you are packing light, pick pieces that WILL transition beautifully from day to night like this jumpsuit. The sweater dress above was great and sexy, but I only wore it one night. In hindsight, I could have brought another jumpsuit or another pair of pants!

!


Outfit #16) Black Dress

The last dress I wanted to share with you is this activewear dress by Sweaty Betty. This is the greatest travel dress for a hot and humid climate…maybe ever! The fabric is lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking…which was a must in the Vietnamese humidity. You can wear it with a racerback sports bra or a tank underneath. And it’s very comfortable. I wore it with sandals, but you could also wear it with sneakers. This was the perfect casual look for day and night walking around Hoi An. If you’re interested in hearing more about my thoughts on the spectacular and surprising Hoi An, be sure to check back for tomorrow’s post…


Swimsuits

We did two different boat cruises and stayed on the beach in Vietnam so I knew I’d be around water, which is why I packed three swimsuits. The first is a black Trina Turk off-shoulder bikini top and high-waisted bikini bottoms by Becca. I’ve owned both these pieces for years and take them on every trip. I love the comfort and coverage of both the top and bottoms. The next two swimsuits are by Staud. The first is a cool black and white swim top and skort that is so different and chic. The third was a white and black one-piece swimsuit with very flattering cutout details at the sides that create the illusion of a smaller waist. I have the same suit in black. I accidentally left this suit in Vietnam :(.


What I packed for my trip to southeast asia including activewear and pajamas

PJs & Activewear

And of course, don’t forget your PJs and activewear! I packed one pair of pajamas by Eberjay that were super soft and comfy. For activewear, I brought a Beach Riot set in order to do my Tracy Anderson Method “Continuity” workouts (30 minutes). I was able to workout on almost all the days we were not traveling which helped me keep my energy up and feel better about myself and life in general. I also brought this adorable Free People “runsie” thinking I would use it for hiking and/or sightseeing. It was simply too cold to wear on this trip, but I plan to bring it with me on our river raft trip this summer. The neutral color theme continues…!


What I packed for my stylish trip to Southeast Asia, Hemant and nandita dress

The Only Piece I Didn’t Wear…

I wore every almost single piece of clothing I packed (most of them multiple times) except for this pink Hemant & Nandita dress. If we had stayed longer in Hoi An, Vietnam, I definitely would have worn it, but we only had a few nights there and it was too chilly in Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and in China. That said, I LOVE this dress and wore it in Belize…and plan to wear it again this summer. I think all things considered, it’s pretty amazing that there are only 2 pieces I didn’t wear: this dress and the runsie.


What I packed and wore in southeast asia, vietnam and china

Simple Vietnam Packing List Breakdown

The photo above cracks me up! I feel like if our family had an album cover, this would be it. The BUSBEE Family Band!

I created a resource that you should definitely take advantage of if you plan to travel to Southeast Asia in the spring. I tweaked my original packing list because I didn’t want you to make the same mistakes I did. Here’s a quick rundown of what I packed:

China and Vietnam packing list for 2 weeks in the spring, april

Tops: White short-sleeve tee, white long-sleeve tee, white tank, 2 white short-sleeve tops, 1 black top, 1 printed top, 1 lightweight sweater
Bottoms: Tapered pants, 2 sweatpants, denim shorts, cotton shorts, printed shorts, neutral shorts
Dresses: Printed dress (for night), chic jumpsuit (day or night), casual dress (day or night)
Outerwear: Rain jacket, lightweight puffer jacket, blazer
Swim & Other: 2-3 swimsuits, workout set, pajamas
Shoes: Sandals, sneakers, wedges, loafers
Accessories: Packable hat, baseball cap, reversible belt, 2-5 pairs of sunglasses, scarf, crossbody bag
Jewelry: Layered necklaces, cuff, earrings

Vietnam Packing Mistakes

Mistake #1: I severely underestimated how cold China was going to be. If I had known, I would have packed at least one more sweater, a pair of jeans, and another pair of pants. If we had just stayed in Vietnam, or spent less time in China, more time in Vietnam, my packing would have been perfect!

Mistake #2: I didn’t pack enough warmer elevated pieces that I could wear out to dinner on cool nights. If I did it again, I’d pack at least one more elevated dress or jumpsuit that I could wear with my blazer or puffer.

Planning a trip to Vietnam and/or China soon and have questions? Leave a comment below…we’re happy to help!

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