Step Out in Style: How to Pack for the Vacation Bar Scene

Couple drinking beer in a bar on vacation

Checking the kids into daytime or nighttime resort activities or hiring a sitter can leave you with a few hours of downtime where you can relax. If your idea of unwinding includes sipping a glass of something cold, head out to one of the local bars for some grown-up fun. You'll never look out of place if you dress for your outing using a few simple guidelines.

Check the Code

Although much of the country subscribes to a casual vibe, Las Vegas is one city where you'll find stringent dress codes. Though guys usually need to be dressed in a collared shirt, slacks and leather shoes for an evening out in Sin City, codes for women are more relaxed. Focus on outfits that make you feel attractive, classy and confident, and make sure your hair and makeup are on point. Don't bother packing torn jeans, baggy T-shirts, athletic wear or sports jerseys. These are on the "don't" list at many Vegas establishments. When headed to a Vegas day club or pool party, the rules still apply. Do your hair and makeup and wear a stylish cover-up and fashionable sandals to make it past the front door. To look top-notch, always check dress codes before you go.

Check the Vibe

Just because you're headed to a bar in Texas or Arizona doesn't mean you should necessarily dress like a cowboy, even though names like the Electric Cowboy (8740 Camp Bowie West Blvd., Ft. Worth, TX) and Big Texas Dance Hall and Saloon (19959 Holzwarth Rd., Spring, TX) sound like they'd be the perfect place to cowboy-up. Take a look at recent photos that appear online in such places as the bars' websites, Google Maps or Facebook and you might change your mind, then your clothes. Most women in the pictures wear nice jeans and a blouse, T-shirt and jeans or shorts and boots. Doing some quick photo research online to check the vibe of any bar you might visit on your trip is your best way to determine precisely what to put in your suitcase.

Focus on Footwear

Deciding which shoes to pack in your luggage can be a challenge if you're limiting yourself to a carry-on. Let's face it: There's no easy way to pack the stilettos that some city's bars strongly encourage women to wear when dressing up. Fashionable wedges or dressy closed-toe flats provide a more comfortable alternative that will still get you in the door, but leave flip-flops and other casual sandals behind if you're headed to a bar with a dress code.

If you opt for heels, pack versatile shoes like classic black pumps so they'll be worth the luggage space. Stuff each shoe with socks or other small, soft items that will help them hold their shape, and zip them into a packing cube to save space. Tuck in a pair of flats you can carry in your purse to slip into when your feet get tired or sore on your evening out.

Focus on Fabric

Whether you're going on a pub crawl or just slipping down to the hotel bar, stick to fabrics that are breathable, lightweight and comfortable. Quick-drying, crushable materials pack easily in your suitcase and emerge looking fresh and ready to wear. For ultimate carry-on convenience, buy a convertible travel dress or two that you can wear more than a dozen different ways and wash out by hand in your hotel sink. Some even have a small zippered pocket where you can tuck your ID and credit card.

Leave it Behind

Save sequined outfits, heavy materials or any fabrics that might snag easily for nights out in your hometown. Nix fabrics that will take a lot of care, such as linen or silk. Expect spills and stick to wash-and-wear items you can rinse out when you get back to your room.