4 Travel Hat Tips to Level Up your Vacay Bangers

The expertly-executed travel selfie is the wanderlust addict’s version of a trying-just-the-right-amount thirst trap. It’s about angles, views, and an outfit that sends the right message. And let’s be real, if you’re not wearing the right travel hat – one that says, “why yes I did just spend a week in the Maldives” – did you even go? 

When it comes to travel photos, we like to think of a hat trick as having the right hat, a great outfit, and the perfect pose. It’s a travel trifecta.

And it starts at the top.

1. Find Your Travel (Hat) Companion

The right hat will capture the spirit of the place, complement your outfit, and make you the focus of your photos. 

In a sea of options, my top three favorite adventure hat styles are: woven straw sun hats, women’s felt hats, and women’s cowboy hats

What works about these styles is their versatility. They offer classic crown and brim shapes that can be worn with a multitude of outfits, and they feature stunning silhouettes that look great on the ‘Gram (and Pinterest, too). 

Woven Sun Hats

Tegan Martin wore a woven sun hat with an oversized brim at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne.
Tegan Martin wore a woven sun hat with an oversized brim and a sundress to Stakes Day at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images).

The straw or woven sun hat is perhaps the most iconic travel hat. Especially if the word “vacation” evokes visions of white sand beaches and cerulean blue waters for you.

Worn by Old Hollywood darlings, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, there’s something that feels instantly glam about pairing a woven sun hat with a one piece swimsuit and dark sunglasses or a flowy sundress.

“I’m a beach girl myself and love being out in the sunshine. A big floppy sun hat is my favorite go-to for completing any laid back outfit,” said Kamelia Britton, a Serial Entrepreneur and Intuitive Business Coach.

Tropical getaways call for a straw, lightweight number that will protect your face from the sun and create the ultimate #travelgoals vibe in your photos. 

And if you had any doubts, oversized is the right size.

The hottest types of straw hats for women this year feature a brim so big it can’t fit them and your ego through a normal doorway. If you’re flying coach, you may have to check them both on the plane. But its voluminous size is all the better for casting shade on anyone who suggests you should be eyeing your work email on your beach getaway. 

Women’s Cowboy Hat

A model wore a cowboy hat in the Dressed To Kilt Charity Fashion Show in New York.
A model wore a beige felt cowboy hat with an oversized sweater in the Dressed To Kilt Charity Fashion Show in New York (Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images for Dressed to Kilt).

This is a true adventure hat that calls to mind horseback expeditions to new frontiers – and that passes the wanderlust vibe check with flying colors.

If you caught J.Lo at the Met Gala or Bezos making his space debut, you already know that the cowboy hat is having a major moment right now. And I do say it’s not one that should be confined to just your zip code or country.

Wide brim cowboy hats are the perfect accompaniment for a cross-country road trip, foreign ski vacation, weekend cabin getaway, backpacking trip, or any other trip that has you getting outside and exploring new horizons.

A leather option with a sharp crease will work in large cities and winter locations. A colorful or block-print cowboy hat with a flat brim will look great at a festival or music venue. And a straw cowboy hat with a very wide brim just might become your new beach day go-to.

Wide Brim Felt Hat

Yoyo Cao wore a white felt fedora hat during Milan Fashion Week.
Yoyo Cao wore a white felt fedora hat, a pale green wool bolero, a khaki green shirt, and white denim pants during Milan Fashion Week (Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images).

A wide brim felt hat is really the go-everywhere, do-everything travel hat. It protects you from the sun. It pairs with nearly endless outfit options. And it’s photogenic.

Just feast your eyes on Yoyo Cao looking safari chic in her white fedora with a wide, relaxed brim, off-white pants, khaki green shirt, and pale green bolero sweater. This outfit looks effortless, comfortable, and very stylish. You can make a similar look even more adventure-ready by adding a long crossbody bag that keeps your hands free for taking photos and swapping out the heels for flat boots that make walking from site to site easy.

The wide brim felt hat has endured multiple eras of exploration. It has graced the heads of everyone from British aristocrats boarding ocean liners to the globe-trotting Indiana Jones, a character that stole our hearts and stoked our love for a good adventure hat.

Versatile in styling and shape, you can find a wide brim felt hat in pork pie, fedora, panama, and western styles.

2. Use Colors for Contrast and Interest

Singer ?te wore a pale pink felt hat at the 32nd Golden Melody Awards Ceremony in Taipei.
Singer ?te wore a pale pink felt hat, matching pink dress, and pink silk boots at the 32nd Golden Melody Awards Ceremony in Taipei, Taiwan (Photo by Gene Wang/Getty Images).

To get the most out of your vacation photos, you need to think ahead. And when it comes to colors, you have a couple of options. 

You can opt for all neutrals to maximize on mixing and matching, stick with a primarily neutral palette with bright pops of color in your hat, jewelry, or other accessories, or fully commit to color and go with a hue or palette to make sure your items still match.

For the latter two, picking colors that contrast with the location you are going will wield the most beautiful travel photos. You can go viral by looking for colors that sit opposite each other on the color wheel.

Nieves Álvarez wore a blue wide brim sun hat during Milan Fashion Week.
Nieves Álvarez wore a blue and green outfit with a seafoam wide brim sun hat during Milan Fashion Week (Photo by Daniele Venturelli/Daniele Venturelli/WireImage).

For example, a bold red will look gorgeous against a green meadow. Blue and green hues will be great for visiting and photographing white architecture and sandy deserts. Yellow will stand out against the gray of a city street, and pink, as seen on Singer ?te above, would pop against a blue seascape.

Here are a couple of different ways you can add color with a travel hat:

  • Contrasting crown and brim
  • Brim trim in a different color or different shade of the same color
  • Colorful or patterned hat bands
  • Putting flowers or feathers in the band
  • Contrasting stitching that’s hidden under the bottom side of the brim
  • An all-over bold color

3. Style it in Surprising (Yet Comfortable) Ways

Any experienced traveler will tell you that comfort reins supreme when it comes to packing for an adventure. 

For those who are unwilling to compromise style, though, look to bloggers, celebs, and fashionistas for very wearable outfits that add a little sartorial spice to your vacation wardrobe. 

For example, you won’t be mistaken for a tourist if you don a monochromatic oversized blazer and leather skirt with chunky sneakers and a beige felt adventure hat reminiscent of Indiana Jones. A hat silhouette such as a classic panama hat style with a pronounced pinch and wide brim, will lend a laid back vibe to the whole outfit.

Let’s take a look at some hat and sneaker combos…

Kash Howard wore a neon orange wide brim felt fedora to a premiere in Atlanta.
Kash Howard wore a neon orange wide brim felt fedora and neon yellow crossbody to a premiere in Atlanta (Photo by Paras Griffin/WireImage).

Bursting with color, Kash Howard wore a neon orange wide brim fedora, white blazer, jeans, and sneakers to the “Dutch” Atlanta Premiere in Atlanta. She added a neon yellow crossbody bag with a thick gold chain to complete the look. And, instead of competing with each other, her two eccentric pieces work as an accessory power couple to brighten her look and keep it fun.

This is a great example of using your travel hat to add color to your outfit – and it would look great exploring the urban jungle of a new city.

This jeans and blazer combo passes the vacation checklist with comfortable walking shoes, a blazer that can be taken on or off if the weather changes, a hands-free bag, and a hat that will pop in all her photos.

Mila Al Zahrani wore a black flat brim sun hat in Antibes.
Mila Al Zahrani wore a black flat brim sun hat and black mini dress in Antibes (Photo by Kate Green/Getty Images for The Red Sea International Film Festival).

Wearing a black mini dress, black woven sun hat, cat eye sunglasses, and white tennis shoes in Antibes, France, Mila Al Zahrani shows us that not every beach vacation needs floral prints and flowy maxi dresses. Opting to pair her dress with sporty shoes and keeping her sunglasses low on her nose give her a cool It girl vibe and give her plenty of prop and posing opportunities. 

Zahrani made great accessorizing choices with this outfit. The black travel hat, classic sunglasses shape, and simple bracelet leave room for mixing and matching with other items. White sneakers are always a great versatile vacation option because they will go with nearly everything. That means you don’t need to pack another pair of walking shoes. 

4. Learn to Pose With Your Travel Hat

Compared to the point-and-shoot disposable camera technology of years past, travel photos are much more elevated now. 

But the good news is that even the most amateur of photographers can tap portrait mode on their phone and have near professional-level photo quality at their fingertips. All you have to do is set the scene – and own that adventure hat ensemble you’ve assembled with these posing tips.

Use Your Hat As a Prop

Blogger Amanda Martin held a cream felt hat with a circular crown in Oklahoma City.
Blogger Amanda Martin held a cream felt hat with a circular crown indent while exploring Oklahoma City (Photo by Amanda Martin).

Who says you have to actually wear your travel hat? Create a little interest in your vacation photos by mixing up the composition.

“I love a good travel hat! Not only do they elevate an outfit, they help you go a few extra days between hair washes while on vacation – win! Best of all, travel hats make great props for a travel photo: tip your hat to the camera, use it to shade the sun, hold it like a book or throw it like a Frisbee….any type of movement makes a photo so much more fun!” said Amanda Martin, Lifestyle & Travel Blogger of Amanda’s OK

Let It Be The Main Event

Lotte Verbeek wore an oversized woven sun hat on the beach in Venice.
Lotte Verbeek wore a natural woven sun hat with an oversized brim on the beach in Venice (Photo by Ernesto S. Ruscio/Getty Images).

Some hats and adventures are just about the drama, in which case your photos should follow suit. 

You can leave yourself out of the photo (while still being very much present) by hiding your face underneath an extra large brim or behind dramatic glasses. This will put the focus on your hat and outfit, and create an anonymous-traveler-on-the-beach (or in the city) feeling in your photos. 

Elevated indeed.

Highlight Your Face with Your Hands

Simone I. Smith wore a cream sun hat in Southampton.
Simone I. Smith wore a cream sun hat with a coral hat band and chiffon sundress in Southampton, New York. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Gabrielle\’s Angel Foundation).

Taking photos in a wide brim hat can be difficult, as it can create a shadow under your face. And, if you have a particularly wide brim or large crown, your facial features may get lost under the hat’s large proportions.

Bringing your hands (and the photo’s focal point) to your face ensures that your travel hat doesn’t (completely) steal the show.

Tip your hat slightly back on your head to let some ambient light under the brim. Then, bring one or both of your hands near your face. You can create an angle in your arm and set your hand on the back or the crown, rest your hand at your collarbone, or simply set a finger or two on the crown of your hat, as Simone I. Smith did here.

Look Away From the Camera

Samaco wore a woven boater hat during Rakuten Fashion Week.
Samaco wore a woven boater hat, Jouetie set up, Pameopose bag, and Grounds shoes during Rakuten Fashion Week (Photo by Viola Kam/Getty Images).

The last posing tip is one truly anyone can ace.

Set up your camera or hand it to someone, step into the frame with your body facing the camera at a slant. Then, look to either side (you can also look slightly up or down) to draw attention to an interesting item in the frame, like beautiful architecture, a delicious dessert, or a breathtaking sunset.

You can also simplify this pose even more by turning your back to the camera and catching the silhouette of your travel hat against the background. 

The Hat Stops Here

There’s something about the right travel hat that evokes a sense of freedom. That giddy feeling in your stomach right before you’re about to have a new adventure. The idea that you just might explore something new.

But to capture those emotions in a photo can be an art form. 

You need to think about what type of adventure hat you want to buy, the colors that would work best with your wardrobe, how to style it, and poses that will bring out the best of you, your hat, and the locale.

Consider this your one-stop guide to nailing stunning vacation photos every time – regardless of where your wanderlust whisks you away to next.

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