Fashion matters a lot to me. My fashion is a big part of how I express myself. And while I don’t have the luxury of bringing my entire wardrobe with me when I travel, I’ve figured out some tips to help express my fashion everywhere I go.
Plan Your Outfits
Research is your friend. Look up the likely weather during the time you’ll be traveling. Look at reviews, blogs, recommendations for outfits based on the activities you’re planning. If you have a play-by-play of what you want to wear, it will help you with the tendency to overpack. I plan every outfit down to the accessories. This way, I also have less stress while packing and while traveling. I know what I’m wearing and when. Of course, plans can change and flexibility is needed, but this will account for the majority of your needs. I typically bring something I can dress up just in case I decide to dance, go to a nicer restaurant, or just feel so inclined. I also make sure the clothing I bring is all fairly coordinating in case I want to mix up my looks. This also allows me to reduce the amount of shoes bringing, since shoes often take up so much space and weight.
Pack Essentials in Your Carry On
No matter where I travel, if my luggage is leaving my side for any given amount of time, I prepare my carry on for the worst case scenario of my luggage being lost. That means, a basics outfit in my bag, toiletries that fit into TSA parameters, my jewelry, my electronics and chargers, as well as some TSA (and destination) approved snacks, plus all of my identification and monetary essentials. I also pack hard copies of any important travel documents I’ll need along the way, just in case technology fails me. It’s important that you also plan wisely for the shoes you wear while traveling, just in case those become your only shoes for the trip. Many airlines will help you get some essentials if they’ve lost your luggage, but it’s better to be prepared just in case.
I cannot stress enough how important layers are to any kind of trip, regardless of weather conditions. I mentioned above that research is key. Looking up likely weather conditions gives you a great roadmap. That being said, how many times in your life has a unexpected cold front really put a damper on your plans? Or that beautiful and sunny day ended up in rain. Layers will give you options to better contend with Mother Nature. During a December trip to Iceland, I was usually wearing 4 layers. Merino wool was always my base layer, since it is so good at keeping you warm. During a summer trip to Belize, I dressed for heat, but also brought layers for rainy weather, since July is part of rainy season. Additionally, layers allow you to bring more versatility to your wardrobe without overpacking. And finally, always bring a light jacket. It’s an essential layer that you will regret not having access to when you inevitably need it.
Don’t be afraid to lean into athletic wear. Now, I don’t generally mean sweat pants and sweatshirts. But, leggings, sports bras, crop tops, cute sneakers. If you have an active trip planned, lean into packing for that occasion. So often, while hiking in a rainforest or traipsing across the snow, I will see tourists in outfits that not only don’t seem practical, but also don’t look comfortable. I’m all for honoring your style and aesthetic. But being uncomfortable while you’re traveling will not make for the best experience. If your biggest concern about donning active wear during your travels is optics, fear not! Athletic wear has become super mainstream and now there are so many fun, fashionable options that can totally transition from workout to hangout.
I’m just going to say it. Leave the jeans at home. They take up a lot of space and weight and they are often just not practical (and questionably fashionable, but hey, my opinion). Real talk, though. They aren’t the easiest item to clean if you don’t have a washer and dryer at your disposal. Also, they take forever to dry. I definitely do not recommend them for potentially snowy or rainy climates. You know I’m right. Wet jeans while walking around town? Not fun. So many travel packing lists will advise you to “stick to the basics” and a pair of jeans will inevitably be on that list. Pack a fashionable pair of athletic leggings instead or maybe a cute skirt depending on the weather. You and your luggage will thank me later.
Comfortable and Stylish Footwear
I am not the one to tell you that you should only pack “sensible” sneakers. Hell, I don’t really bring sneakers just about anywhere except the gym. I am here to remind you, though, that being miserable while traveling isn’t fun for you or anyone else traveling with you. I always recommend planning your itinerary ahead of time, if possible. This will allow you to look at what you’re planning and then gauge what shoes will best fit the occasion. If you know you need a hiking boot, find something that fits your aesthetic but also has the features you feel will best suit your needs. Exploring a glacier and know you’ll need something waterproof and warm? Doesn’t mean it has to be ugly. Spend the time to look for a pair of boots that you will also feel good in. There are always options out there that can bridge the gap between form and function. It just requires a bit of research and, at times, trial and error.
Pack with color coordination in mind. By doing so, you’ve created looks where their individual components can be more interchangeable. While I always plan out my outfits before I go, this gives me flexibility to change my mind day of, and also offers some versatility if I want to pack light and mix and match a smaller wardrobe. The best part about packing basics is that you can dress them up or down fairly easily. I look at my travel packing like I’m creating a capsule wardrobe. What is a capsule wardrobe? Glad you asked. Simply put, it’s the idea of editing your wardrobe down to your favorite items that can be styled in many different ways to create unique looks. Do the same when packing for your trip. You don’t have to give up your signature style. You just need to pack more intentionally.
Always Throw In A Couple Extra Basics Just In Case
It’s important to plan your wardrobe to avoid overpacking due to the “just in case” mentality so many of us have. That being said, I always include a couple extra basics so that if I can’t wash my clothing when expected or I add something to my itinerary at the last minute or I miss a flight and need to extend my trip, I’m covered. If I have checked luggage, I add this extra basics outfit to my carry on. Again, lost luggage happens and I’d rather be comfortable while dealing with that in a brand new destination. Worried about carrying extra weight in your carry on? Add a lightweight romper and sports bra. They can be packed pretty tightly and are very versatile.
When trying to pack light, sometimes it’s hard to feel like your personal style is represented. Especially if you have a strong fashion aesthetic. To combat that, I always think about accessories. For every outfit I plan, I make sure I have accessories prepped for it. A few key accessories can really change the look of an entire outfit. Statement jewelry, a scarf, a cute belt. It’ll all add personality to those interchangeable basics you’re packing. If you are planning on packing light and washing clothes along the way, pack a few extra accessories so each ensemble can still be unique. If you love shopping local, think about adding those accessories as you travel. They can be your souvenirs and part of your travel looks.
Be Culturally Appropriate
I know I keep mentioning research, but it really is such an important part of being a respectful and informed world traveler. Before visiting a new-to-you destination, make sure to research their local customs and dress accordingly. Many folks will tell you to dress like a local. You should blend in and not stand out. Now, I don’t always agree with that. I think you should always be true to your authentic style. That being said, if it is culturally insensitive to wear short shorts or have your hair exposed, be mindful and prepared to accommodate those things while traveling. I think it’s also fun to shop local for some clothing items that fit into your style. This way you’re supporting slow fashion in a beautiful way, since fast fashion is such an ecological nightmare. I will also comment that the difference between cultural appreciation and appropriation can, at times, feel like a fine line. Be respectful, do your research, and honor the communities you are visiting.
Southwest is Your Friend (Sometimes)
When all else fails and you just need all the luggage, make plans to accommodate that. Choose an airline that allows multiple carry on luggage and checked luggage. Look for checked luggage deals, if available, to help reduce costs. While Southwest Airlines is becoming a bit of a unicorn and their flight map is fairly limited, definitely take advantage of their “two bags fly free” when possible. Don’t let people packing shame you, either. Packing light is more about convenience and comfort for me. Do I really want to drag all of this stuff around for 2 weeks? If the answer is yes, then do you. There is no one right way to handle travel fashion and packing. It’s all a very personal choice. As long as you are prepared to manage your own luggage and take responsibility of transporting it whenever you’re going, pack what you want and do so unapologetically.
Got any travel fashion tips of your own? Share them in the comments below!