Optimize Your Travel Wardrobe

There’s an old joke among travellers that goes something like “In your regular life, you wear a few items a week; when you pack for a trip, you bring everything you own!”

Whether you’re exploring a new city’s delights or visiting the beach for well-deserved rest and relaxation, you will want to be comfortable and look good.

For many of us, that often means overpacking. However, if you’re smart about what you put inside your suitcase, you don’t have to lug heavy baggage on your vacation.

What to choose?

What to pack?

For a five-day trip, you could only pack:

  • Two short sleeved tops 
  • One or two long-sleeved tops (depending on the climate) 
  • Two bottoms (jeans, a skirt, shorts—pick your poison) 
  • A light jacket that can double as a dinner-appropriate cardigan or similar cover-up 
  • 3-5 pairs of underwear (depending on if you don’t mind hand-washing them in the sink) 
  • Two pairs of socks (depending on what shoes you’re bringing)
  • One to two pairs of shoes (though one is preferable, sometimes you need to bring a pair of flip-flops for the beach) 

Again, you’ll also be packing miscellany dependent on where and at what time of the year you’ll be vacationing, such as a bathing suit or even a scarf and a midweight jacket.

To make life easier, here are a few tips to optimize your travel wardrobe.

Where are you going?

Beach?
To the City?

Ask yourself the following questions before purchasing anything:

  • Would I wear this in my everyday life?
  • What activities do I have planned for this vacation?
  • How is the weather going to be?
  • Do I need to adhere to the culture? (i.e. Do I need to cover up?)

Sensibly assembling your wardrobe based on these few questions and researching deals to save on purchases will set you up for a lightweight, comfortable, and stylish vacation.

Once you do that, you’re ready to start building your travel wardrobe. Here’s what else you should look for.

Versatility

Here’s the cardinal rule of putting together a travel wardrobe: Make sure what you pack is versatile. That means buying clothes and accessories you can wear in several climates, seasons, and situations.

Rather than packing tops and bottoms for every day of your vacation, and several dresses or shirts and trousers to experience nightlife, strategic packing allows you to utilize outfits for various occasions and times of the day. For example, your travel wardrobe should be appropriate for day and night, and comfortable for museum tours and hikes along a mountain path, allowing you to recycle clothes before retiring them to your dirty laundry bag.

Look for:

  • Convertible clothing that you can wear day or night.
  • Reversible clothes
  • Comfortable but stylish shoes you can wear for an all-day walking tour then rock at a 5-star restaurant without turning heads.
  • Smart accessories, like blanket scarves with pockets so you can hide your passport or even use your scarf as a blanket at a pinch

Materials

The materials you choose go hand-in-hand with multifunctionality. Ideally, you’re also looking for quick-drying, odor-control fabrics, though this is only absolutely necessary if you plan on being active—especially in a warmer climate.

Look for breathable natural fabrics. For example: 

  • Linen: Durable, made with a light weave for extra breathability
  • Silk: Soft, light, and breathable, but very expensive, shows sweat stains, and wrinkles easily
  • Cotton: Durable and breathable but absorbs moisture easily, making it uncomfortable for people who sweat a lot
  • Merino wool: Moisture-wicking and usually used for winter layering, light enough for summer breathability, but it can be itchy 

For synthetic materials, consider: 

  • Rayon: Quick-drying and lightweight, but doesn’t wick moisture well
  • Nylon: Lightweight, quick-drying, and moisture-wicking, but it gets smelly very easily
  • Spandex: Very stretchy, moisture-wicking, and prevents chafing, but can retain heat, making it a poor fit for very hot climates
  • Polyester: Non-absorbent and UV ray-repellent, but it holds onto odors

Layering

If you’re going to a destination that has different weather needs (e.g., hot during the day, cool at night, or moving between the mountains and the beach), layering well can make all the difference between overpacking and bringing just the right amount of clothing. 

Here are some tips:

  • Use the cardinal rule of hiking: base layer (wick sweat), mid-layer (insulate), outer layer (shields from wind and rain)
  • Go for lightweight knits that can insulate when layered but are cool enough to stand the heat on their own
  • Layer in such a way that your heaviest layer is on top and your lightest layer is closest to your body, so you can modulate your temperature by adding or taking away layers as needed
  • Stick to a color palette so you can mix and match your entire wardrobe
  • Pay attention to details like necklines and length so you can ensure your layers work well together, aesthetically speaking

Styles

Tourism generates a significant amount of money for cities and regions worldwide, and some local economics are built entirely around the travel industry. While that makes these areas tremendously hospitable to guests, you’ll often find salespeople and others intentionally targeting visitors they may presume to be easily persuaded.  To make yourself appear less conspicuous, avoid dressing like you’re about to embark on a five-day trek in the woods when you’re actually in a densely populated city. Stay away from anything flashy, such as designer bags or nice watches.

You can be both stylish and comfortable, wearing breathable, fast-drying, UPF material without sticking out like a sore thumb. Those athletic-wear buzzwords have moved beyond running and hiking circles and into the world of, well, style.

Away you go ……………..

So there are just a few ideas and tips for you as you begin to plan your travels now we are coming out of lockdown and countries are opening up. Take the time to think carefully about what you want to take with you and wear and also to think where the items have come from in the first place. Sustainable travel is the key and will only get higher on the list as we move into our new era.