Pack Smart: Packing Tips For The Fashionable Traveler

The golden days of air travel and getting dressed up for a flight may be long gone, but it’s is no excuse to forget fashion! However, packing light while trying to remain fashionable can be a daunting task.  In preparing for my RTW (round the world) trip, I scoured the web for advice. I found that much of the information was geared towards the most minimalist of travelers or the most opulent, and wasn’t relevant to the average traveler such as myself. Here, I’ll discuss simple tips for staying fashionable while packing light, including the types of clothing I packed, as well as what worked and what didn’t. Later this week, I’ll provide a more detailed list of everything I packed, and most importantly, how I fit it all inside a carry-on sized suitcase!

My packing philosophy is to travel in the style of clothing you typically wear at home. The clothes you wear in your day to day life are generally those in which you feel the most comfortable in, and represent you as a person. This is what you should pack!  Stay clear of those  travel clothing catalogues geared towards middle-aged people touring Europe for the first time, where everything is beige and oversized.  In addition to sticking out like a sore thumb and spending money unnecessarily on overpriced clothing, you won’t be doing your self any sartorial favors. I also disagree with the advice to pack neutrals or only clothing of the same color. In my day to day life, I prefer bold colors and dresses, so that’s what I packed.  Whether your prefer pastels and polos, or animal print and capris, stay true to yourself, and pack what you already have.

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Wearing one of my brightly colored dresses in front a brightly colored light display in HoiAn, Vietnam.

Another popular tip I disagree with involves jeans. Many people suggest leaving your jeans at home, especially when traveling to warm climates, arguing that they’ll be too warm.  For starters, everyone wears jeans… even people who live in said warm climates! It gets pretty darn hot during summers here on the east coast, and yet everyone wears jeans, so I don’t see why it would be any different just because you’re away from home!  I always take a pair or two with me when I travel, and I’ve never regretted it. They go with everything, they’re durable, and they hold up well over multiple wears. If you wear jeans at home, I suggest you put them on your packing list.

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These jeans came in handy during a chilly day in Bogota. Here, I’ve paired them with a brightly colored scarf and embellished flats.

When it comes to shoes, I do not subscribe to the “Take only 1 pair of shoes” mentality.  I’m certainly not saying you should go the Imelda Marcos route and take 50 pairs of stilettos. But you should take into consideration the types of activities you’ll be doing and pack accordingly. If your plans solely involve activities like camping and outdoor pursuits, you may only need sneakers and water shoes. On the other hand, if you’ll be spending a significant amount of time in cities, like I did,  it might be nice to have a pair of dressy flats or sandals. Travel usually entails a lot of walking, and you’ll be happy to have different styles of shoes to prevent your feet from getting sore in one spot. I would suggest sneakers, rubber flip-flops, a pair of comfortable flats, and perhaps another “wild card” shoe of choice, if you’re so inclined. When traveling in Colombia, I took a pair of Teva athletic sandals. While they were nice to have, particularly when hiking on the beach and walking through water, I could have done without. For the second half of the trip, I swapped them out for a pair of high heels. While they were fabulous (and I mean fabulous!), I ended up wearing them only twice in the span of two months. Better options for the “wild card” shoe might be a comfortable loafter, a canvas walking shoe, or flat sandals.

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Fabulous… but not functional.

In addition to the basics, remember to take along a few accessories. A hat is not only functional, but adds a little style to an outfit, like this fedora (and also hides a bad hair day!). Similarly, a scarf provides an additional layer of warmth while adding some pizzazz. Simple jewelry like earrings or a ring won’t take up much space, but can take an outfit from day to night.

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Accessories like this hat, earrings, and purse added visual interest to an outfit I wore to a winery in South Africa.

Makeup is another simple tool for looking more fashionable while traveling. It might not be something traditionally equated with backpacking or RTW travel, but if you wear it in everyday life, I suggest bringing it along. Perhaps not your entire makeup arsenal (I know plenty of girls with enough makeup to open their own shop!), but at least the basics to help you feel polished and fresh.

Lastly, souvenirs are a great way to inject some new life into a traveler’s wardrobe. During my travels I picked up a handmade bracelet in Zambia, an embroidered shawl in Malaysia, and a pretty dress in Singapore. These items gave my wardrobe a much needed fashion boost! The best part? I’ve continued to use them since I’ve returned home, and I enjoy them more than I would have a souvenir “I heart HK” mug!

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At the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, wearing a fun blue dress I had purchased earlier that day.

What other packing tips do you have for the fashionable traveler?

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8 Comments on “Pack Smart: Packing Tips For The Fashionable Traveler

  1. great advice! I think a lot of it is just packing what you think is the best minimalism to fashion ratio and seeing what does and does not work. Also, I’ve learned not to stress so much about forgetting something, because usually, you can buy it where you’re at or can live with out it.

  2. Great post, K! I love what you say about wearing what you normally wear because, as you say, it’s what you’re most comfortable in! I spent most of my time in Europe in jeans/black slacks and a pair of fashion sneakers (black) that went with EVERYTHING. I wore them out so much, I had to toss them as soon as I went home! I brought a lot of basic bottoms (black skirt, jeans, black pants, etc.) and then dressed them up with colorful tops, scarves, etc. And you’re so right about accessories! They take up minimal space & they’re actually my favorite souvenirs. I love when someone compliments a pair of earrings and I can be like, “Oh, these? I got them in Paris!”

    • Thanks for sharing your travel fashion tips! I think you were the catalyst for my souvenir epiphany… I vaguely remember you showing me an embroidered fuchsia purse from one of your trips, and thinking that it was such a great idea to buy accessories as souvenirs!

  3. Great topic Kavi, I was just thinking of this for myself in the near future. I love the tip wear what you normally do at home, this definitely will make for a more comfortable wardrobe on the road. Thanks for sharing from your experiences!

    • Glad you found it helpful Rubella. To be honest, the planning and preparing is basically my favorite part! Not sure what that says about me, haha 😉

  4. I’m off in about a month to Australia for a working holiday. It’s so so hard trying to figure out what to take. So hard that I’m checking out websites on packing/travel tips and not packing up my life. I totally appreciate all of your tips, but I think my problems are I have too many clothes and shoes to chose from (oh to be a minimalist) and I will more than likely be doing varied work. If I was just going for a year long holiday it would be easier I’m sure 😉

    Must remember, they have shops in Aus!!!

    • Hi Gemma, thanks for stopping by! How long will you be in AU, and what city will you be in? It’s definitely hard to narrow down what to pack when you have a full closet at home! I must admit most of my “frivolous” pieces of clothing (the heels!) were for my time in AU because I knew I’d be going out a lot. Without knowing further details of your trip, I would suggest packing work pieces that could transition from day to night. And as you said, there are plenty of shopping opportunities, especially in Sydney and Melbourne.

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