Fashion legend Coco Chanel once said, “Fashion fades, only style remains the same.” Personal style exists in everyday life, so why shouldn’t you dress accordingly when you travel? Most times, those Chang beer tank tops and zip off khakis just aren’t going to cut it. Sometimes, some of us ladies want to blend in with the locals in our destination instead of sticking out like the dirty backpacker sore thumbs we may or may not be. Packing a few key pieces can take a look from sloppy to classy.
- Scarf – It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a simple scarf to cover your head or shoulders in conservative countries, to ball up into a pillow on a long flight or to dress up an otherwise simple outfit. Airport shops and markets all over the world sell basic scarves and pashminas for cheap. I have a jersey infinity scarf that I wear in every season.
- Dark jeans – I know there’s much debate about packing jeans for travel, but I’ve always found them useful. All you really need is one pair of dark skinny jeans to keep you warm on a cool night or to wear out when paired with a nice top.
- LBD – What would we do without the little black dress? The perfect LBD is lightweight, breathable and quick drying, flattering and just basic enough to work with most accessories.
- Sarong – I recommend that every female traveler brings a sarong, either purchased or stitched together from extra fabric, because it is so versatile. Even if you’re not wearing one like the locals in Southeast Asia, you can use it as a towel, beach cover up, skirt, sleep sack, bathrobe or changing room.
- Dresses – Assuming the temperatures are mild, dresses are easy to pack and can be dressed up or down. Maxi dresses are comfortable and can be worn in conservative cultures.
- Basic tanks and tees – Solid colors work best to add accessories like scarves and jewelry. Plus, you don’t have to worry if something happens to a cheap tank top.
- Cardigan – A cheap cotton or knit cardigan can cover your shoulders when you’re in a chilly museum or dress up an outfit.
- Jewelry – Don’t bring anything expensive that can’t be replaced, but instead bring statement pieces that can turn a basic jeans and t-shirt combination into an outfit.
- Purse – Many times I end up bringing a travel bag as my purse, which I almost always regret. They aren’t functional and make you stick out as someone to rob. Bring a purse that you can carry essentials in. Pacsafe even makes bags that are functional and you wouldn’t be embarrassed to wear!
- Makeup – It doesn’t need to be the entire contents of your bathroom back home, but a few key items, namely concealer, tinted lip balm, mascara and eyeliner, can go a long way.
- Shoes – We are the first to admit that deciding what shoes to bring on a trip is a nightmare. But they should always be comfy and practical first. I recommend one pair of athletic shoes, one pair of folding flats and a pair of cute sandals.
How to Keep your Look
A tiny bottle of perfume, like the samples they give away at the makeup counter, can do wonders. Splash a little on your wrists before a night out and a bit on your clothes if you haven’t had time to wash them.
Wrinkle releaser is another necessity, especially if you shove all your clothing haphazardly in your backpack when moving from one city to the next. If you don’t have room, you can hang your outfits in the bathroom while you’re taking a shower to steam out any wrinkles. A stain stick is handy for your carry on to keep stains from soaking in until you can come up with enough coins to wash your clothes.
>> Read about looking professional while traveling for more clothing management tips.
- Layers, layers, layers – It’s not about being prepared for every type of temperature. How can you really pack a parka and a dress for the same trip? If you learn how to layer what you already have, you won’t have to pack nearly as much.
- It’s all in the fabric – Cotton, stretch and quick drying fabrics are your best friends. Carrying around wet clothing is a pain, so invest in pieces made of wicking materials.
- Comfort first – You’re going to be spending lots of time on planes, trains and buses, so if it’s not comfortable, it doesn’t matter if it’s stylish.
- Don’t bring anything you would be upset to lose – I said it for jewelry but it applies to all items you pack. There are always shady people that will take items of your laundry from the dryer or off the clothesline or even from your backpack. You don’t want to be heartbroken over losing that expensive dress.
Where and What to Shop For
I always seek out cheap and basic pieces that can be thrown away as they wear and tear. After looking for local markets first, I then move on to the budget stores. In the United States, I like Old Navy and Forever 21, while in Australia it’s Ally and Cotton On. TopShop is the best in the UK and H&M has affordable pieces in stores all over the world.
>>See more tips for where to find budget gear.
- A Fashionista’s Packing List for 4 Months Backpacking Europe, Her Packing List
- Backpacker Chic, Caroline in the City
- How to Not Look Like a Backpacker While Living Out of a Backpack, C’est Christine
- Travel Fashion Tips: Bangkok’s Backpacker Blunders, The Lost Girls