Next Tuesday, Tate and I are traveling together for ten days. We’re heading over to the Middle East, to gather the rest of our household goods we left there, and to spend time with our friends.
If you haven’t yet gathered, I travel a LOT. Not always gleefully, but for the most part, I do enjoy it. It helps that over the years, I’ve learned to do it fairly well.
The key is to pack well. Packing too much can burden your trip and cloud your mind, leaving you to deal more with the stuff than with enjoying your experience. It’s pretty hard to pack too little, but it has happened to me before. When that happens, I spend too many brain cells thinking about that one thing I wish I had.
I pack the same when I’m traveling for a week or longer, no matter how long I’m gone or where I’m going. Here are my core essentials.
Simple solid-colored tanks are versatile, lightweight, and pack tightly, so I bring 4-6 of them. I typically wear two at a time and can interchange all of them.
I bring 2-3 cardigans that will match all my tanks and are a variety of weights so that they serve different purposes. Cardigans can instantly dress up a tank top and skirt, and are great for those days where the weather fluctuates.
Simple a-line skirts look good on almost any body type, and are easy to pack as well. I take about 3 cotton skirts, also of various weights.
Whether I’m traveling to the South or the Pacific Northwest, I toss in a thin sweater. You need a sweater in the mornings and evenings year-round in some climates, and in the south, some buildings crank up the A/C in the height of summer.
I normally grab my tanks, but every now and then I want a t-shirt. I go with 2-3 solid-colored, well-fitting t-shirts that match my skirts. If it’s fall, I may exchange one of these for a long-sleeved tee.
Dressier blouse or tunic
I prefer jersey, so I can wad it up in the suitcase and go without an iron (I almost never iron anymore). This shirt should go with my jeans and be good for evenings out. Leggings are also good with tunics, if it’s long enough.
Unless it’s the dead of summer in a hot location, I also pack a structured, lightweight jacket. Or if it’s the dead of winter somewhere cold, in which I exchange the jacket for a coat.
Nice flats and sandals
I usually only bring 3 pair of shoes—a pair of comfortable flats, a pair of nicer-looking sandals, and a pair of flip-flops or Chacos. If it’s cold, I exchange the sandals for slip-ons or boots. They can each be worn with all the clothes in my bag, depending on where I’m going. Key: They must be comfortable. Must. And I wear the heaviest pair on the plane, so I don’t have to pack them.
Overseas, you can usually spot the Americans: their hair is in a wad, they may or may not be wearing pajama pants or a track suit, and they’re wearing running shoes no matter what the outfit. We don’t dress up when we travel, in other words.
Most other cultures do, almost all the time. I’d rather not stand out, and I kinda like to look nice. I keep them simple, small, and durable. My essential accessories are:
- a lightweight scarf (it really does make everything dressier)
- a pair of stud and a pair of dangle earrings
- a few necklaces
- a bracelet
- a hair accessory, like a headband or clip
- one, durable-yet-not-utilitarian-looking purse/bag
Jammies and undergarments
A simple t-shirt and pajama pants for sleeping and the obvious underwear are about it. I also include bike shorts for under skirts, especially in high humidity environments, if you get my drift. And love my Spanx cami for under tank tops so much that I never leave home without it anymore.
This is my core. In colder environments, I also pack the obvious outer gear, and exchange a tank top and tee for another sweater. In hot climates, I also pack my swimsuit and a summer hat.
Packing lightly can be done when everything coordinates, and when garments are well-made. This is my personal philosophy for clothing all the time, anyway, so honestly, I pretty much pack what I wear daily.
Finally, I toss in some laundry soap (I use soapnuts) and a clothesline, because I’d rather do laundry once or twice than lug around a cumbersome suitcase. I also want to make room for purchases made on the trip.
This is what I’m packing this weekend, and it’ll all fit in a small suitcase. That way, Tate and I can navigate customs and foreign airports without ill-behaved, heavy luggage.
I’d love to hear—what’s your essential clothing when you travel?