It’s a familiar-enough woe: You’ve got two closets (one for clothes, one for shoes), a vanity stuffed with scarves and necklaces, and a bathroom cabinet overflowing with—no other word is so all-encompassing—product. And checked baggage on international flights must be under 50 pounds, and—on less chic-girl-friendly airlines—costs $25 a pop.
So must us chic girls be confined to our stoops, mourning a better time when women packed trunks onto steamers for months of unbounded travel? Of course not. Airline costs merely force us to be more creative, more self-aware, and—if it were possible—better shoppers.
Know your destination.
We’ve all got those favorite pieces: the scarf that goes with everything from a two-piece suit to a bridesmaid’s dress, the belt that hits that perfect mark between flattering and corseting, the shoes that bring out your eyes. Unless they have such sentimental value that your emotional sanity during your trip hangs in the balance, leave them at home.
Traveling is one of the best excuses to purchase new accessories for two reasons: They make cheap functional souvenirs and they’re a great way to add diversity and variety to your wardrobe. (One exception might be if you’re planning a rural safari, but accessories probably won’t be a huge loss on that trip anyway.)
Also important is to check the weather in your destination every few days starting a couple of weeks before you start packing. (Hint: Anywhere in Western Europe that’s north of Marseilles is almost always cold.) Don’t waste precious packing space on a puffy down coat if you’re headed somewhere tropical; on the other hand, don’t get yourself stranded in a Scandinavian winter in a skirt and sandals.
Knowing your destination and, most notably, what activities you will be doing, can go a long way in helping you pack the right pieces. Part of the reason for traveling is to engage in a variety of activities and trying new things in a new location.
You might want to explore the nightlife of a specific location. With this, you will not wear the same outfit as you would while visiting a museum during the day. For example, if you are looking for fun things to do in Nashville, a vibrant and evolving city in the South you might see a show, do a river cruise, shop, eat, visit a museum, and you should have the right gear for all of that! But knowing what you are going to do will help you streamline those outfits, and be more efficient with what you bring.
If you leave the city for the outdoors, other activities such as hiking, snow skiing, fishing, and many others will also require different outfits. You should also ensure that you don’t overdress, to fit in with the crowd. If you are not sure, you can always check out Instagram feeds from the destination and scan through images of the locals. This might give you a better insight into the dress code in that area. Of course, if you are heading to Paris, I’ve got tips for you already!
Know your body.
This rule is pretty self-explanatory, and, actually, should be followed even when not jet-setting. You know your body shape—you know what looks good on you. To shift this from bedroom closet to knapsack, simplify. Go for neutral colors with a few bright items to pop and excite.
There’s a reason the LBD has such a recognizable moniker: It looks good on pretty much anyone and can be dressed up or down to suit the occasion. Pack one. Not a fan of black? Try grey. Or an olive. A navy blue. Your favorite neutral color that goes with anything. Once you arrive, dress it up with your newly purchased accessories!
Know your style.
We all know it’s fun to innovate your look. You’re in a dressing room, think “I could never pull that off,” try it on, and all of a sudden—”Hmm. If I pair that with those shoes and that one little sweater… we might have something here.” It’s fun. But leave it home. Traveling is not the time to mix it up, to reinvent your style, to test-drive your new look. Once again, make it simple. Stick to staples.
Also, know your comfort level. We’d all like to look fabulous and chic all the time, but if you love sightseeing in comfortable clothes, don’t stint yourself on jeans, sneakers, and even sweatshirts. It’s okay to pull the American tourist look once in a while if it makes you happy.
Know your routine.
Imagine it’s morning. You get up, take a shower, get ready for the day. You wash your hair, condition, soap, scrub, shave, tweeze, scrunch, spritz, tone, conceal, apply, shade… and it takes time. Not only that, it takes space, which is an automatic no-no when you’re traveling.
Pack the absolute essentials (shampoo, soap, toothpaste), then ration yourself one item per beauty function. One bottle of your favorite perfume. One bottle of your most durable hair gel. One tube of your most versatile mascara. For make-up, traveling is the time to experiment: Let up a little and give your skin, hair, and eyes a vacation. They might like it.
One last piece of advice: If you’ve got extra space and you’re going to be gone for a decent period of time, throw in some more toiletries. You’ll use up the product and toss the bottles en voyage, then fill that extra space with souvenirs and gifts for the flight home!
How about you? Any tips for traveling light?