anyone can get dressed up and be glamorous, but it is how people dress in their days off that are the most intriguing.
— alexander wang —
i use to spend hours and hours trying on clothes to come up with the perfect outfits to take on my vacations around the world. a different pair of shoes for each outfit, a new outfit for each day, and of course this also included taking the newest, most favorite items in my closet along for the ride. looking my best while i traveled somehow always took precedent over comfortability and practicality. silk shirts in the summer, why not? shoes that look divine on my feet and in photos but were not able to function properly on cobblestone streets, these without question were a must. you would think i was going to paris for fashion week and not to roam the streets of prague on foot in the middle of winter.
so what changed? was it airlines now checking the weight and size of your carryons? or maybe now charging you for a checked bag? maybe it was the desire to hit the ground running upon arrival and not wanting to deal with waiting for a checked bag on the luggage carousel (fun fact, i have missed many connecting flights coming back from europe waiting for my checked bag at customs before getting onto my last flight home. i do not recommend checking a bag if you ever are traveling through newark. seriously, it is pure misery.). i think in the end what changed was my travel maturity. wanting to pack smart, practical and light became a priority that would in turn make my travels so much easier, especially when you are taking multiple flights on one trip. i no longer wanted to iron things the second i walked into my hotel room. i didn’t want to have fussy clothing that i had to pull and tug all day long. i wanted to look put together, comfortable, but classic.
another part of my travel maturity is being a bit opposed to checking bags in general. the only time i ever check a bag is if i am bringing amazon prime treasures to norway or returning from a country that has amazing alcohol that i absolutely have to have at home (check yours bag coming back from georgia and armenia if you like brandy, it’s so worth it!!). i have been on trips ranging from three days to three weeks all using the same carryon that i got from jcrew last year. i can easily carry it myself without struggle, it doesn’t have wheels to hold me up on the cobblestone streets of europe, and it meets the cabin baggage requirements like a glove (and these smaller airlines in europe do check size and weight of carryons quite frequently, keep that in mind).
so how do i do it? i check the weather 100 times before i leave, something i know most of you do as well, but i also know what i plan on doing while i am traveling. i walk everywhere. it’s pretty rare that i take public transportation or taxis because for me, walking means you will most definitely see way more than you would if you take four wheels instead of your own two feet. some of my favorite pictures i have taken on my travels have been from random streets and alleys that i have discovered while walking to or from my ultimate destination. so for me, comfortable, practical anything and everything is key. if you get warm when you walk around in the winter, bring a heavy coat but lightweight shirts and not sweaters for underneath. why pack bulky sweaters if you know they will just make you uncomfortably warm when you are on foot for five days on your trip. same with the summer, pack lightweight cotton dresses, not shorts and shirts. one dress takes up less space than a pair of shorts and a coordinating top. i like to be basic and casual, but still put together, so below i made a list of my must have travel go-tos that will take you from summer to winter without worry. enjoy and feel free to make fun of my hightops, everyone else does too…..
MY ESSENTIALS FOR TRAVELING HAPPY, LIGHT AND COMFORTABLE:
comfy all-weather sneakers: the millennials make fun of me all the time but my go-to shoes for 80% of my travel is my nike airforce ones. even though it looks as though i could be marty mcfly’s partner in crime, they are comfortable, can withstand snow, rain, sleet and pretty much any other terrible weather condition outside of ice. they have been across europe and back and still look like a million bucks. they also are pretty european in style, which to me, when you try to dress similar to the people in the countries you are visiting, especially when you travel solo, is very important.
leather jacket: there are certain things i spend money on, and my isabel marant leather jacket was one of them. i went into barney’s five years ago and this amazing black leather biker jacket just spoke to me. one of the best purchases of my life, it has been my boston go-to since i bought it and has also been to asia and all around europe with me. it’s perfect to wear with jeans, tshirts, hoodies, dresses and pretty much anything else you could think of. it packs wel,l and again, is fashionably perfectly in most countries in europe, except for maybe malta, which is more of a leather bikini destination.
winter coat: because i live in boston and the winter weather here is less than ideal, a few years ago i purchased a canada goose winter jacket and i am happy as a clam that i did. rain-proof, super warm with a hood included, this is my go-to winter travel jacket no matter where the wind takes me. it has kept me warm from boston to astana and has been worth every penny. it also has really warm fleece pockets and backpack straps on the inside, a huge hidden bonus!!
summer sneakers: comfort is key and while i am a total flip flop wearer, mostly because i just get so hot when i am walking around, summer sneakers are a must have when you are traveling. something lightweight and comfortable is ideal. i have two pairs i usually rotate between, both are white because they literally go with anything. new balance sneakers are my favorite, and the company is from massachusetts (yay! local!) but my other slightly more trendy choice is from puma and are really cute with dresses and jeans. their only downfall is they are squeaky sometimes, as i found out when i was walking around empty churches in köln. loud american alert!!!
flip flops: i may be from the midwest and have lived on the east coast for 18 years but i am a california girl when it comes to my love of flip flops. they may not offer the best support when walking (i’m old, this is a problem….) but they are lightweight, comfortable and easy to pack. perfect for the beach, the city, the country, on a boat in norway, or walking around your hotel room, just pack a pair, you will always find a use for them.
crossbody bag: literally the most important travel accessory for a girl when traveling. i am a lover of handbags so i tend to go a little high end with my choices here, but anything that is roomy and sturdy will do the trick (read about my stolen handbag in africa if you want to know what is sturdy or not). backpacks are not practical and heavy, large bags are just a burden. most of the crossbody bags i own can be used as just that, or as a clutch or a shoulder bag. multi-tasking bags are where its at, yo.
favorite hoodie: i have a lot of really nice clothing in my closet but i am also a proponent of the whole comfort is key concept, so a favorite hoodie is indispensable. mine is the perfect shade of light pink and is from abercrombie. it is my go-to travel buddy and accompanies me everywhere. casual but not sloppy, a basic, solid hoodie should always be on your packing list. the bonus part of a hoodie is that you can wear it under a jacket that doesn’t have a hood so it offers a little rain protection and warmth if needed, perfect for fall and early winter days. another good part of a favorite hoodie is when someone gives you their favorite because it does all of the above but also makes you feel pretty darn special, because lets be honest, i wouldn’t just give mine to anyone. just sayin’.
striped basic cotton dress: i LOOOOOVE stripes. i have a very simple basic striped dress from h&m that i bought for under $20 that i literally wear all summer long. something else that is easy to pack, wash and is wrinkle free, this is a must have for any warm weather travel destination. mine has been everywhere from boston to africa to malta. it’s cute, casual and can be dressed up with a necklace if needed. i’m too lazy for jewelry usually, so i just roll the casual look, as you can see below.
basic tshirts: tshirts and jeans pretty much sum up my go-to wardrobe, i am an american afterall. i usually pop over to urban outfitters or jcrew for the best options under $20. basic, plain colored tshirts literally go with anything. i have worn mine with leather skirts, jeans and shorts all around the world. dressed up or down, this is a travel essential at a low price point with a huge comfortability factor. i like solid colors, usually grey, pink or black, but i’m basic like that.
jeans: i am a jeans person and always will be. in fact, i own zero khaki anything. jeans or bust (except for my leather pants for when i am feeling dangerous). i have walked around steaming hot germany in june with my best friend in jeans because that’s just how i roll. my favorites are from mother and jbrand because they just fit oh so good. i typically like to pack a pair of casual ones and one pair of darker ones, black or dark blue. with two pairs of jeans you can be dressy or casual and not feel out of place in most places you will visit. sometimes i get crazy and bring some white or grey ones, but that is for special occasions only.
comfy flats: adding a little more formal-causal than sneakers, comfy flats can go from jeans and tshirts to dress and skirts in the blink of an eye. i have a few very comfortable pairs but my gold lanvin flats are probably my favorite. i have had them for six years and they have seen miles and miles of wear. i like bright colored flats or anything metallic, it just makes your outfit pop a little bit when everything else is basic and solid in color. sometimes you have to live on the wild side.
luggage: with luggage, you get what you pay for. for me, rimowa is the best luggage you can buy. sturdy, hard and is ready to roll at any time (that’s what she said), this german brand is worth spending the extra money on. they also have a clear version which as an OCD crazy person, i am obviously obsessed with. besides that, i typically use my jcrew duffle bag as i mentioned above. it has a million pockets, is soft and is easy to smash into the luggage requirement measurers, all a plus when you travel a lot.
carry-on must haves: i always travel with a small blue notebook, a personalized monogramed retractable pen (a very sweet gift i received and something i use all the time), blotting papers, concealer, lip balm, sunglasses, kindle, portable charger, small wallet, and a coin wallet (a must have for traveling in europe to contain all the coins you will undoubtedly collect – i got mine in morocco for $3, including monogram). everything else, other than headphones, you don’t need so take it out of your bag, trust me. the lighter, more streamlined you can be, the better.
through the years i definitely have learned that packing is an art, not a science. bring stuff that is comfortable, can be washed in a sink if need be, is easy to pack, and goes with everything. it’s easier to bring one pair of jeans and three basic tshirts and a jacket than specific different outfits for three days. i like to look good and i am into fashion, but when you are traveling it’s about dressing for where you are going and what you plan on doing, and nothing else. you don’t need to bring impractical silk tops when you know it will be warm out and you’ll be walking everywhere, even if you absolutely love the way you photograph in them. traveling is all about having and enjoying an experience, not trying to look as on trend as you possibly can. at the end of the day you will remember what you did, not what you wore on your holidays, something that you should always consider as you pack your bags for your next trip. and on that note, good luck and happy packing, ya’ll.
keep reading, keep checking in… i promise it gets better.