By guest writer Kathrine Garshol
Do you feel like you always pack too much when travelling? Do you pack for “just in case” and “what if” scenarios? I know it can be tempting to pack a completely new outfit for each day, or bring all your accessories, but it just isn’t practical. And, if you pack light you can end up saving money because you don’t need to check any luggage.
Putting together the perfect travel wardrobe may seem like a daunting task, but I’m going to teach you how to do it. We’ll look at the how-to of it, and I’ll give you a few suggestions on what pieces make up a practical and versatile travel wardrobe.
I will teach you how to pack a versatile travel wardrobe that can take you from strolling around the city in the day to going to a fancy restaurant at night.
What will you be doing?
I assume that’s maybe the first thing you’re wondering about. And, there is no set answer. The number of pieces you need may vary and depends on how long your trip will be. However, the goal is to get all of it to fit in a carry-on. Another important thing to remember is to pack for the season and the types of activities you’ll be doing.
To make a perfect travel wardrobe you want to pack versatile pieces you can mix and match. To achieve this, I recommend that you go about packing as if you were designing a capsule wardrobe. The very concept of a capsule wardrobe is to have pieces that go together. Packing with this in mind significantly reduces the number of pieces you’ll need to make different outfits.
How to build a travel wardrobe
The first thing you need to decide is the base color of your wardrobe. What I recommend is to choose either black OR navy, as these colors go well with most other colors. If you don’t like to wear black or navy, you can also choose a darker shade of brown as your base.
Choose your neutral colored essentials. By essentials I mean tops and bottoms in classic styles in solid colors. These pieces can be a white button up, a grey t-shirt, a black skirt or other classic pieces. These coordinating essentials should be in black, navy, white, grey, chambray or beige. You do not need to use all of these colors if you don’t like them, but they are a guideline for what to pack.
Just remember: if you choose black or navy as one of your neutrals, you should choose the same as what you picked as your base color. Black on black or navy on navy looks good, but it is generally not a good idea to mix the two as it can look a little odd.
Add an accent color or two. This is where you can make you travel wardrobe stand out and feel more personal. Add some tops or bottoms, or even an accessory in your accent colors. The accent colors can be anything you like, but try to make them match well with your base color and your neutral pieces. Take a look at the chart below and get some inspiration.
Add a few patterned pieces. In addition to solid colored pieces, any travel wardrobe can benefit from a few patterned pieces. I would recommend going with a classic striped top, a polka dot shirt or a floral top or bottom. If you choose a floral pattern, make sure that the colors match with your accent and base colors.
Add your accessories. For your travel wardrobe I would recommend 2-3 pairs of shoes. As an absolute minimum you should have a pair of shoes that are good to walk in, and one lighter shoe that can be dressed up or down. A nice pair of flats or sandals works well for this. Your shoes should preferably be in your base color. If you think you will do a lot of working out or hiking in rougher terrain, you should also add shoes suitable for this.
As for other accessories, I would add a crossbody bag for the daytime, a smaller evening bag, and a canvas bag. The canvas bag can be stored in your crossbody bag for easy access in case you need it. Add a statement necklace and a scarf in your accent color, and that should get you through your holiday.
Suggestions on what to pack in your travel wardrobe
For this, I will recommend pieces you should put in your travel wardrobe for a 10-day trip. For this I would recommend packing 3 tops, 3 bottoms and 1 dress. By mixing and matching, these items alone will give you 10 different outfit options. If you add layers and accessories, you can get even more outfits out of this.
For bottoms I would recommend bringing 1 pair of dark jeans, 1 pair of dressier trousers and 1 pair of shorts or leggings, depending on your destination and the time of year. For tops I would go with a classic white or black t-shirt, a striped top and a dressier top. For the dress I would recommend going with something that can go from day to night by switching out or adding accessories. Add a light sweater or cardigan and you have more variety, and you can stay warmer. With shoes, a statement necklace and a scarf you can get even further.
Seeing as every trip is different, it is hard to recommend a certain type of jacket to bring. However, as a general tip, I would recommend wearing your “main” jacket on the plane so it doesn’t take up space in your carry-on. If you are traveling to a warmer place, it will probably be enough to take a light jacket or a denim jacket, but you can also a pack a poncho or a light rain jacket in your luggage. For trips in the colder seasons you should definitely wear your thick winter coat when traveling.
What to do on longer trips
I know a lot of you may think that this is all well and good for shorter trips, but you can make this type of travel wardrobe work on longer trips as well. For trips longer than 10 days I would recommend packing 1-2 more bottoms and tops. The more pieces you have that go together, the more outfits you can create.
Also, you have to remember that you will be wearing one outfit, so that is one less outfit to fit in your carry-on. That’s especially practical for shoes, as that’s one of the bigger items to pack.
Taking care of your travel wardrobe
For longer trips I would also check out what possibilities you have to wash clothes. Depending on your accommodation there may even be a washing machine available, but if not you can also wash clothes in the bathroom sink if you’re in a pinch.
However, most clothes will be fine to wear 2-3 times, depending on the climate. To make your clothes last as long as possible, you should hang them after wearing them, so they can “air out”. Unless there are any obvious stains or smells, the pieces are fine to wear multiple times.
So, remember this: pack for versatility, and take care of your clothes. In that way, you’ll make your travel wardrobe last longer.
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I'm Else Kosberg, author, life designer and passionate globetrotter. I want to share with you my travel tips & experiences and hope-fully inspire you to travel more and maybe also start exploring the roads less travelled.