Finding the right travel clothes is a challenge that renews itself with every new adventure. It’s even more of a challenge when you’re a big traveler. Transport companies (especially airlines) crack down on “delinquent” passengers more and more through the years. And, as I mentioned before on this blog, my luggage allowance is the same than my 5 ft friend’s… but my panties are much bigger!
With that in mind – plus-size clothing, not my underwear! – that I prepared this top 10 things to consider to help you chose the right travel clothes for your next adventure!
As in “made for local customs”. If you visit a place where you should dress modestly, leave your tank and halter tops at home. Some 3/4 – capri style pants and t-shirts covering the shoulders and the upper part of your arms – and not showing too much cleavage – will prove useful in warmer countries where culture and/or religion requires (or enforces) women to be more covered. Add a shawl / scarf and closed-toe shoes and your needs should be… covered!
9) A Wrinkle In Time
As a backpacker, I rarely worry about wrinkled clothes… as I try to pack items that don’t suffer from being jam-packed in packing cubes in my luggage. That is another reason why I have adopted technical or synthetic fabrics like polyester, microfiber or Supplex, for example. (Avoid linen. I swear, the human eye can wrinkle linen just by looking at it!) There are super versatile items of clothing that come in practical fabric nowadays. It’s a bit tougher to find in plus-sizes, but it does exist. (My “Clothes & Gear” section should be helpful in finding some appropriate items for your next trip!)
8) The Elephant in Your Luggage
Shoes are a big part of the bulk in a traveler’s luggage. Footwear, because of its size and shape, rapidly eats away at your luggage space (and weight, depending on the type of shoes). In a perfect world, I would pack all my favorite ones, an educated mix of trail and running shoes, comfortable sandals and a pair of ankle-high boots. All my needs would be fulfilled, but so would be my luggage allowance!
7) The more (uses) the merrier!
Versatile clothes are the key to a light, efficient packing. The more ways you can use an item of clothing, the more it justifies its place in your luggage. Like a dress or tunic that can easily be dressed up / down to multi-purpose shoes (like some style of “barefoot shoes”), for example. Always remember that, unless everything is planned to the second (a rarity among backpackers), you never know what can happen… and the right clothes can always help open some doors when looking “scruffy” is not an option! Also, think “mix & match” capabilities and make sure to…
6) Color-Code It
Stick to a palette of color(s) that, as I mentioned, is easy to “mix and match”. Avoid dark tones in hot, sunny weather if you don’t want to turn into a hot, steamy mess. On longer trips, white isn’t the best pick, since it could slowly turn into a bland shade of dirty light gray over time. Good to know: in some parts of the world, some colors may be reserved for certain people or circumstances. Also, don’t forget to consider…
5) The (Fine) Print
Again, think “mix & match”. I know that the rules about mixing prints are now more flexible than ever, but that’s no reason not to pack smart. Stick to small, discrete prints, ideally within the same palette of colors (a color that is “appropriate” for wherever you’re going in the world, of course).
4) Survival Of The Fittest
As you pack, keep in mind the activities you have planned ahead. The things you consider the highlights of your upcoming trip. Beach time? OK, you might need more than one bathing suit (but don’t overestimate your need… more on this below!) But you don’t need more than one suit if there is a pool or a hot tub at your hotel where you plan on hanging out occasionally.
The issue lies mostly where you do a bit of everything (I often do). Take my upcoming trip to California and Alaska, for example. I plan on celebrating the Pride with friends in the streets of San Francisco and hiking in Alaska. But… I will also be attending a wedding!
You have to find a balance of proper, yet comfortable attire. (The right dress / skirt can save the day in these cases.) In all cases though, don’t pack anything that you don’t feel absolutely comfortable and at ease in. You won’t wear it, and that lost space could be used for better purpose.
3) Time (To Dry) Is Of The Essence
Backpackers move around. Changing city / province / country in the same trip is a common thing. Since we pack small, it’s a common thing to do a quick, hand-wash load on the road. Since you can’t always know for sure that a washing machine (and even less a dryer) will be available where you go, the right travel clothes need to dry rapidly, whatever the washing method is. If an item is too damp to pack after being hung to dry overnight, it might not be a good pick for a traveler who tends to be on the move often.
2) Hot & Cold
As in “the weather” (not the Katy Perry song). That might seem obvious, but hear me out. If you go to a warm / hot-weather country, it’s OK to bring a sweater. Just don’t bring TEN! The same way a sundress might be rather useless if you go winter camping. Some of you may laugh, but sometimes, in the heat of the packing, we get into the “Traveler’s What If Syndrome” mode. At that moment, we can turn into quite silly beings and make laughable choices! So stick to what makes the utmost sense and forget all the “but what if…”.
People also tend to pack way too many swimsuits when going to beach destinations. Seriously, you don’t need one suit a day! 2-3 are way enough! Even if you adhere to a strict swimsuit dress code! (Just do a quick hand-wash and voilà!)
1) The Fabric Of Things
You know how they always say “proper travel clothing should be made of natural fibers” (i.e. linen, cotton, etc.) in so many blog posts on the topic? Well in my experience… IT’S A LIE! Cotton, linen and the likes are some of the most impractical materials I have traveled with. True, these clothes are very comfortable. BUT… They take forever to dry. And take A LOT of space in your luggage. And wrinkle easily. If you’re a “pro-natural fiber” person, at least go for a blend of linen / cotton and polyester to save mucho drying time and luggage space. I have been #TeamPolyester – or, even better, fancy, technical fabric – for years now and have never regretted it.