The stereotype of women (or their husbands) traveling around Europe loaded down with heavy suitcases filled with shoes, purses, and makeup is entirely unfair…well, maybe not entirely… We do sometimes pack the super cute Kate Spade sandals that hurt when we walk more than 100 meters - or the 5" Jimmy Choo heels that sit in our suitcase on a 3-week honeymoon. But while nothing is worse lugging around two heavy suitcases with clothes I don’t even use on the trip, feeling like a hobo while visiting the world’s most romantic places is a close second. The trick is finding a balance. Here’s how to be fashionable and practical when you travel.
SHOES - Bring a REALLY comfortable pair of flats that you can wear casually but also can wear for the long haul. Crocs (surprise!) has some cute, dressy ballet flats that weigh nothing and you can wash out at the end of the day. I don’t leave home without them. I know you’re shuddering right now, but these are actually cute, lightweight, crazy comfortable, and washable. I love them and will wear them sightseeing all day and out to classy dinners by night.
Trendy old-school pair of sneakers (vans or converse perhaps) that are broken in and ready to walk.
I like to bring one pair of heels. Make it a wedge and I say make them lightweight, consider Sketchers (who even knew Sketchers made dress sandals). Comfort is all-important. If you can't walk for a solid mile without blisters or aching feet, leave them at home.
MIX, MATCH, AND ACCESSORIZE! - While you don't need lots of clothes, you do need to feel like you're not wearing the same outfit every day. The beauty of traveling is…you’re never with the same people for more than a few days at a time! There is your husband of course, but let's face it, most men can't tell one pair of jeans from another. Here’s how to mix up 100 great travel outfits from a few basic ingredients:
Shorts are not the best travel option because they make you look like a tourist, and even worse an American tourist, plus there are places they aren't acceptable (museums, cathedrals, temples, and the entire Muslim world). So cut down on the shorts and get a cute well-fitting pair of dressier Capri pants (think Audrey Hepburn NOT old navy cargo) in a neutral or dark color and wear them to death. Paired with lightweight wrinkle resistant tops and a beautiful scarf you’ll be able to walk comfortably from the Eiffel Tower up the Champs Elysee and stroll into a boutique like you own it.
Bring a few scarves (they weigh nothing and roll up into the tiniest spaces) and some fun bright jewelry and plan on buying more of both while you travel.
Nothing changes your outfit more than pops of color so bring a killer black dress (let's say it again together, “a lightweight and wrinkle resistant dress”). You want a little black dress that you can dress up with jewelry for a night out at the theatre or a fancy dinner but also wear casually during the day with flats.
Dresses are my travel must, they are easy to pack, and you're out the door in one piece of clothing. Just remember: keep the dresses and shoes simple, neutral, and comfortable. Spice up your look with accessories and fun pieces you pick up on your travels.
Being Practical Does Not Excuse: Baseball caps when not at a baseball game or: Running shoes when not running ------ Keep up your standards girls!
EVERYTHING ELSE: -We won’t do a full travel list because every woman is different and every trip is unique. However, a few things I never leave the country without are:
Sarong. It’s like the towel in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it fills every need: blanket on a train, a scarf at night, a picnic blanket, a long skirt and of course, a cover-up on the beach.
Good sunglasses (wearing sunglasses that you don't know are legitimately UVA UVB is scary. Cheap ones can dilate your pupils and cause far worse sun damage than not wearing them at all)
BE PLAYFUL - You’re in love and you’re abroad. Play with your look a little! This is the time to leave your comfort zone and wear something fun, beautiful, and different.
BOOTS: When traveling to cooler climates bring one pair of great-looking, comfortable, wear-with-everything boots. Wear them on the plane so they don’t count against your weight limit. Great versatile walking boots look good with anything and can be dressy or casual.
LE CHAPEAU - Most overlooked but important travel item: A hat. This is a tricky one. Traveling without a hat is often a huge mistake, after all, walking in the heat with the sun beating down on you is rarely comfortable for long, but wearing your Yankee’s cap in Capri isn't the fashion statement you want to make. So I suggest getting a hat that you really, really like. You'll wear it a lot (your skin will thank you) and it will probably be in most of your travel photos so think about it as a stylish accessory, not just a travel necessity. I picked up some beautiful woven floppy hats in Costa Rica that can be rolled, packed, and unrolled without losing their shape. Whatever you choose think packable, versatile, good sun coverage, and looks good on you!
For longer trips or trips where weight is very important - like if you’ll be flying a budget airline in Europe - figure out what toiletries you’ll be able to easily buy abroad and what you have to bring with you. I don’t pack body lotion at all. It's heavy, messy and so easy to pick up (or get free in almost every hotel room anywhere in the world). Actually a lot of toiletries are cheap and easy to buy when you travel, so figure out which ones you absolutely have to have your particular brand of (for me it's deodorant and tampons) and bring travel size amounts (3.4 ounces) of the other stuff, enough to get you through the first week or so before you hit a local market or grocery store. They take up room but more importantly lots of weight so be smart about what you bring and what you leave behind.
To Bring or Not to Bring - I once hauled two whopping big bottles of sunscreen to Eastern Europe. After I arrived I realized Krakow wasn’t that sunny, and sunscreen was available everywhere anyway.
The following year I traveled to Malawi via Ireland and decided to pick up sunscreen after arrival in Africa. It was about $50 a bottle.
Lesson? Do research on what’s available or just bring small travel sized amounts of everything you need.
The Little Comforts - Finding small comforts when you travel can make the difference between happy journeys and homesickness. Here’s my travel comfort list:
Travel slippers - The small cotton ones that you can roll (Old Navy made mine) are a welcome comfort on any long plane ride, train trip, hotel room or car journey.
Lightweight, small cotton robe - If I’m just packing a carry-on I sometimes have to leave it but remember, having something comfortable to throw on at night can make a big difference in your happiness, especially on a long trip.
Inflatable travel pillow - I got mine 5 years ago from REI and practically won't leave the state without it, every trip is better with a little extra comfort!
Packing and Shopping – Scarves in India, Shoes in Italy - I like to research what’s fun to shop for in each country and pack accordingly. For instance:
If I'm going to India I would leave behind scarves and jewelry and buy them there.
Packing for Italy I rarely bring more than 1 or two pairs of shoes and belts – giving me a great excuse to spend hours in the Florence leather market
Unless you hate to shop or your budget simply won't allow it, plan on purchasing some of your clothes, accessories and shoes while you travel, it saves on baggage allowance and kills two birds with one fun stone
FROM TANGO IN TAHITI: HOW TO PLAN A ROMANTIC ADVENTURE, AVAILABLE AT AMAZON.COM (LINK BELOW)
A man who learns the travel skills below can pack a carry on bag that weighs less than 18 pounds and contains everything needed for a weekend in the Catskills or a month in Europe while still looking like he deserves the girl on his arm.
The test any article of clothing must pass before it enters the bag of a true traveler is simple: It must be versatile, lightweight, resistant to stains and wrinkles, and look good enough that your wife won’t mind seeing you in it several times over a trip.
We expect any traveler reading this book to be able to step off the train from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, tuck his linen button-up into his dark slim-cut jeans, pull a blazer from his backpack to hide his wrinkled shirt, and walk into the Raffles Hotel like a movie star after a long day on set.
Shoes (1 or 2 pairs, plus optional flip flops for the beach)
DONT- Running shoes are for running and tennis shoes are for tennis. Unless you’re on a romantic journey to the London Olympics to represent the United States in the 100 meters, leave the running shoes at home. Only Americans would dare to wear running shoes out to dinner or on a plane and even they should know better.
DO – Shoes are heavy, dirty, and awkward to pack. Travel with one or two pairs of shoes. One pair for walking or hiking and one pair for going out to dinner. A good pair of loafers or boat shoes can double for both purposes. Sperry’s boat shoes and Croc’s loafers are both light, comfortable, and can be worn with a shirt and tie without looking foolish.
Pants - The best pair of travel pants in the world is a pair of dark dungarees or khakis. They hide travel dust and dirt, can be dried in a matter of hours if washed in a hotel sink and left in the sun, and look equally at home on the back of a camel or the steps of the Mandarin Oriental. Go anywhere from Old Navy or H and M to a Paris designer to buy a pair in a slim, modern cut so the Italians won’t laugh at you.
Shorts - Wearing shorts marks you as an American, but after all, Americans are easy to spot even without the shorts. Get a pair of khaki shorts. In a pinch they double as swimming trunks.
Swimming trunks and board shorts that go to your knees look a little silly abroad, especially in Europe. We don’t expect you to wear a Speedo, but a pair of short trunks (about the length of running shorts) is a good compromise for prudish North Americans. They’re also easier to pack.
Shirts – The essential shirt for a male traveler is a button up shirt. Go dark or white. Dark colors hide dust and stains and white can be bleached in a hotel sink if necessary. A white button up shirt with a black tie and skinny jeans can make a backpacker look like a rock star.
Buy a pack of 6 white undershirts from Target before you leave and roll them up tightly in your bag. They take up almost no room and you can throw them away as you travel.
Many T-shirts and polo shirts are surprisingly heavy, not especially versatile, and not as stylish as they were when you bought them in high school. Button up shirts are the way forward.
Accessorize – Splurge on a pair of stylish, high quality sunglasses. Your eyes will thank you when you’re searching for a distant leopard on the African Savannah
Bring a scarf. It’s just as useful for shielding your lungs as you motorbike along dusty Kenyan streets as it is for warmth on cool South African mornings.
Sport Coat (optional) - A light blazer allows you to:
1. Hide a button up shirt that hasn’t been ironed in a week
2. Walk into a fancy Paris restaurant without looking out of place
3. Put it around the shoulder of your loving wife to protect her from the cold breeze coming off the harbor in Calais.
FROM: TANGO IN TAHITI: HOW TO PLAN A ROMANTIC ADVENTURE, AVAILABLE ON AMAZON