Smart travelers know that smart wardrobe planning is fundamental to a successful trip. Done right, you’ll have the right clothes available at just the right time for your trip. And your journey will be more enjoyable because you’ve left excess baggage back home in your closet where it belongs. Remember-whatever you decide to take with you not only has to be packed and checked or otherwise stored on board the conveyance(s) to your destination, it also has to be unpacked, repacked and hauled to every destination on your itinerary.
Becoming a smart travel wardrobe planner begins with a few questions about your planned trip—not a generic or similar trip that others have taken. After all, part of the joy of travel is being able to get away from your normal routine and, as much as possible, doing what you like on your trip when you like it.
- What is the purpose of your trip? Business, relaxation on a beach or elsewhere, urban exploration, skiing, hiking or some combination of purposes? Each requires at least some specialized clothing and/or equipment.
- Do you plan on doing a lot of walking? Comfortable shoes are essential.
- What weather can you expect? While exact forecasts are iffy after a few days, at best, a reliable enough short-term weather prediction can be ascertained at either accuweather.com or www.weather.com. Just key in the cities or town you expect to visit and check both short-range and longer-term forecasts.
- Are laundry and dry cleaning facilities available? If so, you can pack less and re-wear things Even if there is no laundry at your destination, you can always wash out underwear and socks in a hotel sink, bathtub or even a nearby stream if you are camping.
- Are you getting there and traveling around once there by plane, train, ship, bus or car? Check the luggage capacity and costs for each bag.
- Is style more important than comfort? –You can look good without bringing your entire wardrobe. Unless you are a TV star, nobody cares if you use the same clothes over again.
Once you’ve gathered answers to these questions, you are ready to plan yours simply smart wardrobe needs for this trip.
First, pick a color scheme for your trip. If you are not a color expert, and few of us are, stick with neutral colors (one that is neither warm nor cool and result from combining two complementary colors, e.g., red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and purple.) Remember that brown is a neutral color that goes with almost any color on a color wheel. White, black and typical denim blues are also neutral and will go with almost anything. Note that we’re not suggesting that you dress drably. You can and should dress your neutral color palette up with accessories and accents that will give you some panache.
Some web sites that are helpful as basic color primers to the non-fashionistas among us are http://www.chiff.com/a/fashion-colors.htm , http://fashionbombdaily.com/2010/04/16/the-color-wheel-how-to-combine-colors-wardrobe-accessories/ and the always-trendy www.pantone.com where you can search for the latest fashion color trends if you want to be au courant.
Not so parenthetically, this simply smart travel wardrobe advice applies to men and women o all ages. For those of us who are over 50, check out http://www.fashionafter50.com/fashion-color-coordination.html. For women, we recommend a visit to http://allforfashiondesign.com/the-best-color-combinations-in-womens-apparel/ and for me we like to visit http://mens-fashion.lovetoknow.com/Color_Coordinating_Chart
Bottom To Top Is The Way To Go
Once you’ve selected your color scheme and done some research, start your travel wardrobe planning with your shoes since they are the literal and figurative foundation of your travel attire. They also take up a lot of room in your luggage and can make your trip miserable or comfortable.
If you don’t have a really comfortable pair of shoes that goes with most casual or even moderately-dressy outfits, visit a shoe retailer that offers choice in walking shoes and buy a pair and break them in before your trip. Pick one color that will coordinate with what else you are taking. Black is always appropriate for both men and women. Leave unusually-colored footwear in your closet.
Once you have your everyday comfort shoes ready to pack, pick another pair as a spare. For women, we recommend taking a third pair to dress you up only if you have room in your luggage after you have picked everything else to pack. In other words, wear your comfort pair as you travel and take only one or two more pair.
Next, move upward and plan what you will wear below the waist. Here, simplicity should reign. Take a few (two or three) black slacks and/or skirts and anything else that goes with the shoes you will take unless you have chosen another color scheme and then follow that scheme with your slacks and skirts.
Moving above the waist, you can get a little more creative. Here is a good place to introduce some color and flash as long as you stick to the same color family as the bottoms you have selected bottoms. We recommend about three tops to mix and match with the bottoms.
We also recommend taking a complementary dark color sweater or jacket for unexpected cool weather and to dress up a little.
The last step in this clothing selection process is selecting appropriate accessories such as belts, ties (if needed) and colorful jewelry. Leave the good jewelry behind in a safe deposit box for security and take appropriate costume jewelry.
But wait, you are not done yet. It’s time to make a checklist of essentials and desirables that should be packed. Things to remember include taking a primary and spare pair of eyeglasses and/or contact lens and a copy of your prescription and the right supply of any essential prescription or over-the counter medicines and copies of your prescriptions.
Take what you need for hair care but minimize the amount of hair paraphernalia you haul by having an easy-care style-consult your hairdresser. Or, do as Ginny does and take a few quality wigs.
Both men and women should equip and pack a minimalist toiletries and grooming kit that has just enough stuff for the duration of your trip and a few more days to account for unanticipated layovers. Don’t take your whole medicine cabinet.
Women should take a purse that coordinates with your chosen colors. A good choice is often a black & white purse that is fairly large. Take a small purse for evening too.
Don’t forget to make room for your needed specialized gear, a camera and essential electronics—the key point here is leaving the office at home unless you really need it for this trip.
Putting It All Together
O.K, so you’ve followed the simple and smart rules and selected a large array of potential clothing and gear to pack. Now comes the tough part: put a lot of it back. Plan on wearing what you pack more than once, maybe with a different top or bottom. Again, remember that you’re going to have to pack, unpack, repack and haul it to every destination on your itinerary. If in doubt, remind yourself about the purpose, activities and length of your planned trip and take just what you need for this trip and no more. If you miss something, don’t fret–you can always buy something that you overlooked unless you are traveling to the wilderness or a very undeveloped place.
Editor’s Notes: Jeffrey R. (Jeff) Orenstein, Ph.D. and Virginia (Ginny) Orenstein live in gorgeous Lakewood Ranch, eight miles from the Gulf of Mexico and 20 minutes from downtown Sarasota and Bradenton, Florida. Jeff (with a Ph.D. in political science) taught for 25 years at a large Midwestern University. In “retirement,” he became a newspaper editor and magazine publisher. He’s written several books and hundreds of articles. His syndicated column, Simply Smart Travel, is published monthly. Ginny, (a retired CPA with an accounting degree) was Chief Financial Officer for large companies in steel, tires and building products distribution.
Jeff and Ginny “walk the talk.” They’re both over 50 and love to travel to locations that range from the exotic to the commonplace – and, they tell us they’ve never found any place to be really commonplace once they’ve looked around. They’re also wonderful photographers, sharing their photos, travel tips, and observations with the world. Visit them to learn more at Simply Smart Travel.