Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Tue June 16 2015

Opinion Home | Far-Sighted Field Notes

  • Rosalind Cummings-Yeates | June 16, 2015 9:00 PM ET

    Travel Style: 5 Tips on How to Pack Clothes Like a Pro and Not a Tourist

    Travel Style: 5 Tips on How to Pack Clothes Like a Pro and Not a Tourist

    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

    You’ve seen those unfortunate tourists — The ones traipsing across historic sites in ill-fitting jeans, T-shirts emblazoned with silly logos and blazing white athletic shoes. They stick out from locals like cans of soda at a winery but they don't seem to notice. The point is to cram whatever fits in your bag and be comfortable while you travel, right? I don’t think so.

    Please let go of the outdated notion that comfortable equals sloppy, right now. It’s possible to pack coordinated outfits that will fit in your bag and that will help you connect with local culture. It’s just a matter of organization and planning. Here are my tips on organizing your travel wardrobe so that you can pass for a local and not the punchline of a tourist joke.

    1. Know Your Itinerary and the Local Culture

    The first thing you should do after you book your trip is research the traditions and culture of the destination. What you wear should be influenced by what locals generally wear. Blending into the society will make interactions and travel much easier.

    Next, consider the activities that you’ve scheduled. In a city, you need walking shoes and pieces that are casually polished. At a beach location where you will be in the water most of the time, clothes that are easy to remove and won't be damaged by salt water should be considered. If you plan on leaving the beach and going into town, pack real clothes, not just coverups. Many locals get offended by tourists who gallivant around barely clothed.

    2. Purchase Natural Fibers Whenever Possible

    For the most part, I only wear cotton, silk, and wool. I choose these fabrics not just because they are more environmentally friendly but because they breathe and wear well. That synthetic shirt may be a great price but when you start to get sweaty, it will not feel so great. It will also not look so great after a few washes. Search for natural fibers, even blends that will hold up under the rolling and creasing in your suitcase.

    And don't worry about wrinkles. Most wrinkles will fall out after you hang the piece in the bathroom after your shower. If the steam doesn't do the trick, all hotels have irons, even if you don't see one in your room.

    3. Decide On a Color Scheme

    Coordination is all about color. If you have mostly neutral shades, pick one bright piece to punch things up. Make sure that all the colors blend. If you have mostly brown and tan clothes, navy blue is not a good accent. Try something more vivid like yellow or pink for contrast. I usually pick two main colors for a trip with one accent color. That way, I can mix and match most of my pieces so that it appears that I have more clothes than I actually packed.

    Pay attention to climate and culture when choosing colors for your travels. If you're visiting a warm climate, remember that dark colors attract heat. Lighter colors will feel and look cooler. Also, in some countries, wearing all black is reserved for those in mourning or officials. In many places, camouflage patterns are only allowed for the military. Pack accordingly.

    PHOTO: Not recommended attire for Federation-aligned planets (or Earth locales where you don't want to stick out like a sore thumb) (Photo by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates)

    4. Select Pieces that will Work Well with your Activities

    Generally, I pack a mix of pants and skirts or dresses. However, if it's an active trip, I'll choose mostly pants and shorts so that I can move easily. If it's a cooler climate, I'll include lots of sweaters and layers. The key is to figure out how each piece can work with the others, to save on luggage space. For instance, I always wear a scarf on the plane. It keeps me warm in chilly airports but it also works as a swimsuit coverup and a shawl in the evenings.

    If it's a week-long trip, than I'll pack four key pieces (2 dresses 2 pants with shirts) and coordinate accessories such as cardigans, jewelry and scarfs around them, increasing my outfit options. Although jeans and t-shirts work for some excursions, it's not the most pulled together look. I usually prefer a shirt and skirt or casual sundress over jeans because they're less bulky to pack and lend a more stylish look.

    5. It's All About Your Attitude

    If you put a little effort into your travel style, you'll feel more confident and that will translate to a more open perspective as you dive into another culture.  Ditch the ratty t-shirts and ill-fitting cargo shorts for a more polished style. You'll feel good about how you look and locals will probably feel good about you.


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Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Far-Sighted Field Notes

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a journalist, author and blogger who specializes in travel and culture topics. She loves guiding readers through the richness of various cultures and discovering the essence of a destination. Her travel and culture blog, Farsighted Fly Girl, offers travel insights through the music, food, art and history of various countries and cultures. Join her on the journey at www.Rosalindcummingsyeates.
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