Most travel, where no special activity is required (like rock climbing, performing on stage, doing heavy, dirty work) you want to look good and feel comfortable.
Of course, everyone has a different idea about what ‘looks good’, so this advice won’t cover every style. And one might say that there’s some who have different opinions about comfort, but for this article, let’s just say “not too hot, not too constricted, not too cold.”
While there are hundreds of fashionable people out there with great advice on what to wear with what in what situation, I want to just cover some of the philosophy of dressing for efficient, minimalist travel.
I think it’s wise to look for balance (in all things!) when thinking about your look while you travel. Of course you want to have clean clothes, and look decent. It’s good to realize that as you travel, you’re meeting new people… that means they haven’t seen the outfit you wore yesterday, and you can wear it again today. Having travel clothes that are low key nice, that match each other and strike that balance between comfort and good looks will allow that traveler to repeat outfits, thereby not needing to pack as much.
Access and Blending
When thinking about what sort of style to go with, I suggest thinking about how you’ll blend in where you’re going, and what outfits will give you the most access to all the places and things you want to do.
Blending in is both highly recommended, and a slightly tricky thing. First off, every culture is different, and I don’t have all the experience with all cultures, so please hear that disclaimer. However, you want to be sure to not be doing ‘cultural appropriation’ right in front of the people you’re insulting. If you look like you come from a colonizing culture, don’t flippantly wear that colonized cultures clothes. There are wiser people than me that you should learn from on this topic.
But blending in is also recommended. This can come in the form of wearing more modest things in conservative cultures to wearing slightly more UNcomfortable things in certain cultures. Example: if you’re meeting people in a hot place in a business setting, there’s a good chance they will be wearing long pants. As a traveler looking for comfort, it might seem easy to show up in shorts and flip flops. Try not to do that.
Blending in also means not being super flashy, or super obviously a traveler. My advice to my fellow North Americans is to stay away from sports team wear, or actually any clothes with big marketing logos on them.
In this situation, durability means both not falling apart, but also looking decent after some wear and tear. Dressing in all white all the time will not work out well, unless you have some fancy laundry options.
Durability also means - able to be comfortable enough to last for your whole day of travel. Often, when traveling, we aren’t just popping out for a minute, but leaving our luggage and being in public for a full day of activity. You have to have clothes that can be comfortable and not look horrible.
The most fundamental point about packing for a trip is to embrace the idea that you can do with LESS. Believe in the idea that part of the adventure is managing with fewer items. If you are struggling to fill a carry-on bag for any sort of travel trip, you don't have the wrong bag, you trying to take too much stuff.
What to pack:
Wear on you when you go:
1 pants or skirt, 1 light shirt, 1 sports coat or sweater or light jacket, 1 stylish hat if going to a sunny place, shoes, socks, 1 underwear.
In the luggage bag:
2 pants or skirts, 1 shorts, 3 shirts (warmer/long sleeve if going somewhere cold), 1 sweater, 1 swimming suit, 3 underwear, 2 socks, 1 pair of shoes (probably stylish sandals, unless going somewhere cold), toiletries
In the Day pack that goes in/on luggage:
activity sun hat (that could be worn kayaking, for example) , scarf.
Travel further, travel light.