Fashion & Beauty Packing

7 Small Ways to Boost Your Travel Wardrobe

Optimize your closet and wander light with these seven simple steps for enhancing your travel wardrobe.

Avoid wardrobe fatigue on the road by making your travel clothes go the extra mile. With just a few tweaks—such as wearing neutrals or purchasing garments that perform double duty—you can pack less and get more out of what’s in your suitcase. So get creative: Optimize your closet and wander light with these seven simple steps for enhancing your travel wardrobe.

Buy a Basic T-Shirt


women purple short sleeve shirt.

If you learn only one thing today, let it be this: T-shirts are the savvy traveler’s secret weapon. A quality, tailored T-shirt (I’m a fan of the Michael Stars jersey V-neck number, which I own in a wide range of colors) is indispensable. The “tailored” part is important: A baggy tee will do you no favors; however, one that fits well to your body can be worn tucked into a pencil skirt for a dressy or business-friendly look, with jeans for a casual day of sightseeing, or with shorts for a long, lazy day at the beach. For men, a tailored tee can even be worn under a blazer. Rollable and relatively wrinkle-free, the basic tee will extend your wardrobe by days, no matter the destination.

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Wear Reversible Clothes


reversible skirt

Reversible clothes can add color to your travel wardrobe and give you plenty of options, all in one garment. Look for pieces that have bright patterns on one side and basic neutrals on the other for maximum use, such as this one from Colorado Clothing. Add versatility (and endless outfit permutations) to an otherwise basic garment.

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Neutrals Are Your Friends

When in doubt, pack a palette of neutrals: White, black, creams, and grays are generally good base colors for summer or winter vacation wardrobes. Then you can mix and match within that palette all week long. But you needn’t stick to solids alone: Think bold stripes in black or gray or subtle patterns that can be re-worn unnoticed.

Invest in Versatile Footwear

All right, Imelda Marcos, you don’t need to pack every shoe you’ve got. Multi-purpose shoes that can perform double or even triple duty will easily lighten your load. Pack ballet flats that are comfortable for walking around museums but also look elegant enough for a cocktail party (I’m crazy about TOMS). Pull-on riding boots can be worn with jeans or dresses and are a great option for airport security lines since they slip on and off. In general, high-quality shoes with solid soles are your best bets for traveling; investing in quality will guarantee long-lasting shoes that hold up for multiple uses.

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Bring Smart Accessories

white sierra bug free scarf

When you’re wearing basics on the road, you might want to liven up your outfit with some smart accessories. I like to pack chunky, colorful necklaces in single strands that won’t tangle and bright but lightweight scarves to give my travel outfits a bit of pop without weighing down my carry-on. (Added bonus: Scarves keep me warm on frigid flights.) Avoid one-off pieces of jewelry that you’ll wear only once, if at all, such as a fancy strand of pearls, a cocktail ring you’re likely to lose in the mess of your hotel room, or a bulky sun hat.

Look for Garments That Perform Double Duty


Smart explorers know that clothes should have more than just aesthetic value, so look for multi-purpose pieces to accentuate your basics. Travel outfitters offer lines of vacation-friendly but stylish separates with a whole slew of side benefits, from sun and bug protection to ample hidden storage. Check out these sun-blocking shirts (they would make great foundations to any ensemble). Convertible bags will also extend your wardrobe and lighten your carry-on load; this option converts from a flight-friendly backpack to a tote bag for everyday use.

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Get Inspired

It’s easy to get stuck in a style rut, especially when traveling and living out of a suitcase. You may not want to take advice from their public behavior, but celebrities’ fashion sense is worth emulating. The internet is bursting with bloggers and fashion reporters who stalk celebs’ best jet-setting outfits. Prowl Pinterest for an outfit muse or explore the stylish lookbooks on SSENSE to see how the fashion-savvy (and constantly traveling) maximize stylish separates for that other runway.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2013. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

By Dara Continenza

Dara Continenza has been exploring the world and writing about it since 2010. Her writing has appeared on Hopper, SmarterTravel, USA Today, Money, U.S. News and World Report, Yahoo, Business Insider, TripAdvisor, Huffington Post,, and others.

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