Traveling in Style

By Karen R. Smith


If you’re starting your travels with the onset of Spring, as many of have, it’s time to consider how to look your best when you’re away from home. Needless to say, where you’re headed may be dictating some of your wardrobe choices, like needing formal wear for the weekend galas on a cruise ship or hiking shoes for a visit to Yellowstone National Park. Yet there are strategies that will work no matter where your vacation takes you!

Color choices

I was born and raised in New York City, where professional women tend to dress in black from head to toe. Packing for a trip, whether for business or pleasure, was simple because everything matched everything else. That meant I didn’t have to bring a lot of different accessories, which hog a lot of packing space.

Packing monochromatically simplifies everything drastically, and it works equally well for women or men. Pick one color and that’s what you take, no exceptions. I still pack all black when I travel; colored shoes, bags and accessories work as accents.

If that’s too minimalist for your taste, consider sticking with a trio. Black, red and white in any combination means every piece in your suitcase can be worn with every other piece. Layering for cold mornings or chilly nights becomes easier, too. This works with any color trio, by the way, conservative or flashy.

My younger son usually packs blue, green and grey and that combo provides a great deal of flexibility from very few clothes. His father prefers to travel in khaki, white and blue. During the  summer, he likes to bring along his searsucker and khaki suits, which fit right in.

If you’re one of those people who dresses in a multitude of colors and haven’t a predominance in any single tone in your closet, bring your rainbow wardrobe and use the monotone approach for your accessories. You can pick any color at all and it will look coordinated. Imagine your purple paisley silk shirt over grey slacks with a green bag, and you’ll also be able to imagine how great that bag will look with your red jumpsuit. Any color in the rainbow will work as a neutral with a multi-colored wardrobe. Try it!

Wear it, don’t carry it

If you’re going to need bulky clothing where you are going, it’s usually smarter to wear it on the way to your destination. Carrying a coat over your arm means you’ll be able to use it as a blanket in the chilly airport lounge, or as a pillow on the plane. If you try to get it into your luggage, you won’t have room for very much else.

Same goes for your walking or hiking shoes, presuming they are not too inconvenient to get in and out of at the security check. If the lacings are difficult, considering getting a set of Hickies, which convert your laces ( to simple slip-ons. You can pack three pairs of pumps or sandals in the space of one pair of hiking boots. And it is those sturdy shoes you’ll be wearing in case of a disaster along the way!

Regardless of the season, I bring at least one sweater when I travel, and I wear it over my clothes on travel days, so it never takes up any space in my luggage.

Skip it altogether

Do you bring a tee-shirt along on most trips? Maybe you don’t have to, if you’re going to buy at least one while you’re on vacation. Once upon a time, I traveled with a blowdryer for my hair. Now every hotel, resort or AirBnB has one waiting for me in the bathroom.

My husband only packs shampoo, conditioner and body lotion if we’re going camping. On our other trips, he likes trying the little sample bottles most lodgings provide. If that works for you, it’s three things you won’t have to pack.

If you always buy a souvenir hat when you travel, don’t bring one with you on your beach trip; just make buying a sunhat the first thing you accomplish when you land (well, maybe the second!).

I love to go dancing when I’m on vacation (and even when I’m not!), so I always pack a twirly dress or skirt. But I leave bulky cotton circle skirts home in favor of things in slinkier fabrics that fold into the palm of my hand. Those knit sundresses get so small I can find room for several in my smallest carry-on!

Get the Facts

One of the things my friend Stevie likes best about international travel with tour groups and cultural organizations is that they provide an itemized packing list before each trip. If you’re on your own, get online and create one for yourself. Check with the national weather service (, contact your host and look for a visitor’s bureau or chamber of commerce. Or do all that by phone. Either way, in short order you’ll know everything you should consider packing, and just as importantly, everything you should leave home.

If you are preparing for international travel, check the US State Department’s website for all sorts of advice ( The State Department site is easy to use, and you can click through a list of countries and get up-to-date information. Covering the head, chest or arms may be necessary where you are going, so be sure to find out and pack what you’ll need.

I have a theory that the lighter you pack, the more fun you’ll have -- try it and find out for yourself!

About the Author:
Karen R. Smith is an award-winning journalist and publicist. Her book, "Stylishly Sexy" is available online and she takes private style clients throughout Arizona and across the country. Visit her at