For a long time, I’ve been saying that I think the outfit in which you travel is the most important clothing you have to choose for a trip, and I’m sticking with that belief. Recently, Belovedest had dinner with a co-worker who spent over 48 HOURS in an airport in Egypt, trying to get home. (when they were finally allowed to board a plane, they had to leave all luggage and carry-on bags behind, and could only take with them what they could carry visibly in their hands, i.e. phone, passport, and wallet…)Okay, that’s a very extreme case, but it’s not at all unheard of to be delayed, or have to be re-routed to an unexpected city (where you hang around either on the plane or in the airport for an undetermined period of time). Frankly, the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that there’s no harm in being prepared for a long haul when you’re traveling…
And, of course, I’m pretty methodical about how I do things, so I was thinking about how this could be put into a template…
My primary thought when considering the best way to dress was to work with the “Triple Top Secret” idea of wearing three tops – a tee shirt, a button-front shirt, and a cardigan or jacket.
If you’re somewhere that gets really warm – strip down to the tee shirt. If it’s cold (like on the plane) you’ve got three layers. If the weather is fine, but you’re delayed for AGES, you can let your tee shirt take all of the stress/sweat abuse the first day, take it off the second day (and burn it?), and just wear your button-front shirt, which is still relatively clean. If your cardigan has buttons up the front, you always have a third-day options of ditching the shirt and wearing just your sweater.
I’m also including walking shoes (that don’t look like marshmallows, but that will still let you walk for miles), and a scarf, for essential cuddling, or putting over your head when you want some privacy.
Oh yea, I’m including a watch here too, so that you don’t have to constantly pull out your phone to check the time. Phone battery power in not something you’ll want to play fast and loose with, and sometimes your hands are just too full. And it’s not crazy to want your phone tucked away where it’s safe; in a crowded airport, valuable things can suddenly disappear… so the watches aren’t terribly expensive, nor are the earrings. This is not the time to be panicky about mislaying something.
Maybe I’m crazy, but being able to visualize things helps me a lot.
If you’re a true snuggler, your button-front shirt might be flannel (and I love the juxtaposition of flannel with sparkly earrings):
I personally am pretty smitten with the idea of mixing black and white prints:
Some of us can’t think of “shirt” without thinking blue cotton! I’m not sure that I, personally, would want my tee shirt to be white, but it is an option, and would certainly be nice and cool looking if things got overheated.
The love of all things pink continues…
As you can see, there are a lot of possible ways to work this. A denim shirt would be genius…
48 hours…. I’m still thinking about that…
Dear Janice, a dear friend recently had to do exactly that, no change of clothes for 3 days, so a bit longer. She said she wore the uniform, black for her, and they did get 8 hours at a hotel. But not expected! Your idea is great as there are three days wear. I never burn! Just wash! X Chris from Australia
This is a great illustration of how to travel sensibly. I hardly ever wear a print but I purchased two great quality printed tee tops with 3/4 sleeves a few years ago that go with just about anything in my closet and are the base layer for each trip I take. I often thought that I am as easily spotted in a crowded airport as you are with your argyle sweaters. :))
Brilliantly conceived, expertly planned, and delightfully presented! Plus you've totally expanded my thinking about the importance of the travel outfit. The only thing I would add (and always do myself) is Kleinert's dress shields, which add DAYS of wear to most tees and tops. Kleinert's not only makes disposable "stick-on" dress shields, but my favorite is the midriff length lace camisole which comes in black, white, and beige. I've used these for years and they have greatly prolonged my clothes' wearability, not to mention protecting all my more expensive tops. Washing a lace camisole in a hotel sink is no more clumsy than washing undies and, unlike most tees/blouses, it will dry overnight! http://www.kleinerts.com/productdetail.php?prod=CAMI-SLF-ML#.Vk2w0sQ8KrU Linda T from Okemos
From Margie in Toronto – love these combinations and I'm surprised to realize that I often do travel in just this style – although I do confess to usually wearing jeans as my bottoms (but dressy jeans and because they are usually my heaviest item by weight). I love my cardigans and want to have the options that layers offer. Really love all the black and white patterns that combine so beautifully – have to keep my eyes open for some additions to my wardrobe.
Your selections are very close to my travel outfit. I also make sure that the jacket I'm wearing has pockets – sometimes you need a quick place to stash tip money or the change you get when buying a cup of tea and you don't want to open your purse. I also keep a lightweight stole or long scarf for added warmth on the plane – or to tuck beneath my neck for extra comfort if I nap.
As mcm mentioned, a jacket with pockets is very handy. I travel everywhere with my lightweight khaki military style jacket because of all the pockets it has. The pockets all either snap or zip closed, plus it has a few internal pockets for my extra cash and credit cards. It works well with even three other layers, or just two other layers.
I was recently in the Middle East and was warned not to wear anything that looked even vaguely "military" as it could make me a potential target. Have you had any trouble with your jacket in that respect?
Brilliant!! I agree with mcm about the pockets. My mother always packed a spare pair of undies in her bag. Probably not a bad idea to stick a toothbrush in there, too. And I LOVE the template idea!!
I am ambivalent about cardigans and prefer pullover sweaters – because I always end up fiddling WAY too much in a cardigan! That said, I think a softish jacket with pockets should go on my shopping list for just this purpose. Another thing I learned the hard way – when you do travel with a cardigan, make sure it has enough, erhm, back coverage! I travelled with one of those drapey waterfall cardigans a couple of years ago – it was lovely with a dress, but it only came down to my waist in the back, and when I put it on with mid-rise jeans on day 2 – let's just say I felt a draft on my back when I sat down!
Oh – one thing to consider – in my mind, I had to swap the t-shirt and pants on each template – it made more sense to me to have all the tops on the same level, and the pants lower than the top!
Janice Riggs says
It's interesting that you swapped the t-shirt and the pants, because I started with the tops all on one level, and decided that I really wanted to central horizontal axis to be a 3-piece, stand-alone outfit, upon which the upper and lowers levels would build.
Great brains…. I think these templates SHOULD be "monkeyed with" until they work best for each of us, individually.
That's a good point, too! I guess I was thinking of the Whatever's Clean template, though that has the outer layer above… a chacun son gout, eh?
Janice – I'd love to see what you'd do with a denim shirt for this idea. A black T and slacks? I wrestled with this idea for a recent trip – very timely. Thanks, Sherry
Thanks for this great post, Janice. Been there, done that! And ever since I've travelled with a spare pair of undies in my purse…. I too use a soft jacket instead of a cardi – because of pockets – and often a wristlet or "wallet on a string sort of thing" so I don't have to tote the tote into the bathroom on the plane.
I've learned the hard way to always have a shawl (aka pillow, aka blanket, aka modesty wrap, aka skirt), and to put a change of socks, a change of undies, and a toothbrush in my bag. Too much can happen on the road.
Your comment about burning the 24+hour t-shirt upon its retirement cracked me up. Even without airport delays, your plan is perfect for an international flight where one is actually on a plane for over eight hours. These templates are very helpful.
Great advice. But for me, in most cases, these three layers would be too much, as I also need some kind of coat when I travel to and from the airport. However, I always travel with a tee shirt and a spare pair of undies in my bag.
Katrina Blanchalle says
Lovely! I do try to dress nicely for travel, just because it starts the trip off well. But comfort is more important, and I agree, layers are crucial! I might even go with leggings + skirt to get some options for the lower half.
During my travel days, I spent enough nights in airports (I don't know how many, but TOO many) to learn all the inconvenient things you don't think about during the daylight hours: you can't lie down on the seats because they all have arms, that awful music is on an endless loop, the restaurants and shops close for the night because there are few customers, yet the security warnings on the PA system continue All. Night. Long.
As several others have mentioned, a change of undies in the carryon is mandatory for me…..I've had the experience wherein my luggage followed me 24 hours later. I treat my carry-on as the "24-hour bag;" that is, packed with literally everything I'll need for 24-hours.
Including (it can't be repeated enough) ALL the medication you'll need for the entire trip! This is my husband's mantra whenever we go on a trip. "Ok – did we forget anything? I have the passports, the tickets, my meds – anything else we can buy there!"
Janet Goeke-Cronin says
Perfect timing, I leave for a rugby tourney tonight!! Always wore a tshirt and cardigan, but I'm checking my closet for a button up shirt.
Your templates are my favorite type of posts. I can't tell you how many of them I have shamelessly copied and used to develop my own wardrobe. Thank you so much.
As a veteran of more long haul flights than I care to think about (most recently 4 flights, 36 hrs +, from Australia to the UK), my essentials are panty liners, whether you have spare undies or not, and a toothbrush&toothpaste. There are few things that make more of a difference to how you feel than clean teeth.
I live in Australia too and learnt that tip a long time ago, I totally agree. I also find with A380's you can no longer manipulate the air flow and the temperature is raised after the meals are served, so it is time to peel off the layers.
I'm slightly more formal as I find it helps with customs, getting offered an upgrade and any dealings with staff of any kind. I also like to arrive at a hotel properly dressed.
So, for me it is always a jacket (black or navy) and pearls (not classic – fun, multistrand, unusual design). Then it can be a skirt or jeans or pants and a good handbag. I carry a cardigan and put my jacket in a cabin or locker on the plane. I would also take a pair of comfortable shoes and some more dressy ballerina flats in a bag.
So many people dress so very badly when getting on a plane that you get treated really well if you make an effort. And I believe that you should always look as good or better than the air crew or hotel staff who have to look impeccable. BTW air crew love jewellry and accessories so they always notice and ask where I got something. (I specialize in "getting the look for less" :-)
What's a "cabin or locker" on a plane? Do you mean the overhead bins above the seats?
Janice. Thank you for the help for my upcoming Chicago trip. I will adopt your travel tips and try not to drag too many clothes with me
Take care on your Paris trip. Margo from Ireland
Such great suggestions! I've been doing a ton of traveling and my secret weapon… a tiny spray bottle (less than 4oz. of course) of unscented Febreze! I particularly use it to freshen the bra that got worn on the trip and suit coats underarms (inside) after long meetings. I've never had it react badly with a fabric and it locks up odors. I couldn't find such a thing in stores, so I bought a big bottle and a small spray bottle and made my own. Almost all my travel is carry on only, so space is at a premium.
becky johns says
I had a good friend tell me always travel with a folded FAN and a SHAWL in your purse on an airplane. The fan for when the air is not on, as happens frequently before takeoff and the shawl for around your neck for the air system, or over your knees. I have done this for 25 or 30 years as I traveled to Europe and other warmer places, and it has proven to be excellent advice.
becky johns says
I often wear a fleece jacket as the third layer because it is comfortable and had zip pockets, and you can pull the collar up around your neck, it rolls easily into a small bundle that can be put inside the carry on upon arrival. Mine is black and I use it as a bathrobe in air-conditioned rooms as well as with outfits for casual tourist visits. You can keep your phone and credit cards in the pocket and a charger, plus a scarf to dress it up in the other pocket and travel without a purse if you want.
Oh god. I once flew to India from Canada in one of those crinkly silk skirts. (Light, comfortable, looked pretty, you can sleep in it.) The entire seam opened up, and I could not get a needle and thread in the departure airport or the transfer one, nor from the flight crew. I arrived at 1 am. in Delhi with the skirt barely held together with scotch tape. So, pack a sewing kit but you will probably have to leave the scissors out, even teeny ones. Or maybe a mini stapler?
I find jeans much less comfortable on long hauls than silk jersey, fine wool or ponté pants that have wideish legs. And what's with people of either sex who fly in light sandals? Scary.
I saw lots of comments here about putting important documents like passports or tickets or credit/debit cards in pockets or purses or wallets. Does no one here ever use a moneybelt or neck wallet under their clothes for those most important items?
Yes, I always wear a moneybelt for passport, credit card & cash. Just put a days spending cash in my bag – I wear a crossbody messenger type bag, I feel it's more secure and holds a lot. But as far as the outfit goes, I always travel in this exact ensemble, including the watch, small stud earrings & scarf, I usually go with a tan and black combination with a denim shirt, but I love these combinations. LL Bean perfect fit pants are so comfortable and they have an elastic waist, which is perfect for tucking in a money belt. Wear the tee over it and you can hardly tell.
Ann Torrence says
I got stuck on the idea of leaving carryons behind: camera, jewelry, laptop. Not sure I could do it. But maybe staying in such a dire circumstance would mean I'd rather scram. Note to self: put the memory cards in the wallet.
Lynne in NC says
Love this post it's timely and important to remember the essentials; more importantly it offers several options for looking put together under stressful travelling conditions. Thank you for the different options. Especially loving the pink. Cheers!
I love the template and appreciate all you do for us!
Such brilliant and timely advice for the holidays, thank you so much.
I am just now discovering this post as I contemplate packing for a boat trip to the Arctic Circle this summer. I will be stopping in Amsterdam en route for a bit of sightseeing so I will need a few warm-weather outfits in addition to my cold-weather adventure travel gear. I will also need a slightly dressy outfit for the captain’s dinner on the first and last nights of our Arctic cruise. And at the request of my traveling companion I will be traveling carry-on only. (The things we do for love!) So my travel outfit will be crucial, and your idea of layering three tops, each of which can potentially be worn on its own, is absolutely brilliant!
Also, are you familiar with Icebreaker Merino? Their tees can be worn for days at a time without getting stinky and unpleasant. They aren’t cheap–basic tees will run you about $75–but they are a wonderful investment if you are traveling with a wardrobe that is limited in size.