After we reposted Katja’s article on How to be cool while traveling, we received some requests from readers looking to maximize their wardrobe, within the confines of budget and baggage restrictions. The Travelettes came together and discussed our best tips for looking good on the road, but packing light, avoiding those lame checked baggage fees. Here are some tips you can use the next time you travel – and we promise you won’t miss packing five pairs of shoes for a week-long trip ever again!

1. Roll, roll, roll

First and foremost: roll, roll, roll! It’s the easiest way to fit everything into your suitcase, and still have room. Just try it with a tank top, you’ll be amazed how small it gets!


2. Pack basics

Chances are no one will really notice if you wear your favorite orange-striped shirt the entire trip, but if you want to be a bit more subtle about recycling your wardrobe, stock up on basic, neutral-colored clothing. I’ve started subscribing to Elizabeth & Clarke for fashionable, comfortable and durable basics that don’t require dry cleaning. H&M and Forever21 are also good, as are thrift stores!

3. Pack less

You don’t need a different top and a pair of pants for each day. Unless you are rolling around in the mud, your clothes don’t get as dirty as you think! Materials like cotton, linen and jersey-knit dry quickly in the event that you need to do some laundry. Definitely make sure to pack enough undies and socks though. There is nothing better than slipping into a fresh pair of these items after a long day out!

4. Dress up with accessories

A pair of sunglasses will always make you look like a rock star, and a statement necklace, some funky earrings, even a cool belt will make it seem like you’ve got a different outfit every day. Sophie and Alex travel with necklaces to add a little “punch” when style is called for. Plus, these items take up no space in your bag. Check out how many different “looks” can be created with one shirt, one skirt, and four accessories.


5. Rock the makeup bag

A bright lipstick, some red nail polish, a pre-trip pedicure or some deluxe sample sizes from your favorite beauty counters will make you look and feel glamorous, without bulking up your bag. Marie chooses BB Cream over foundation because of its lightness, and it’s so easy to apply you won’t even need a mirror.

6. Collect versatile clothing items

All of the Travelettes agree that dresses do double duty! One dress = one outfit, and takes the place of a separate top and trousers. Katja likes the look, feel, and function of vintage dresses, even while backpacking. A maxi dress can pass for a special occasion outfit, or look like a skirt layered with a shirt.

Caroline mentioned that she brings a few statement pieces, like a leather jacket, or a flowery vintage blouse, to dress up basics. leggins (the super opaque kind, nothing sheer) can serve as athletic attire, or as a layer under tunics, dresses and short skirts. Large scarves are probably the most versatile accessory I own. I have fashioned them into skirts/sarongs, purses, and even shirts.

Fashionable Travel Hacks - Vintage Dresses via Roberto Trm

7. Pack only shoes you can actually walk in

I only travel with two pairs of shoes at all times: a pair of dress shoes/heels for fancy occasions or for going out, and a pair of stylish but comfy flats for everything else. You can throw in some flip-flops if you’ll be somewhere requiring shower shoes, but even those often serve as footwear in warm-weather locations. Katja swears by jelly shoes, which are fun, comfy, and super cheap to pick up in local markets.

Here is a sample packing list you can go by for a week-long trip

You might even get away with packing even less, depending on your itinerary. This amount will fit in most standard-sized carry-on bags, and don’t forget that some of it will be worn in-transit. You should have plenty of room to spare:

  • 2 tank tops
  • 2 t-shirts/blouses
  • 1-2 cardigans and/or jackets
  • 1 pair of jeans (feel free to ditch these – jeans are so bulky and stiff!)
  • 2 dresses
  • 1-2 pairs of leggings
  • 2-3 bras (sports bras are awesome, especially on long flights. And you can sleep in them)
  • 7 pairs of underwear
  • 7 pairs of socks (depending on if you’re bringing shoes that require socks)
  • 1-2 pairs of pajamas (men’s boxers are light and pack small)
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 belt
  • Makeup and hair products
  • Jewelry


And that’s all in a 22” carry-on! It’s probably too much even; as in life, I end up wearing the same thing over and over again. Rule of thumb: if it can’t fit in a carry-on, you’re packing too much. Never worry about wasting $25 each time you have to check a bag, or dealing with lost luggage issues.

Let us know your ultimate fashion and budget-friendly tips below!


photo of jelly shoes via Yvonne Gao