If you’ve traveled, you’ve seen those people: white athletic shoes. Khaki pants. Or, heaven forbid, zip-off cargo pants. These people are obviously tourists; they sacrifice appearance for function, and they stand out.
Don’t be like them.
This isn’t just superficial fashion advice. Looking like a tourist can make you a target for pickpockets and scammers. (For the love of God, under NO circumstances, KHAKI!) When traveling in Europe, I’d rather blend in with the locals than look like a foreigner, and I do that by dressing street-smart.
There are three things I look for when shopping for clothing to bring on trips: style, comfort (for both wearing and packing/carrying), and suitability, though not necessarily in that order.
As you may notice from my packing vlogs, most of my clothing can be mixed and matched. I look for neutral colors like black, blue, gray (the staples) and a few pops of color (red, maroon, olive) or stripes.
Because everything matches with pretty much everything, outfit selection is a breeze — a huge plus if you’re in the hostel getting dressed in the dark so as not to wake up your roommates!
Fit & versatility
Personally, I love tunics/long-length tops paired with skinny pants. I like a feminine shape, and I like to flatter (not flaunt) my figure. Tunics are very versatile — they tuck in nicely with skirts and double as a beach cover-up.
I avoid clothing with logos and brand names printed on them at all costs; which, depending on the brand, just scream “American tourist!”
Lightweight & layerable
While weather reports are a good indicator of what to expect on a trip, I don’t rely on them too much: weather can change in the blink of an eye, and we can underestimate the chilling effects of rain and wind. Layers to the rescue! Instead of bulky sweatshirts or jackets that are heavy or hard to pack (remember, I’m a backpacker), I look for pieces that I can layer together depending on a temperature fall or rise.
Case in point: I went to Ecuador last year, which you’d think would be warm due to its placement at the equator. While this was true on the coast, I actually went far inland to the top of a volcano — I layered together a tank, a long-sleeved shirt, a sweater, AND a jacket, and that was barely enough for the chilly elevation!
Breathable & washable
Because I’m a backpacker, I only have space for a limited amount of clothing; I have to do laundry! I always bring a bit of detergent and a sink stopper with me to do some laundry in the sink, and I’ve also been known to spend some change on the hostel laundry service. Apparel with fancy wash instructions need not apply. Dry clean? No thank you. My clothing needs to be hand- or machine-washable.
For this reason, I love workout fabrics disguised as casual apparel. Several retailers now have lines of clothing specifically for travel, featuring moisture-wicking, fast-drying, wrinkle-resistant fabrics. Try REI and Eddie Bauer; I also love Athleta. You can go from a hike to the city streets and still look like a class act.
Suited to the weather/time of year/activity
I touched on this earlier, but I just want to reiterate: consider the climate when you pack. It is wet or humid? Could it rain or snow? Will it be warm or very cold? Will you be adventuring in the wild outdoors, or will you be wandering city corridors? These questions are especially important when it comes to choosing your footwear, the building block of your outfits.
Footwear for travel
I’m very active when I travel; I’ve been known to log 15-20 miles on foot in a single day. So I look for functional, multi-purpose footwear that also looks good.
Some of my picks:
- athletic shoes/trail runners like these by La Sportiva
- water shoes by Teva for rocky beaches, white-water rafting, and jungle hikes
- comfortable walking sandals like Birkenstocks
- insulated and waterproof Kodiak boots
- hiking shoes disguised as city sneakers by Teva
Well there you have it — it’s a bonafide fact that you ✅ can look good ✅ while dressing comfortably ✅ and be well-equipped for the occasion/elements/activities!
One last tip: Forget the travel books and paper maps — they take up physical space (and make your tourist status pretty obvious). You don’t need a global cell plan; you can use your phone offline to store all the information you need. Just be sure to download all your apps, eBooks, and movies in advance of leaving the U.S. (more on that here)!
Thoughts? Leave me a comment below!