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Recently, I wrote about how making two decisions before any trip I take helps me pack lighter.
Since then, I’ve been receiving reader emails asking for specifics: What’s that shirt in the pictures? Which shoes do I wear? How do I choose what stays and what goes?
As to that last question, my answer is simple: I wear a travel uniform, of sorts. Once I find a piece that suits me perfectly on a trip, I bring it on every similar, subsequent trip. When I’m packing, I grab my established “uniform,” add or subtract an element or two, and call it a day.
Note that this works best when you’re traveling to a similar climate. My uniform for the Mediterranean just wouldn’t be practical for glacier-hopping in Iceland or swishing around Paris. (I know — it’s a struggle.)
As to the specifics, here’s what I always pack. Since I’m getting into detail, the recommended pieces — which, except for the shoes and jacket, are not the exact ones I wear, since my clothes are years-old at this point — are for women, but the concepts apply to anyone looking to pack lighter.
Two pairs of shoes that can suit walking, beach visits, and nights out
Wear one, pack one.
Pick shoes you wear in your daily life — the same rules of comfort apply in any country.
I go with my beloved metallic Jack Rogers wedges, which can be dressed up or down, and my super-light Bensimon slip-ons, which you can throw right in the washing machine when you get home. Note that the Bensimons are good for casual city walking but not for something more intense, like hiking — a seven-mile hike from Fira to Oia, on Santorini, made that all too clear.
A handful of tried-and-true shirts in the same color scheme
If I like them at home, I’ll like them abroad.
I also go for stretchy shirts that don’t wrinkle easily. My go-tos are a handful of striped, boatneck tees I bought on sale a few years back at French Connection, but once those take their last breath I have similar shirts from Boden waiting in the wings.
A chambray button-down shirt
It can be wrinkly and presentable. Perfect to wear on the plane, and doubles as a cover-up for when the seaside sun starts getting too intense.
A lightweight jacket
Because the weather might not be on my side. I bought a navy windbreaker from Uniqlo because you can roll it up tightly, secure it with a rubber band, and if your trip ends up being nothing but sun, you haven’t lugged a bulky jacket around for a week.
A solid sweater that matches everything
I used to travel with a white one, but more recently I’ve moved on to navy. I wear it all the time, including on the plane. (I always wear my heaviest, bulkiest clothing while in transit.)
The same shorts and pants I wear every day at home
A trip is not the time to try out new clothes. Multiple people have asked me how I travel in white. I don’t really have an answer for you… I just like wearing white in the summer, and I’ve never really found it to be a problem. I do bring a Tide To-Go pen, though, just in case.
A lightweight dress, just in case
Because you never know when you’ll need to take things up a notch.
To wear, to sit on, or to huddle under.
Mine all come from a Manhattan street vendor, but you can find a cheap one just about anywhere.
A cross-body handbag
I picked up a lightweight cross-body handbag from a Manhattan street vendor a few years back, and now I bring it on all of my trips. The most important things are that it’s lightweight and that it closes completely, so I don’t have to worry about a passerby grabbing my credit card.
A beach bag
I roll a beach bag up tight in my suitcase, and it comes in handy for just about any outing, beach or otherwise. It’s small enough that if I buy souvenirs I can’t cram into my suitcase, I can use it as my “personal item” on the plane home and, with some shuffling around, carry everything at once.
My go-to is one of my all-time favorite bags I bought from a woman who made them by hand in Mykonos, but just about anything lightweight and compact would do.
All in a lightweight weekend bag
I know many people swear by rolling suitcases, but I like a carry-on I can stick under the seat in front of me that’s never out of my sight — and the first time I tried to roll a suitcase uphill across cobblestones was the last.
My favorite travel bags are nylon or canvas, with a shorter shoulder strap and a zipper.