18 March 2009

clothes for traveling light

If you're planning to travel light, you're going to need to choose your clothes wisely. Whether you're putting together a travel wardrobe for yourself or for your kids, there's a bit of planning involved.

We have talked about which items of clothing and how many are a good idea in older blog post, so I won't go into that again right now.

The idea of travelling light in terms of clothes is to limit what you take, and wash it more often. Some tips for choosing your clothes for travelling light:
  • All your clothes should mix and match. Everything should be able to be worn with everything else. One way of doing this is to keep to a completely neutral palette. If you like a bit of colour, maybe your hat could be brightly coloured, or maybe all your t-shirts/shirts could be the coloured items that you wear. Otherwise, if you don't mind looking like my daughter Bendy, just don't worry about putting odd colours and patterns together! (She is well known for putting patterns with as many patterns as she can. The more the merrier! And it suits her bright and happy personality.)

  • Choose clothes that don't wrinkle easily. Even though you'll be living out of a suitcase, you don't have to look like you are! To test this in a shop, grab a handful of the fabric and give it a good hard scrunch in your hand. Let it go, and if it looks completely crushed, leave it there on the hanger. You do not want to be ironing clothes on your holiday. That would mean either taking an iron with you (weight you do not need to carry!) or finding one at the place you are staying. Its better not to have to do either!

  • Choose clothes that dry quickly. Heavy cords and jeans do not dry quickly. Don't even think about taking them! Many synthetic (or synthetic blend) fabrics dry quickly. Cotton does not.

  • Choose fabrics that breathe well. In order to get quick drying clothing, we could wear nylon everything, however nylon does not breathe well. You don't want to feel like you're living in a sauna, so you need clothes that breathe.

  • Choose clothes that can be easily hand washed in a hotel sink. Don't choose dry-clean only clothes! The ability to wash all that you take in the hotel sink will mean that everything can be washed out at the end of each day, ready for the next.

  • Where possible, take items that can double up. Some people swear by taking sarongs, because they can be used in so many different ways. For the ladies they can be a skirt. They can cover shoulders in the churches you might want to visit where modesty is important. They can be wrapped around your head as a scarf for sun or dust protection. A sarong can also be used as a picnic blanket, a beach towel, a bag for dirty clothing... I haven't bothered with a sarong on my travels, except for the trip where I bought my sarong in Tahiti. I haven't missed it when I haven't had it with me, but others may find them useful.

    Some people absolutely loathe zip off pants. I have two pairs, and I must say that I like them. Sure, they look a bit dorky, and they do scream tourist, but I find them great for the days where the temperature starts cool, gets REALLY hot, and then cools off again. It also means that by taking them, I'm taking 4 pairs of pants instead of just two: two pairs of shorts, two pairs of long pants. I also wear them at home when I know that I'll have to be out walking in the rain a lot, because mine dry really quickly. If you don't like them, that's fine, but some people do.

  • Choose clothing that is culturally sensitive to the places that you are visiting. If you will be visiting places of worship such as mosques, churches, temples etc, dress modestly. In many places, short skirts, shorts, bare arms, bare shoulders, bare heads are not culturally appropriate. Do a bit of research before you travel to find out what will be appropriate, so that you do not offend your hosts or appear to be offering more of yourself than you had in mind...

    When we were in Rome and visiting St Peter's Basilica, there was a family who had obviously not read the guidebooks. At least one among their party was wearing shorts. Of course, they were not allowed in. They were completely indignant about this: "But that's cheating!" (why, I don't know!). Do your homework.

  • Make sure all your clothes fit you properly and are comfortable. If you wouldn't wear it at home, you won't wear it when you're on holidays. I made the mistake of assuming that a pair of pants that I put in for The Bookworm, fitted her. After a few days of our holiday, she told me that the waist was too large and they kept falling down. Now, I'm not sure if they had just never fit her (as our kids have a lot of hand-me-downs, and she has a very skinny waist) or whether the elastic had perished. But it meant a quick hand-sew fix in the hotel room, with one of my very precious needles that I had brought with me.

  • Choose clothing that can be layered. For warm weather, you'd wear the lightest layer. For colder temperatures you will add more layers. This way, you won't have to take twice as much if you are likely to encounter warm, cool or cold temperatures.
A lot of this sort of travel clothing can be purchased from travel or adventure stores, but keep in mind that not everything in these stores is going to fit the above criteria. And of course, some clothing in regular clothing stores might fit the bill perfectly, without the inflated "travel" pricetag! Read labels carefully, and do the scrunch test. You can't really test the quick-dry-ness of a piece of clothing unless you're sure you're going to keep it. I can't think of any shops that are happy for you to return clothing that has already been washed!

By shopping carefully and evaluating what you already own, you should be able to piece together a good travel wardrobe for yourself and the kids.

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