TRAVEL CHIC: Low stress and high style when flying afar


I enjoy dabbling in the world of fashion from time to time. I know what I like to see, and I know what I like on me. With that in mind, I also know what I don’t like, and I see that a lot at perhaps one of the best people-watching spots anywhere, the airport. I asked a lovely young lady that I depend on as my own fashion consultant to pen a guest post for me on this subject as she travelled from South Carolina to Hawaii and had the opportunity to see lots of sartorial faux pas and create a few good tips for you.

Sara Wise is the person I use as a perfect example of the fashion trifecta- looking great, being comfortable, and dressing affordably. I’m serious too. She always looks great, even after running a triathlon. If I were a woman, it would make me sick.

So, here’s Sara…

TRAVEL CHIC: Low stress and high style when flying afar

Three-fourths of the way through my connecting flight from the east coast to Hawaii (Charlotte to Phoenix to be exact), it occurred to me that I could complete a marathon within the length of the flight. A long, painful, grueling feat. Which is pretty much synonymous with long-flight travel.

Every friend who heard I was traveling to Hawaii expressed the same sentiment: Oh man, that flight is brutal. No mention of the beaches or the waterfalls or the food. Just how much it sucks to be me on that plane.

I reminded myself every hour that all of the terminal sprinting and butt-numbing boredom would be worth it when I finally received my welcome lei in Hawaii. Aloha.

I rank long-flight travel third, behind a root canal and colonoscopy. I rank it more painful than a marathon. In short, long-flight travel sucks. Here’s how you can make travel day and living out of a suitcase, a little more bearable and a little more stylish.

Before you Leave Home…

Create a travel clothing capsule. Give a little thought to what goes into your suitcase and carry-on and the airport shuffle won’t be as cumbersome. Last summer we visited California for a week with just our carry-ons. You really can travel light if you create a capsule.  And if the word ‘capsule’ sounds intimidating, I apologize. Simply put, play the mix-and-match game.

Let me preface with this: I’m not Type A. I’m not a super woman who makes living life look effortless. But my naturally scattered, creative brain demands that I be organized when I travel or up go the chances of arriving at my destination without underwear or a bathing suit. That said, for Hawaii, I created a chart to coordinate outfits, just to make sure I didn’t leave off that one bra that my backless dress requires or the neutral metallic earrings that go with everything.

travel-fashion-schedule

Ok, so I probably had a Type A twin that was bumped off in utero. In my everyday life, I’m a mess. But travel? I’ve got this.

When creating your clothing capsule, start with essentials for your destination and stick to a color scheme. When colors and patterns play well together, you increase the mixability of your pieces. I made 16 outfits from just 13 pieces of clothing, using mostly navy, red, green and white. Consider black, white, and gray with pops of teal, mustard, or red. Or camel, brown, peacock blue, and hunter green. Or olive, cream, raspberry, and burnt orange. For more choices, simply refer to your nearest box of Crayolas.

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If the exercise of brainstorming outfits overwhelms you, don’t stress. Break it down. Maxi dresses can be worn alone or topped with a button down shirt (pop the collar and tie it jauntily at the waist). Colored skinny jeans go great with solids, stripes, and dots. A striped top also pairs well with crisp white shorts. White shorts go pretty swell with a polka-dotted button down. Dotted shirt goes great over maxi dress. Five easy outfits later, and we’ve come full circle. See there? Not so tough to do. The key is the color palette. I can’t stress that enough.

Keep it light. Heavy ponte de knit dresses weigh more than lighter cotton. Ditto for denim. Try wearing your jeans on travel day to keep your suitcase nice and light. (Wearing comfortably snug jeans on travel day will also keep your appetite in check so you don’t overindulge on airport Cinnabon)

Notice on my chart that all outfits orbit around two pairs of shoes (technically one pair, since I only wore the wedges with my maxi dress because I had it hemmed for heels versus flats). Trust me when I say this is the way to go! Hubby will be impressed. Friends will be impressed. Your suitcase will not teeter past the allowable weight limit. Repeat after me: I do not need a different shoe for every outfit. Liberating stuff.

For the sake of saving space, fill a clutch with your undies, stack hats inside each other and stuff the inside of the hat with socks or a couple of rolled up tees. Ditch all full-sized toiletries too, even if you are checking them. You don’t need thirty ounces of shampoo for a week’s vacay. I dare you to only pack dry shampoo and enjoy the extra vacation time you score when you skip hair-washing.

Keep it all together…

Make sure you have travel tools. On travel day, it’s critical to stay organized. Plenty has the potential to go wrong, so best to hold up your end of the serenity prayer by having together what you can control.

Enter the travel wallet. Perfect for keeping necessities you’ll need all day long: boarding passes, identification, plastic and paper currency. Tuck this in your carry on and it will be handy each time you need it.

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Speaking of the tricky devil that is the carry-on, my choice is an expandable tote from Thirty-one Gifts that can double as a beach bag. It’s vinyl, wipeable, durable, and neutrally patterned to keep from waxing obnoxious. Upon arriving in Hawaii, I stored its plane-ride contents in our room and loaded the bag with beach essentials. On the return flight, I unzipped the extra compartment to accommodate souvies.

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Within my carry-on, I use more cute sub-bags and Ziplocs to keep things orderly.  (FINE. Maybe I really am Type A.) The bags contain items like meds, toothbrush, iPad (pre-loaded with movies, ebooks/ezines), snacks of dark chocolate and protein bars, and TSA-approved cosmetics that can’t be easily replaced.

On that note, my favorite travel hack is to buy $2 Wet-n-Wild lipsticks and leave my top-shelf tubes at home. It just plain hurts too much to lose MAC or Aveda to the airport-hotel-vacation dance. (See? Messy and forgetful. We’re on the same team I tell you.)

Lastly, don’t forget to add to your carry-on a complete change of clothing and one swimsuit so that if your plane touches down without your luggage, you can snorkel while the airline tracks down your bag. Assuming you’re going somewhere tropical. Perhaps a jersey fabric LBD and kitten heels or wrinkle-free khakis and loafers would better suit your plans.

Make it Look Good…

The airport is not your living room. You can achieve a stylish and comfortable travel-day look without rocking a panama hat or being fully-cloaked in cashmere a la supermodel Gisele and Oscar-winner Charlize Theron. Can you imagine the pressure of having your airport attire pinned, cover-splashed and possibly don’t-listed? It’s great not being famous!

Speaking of gratitude, let’s take a moment to be thankful that we don’t still travel like this.

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Just because we’re excused from wearing a hat, gloves, and pumps (to coordinate with our Louis Vuitton trunks, mind you), we should still maintain some sense of decorum when traveling by way of public transportation.

Don’t. Just don’t. Travel day looks ought NOT to include the following seen-in-real-life offenses:

  • Actual pajamas. The recent cultural embracing of lounge pants makes this one tricky.  A good rule of thumb: if one article of clothing is baggy, make the other pieces more tailored. Don’t wear a top and bottom in a matching print. Or flannel. And never wear a smoking jacket.
  • Sky-high heels or mega wedges. I used to insist that they were comfortable too. Blah, blah, blah. There is nothing comfortable about an ankle sprain from tripping over an illegally parked carry-on.
  • Rhinestones. Please limit sparklies to cocktail events. Don’t want to blind the flight attendants.
  • Boxer shorts as outerwear and cheeky-revealing jorts. Because cooties. A girl in a skirt that barely covered her lap non-ironically shared her hand sanitizer as we landed in Phoenix.
  • Body-con dresses. Unless you’re on a date in the airport. With a rock star. But why would you be? Right. (And because Cinnabon.)

For the comfort of yourself and those around you. I hope I have not offended or embarrassed anyone. As retribution, I offer up my favorite travel day pieces.

  • Dark-colored jeans, capris, or leggings that do not go sheer when you stoop plug in your iPhone charger.
  • Lightweight jackets. Not a hoodie. Unless it’s cashmere.
  • Body-skimming tees. Preferably without cheeky slogans but there’s an exception to every rule.
  • Arch-supportive ballet flats or kicks. Closed-toe is the way to go since you never know when someone may roll over your tootsies with their carry-on (the kind that you know won’t actually fit in the overhead bin. Who do they think they’re kidding?).
  • A funky necklace and cuff bracelet for style points.
  • If there’s a chance of going from airport to dinner, a comfy and stylish wrap dress will take you there.

Here’s a picture of a gal who’s got it together for travel day. Heck, she even looks relaxed.

fashion-travel-flight

Are we there yet?

Home away from home. YES! After landing, claiming suitcases, and rental car joy riding, it’s time to unpack. Seriously. Don’t spend your far, far away travel week literally living out of a suitcase. Instead, hang everything in the hotel closet so you can see your options and let gravity negotiate the wrinkles. Use drawer space to separate swimsuits, undies, sleepwear, and work out wear. (No judgment if you don’t exercise on vacation. Some of us have slower metabolism and have to work out every day.)

I use yet another Thirty-one Gifts organizer for my jewelry and hang this in front of my duds. See below. This one has secret pockets for the real deal and clear pockets for costume baubles.

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Oh, by the way. If like me, your goal is to re-wear pieces, skip expensive resort laundry service and spritz clothing with Febreeze after wearing.

If, also like me, you enjoy overindulging on vacation, then I recommend wearing your tightest clothing (skinny jeans and curve hugging dresses) early in the week, as excessive sodium and increased alcohol intake will make these pieces a little less comfy by the end of vacation.

Come back soon, now…

Pack, check, repeat. I confess that on our return flight, I insisted on wearing a souvenir tee with a giant pineapple on it. I knew it wasn’t the chicest look. Neither was the lady’s that consisted of horizontally striped palazzo pants and matching oversized tee.

Reload your luggage with less concern for wrinkling since you’re homeward bound. Throw away anything you can live without. Unless resort toiletries are stellar, don’t even think about packing them. If by some island curse your suitcase weighs a lot more on the return trip, consider shipping items home or adding some items to your lighter-packed traveling companion’s bag.

So I wore the pineapple tee. I still paired it with a white jacket, jean capris, and a newly acquired necklace. Not a bad look. And my carry-on was reloaded with the essentials and freshly stocked with snacks, newly downloaded movies, and a comfy travel pillow. I was able to spend the day traversing multiple time zones relatively stress-free, knowing that everything was in its place, and telling myself that the jet lag and airplane seat sores would be so worth it.

Sara Wise is a wedding planner, slave to fashion, and career coach.

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