Tips For Feeling Fashionable While You Travel

by Brenna Holeman

Brenna in Cuba 10 Brenna in Cuba 9 Brenna in Cuba 8 Brenna in Cuba 7 Brenna in Cuba 6 Brenna in Cuba 5 Brenna in Cuba 1 Brenna in Cuba 2 Brenna in Cuba 3 Brenna in Cuba 4

Havana, Cuba

Here are some outfits Rikki and I wore in Havana last week; apparently I really dig red and white dresses (what can I say, I’m patriotic). Rikki and I both love fashion and love getting dressed up, but it can be difficult while you’re travelling. Try as I might, though, I’m just not the kind of woman who feels comfortable wearing no make up and shorts and a t-shirt, even though that may be the most sensible thing to wear while on the road. Here are some tips for women* who want to feel fashionable while on the road (but not waste valuable sightseeing time):

1. Bring clothes you love. You may not want to bring your favourite and/or most expensive items in your closet, but bring items of clothing that you feel really great in. A tiny part of my travelling budget often goes toward buying a few cheap dresses that I can take on my trip; I always love the feeling of wearing a new outfit, but I don’t yet have the sentimental attachment to the dresses if something were to happen to them.

2. Similarly, bring clothes you would wear at home. I only wear skirts and dresses at home, so why would I suddenly wear trousers on a trip? I always take one pair of leggings or genie pants to wear for long bus journeys, but I stay true to my personal fashion when I travel. Don’t be swayed into buying expensive travel clothing; chances are you won’t wear it as much as you’ll wear that cheap t-shirt you’ll inevitably buy at the market. Also take care to bring “uncomplicated” clothing – if you need to bring slips, camisoles, certain bras, etc., it might not be worth the hassle. Edit: Renee added some great advice in the comments: don’t bring anything that requires an iron! If my clothing does get a bit wrinkled, however, I usually sprinkle a bit of water on it and try to smooth it out. Otherwise, I just wear it – the wrinkles tend to fall out quite quickly once you start walking and moving around, especially in a humid place!

3. Speaking of markets, shop locally. Buy fun and cheap clothing from street markets, or splurge on one nicer item from a shop. You’ll love wearing the new items while you travel, and you’ll also have a great souvenir to take home. I constantly wear clothing and jewellery I bought while travelling, and, whenever I wear them, it’s a wonderful memory of my previous adventures.

4. Experiment with jewellery. A lot of countries or regions have jewellery that is specific to them; think bangles and nose rings in India, colourful beads in parts of Africa, wood jewellery in South America, seed and nut necklaces in Central America, etc. Embrace these cultures and wear local jewellery. Not only is it fun, but you’re often guaranteed smiles from the local people. Again, you also have fantastic souvenirs to take home (I collect bracelets from every country I go to).

5. Don’t be afraid of makeup. If you usually wear makeup at home, there is no reason to stop wearing it once you travel. I usually spend a few minutes a day putting on a bit of bronzer, eyeliner, mascara, and lip gloss; it simply makes me feel better and more confident, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I always wear sunscreen and I avoid heavy foundations or concealers, especially in hot climates.

6. Ask your hair stylist to cut your hair in a way so that you like how it dries naturally. As a girl with bangs, I should probably follow my own advice and grow them out. However, when I travel I really like how my hair dries naturally, so after washing it I just let it go, often pinning my bangs back. I do know some girls who travel with hair dryers and/or straighteners, but I’ve found that a lot of places do not have reliable power sources to plug these things in, not to mention the extra weight they add to your bag. I am very tempted to bring this wet-hair straightener on my next trip, though…

7. Bring comfortable but cute shoes. You definitely want to have a good walking shoe, but I always recommend throwing a pair of flats in your bag that you will feel comfortable going out on the town in. I always have an outfit or two in my bag that, with the right makeup and accessories, makes me feel all dressed up. And sometimes, even with a backpack on her back, a girl just wants to feel all dressed up.

How about you? Any good tips for feeling fashionable while on the road? Are you someone who enjoys dressing up when you travel, or are you a no-fuss no-muss kind of gal?

*For all my male readers, don’t feel left out. Here are some tips for you: Wear deodorant. Try to change your t-shirt at least twice a week. Bring a razor? I’m biased, of course, because I love the way men look when they travel: suntanned, a bit of a beard, perhaps some ragged bracelets at the wrist…

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renee March 25, 2012 - 2:33 am

Ha! Love your tips for guys! Deodorant indeed!
When packing I think about how outfits will look in photos. Not b/c I’m vain, but if I’m going to be taking pictures as souvenirs, I want to be able to look back at them without bemoaning an outfit.
My only other tip is pack NOTHING that requires an Iron. Clothes should be able to roll out of my suitcase and out the door.

This Battered Suitcase March 25, 2012 - 4:38 am

Oh, I totally do that, too. I look back on my backpacking trip around Europe in 2006 and HATE the photos of me – I’m wearing hideous clothing I had convinced myself would be comfortable and easy, but in the end it was just drab and not my actual fashion sense. I never made that mistake again!

I hope you don’t mind, I’m adding your iron tip to the list, with due credit of course! Great advice, there’s nothing worse than an article of clothing that requires work before wearing it…

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures March 25, 2012 - 1:34 pm

Such a fabulous post! I’m a big believer in looking your best while on the road. Of course you’re not going to wear a ballgown when you’re climbing a mountain, but not where a dress that makes you feel sexy and beautiful while walking on the streets in La Habana? YOU LOOKED GORGEOUS! And now you can treasure these pictures forever.

Katie @ March 25, 2012 - 2:39 pm

Yes! I travel the same way – I can’t be one of those super sporty women who’s comfortable walking around with no makeup. I don’t wear foundation, but some pressed powder, concealor, light eyeliner and mascara are a must every morning. Um… and yeah. I need an eyebrow pencil too. Because for some reason my eyebrows are blonde. No curling iron or hair dryer, but I might bring a whipped wax product ( to keep it cute and prevent frizz while it air dries.

That iron tip is also really great — I also pack a travel bottle of that wrinkle release spray on stuff (just make sure the lid is REALLY tight and put it inside a plastic baggie just in case). It’s also nice for clothes you might not have had a chance to wash… spritz some on, it lets out the wrinkles, and freshens up the scent. (Hey. Washing machines aren’t always convenient.)

Katie @ March 25, 2012 - 2:41 pm

Oh, and I HATE my photos also of the times I didn’t wear makeup. Like a couple of occasions in Costa Rica… yuck.

This Battered Suitcase March 25, 2012 - 10:20 pm

Andi – Thank you! You always look amazing in your photos, too. I totally agree with your comment about always trying to look nice!

Katie – I often despise the photos where I’m not wearing makeup, too, ha ha. I’ve always wanted to try that wrinkle release spray but I never seem to be able to find it! Perhaps I should order some online…?

Steph March 7, 2015 - 7:04 pm

You can make the wrinkle release spray yourself! One part fabric softener to four parts water [note: depends on the fabric softener! experiment a little]. Put in a spray bottle, shake, spray, smooth, and voila!

This should NOT be used on silk in most cases.

Caroline March 25, 2012 - 11:12 pm

I love my infinity dress for travel – i made mine, and it’s super easy, but American Apparel has them too and they’re very easy to find on Etsy. Like this one:

Mine is soft and lightweight and you can wear it infinite ways, so it’s like having a bunch of different dresses all in one.

Steph March 7, 2015 - 7:06 pm

Caroline – I went to the link and I really like the look of the dress! But its all sold out – do you have more or similar ones?

renee March 25, 2012 - 11:19 pm

Thanks so muchness for the link/including me! Your blog continually inspires me, so the inclusion means a lot. You can’t see it over the internet, but I’m pretty sure I’m blushing.

Audrey | That Backpacker March 26, 2012 - 12:37 am

I love the red dress! I like to bring lots of skirts and dresses when I’m going somewhere tropical, and sensible shoes. The other day I saw girls trying to hike a mountain in Seoul in their heels!! Big no no.

This Battered Suitcase March 26, 2012 - 4:49 am

Caroline – I’ve always wanted to try one of those! I just might have to give it a go on this next trip…great idea!

Renee – No problem at all! Your blog is great!

Audrey – Thank you! I always bring lots of skirts and dresses, too. Regarding the girls in heels, I saw stuff like that all the time in Japan – hilarious!!

Colleen Brynn March 26, 2012 - 4:25 pm

What is the last outfit? Is that a cape??

Lorra Fae March 26, 2012 - 8:19 pm

For me it depends where I go, but dresses all the way! 🙂 I prefer to go to warm places.
As for hair – mine always looks like junk if I don’t blowdry it, so when I was traveling with no access, I used bandanas! Lifesavers! 🙂

This Battered Suitcase March 27, 2012 - 3:48 am

Colleen – It’s a kimono! But now I want to find a beautiful cape as well…

Lorra Fae – Ah yes, bandanas have saved my hair more times than I care to remember! The topknot also comes in handy. Good tip!

Cara-Mia March 31, 2012 - 8:59 pm

What a great post! You wear such lovely outfits when traveling. I wish I could be a no-fuss type of girl, but I know I would just look at my travel photos with complete regret if I wasn’t wearing something I love.

Very good tips, by the way. 🙂

This Battered Suitcase April 2, 2012 - 2:43 am

Thanks, Cara-Mia! I feel exactly the same way…

Christine April 5, 2012 - 3:17 am

Love this! I totally agree about staying true to your personal fashion on the road: you don’t need a whole new wardrobe or outlook on style while traveling! Wear what you’re comfortable in. And totally feel you on the bangs thing–I always love coming home and getting a proper bang trim and blowout, but suffer through with a lot of bobby pins and headbands on the road 🙂

This Battered Suitcase April 5, 2012 - 5:19 am

Christine – Thanks for your comment! How annoying are bangs when you travel? Try as I might, however, I can never bring myself to grow them out…

Jennifer December 14, 2012 - 9:15 am

Great post! I am curious what kind of eyeliner you use that stays put and still looks good in hot and humid weather? I am currently living in Thailand and planning some travel to hot and humid places and would love to know what works for you!!

PS I just discovered your blog a few days ago and I can’t stop reading it!!! I have such a girl crush on you! 🙂 You have a contagious spirit and way of looking at life that is SO happy and AWESOME!!! I love it!

This Battered Suitcase December 20, 2012 - 11:14 pm

Jennifer – At the moment I use one by Revlon, but I often use Indian kohl as well! And thank you so much for your kind words, they really inspire me to write more…

Shoestring Explorers / How to Travel More: The Ultimate Guide September 24, 2014 - 1:17 pm

[…] Tips For Feeling Fashionable When You Travel | This Battered Suitcase […]

Monica September 29, 2014 - 1:43 pm

Looking gorgeous ladies!
I totally agree. I don’t know why people think you need to wear khaki pants and walking boots when you travel. If you don’t wear them at home why would you wear them abroad?
Also, the first time I travelled for a few months I had my hair cut really short, didn’t pack any hair straighteners and didn’t take any makeup. Who was I kidding? I looked like a 12 year old boy for about 2 weeks before I went out and re-bought my entire makeup bag and some straighteners.

Brenna Holeman September 29, 2014 - 6:33 pm

I was totally the same way the first time I travelled for a long period of time! I gave away my entire wardrobe and bought stuff I felt more comfortable in. To this day I don’t own khaki pants, they’re just not me!

Bud Simpson September 30, 2014 - 4:51 pm

Great article! We featured it on our Ultimate Guide for Travel

Brenna Holeman September 30, 2014 - 5:51 pm

Thank you!

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Monica April 19, 2016 - 3:34 pm

So this is my first comment on a blog which is a bit strange, but I’ll go for it anyway. I love the tips, but I just wanted to ask how you dealt with traveling through conservative areas or places where women aren’t supposed to show skin. I’ve been living in Quetzaltenango for the past four months and it is a whole new world here. Anything shorter than knee length is considered an invitation for street harassment and even decidedly un-sexy clothing items, like baggy running shorts, elicit more descriptions of my ass than I even wanted to hear. Any tips on surviving machismo?


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