Wardrobe for Travel: Your Right to Non-negotiables

This is the fourth part in my travel series for proud outfit repeaters on vacation.

In my previous entry, I talked about how to avoid overpacking by leaving unnecessary things at home where they belong; you’re not likely to miss them. This time, I also want to stress the importance of bringing your non-negotiables. There may be one or two things on this list that are less than practical, but I think that’s perfectly okay. It’s a vacation, and we all deserve to bring/wear anything that will make us feel our best. It’s also a great way to combat the inevitable fatigue that comes with all the walking, sightseeing and shopping.

Just for fun, here is my very short list of non-negotiables:

  1. 2-in-1 flat iron and curler. I don’t necessarily straighten/curl every single day (hair usually benefits from a break every few days), but I often use the straightener to touch up messy areas. This way I retain hair’s natural volume, but lightly get rid of frizz.
  2. Full toiletry set, including make-up and skincare. TIP: I like getting random small containers around the house and using them as travel-sized make-up jars to store liquid foundation and primer. For readers from the U.S., the small sample jars offered for free at department stores like Nordstrom make great little containers to bring along. No need to lug around giant glass jars of make-up.
  3. A small arsenal of accessories. This foldable one (pictured below) worth around Php200 (USD 4.65) has small plastic pouches that can store rings, as well as mesh pockets great for flat accessories, and metal rings to keep necklaces and bracelets untangled. TIP: bring jewelry you like, but won’t cry over if it gets lost. Leave all precious items at home; expect to lose a couple of things of varying value on a trip.

    My arsenal of accessories hanging from the window of our hotel room in Madrid, Spain.

  4. Dresses. I’m a dress girl, and as much as I appreciate the versatility of separates, I will choose to pack a dress any day. TIP#1: On vacation, I prefer long-sleeved dresses that end just above or right on the knee.

    Viewing castles in Lisbon and Segovia. Both days were very windy, so I was glad for extra protection from these dresses with longer sleeves. The longer length also wards off wardrobe malfunctions while climbing steep castle steps.

    TIP#2: I also like dresses that will work with or without layers, depending on the weather. Here I am at Fatima, Portugal, which is actually a holy destination as this is where the Virgin appeared to three children. To dress appropriately while viewing the area and attending the Mass, I paired this navy sundress with tights, flats and my beat-up blazer. While sunny, it was also very windy so I was glad to be more covered up. I wore the same dress on its own, with no layers, on a hot day in Madrid, Spain.

    Left: A sunny but very windy day in Fatima, Portugal. Right: Downright HOT in Madrid, Spain.

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Packing Tips for Vacation Leave: Repeatable Separates

This is the third part of my travel series, written while on a two-week exploration of Portugal and Spain.  

One thing I do without fail every time I travel is overpack. It’s just the way I’m made; how do I know I won’t need a full arsenal of accessories or ten different pairs of pants while I’m separated from my wardrobe for two weeks? Over the last few years, however, I’ve learned firsthand the travails and consequences of overpacking, especially since you will never have space to pack anything you shop for while abroad. Below I share some simple style ideas for vacation outfits using basic separates, and some tips to avoid overweight luggage and stuffed suitcases:

L-R. Plain white shirt, dotted jeans and low-heeled sandals in the Cromlech, near Evora. Polka dotted top, navy shorts and the same shoes in Evora, Portugal. The same white top, navy scalloped skirt, beat-up gray flats in Avila, Spain.

Clothes: bring separates that are easily repeatable. No one will ever know if you wear the same thing again. A white shirt tucked into a flowing skirt has a completely different effect from wearing the same white shirt tucked into jeans, worn with a blazer. Best of all, you can wear them separately when it’s warm, and layer them on when it gets cold. Some notes on separates:

  1. Choose tops and bottoms that are less likely to wrinkle. For bottoms: lightweight denim, leggings, and tights are great, but avoid satins, silk/silk finish and structured fabrics, as they crease most easily. For tops, choose basic cotton tops with a stretchy blend.  For this trip, I made the most out of my white v-neck, which has made so many appearances on this blog that it’s practically a cornerstone. Also present were my trusty navy shorts, blue skirt, and soft blue jeans.
  2. Repeat, repeat, repeat your tops OR bottoms, but not necessarily both. I don’t really like to think about my tops, so I pretty much rely on my basic black and white v-necks. I do, however, love bottoms, so I brought this assortment with me: 1 lightweight skirt, 1 pair of shorts, 2 pairs of pants, and 2 pairs of tights. This already makes for a lot of combinations.
  3. Do emergency laundry by throwing 3-4 items in the sink and submerging it in a simple bath gel solution (or detergent, if you can find it). Rinse, Wear, Repeat! We were lucky enough to stay in an apartment that had a washer/dryer, so I was able to do laundry. If you can’t, tip #3 is a great way to get clean clothes in a jiff. Just make sure those clothes weren’t too dirty to begin with.

A Quick Aside on Shoes. Bring only two pairs: one matching warm colors (brown, gold, beige or camel), and one matching cool colors (black, silver, navy or gray). If you wear a lot of warm colors, then just bring 1-2 pairs of brown shoes. I think I’ve learned that if you don’t have too many choices, you’re forced to be more decisive when it’s time to pick outfits in the morning.  

Cold Weather Wear for Warm Weather Folks: Porto, Portugal

Porto is the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon, but when we visited it seemed like a sleepy little town. Its location along the Douro river made for some beautiful views, and a few boats can always be spotted going idly by. The cheerful buildings lining the side of the river were a perfect backdrop for some great photos.

It was also freezing. For someone from a tropical country, 15 degrees (with wind) is pretty unbearable–especially if you don’t actually own too many winter coats. So, here are some cold weather tips for warm weather folks. I also wanted to share some photos of the city, parts of which were collectively named a UNESCO World Heritage Site a while back.

  1. If you don’t own too many winter clothes, layering will be key. Bring a lot of basics and wear one over the other. Wear a long-sleeved shirt under a dress over tights to recycle your hot-weather clothes.
  2. Don’t be afraid to wear winter coats even when everyone around you is wearing spring attire, like lightweight jackets or coats. The locals were definitely used to it (a lot of people were eating ice cream), but I shamelessly broke out my furry hat and scarf.
  3. Invest in a pair of thermal undergarments. They’re amazingly thin and light but provide a lot of warmth.
  4. Tights save the day again. Wear a pair under your pants for insulation.
  5. Use your winter coat as extra protection against thieves. As you can see in the photos, I’m wearing a cross-body bag facing inwards, and under the coat. That way no one can grab it from the back or flip open the top from outside.

Wardrobe Tips for Long Haul Flights: Hello from Porto, Portugal!

I’m currently in Porto, Portugal, the first stop in a two-week Europe trip. This is the first of my series on maintaining practical but stylish day-to-day attire while abroad.

It’s very easy to live in sweats, yoga pants and jeans during a trip, because flying for more than three hours can be very uncomfortable. Once you’re living out of a suitcase, you really don’t want it to be a heavy one. Up until I started this blog, I severely overpacked every single time, so I am actually just learning new ways to pack smart without severely depleting wardrobe choices, too.

To kick off the series, I’m sharing what I consider to be a solid “Long Haul Flight”  outfit. Here are some tips I’ve picked up while choosing from my options:

1. Tights are the key to comfort. Perfect for the following:

  • Anyone who is looking for an alternative to sneakers. Sneakers take up too much space in my suitcase; I’d rather use the extra space to pack another pair of cute flats.
  • Anyone who doesn’t like to go barefoot when they make you take your shoes off at airport security.
  • Anyone who likes to move around under their blanket on the plane, and would like to do so without disgracing themselves to a horrified fellow passenger. Much less restrictive than pants, tights will allow you to move into any curled-up position you like. Just make sure you’re covered up by a blanket.
  • Paired under a swingy skirt, tights give you coverage while allowing a greater range of motion. See bullet #3.
  • Thicker tights keep legs warm.  When it gets too hot (for example, if your destination is Cancun), simply remove, tuck into a barf bag, slip into your purse and you’re good to go!

2. Try to pass on accessories. Instead, go for color or interesting patterns to punch up the look. This is to get you through airport security without holding up a line of tired passengers and stern security officers.

3. Go for slip-on flats with no buckles or straps.  See #2.

4. Go for a blazer. Sweaters are a cozy and very tempting alternative, but I think blazers can be just as warm. Plus, they add just an extra layer of polish to the overall look. My beat-up black blazer is such a wardrobe favorite that I think it’s as comfortable as any giant hoodie out there.

Hair and Make-up: 

1. Given the choice, straighten instead of curling hair. Straightened hair from a curling iron will last the entire flight, while airplane/airport conditions and general stress from traveling will probably make curls limp and separate. Straightened hair will also let you sleep on the plane with minimum bed head and frizz.

2. If you’re going to be on the plane for more than five hours, let your skin breathe and wear minimal make-up. Avoid anything that will run, like eyeliner or mascara. Concealer and blush from a stick are favorites.

3. The only thing that’s a must for me is lip balm, because conditions inside the aircraft tend to dry out skin. I usually apply medicated balm on lips and also on the sides of my nose to prevent unsightly flaking in these areas.