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.  

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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.