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How to Travel Light and Still Look Sharp: A Guide for Men

travel light and still look good

Whether you’re traveling for business, pleasure, or a little of both, you need to look great when you arrive, and that means packing the right clothes.

But try to set your packing anxiety aside -- you don’t need to pack the whole closet. 

Instead, you can pack a sensible capsule wardrobe with several pieces that will help you look sharp at your destination, no matter what you do. Choose pieces made with antibacterial, quick-drying, performance fabrics, so you can wear them again and again while you’re away from home. Here’s what you need to know to choose exactly the right wardrobe for your next trip.

Pack Mixable, Matchable Pieces

You want everything in your traveling capsule wardrobe to match well enough that you can mix and match pieces each day or throughout the day, whenever you need a new outfit. Choose pieces from the same family of colors, and consider your destination when choosing the colors you want to wear. If you’re going to an urban destination like New York or Paris, dark and neutral colors, like charcoal, navy blue, burgundy, black and grey will do. If you’re going to the beach or the country, try lighter, less formal colors. Feel free to pack two pairs of mens khaki boat shorts and seven Hawaiian shirts for your Hawaiian vacation. That counts as a capsule wardrobe, right?

Choose Performance Fabrics

The best men’s traveling clothes will be made of high-performance fabric that stands up to being worn over and over again and in a range of conditions. A simple cotton T-shirt can’t keep you warm after it gets wet with rain or sweat, but one made of merino wool will. Choose shirts and pants in quick-dry fabrics, so that you can wash them out in the hotel and hang them to dry overnight. If you can, choose pieces made with antimicrobial or antibacterial fabric -- it’ll resist picking up body odors so you can wear it again and again without washing it or smelling bad.

You’ll definitely need to grab outfits made out of wrinkle-free fabric, because there’s just no other way to keep wrinkles out of your clothes when you’re stuffing them into a suitcase or duffel bag. This is especially important for formal wear that needs to look snazzy at your destination. At the very least, learn how to steam your clothing to get the wrinkles out

Unless you’re going somewhere really cold, you should choose lightweight pieces because they’re, well, lighter. You can usually only fit a few heavy items in a carry-on suitcase, but you can probably cram half a dozen or more lightweight items in. Plan to dress in layers for inclement weather, and make sure each piece you pack is multifunctional, so that it can be worn in a few different ways.

Two Pairs of Shoes Is Plenty

If you’re trying to pack light, avoid bringing more than a couple pairs of shoes. Bring a pair of sneakers, which you can wear on the plane, and a pair of dress shoes for formal occasions, if you plan to attend any formal occasions. If you want to sneak in a third pair, choose a pair of sandals if they’re appropriate for your destination and the climate you’re traveling to. If you want to wear boots at your destination, consider wearing them on the plane to save space in your suitcase. However, most men will do just fine with two pairs of shoes on a trip.

Wear Your Casual Clothes on the Plane

The days of donning your best clothes to travel may be over, but there are still some people who think it’s tacky to wear athleisure on a plane. You don’t have to be one of them. Jeans and a T-shirt, cargo shorts, or even basketball shorts and a hoodie are all perfectly acceptable traveling outfits. You want to be as comfortable as possible on the plane, and you don’t want to have to worry about messing up your nice clothes. Besides, sweatshirts, sweatpants, and sneakers can take up a lot of room in a carry-on. Wear them instead.

Traveling light doesn’t mean you have to wear the same clothes every day of your trip, and dressing stylishly when away from home doesn’t mean dragging your entire wardrobe along with you. Carefully choose several items that all match each other and all serve multiple wardrobe functions, so you can look handsome and well-dressed no matter where you are.

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