How to Layer Clothes for Travel

Written by: Sondra Wolfer

Whether you’re heading for a weekend fly-fishing trip within the UK or on an extended adventure abroad, packing and dressing with layers in mind will keep your travels comfortable and lightweight. With layered outfits packed in your luggage, you’re ready for everything from chilly airplane cabins to walking on the beach at sunset to sightseeing in the hot midday sun. Here’s how to layer your clothes for the journey ahead:

Choosing Layers for Travel Days

Comfort should be your primary concern whilst travelling. Pick fabrics that are soft and breathable, with some give. Pants with an elastic waist are a good idea. You want to be able to comfortably tuck your legs under you in your seat or do leg stretches when you’re feeling a bit stiff. But comfy doesn’t mean wearing your pyjamas for the journey. Travelling is a slog and can make you feel a mess. Giving your travel layers a chic edge can make you feel as paparazzi-ready as any starlet when you arrive at your destination.

When it comes to layering, focus on your torso. Start with a baselayer knit top, tee or blouse that looks and feels good. This is what you’ll show the world through most of the journey when your outer layers are enlisted as blankets and pillows. A long-sleeved, lightweight knit shirt with some stretch is a great choice. It should offer warmth without bulk, so you don’t feel hampered when you start adding layers. Tunics and popover tops are also great baselayer options. If you need an extra layer of warmth, add a comfortable tank top or camisole beneath.

For the next layer, throw on a lightweight cardigan, jumper, or knit hoodie. These are the items you’ll be putting on and taking off most frequently—make sure they are roomy enough so you don’t have to wrestle with them.

For your outer layer, opt for a coat if you are heading for a cold-weather destination. Pick one that is warm enough for your trip, but doesn’t have a lot of bulk. Wearing a massive coat will be frustrating for you and fellow travellers trying to make their way past you down the aisle. If travelling somewhere warm or temperate, you’ll still need an outer layer; choose a gilet with a slim silhouette or a long knit cardigan that offers just the right level of warmth for seaside evenings or air-conditioned museums.

Choosing Layers for Your Travel Destination

Packing smartly layered outfits boils down to giving yourself lots of mix-and-match options. Thinking in layers allows you to wear the same items repeatedly on your trip without having to wear the same outfit twice. As a bonus, you can likely travel with one carry-on even for longer trips and avoid pricey fees for checking bags.

To pack chic layered looks, spread your favourite comfortable, lightweight clothing on your bed. If you are heading to a warm climate, lean towards cotton and linen clothing. If you are headed towards a wintry locale, go for slightly heavier knits, but avoid anything too bulky. Place your clothes down as if you were choosing an ensemble—outer layers go at the top—and work your way downward with middle layers next, then baselayers, then pants and skirts, and finally shoes. Also add a favourite scarf, a statement necklace, or a bright woven belt or two to the mix. Accessories are great ways to add interest to your travel clothes without adding bulk.

Start mixing and matching outfits with as few items as you can based on the length of your trip. For example, for a weeklong trip you could start with three tops, one outer layer, one accessory, two pairs of trousers, and a skirt. You’ll get the greatest variety of outfits if you lean towards neutrals that tend to go well together. To add colour, choose a vibrant scarf, necklace, or tank tops.

Take some time to imagine yourself on your holiday. Where do you expect to go and what do you expect to do? How you pack for a busy holiday filled with museum visits and upscale restaurants will be very different from packing for a trip where you plan to sit on the beach by clear blue water all day, every day. It’s helpful to write down what you’ll be wearing for each day of your trip, including extra combinations for times you expect to eat out or go dancing.

When it comes to your shoes, match them to your ensembles and try not to pack more than one pair beyond what you wear on the journey. Cushioned and chic trainers or slip-ons work for long days taking in the sights, and a slightly dressier pair can be packed for nights on the town.

It takes a bit of forethought to get the combination of clothes you need for layering just right, but it’s worth the time and effort. Once you’re on the trip you won’t waste a minute wishing you’d brought along an extra layer or feeling travel weary from overpacked luggage. You can focus fully on relaxing and sightseeing instead.


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