Preparing for a trip is a documented way to extend the fun and anticipation. We get more out of the weeks preceding a trip than we do from the memories in the weeks afterward. Preparation also helps in avoiding hassle. Experiences are a better value for the money than material items; that being said, there are certain material items that can make or break a travel experience. Travel is definitely an area where it pays to invest in durability.
The first thing I do when researching a trip is to look at the typical weather for that time period in that location. Is it going to be rainy and cold? How cold? How cold will it be at night, when we’re trying to sleep huddled up in our tent? The next step is to go out on as many days as possible in similar weather, and form vivid memories of whether I was comfortable, chilly, or too hot. Where I live, we can count on balmy, dry weather most of the year. Even though I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, it can be hard for me to remember just how cold and wet cold and wet can be.
Once I know what weather to expect, I can do a fair job of planning a wardrobe. My husband seems to be impervious to variations in temperature; he wears the same things to bed all year and he doesn’t even own a sweater. I have woken up shaking with cold several times in one night. Sometimes cold weather makes my fingers swell up. It’s a bummer that I need to carry so many extra layers, when I’d much rather pack lightly, but I know what I’m like. Me and my underactive thyroid. I can wear a sweater when it’s 75 F.
We are very active when we travel, and that means many hours and many miles on our feet. As a marathon runner, my feet are pretty tough, but I’ve learned through trial and error that not all socks go with all shoes. I’d rather go naked and have the right footwear than wear the perfect outfit with the wrong combination of socks and shoes. Bleeding, oozing blisters are not my idea of a good time. I like to start training for a trip a few months in advance, and that means wearing my intended travel outfits and replicating conditions.
These are some issues I have had with travel and workout clothes:
Pants that constantly fall down
Elastic waistbands that give me a rash after about the 6th mile
Cotton t-shirts that are still smelly after being laundered
Sock seams on top of my toes that cause a blister
Socks that work their way down my foot and ball up inside my shoe
Underwear that shows over the waistband of my pants
Zippers that keep sliding down
Sports bras that keep sliding up
Various items that are not color-fast and stain the few other items I had packed
Rain pants with Velcro strips that come unstitched
Pants with useless pockets, causing me to constantly drop my phone
A messenger bag strap that leaves a dye mark across my entire shirt
Shorts that bunch up, giving me a heat rash on my inner thighs
Tops that expose skin on my back that I can’t reach to protect with sunblock
These are issues that are never apparent when looking at something on a hanger. Often, they don’t even show up during normal wear. Athletic people don’t need to be told that working out in street clothes is too tough on those fabrics. We don’t wear workout clothes because they look so awesome; we wear them because they can take the abuse.
I’m working on testing outfits for our upcoming trip. I had no pants whatsoever, only jeans, and denim is terrible for travel. It’s too heavy and bulky to pack, it takes forever to dry, it’s too hot to wear in summer, and it doesn’t offer much protection against rain or cold. I got some practical slacks at The Limited (buy one get one) that have POCKETS BIG ENOUGH FOR MY PHONE. This is roughly comparable to discovering a wormhole leading to a secret Martian colony. I wore the pants, and they are the most comfortable pants I have ever owned. The search is over, at least for that area of my body.
The new trousers only went with one pair of shoes, a pair I bought for our Iceland trip but rarely wear. I set off on my typical 6-mile route, only to discover that my feet have changed size and shape since I bought them. This sounds dumb, but makes more sense when I mention that I spent months training for a marathon. All the shoes I bought before that point have caused me problems when I wore them later. In this case, they rubbed the top of my foot. Not only did I get blisters, I almost wore holes in my socks as well. Shoe fail. I’m not happy about the blisters, but I’m thrilled that I found out at home, rather than in the middle of our trip.
We’re using our backpacks on this trip. That means there is space for three changes of clothes, plus what we’re wearing. Bulk is one consideration. Another is that our microfiber towels get scary on the fourth day. We need to do laundry every third or fourth day, because there is no escaping the funk of things that are strapped to your back. That creates a natural limit. By the end of the trip, I’ll be sick of the sight of my four shirts and four pairs of pants, but nobody else will know, because we have enough not to repeat outfits in any particular town.
“Matching” is not always about how photogenic something looks. That is an important consideration, though, when you’re planning something that will involve significantly more photo opportunities than mundane life. There are ‘matching’ issues of necklines, waistbands, hemlines, underwear, socks, and bras. Some shirts will not stay tucked in with some waistbands. Some shirtsleeves don’t work with some sweaters. Some necklines rub irritatingly when paired with certain layers. Some undergarments unintentionally show through certain fabrics in certain lights. White bra, Y U ruin all my photos? The goal is to find interchangeable items that are easy to wear. Thinking of clothing in terms of the experience of wearing it can be revolutionary.
I still need to find appropriate shoes, which is harder than one might imagine in a world of five-inch stilettos. The shoes and the fabulous new pants will place some creative constraints around what tops I will bring. It’s nice to make things as interchangeable as possible, not because I care so much about variety, but because sometimes there’s a wardrobe malfunction. Things in heavy rotation tend to get stained or need painstaking repairs, and there isn’t always time to deal with these issues in the moment. I’m quite good at sewing, but rushing for a bus that only departs once a day is not the time. Far easier to grab an alternate item.
Travel has taught me that what works on the road usually works at home, too. I’m gradually converging on a point where my regular clothes also work on vacation. My one-bag travel habit has led to my being able to leave the house without a purse. My carefully honed planning abilities have helped teach me to prepare more for events at home, and to tighten my morning routine. I have more motivation to follow a budget and stay fit. Travel Me is always grateful for the research and experimentation carried out by At-Home Me.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.