Before I wrote for a living, I traveled for a living—two lifelong passions I’m forever grateful for being able to accomplish. My addiction to travel started well before Instagram was even around. I know what you're thinking: If you didn't Instagram it, did it even happen? Well, back then, I certainly didn't do it for the 'gram. I was blissfully content in simply wandering the world on a backpacker’s budget. Luckily, with hard work and persistence, I was able to turn my roving passion into a job. I was hired to be a travel host on a long-running TV series called Globe Trekker. I traveled far and wide to over 30 countries, trekking the mystical ruins of Machu Picchu, learning to cook Indian food in Rajasthan, and touring fashion ateliers in Sicily.
Throughout my years traveling—whether to chic cities or rugged terrains—I have perfected my packing checklist. There’s no doubt every location (and every season) requires a slightly different attire, but on the whole, there are a handful of specific items I practically never travel without. These consist of versatile, practical, and chic basics that get me through a variety of events and activities when I travel, from café-hopping to sightseeing to drinks, dinners, and more.
If you're looking for some packing guidance, below I'm sharing the essential items I always take with me when I travel, organized by category, to help you plan more efficiently. (This edit is based on destinations of more temperate climates in the spirit of summer, which is just around the corner!)
No matter the destination, I'll always pack a couple of basic tees for effortless casual outfits—a staple white, black, or gray tee works with everything from jeans to skirts. This Madewell V-neck tee and this crew-neck one are some of my favorites. I own them in a variety of colors.
A lightweight sweater is a must when traveling. I have invested in a couple of great cashmere ones in black, beige, and gray which are soft, comfortable, and can work from day to night.
I have acquired a handful of chic and versatile blouses that are what I like to call ready for anything. A fitted and flattering blouse such as this Reformation wrap top is stylish and smart for an evening out. A satin camisole top is also perfect to take you from breakfast (worn with layers) to late-night rooftop drinks.
Jeans are practically a no-brainer wherever I go. I like to take a medium wash that is lightweight and has some stretch for comfort. Walking and sitting for long periods of time in rigid, non-stretch jeans is not ideal when traveling and exploring.
A chic midi skirt is a great alternative to jeans and can be worn with sneakers during the day and boots, sandals, or heels at night. It's also perfect for all seasons, as it's easy to layer. Opt for a leopard print since it's practically a neutral at this point and works with all types of tops.
Leggings are light to pack and helpful to have on hand, especially if you're doing anything the slightest bit active. I like ones that have a sleek and slightly smarter feel. I'll always go black to allow for versatility in my outfits. Moreover, they're great to wear on the plane.
In locations where you're going to want to walk a lot, a pair of chic sneakers is invaluable.
I've suffered from one too many blisters wearing sandals that are uncomfortable, rough, and abrasive. Sporty sandals were a more recent discovery for me, but I'll never look back! They're not only super on-trend right now, but they're also ridiculously comfy and will look good with jeans, midi skirts, dresses, or shorts. I like a slightly thicker flatform so I can wear them confidently for evening affairs. No one does sporty sandals better than Teva, in my opinion. I own two really comfortable pairs.
When I'm not packing easy espadrille wedges for spring and summer travel, I'll take a pair of comfortable and walkable block heels, which looks smart and stylish with every outfit. I practically only ever pack nude heels for versatility.
Jackets & Layers
I'll always carry a lightweight jacket. Depending on the destination and weather, this will be either a trench coat, denim jacket, or, more often than not, a khaki utility jacket, which works with all outfits. Plus, the extra pockets always come in handy when you're traveling.
If I don't take my khaki utility jacket, then I'll pack a denim jacket, which is probably the most versatile jacket you can own. Right now, I'm partial to a slightly longer-length, oversize one that I can wrap a belt over at night to look polished.
I rarely travel without a black blazer, which I can throw on over the simplest of outfits to keep my look pulled together. It even looks good with denim shorts and a tee. I leave my heavier structured blazers at home and take my slinky, lightweight blazer instead.
Packing light layers is the way to go for unpredictable weather. A lightweight cardigan is great for throwing on over a dress or jeans and a tee when you're on the go.
Where would I be without my LBD? Or LWD, for that matter. Ideal for dressing up or down with sneakers or heels.
Not all vacations call for a swimsuit, of course, but I always like to roll a one-piece up in my suitcase just in case I happen to find myself at a hotel pool, a beach, or an impromptu afternoon at the spa.
I don't pack a lot of jewelry when I travel, but I'll always take a pair of trusty gold hoop earrings to zhuzh up my looks.
I encourage you to invest in a real leather crossbody bag that is not too big, not too small—just the right size to fit all your necessities when you travel. It's the one item I take on every single trip without fail. Plus, it's always so much easier to be hands-free when traveling. Belt bags are also wonderful for this.
Hopefully, there'll be at least a little sun wherever you're going. Sunglasses are the one accessory I try to never forget. They're not only great for protection, but they also look cool on my Instagram pictures (I have no shame), and they're perfect for concealing jet-lagged, tired eyes.