My Massive (But Easy) Travel Style Guide for Women + Giveaway

Jessica Peterson

StyleWe sweatshirt with peacock fringe

Travel is already inherent with discomfort, so your clothes shouldn’t be. I’ve probably made all the travel clothing mistakes one could make — wearing the wrong shoes, packing uncomfortable and impractical clothes, and carrying the world’s heaviest luggage. In 2009, when I started traveling every other month, I came up with a mission: refine my travel style down to a science and an art. Efficiency was my goal, but not by sacrificing style. You can do it too.

(Scroll down for a $100 shopping spree to build your travel wardrobe!)

6 Tips for Traveling in Style

Jessica Peterson at Beverly Hills City Hall, California

Comfort and Style are Not Mutually Exclusive

There’s nothing less chic than hobbling along in killer shoes or tight, bunching clothes. Skip the stilettos and travel in comfort with slip-on loafers or ballet flats. If you’re traveling by plane or will be stuffing your face in Italy, do not wear tight clothes. The body swells at 30,000 feet just as much as it does when you eat a pound of pasta daily. Do yourself a flavor, and wear loose, but tailored clothing, both on the plane and on your trip.

Wear Wrinkle-free Clothing

Do you really want to spend your vacation ironing? I didn’t think so. Polyester, lycra, spandex, rayon, and knits are your friends, especially if you’re traveling to a hot climate. For cold weather, pack wool and cashmere, which also do not wrinkle. Jeans with stretch are both comfortable and relatively wrinkle-free.

Go Monochromatic and Throw In a Few Wild Cards

I love prints. I have a closet full of them. This is fine for dresses or jumpsuits because they are complete outfits, but prints can be a problem when trying to mix with other clothes. Since your goal should always be to pack the minimum amount of clothes you need, monochromatic (single color) clothes play better with others. Think blacks, browns, and neutrals when packing everything — tops, bottoms, shoes, and bags.

You’re basically developing a capsule collection that can pair with just about anything — including the wild card prints you can’t live without (okay, I can’t live without).

A comfortable and well-tailored pair of black leggings, t-shirt, and turtleneck are a great base on which to build your capsule wardrobe. Add in your favorite dark jeans and a neutral sweater. You can get creative with a printed scarf or loafers and still look pulled together and unfussy. I almost always pack a LBD (little black dress), because you never know when you’ll be invited to dine with royalty or attend the Oscars. Well, maybe not, but you see what I mean.

I wear a lot of black and white when I travel and the same BCBG jacket on infinite repeat! (Shop similar look)…

Jessica Peterson of Global Girl Travels in Marriott Sky City Hong KongJessica Peterson in Macao black and white cobblestone streetsJessica Peterson of Global Girl Travels in Beverly Hills, California City Hall Civic CenterJessica Peterson of Global Girl Travels in Dominican RepublicJessica Peterson of Global Girl Travels in Guam on Gun BeachSydney Harbour Bridge, AustraliaJessica Peterson in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, ChinaJessica Peterson of Global Girl Travels at Prada Marfa, TexasJessica Peterson at Pizzeria Uno ChicagoJessica Peterson, woman in black and white striped dress, sitting at Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

What To Wear on the Plane


This is often the hardest part and you’ve seen both extremes — the vain twentysomething in 5-inch platforms, hobbling through security and the slobbish sweatpants-wearer with her hair in a rat tail top-knot. Don’t be either woman.

While it’s not likely you will miraculously get upgraded because you’re well-dressed, you might get turned away if you’re not aligned with the airline’s dress code. This happened to a couple girls on United.

My standard travel outfit consists of the following:

Shoes, Shoes, Shoes

Anthropologie velvet booties worn by Jessica Peterson of Global Girl Travel at Joshua Tree National Forest Park in California


I’ve committed all the comfort sins a woman can commit with shoes. Here’s what NOT to do:

  • Don’t pack shoes you’ve never worn. Break them in for at least a week before you travel!
  • Don’t pack shoes that don’t stretch. Your feet will swell on the plane, especially on long flights. Try on your travel shoes the night before you fly (your foot will be larger at the end of the day). Only pack them if they’re comfortable to walk around in.
  • Don’t pack impossibly high heels. I wear platforms, but on cobblestone streets, I’ve nearly twisted my ankle. Low-heels with arch support are ideal for pounding the pavement.
  • Don’t pack shoes you are afraid to wear, i.e., they cost two weeks of pay, they can’t get wet or dirty, etc.
  • Don’t pack shoes that only go with one outfit, unless you have a special event and need dress shoes. Otherwise, stick to two pairs of shoes for your whole trip (yes, it can be done).
  • Don’t wear flip flops on the plane. Just don’t.
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Best shoes for travel:

  • Loafers or ballet flats for the plane because they are comfortable and easy to remove
  • Sandals are great for hot weather
  • Boots are great for cold weather

From podiatrist and shoe designer, Joan Oloff:

“It’s very important to choose footwear made with the softest leathers. Never travel in shoes made with synthetic materials. Feet will swell when flying. Soft leathers will expand to accommodate this, while synthetic materials will cause pressure points, particularly around the toes and the back of the heel. Even the linings of the shoes should be made of leathers. Synthetic linings will cause the foot to perspire and may cause blisters.” — Travel + Leisure

Undergarments & Pajamas

Girl in satin blue robe on bed, Jessica Peterson

I wear Spanx in both hot and cold weather. A lightweight pair in hot weather keeps my thighs from getting too friendly with one another and absorbs sweat. It also makes me feel slimmer.

There’s absolutely no substitute for a comfortable bra. I like the ones with underarm smoothing, a tiny bit of padding, and a little lift. Leave the bulky push-ups at home. If you need a strapless, buy one that converts.

Leave the fussy panties at home and pack the lightweight, comfortable ones that you can wash in the sink if you need to.

Most hotels provide robes so absolutely don’t pack one unless it’s a lightweight silk that doesn’t take up much room. Pack PJs you don’t mind being seen in, in case you have to pop out of your room in an emergency (this happened to me in a London hostel).

What to Pack in a Carry-on for 1 Week of Travel

It’s simple: pack only what you need and don’t be afraid to wear something twice! If you’re having trouble fitting everything, consider wearing your heaviest coat, jeans, and shoes on the plane.

As always, roll your clothes tightly when you pack, which prevents wrinkling and saves space.

Hot weather

Upper Antelope Canyon, Arizona

  • 5 pairs underwear (wash them in the sink for the extra two days)
  • 4 knit tops
  • 2 tank tops for layering or if it’s really hot
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 2 bras
  • 2 pairs of socks (again, you can wash in the sink)
  • 1 pair of loose-fitting, but tailored palazzo pants
  • 1 maxi dress
  • 1 pair of tailored leggings (for the plane or cool nights)
  • 1 lightweight cropped jacket or trench coat (for rainy climates)
  • 1 swimsuit (your favorite one, pick one)
  • 1 set of pajamas
  • 1 pair of Spanx
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 1 pair of flip flops for the pool
  • 1 pair athletic shoes (for hiking, running, etc.). Skechers are cute and comfortable.
  • 1 cross-body bag
  • 1 backpack or messenger bag
  • 1 scarf (for warmth, temples, to tie up your hair if it’s humid)


Cold weather

Jessica Peterson of Global Girl Travel at Joshua Tree National Forest Park in California

  • 5 pairs underwear (wash them in the sink for the extra two days)
  • 3 long-sleeve shirts (turtle necks and knit for layering)
  • 3 pairs of socks (again, you can wash in the sink)
  • 2 pairs of jeans or warm pants
  • 2 sweaters (wool or cashmere)
  • 1 bra (wash once since you probably won’t be sweating)
  • 1 pair of tailored leggings
  • down coat
  • 1 tank top for extra layering if it’s cold
  • 1 set of fleece pajamas
  • 1 pair of Spanx
  • 1 pair of boots
  • 1 pair athletic shoes (for hiking, running, etc.)
  • 1 cross-body bag
  • 1 backpack or messenger bag
  • 1 scarf (for warmth)
  • 1 pair of gloves
  • 1 hat


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Jessica Peterson
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Jessica Peterson

Jessica Peterson is a travel filmmaker, photographer, and journalist. She released her first documentary film about indigenous culture on Guam in 2016, after having lived nearly 7 years on the Pacific island. Jessica is currently on the Great American Roadtrip in her Airstream trailer.
Jessica Peterson
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  • Zinara

    For tropical weather, I normally pack shorts, printed tops (I love love prints but I agree that they are sometimes hard to mix and match), flip flops and cute sneakers. I absolute love sketchers, too. Just bought a pair two weeks ago 😀

    • Yeah, I can’t stay away from prints. I usually bring a few printed dresses for photos.

  • Sonia Sahni

    I loved the black and white stuff that you have..its goes pretty much with every season! And those red shoes…awww…so stunning! I love to carry sneakers regardless of the season…they make every walk so comfortable.

    • Yes to sneakers! I just don’t want mine to look like sneakers when I’m walking down a city street, thus the Skechers recommendation. Boots also do the trick.

  • Riely Mills

    I have been one of those who overpacks and packing uncomfortable shoes. I have learned over the years to slim down outfits and pack items that work together in multiple ways. I will get it right eventually. Thanks for the tips.

  • Gareth Thompson

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, your photography skills are second to none! Beyond that however, as a dude, I can’t say I can follow too many of the tips mentioned in your posts but I have passed them onto my girlfriend who, on the road as much as I am, often complains that she doesn’t get to feel as glamourous as she might

  • Excellent guide! I think my problem is that I don’t have enough of the basics to build the rest of the wardrobe on, which means I always end up overpacking. When living in Fiji, I pretty much lived in my athleisurewear all the time because of the heat and I haven’t updated the wardrobe since returning…!

    • Building a wardrobe with the basics is harder than it looks, especially for multiple seasons (and for me, different weights!).

      • Indeed! I started buying some grey pieces for travel thinking I could put them with anything but grey is really not my colour! Makes me look so washed out.

  • This post couldn’t have been more timely for me! I just booked a trip for Taiwan and I challenged myself to be more minimalistic by NOT pre-booking my baggage allowance. Usually, when I book my fares, I automatically add 20KG baggage allowance. But this time, since it will only be a 3-day trip, I thought I’d dare myself to pack light. And I agree with you: going monochromatic is the way to go! That way, I could easily repeat outfits and no one will ever know. You are right, don’t be afraid to wear something twice! No one will care anyway. I am bookmarking this post so I can look back on your hot weather packing list!

    • Oooh, Taiwan. Sounds amazing! Bring a scarf for your hair because it’s pretty humid there.

  • Great tips! And you have some beautiful outfits. After traveling for 4 years I got lazy with style. I should really follow your tips and up my game again!

  • Those are some great trips. You have a lovely collection for your wardrobe. Love the leopard print loafers. Love the white coat.

  • This is such a handy guide, Jessica! I love that you included a checklist too so it makes it easier to track things when packing.

    Jessica | notjessfashion.com

  • Fashion is not my strong suit, so any tips (especially for travelers) are always greatly appreciated! Such an easy list and super helpful for the future!

  • DESPINA

    Terrific article, printed and saved – thanks ever so much!

  • Chantelle Walker

    uh… WOW!! 🙂 So amazing!! finalist and winner? Gonna look good on my trip in Aug lol but no really, up to you 😀 thank you either way!!

  • Bets

    Hi this may be a stupid question but regarding what you said about shoes, what are considered synthetic materials? The only shoe material I can think of is pleather.