Travel Fashion: How to Look Good on the Go

Looking good on the go often starts with knowing what you like and what you feel best in.
Looking good on the go often starts with knowing what you like and what you feel best in.
© Les and Dave Jacobs/cultura/Corbis

You open the car door and exit the driver's seat, stretching your arms and legs. It's been a full day of driving and you have just 30 minutes to check in to the hotel and meet your colleagues -- some of whom you've never actually seen in person. It's time to make a good first impression, but your shirt is wrinkled, there's a Rorschach stain on your pants because of an unfortunate ketchup incident, and your hair has taken on the appearance of the "before" photo in a hair product commercial.

If "looking good on the go" were a ship, it would have sailed a long time ago.


Truth is, whatever your mode of travel, looking your best starts long before departure. To prep like a pro, you'll want to strategically select certain luggage pieces, clothing items, and hair and skin care products.

Overwhelmed? No need. Becoming a gorgeous (or handsome) traveler is even easier than entering an online bidding war for a mystery hotel room. Start with your wardrobe. Select a two- or three-color palette and stick with it. With a few pairs of pants and shirts, and a couple of cardigans or jackets, you can mix and match the separates for different looks and end up packing fewer items. Add a few accessories to your wardrobe, like scarves, belts and jewelry, and you'll have even more options.

Tencel, known generically as lyocell, is a fabric made from wood pulp that's wrinkle resistant and often blended with cotton, silk and other materials. Polyester, polyester blends and spandex blends tend to wrinkle less, too, thanks to a manufacturing process that impregnates the cloth with resin and helps it maintain its original shape.

In general, to avoid wrinkled clothing as you travel, keep this guide in mind:

• Choose thick fabrics over thin.

• Choose loosely woven fabrics over tightly woven.

• Choose print fabrics over solids (the prints make wrinkles less noticeable).

[source: O'Donnell]

Pay attention to the terminology used on fabric labels, too. "Wrinkle resistant" means a fabric won't take on a raisinlike texture after a few hours in the car, but that it still might benefit from a gentle smoothing with a warm iron. "Wrinkle free," on the other hand, refers to garments that can be washed, dried and worn without any ironing [source: Tasker].


Travel Fashion: Get the Right Gear

Think travel's glamor days have waned? When men wore sporting suits, ties and freshly shined shoes and women sported chic ensembles with matching hats and handbags? In most places, stylish travel wear has given way to gym shorts and flip-flops. You may even spot an occasional pair of pajama pants and slippers in the airport security line or highway rest stop.

Of course, you can do your part to raise the bar. For starters, don't go hither and yon toting subpar luggage. There are a number of luggage options that won't cost a fortune, but that will add some color, texture and panache to your travel style.


Check out discount stores like T.J. Maxx, Tuesday Morning and Ross for sometimes name brand, durable luggage. Occasionally, you'll find matching sets (if that's your thing) and most of the time you can find a carry-on bag and 26-inch (66-centimenter) wheeled suitcase for about $80 total.

Sporting goods stores are good places to pick up a large duffel bag, a piece of luggage that will come in handy if you're traveling internationally or for extended periods. You could even fold a large duffel compactly and pack it into your suitcase, in case you need more storage on the way home. Also watch sales at sporting goods stores to pick up a backpack for less than $30 that can double as a personal item during air travel or provide handy access to your wallet and a change of clothes during car travel.

If you're packing business or formal attire, a garment bag is a good investment because it will help keep clothes crease-free -- especially if it's equipped with straps that hold your clothes in place. Inspect the hook from which the garment bag will hang in the closet; it should be heavy-duty-enough to handle the weight of clothes [sources: Fodor, Steele].


Travel Fashion: Recognize Quality and Pack Like a Pro

Luggage needs to be able to withstand everything from rough baggage handlers to cobblestone streets.
Luggage needs to be able to withstand everything from rough baggage handlers to cobblestone streets.
© Henrik Trygg/Corbis

High-quality luggage certainly helps make packing and traveling easier. But to be sure your equipment can withstand the wear and tear of luggage corrals, bumpy streets and crushing trunk space, check for these signs of quality materials and construction:

  • An inner-frame made of lightweight fiberglass, aluminum or molded plastic. Read the luggage tag, which should list the frame materials.
  • Ballistic nylon, or for a less expensive alternative, Cordura nylon. Steer clear of tweed or brocade fabrics; they look good but aren't durable and can be slashed by sharp objects. Most nylons will be waterproofed; the label should indicate this. Solid (or full-grain) leather that is made of one continuous piece of animal hide is durable, but too heavy for convenient hoisting.
  • Sturdy zippers and seams. Zippers should have large, hefty pulls and a layer of reinforced cloth that connects the zipper to the bag. Seams on the outside of the luggage should be covered in nylon piping or an extra layer of material to help them stand up to additional wear and tear [sources: Fodor, Steele].

Once you have the proper gear, consider your packing techniques. Even if you're able to fold T-shirts like a mall employee at closing time, this skill just doesn't translate when it comes to suitcases.


One space-saving technique is to roll your clothing. Either roll individual garments or, to help prevent wrinkles, create a giant jellyroll by rolling them up together. To do this, place the items most likely to crease on the floor or another large, flat surface -- think dress shirts and blouses. Top them with cardigans and T-shirts, smoothing wrinkles and folding the sleeves toward the center of the garment as you go. Lastly, fold pants lengthwise so the legs are atop one another, then fold them again to resemble a rectangular shape. Place the cuff of the jeans atop the hem of the shirts and start rolling as tightly as you can. Just be sure your suitcase is nearby (and open) so you can place the rolled up bundle inside [source: Klurman].

Next, add your shoes to the suitcase and place your undergarments in lingerie bags packed into the nooks and crannies of your suitcase, along with extras, like a travel umbrella.

If you're traveling by air, remember to wear your largest pair of slip-on shoes to the airport. This way, they won't take up valuable suitcase room.


Travel Fashion: Look Good When You Get There

So your bags are sturdy and your clothing is neatly rolled away inside. Ready to arrive at your destination looking refreshed rather than road worn? We'll let you in on a few tips that will keep you looking like a million bucks instead of a buck-fifty.

First, let's talk hair. If you have short hair, styling is probably a fairly simple process. If you have shoulder-length or longer hair, it may be a whole other story. There's just something about heading from one destination to the next that seems to encourage static flyaways or lifeless strands. Fight back by styling your hair as you travel.


Make a high ponytail on the crown of your head and secure it with an elastic band. Gently twist the ponytail into a bun, securing it with a few bobby pins. This process works well with damp, not wet, hair, so no need to spend valuable pre-travel prep time blow-drying your hair. While you travel, keep your hair in this sleek, neat bun. Before you arrive at your destination, take your hair down and tousle it with your fingertips. Voila! Casual waves with plenty of body [source: Sandoval].

To create the appearance of dewy skin, apply a dab of facial moisturizer. Use blotting papers -- highly absorbent small sheets used to soak up facial oils -- to reduce the shine of oily skin. Touch up your makeup by keeping a kit with travel-size containers handy, including a combination lip/cheek color in a rosy shade that will lend a healthy-looking glow to your skin [source: Bouchez].

Along with a clean change of clothes (you never know when a stain will strike), keep an emergency sewing kit close. You may only need it once, but the one time you do, you'll really, really need it. You can buy these ready-made or make your own: You'll need a needle, neutral thread, buttons and safety pins in several sizes. Pop everything into an empty throat lozenge tin and you're good to go [source: Centeno].


Lots More Information

Author's Note: Travel Fashion: How to Look Good on the Go

I love to travel, but I am not an exemplary airplane passenger. Don't get me wrong: I'm not afraid of air travel; I'm just easily bored. I can read through a stack of magazines at the speed of an Olympic sprinter and wrap-up the various and sundry "travel projects" packed in my carry-on long before the plane lands. Oh, for an acting troupe that could travel the aisles to entertain weary passengers. "More singing! More dancing!" is the refrain that comes to mind.

Related Articles

  • Bouchez, Colette. "18 Travel Beauty Tips -- to Go." WebMD. (March 18, 2013)
  • Centeno, Antonio. "Looking Sharp While Traveling the World." Jan. 25, 2011. (March 18, 2013) The Art of Manliness.
  • Fodor. "Nine Steps to Perfect Luggage." Fodor's. Aug. 26, 2007. (March 18, 2013)
  • Ford, Allison. "Eight Great Smartphone Beauty Apps: Look Good on the Go." Divine Caroline. (March 18, 2013)
  • Klurman, Melissa. "Six Tips for Wrinkle-Free Packing." Sept. 7, 2007. (March 18, 2013)
  • O'Donnell, Jayne. "Which Fabrics Help Take The Wrinkles Out of Travel." USA Today. Sept. 9, 2001. (March 18, 2013)
  • Sandoval, Eva. "How to Look Good When Your Plane Lands." Tripwolf. Dec. 29, 2011. (March 18, 2013)
  • Steele, Jason. "Four Types of Luggage Your Need Traveling on Flights -- For Less Than $150." Money Crashers. (March 18, 2013)
  • Tasker, Fred. "A New Wrinkle -- Shirts That Shed Wrinkles Are Pretty Hot Stuff in Men's Wear." The Seattle Times. Sept. 14, 1994. (March 18, 2013)