Tips to Travel Light and Dress Well at the Same Time

Young Chinese businessman using laptop in airport
09 Jan 2024

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If you’re the kind of guy who likes to throw things in your bag indiscriminately (because you leave packing to the last minute), this article is for you! You may be traveling for business. You may be going on vacation. Either way, you don’t want to be weighed down.

The good news is that whittling your packing list down to the travel essentials is easy when you have a plan and stick to it. In this post, we’re going to talk about traveling light and dressing well at the same time. And while you may think that’s an impossible dream, I’m here to tell you it’s not! Let’s figure out how to travel light and look great doing it.

Little Bag, Big Style

Business, pleasure, family, friends, weddings, and all the rest of life’s travel moments may have you turning on a dime. But if you know what you’re doing, you can do it effortlessly.

The first rule of travel is to pack clothing that either doesn’t wrinkle at all or only wrinkles minimally. There’s nothing less stylish than a sadly creased pair of chinos or a once-proud suit, pulled from your suitcase looking crumpled and deflated. Also, choose darker colors that don’t show stains, especially for pants because pants are food spill magnets!

Know where you’re going and what’s required, then ensure you have all the pieces you need to create looks that suit the theme of your journey. You don’t need a lot. What you need is seamless style, with pieces that look good together in several configurations.

No Checked Baggage

If you’re one of those travel cowboys who objects to checking a bag, then you need to be a packing prodigy. You’re probably wearing your lynchpin trousers on the plane with a jacket. You may have on a T-shirt under a shirt to spare more space in your backpack or carry-on bag.

Small items like socks and underwear should be laid flat against the bottom and sides of your bag. Everything else you pack should be rolled to conserve space. Choose a toiletries bag that lays flat—and don’t forget to check on what’s allowable to take on board. Also, check in with your airline on the allowable size for a carry-on bag.

Take only what you need and remember that lightweight, smaller items can be hand-washed and hung to dry. Other items can be laundered once a week. With a travel wardrobe that’s selected for versatility, durability, wrinkle-resistance, and stain camouflage, you probably won’t need to do more for larger items than spot clean.

If you’re traveling with a MacBook, the device should be kept close to you and stowed securely, preferably in a pocket that sits against your body and is difficult for sticky fingers to access. And by all means, ensure that your device is properly protected with phone cases and laptop locks. Anything can happen out there, so protect your investment.

Minimalist Elegance

Elegance is an intangible but you know it when you see it. And there’s nothing more elegant than a man with a small bag and big style. What you’re shooting for is the look of a seasoned traveler, well-versed in the rules of intercontinental elegance.

And here those rules are:

Monochromatic Colors

Avoid packing clothing that’s all black. First of all, this is not appropriate for work, festive occasions, or even leisure, really, unless you’re a committed beatnik or traveling to a funeral.

Instead, think about navy, chocolate brown, or gray men’s designer clothes that provide your travel wardrobe with a pulse. All these colors can be combined, especially with the addition of a white shirt or T-shirt. The key is a monochromatic foundation.

The Versatile, Stylish Coat or Jacket

Depending on the season, you’ll need some kind of outerwear. Even if you’re traveling in summer, airplanes can be frigid places, so think about an appropriate coat or jacket.

If you’re traveling in winter, a leather jacket in a sleek moto style is a good bet. A good quality leather jacket that’s well put together completes a variety of looks in numerous settings. If you prefer a jacket that covers your hips, then try a belted one with lapels. If you’re taking a suit with you, this is the perfect jacket for your trip. Tone the jacket into your monochromatic color scheme, and yes—black leather goes with pretty well everything. Wear it on the plane to conserve carry-on space!


For business or special occasion travel, you’ll need a pair of smart dress shoes. Tuck them into your carry on in cloth shoe bags to keep the shine on them for the main event, packing them lengthwise.

On the plane, a pair of stylish, casual shoes are all you need. And that’s that. Those casual shoes should tone in with your monochromatic theme. They might be black, like your leather jacket. If that’s too “matchy pooh” for you, try a deep gray or navy pair.


The white shirt is a classic every man should have in his wardrobe. If white is your Waterloo because you’re a spiller, try a pinstriped shirt or a plain shirt in a beautiful color that works with the tie you’ll wear. That shirt should be able to do double duty as casual wear.

Two T-shirts should be sufficient if you wear one and rinse one out at night. One might be white and the other a hue that contrasts with your monochromatic look for a pop of color that sets your look off. Always use opportunities like shirts and T-shirts to add serious style savvy to your travel look.

Plan, Baby, Plan

With these tips, you’ll be traveling light and dressing well. People may believe it’s some kind of magic trick but you’ll know the truth! Planning your travel wardrobe and how you’ll wear it is what the smart traveler does, always unruffled, unwrinkled, and looking as sharp as a tack!

Tess DiNapoli

Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer, and content strategist. She has a passion for yoga and often writes about health and wellness, but also enjoys covering the fashion industry and world of fitness.

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