How To Avoid Dressing Like A Tourist
It’s easy to list off clichés when it comes to talking about holiday dressing, even more so when you introduce the word ‘tourist’. Images of slightly sunburnt, map-wielding, camera-juggling pedestrians come to mind, and let’s not even mention the ubiquitous ‘bum bag’. While for most of us these are more than a little extreme, particularly if you are a regular traveller, we’re still more often than not falling short when it comes to packing for holidays.
Emily Norval is a London-based journalist, specialising in the fashion and retail sector. She frequently travels to fashion weeks and major events to cover the next trends in the industry.
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Perhaps it’s the last-minute struggle to just throw everything into a suitcase when other organisational priorities take precedence – passports, travel documents, packing for the kids and more. There’s also the fact that a lot of us have what we consider a ‘holiday wardrobe’, which maybe makes an appearance twice a year, without much consideration in between. Those cropped linen trousers and city shorts might still be in good nick as they’re only worn for brief periods at a time, but their infrequency of use often means they can be a few seasons out of style, or out of sync with our current appearance.
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Taking some time to consider how we dress when we’re heading away brings several advantages, not least of which is the obvious fact that when we feel good about ourselves, we’re more likely to have a good time. There’s also the practical issue that dressing ‘like a tourist’ can mark us out when we’re abroad as a stranger, leaving us vulnerable to being targeted for anything from raised prices to pickpocketing.
While fashion choices are hardly the biggest issue in that respect – keeping a cool head and staying prepared are far more important – there’s definitely something to be said for looking the part when it comes to having a great, and perhaps more authentic, time on holiday.
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Nowadays, there’s no excuse for ignoring the boy scout motto of always being prepared. The internet in all its glory has given us access to more information than we’ll ever need, which is particularly handy for travel. Keep an eye on the local weather at your destination for a week or so before your trip and you should have a good idea of what to expect.
You can usually get at least a guide of five to seven days in advance as well, which will help with your packing. There are few things that mark you out more quickly as a tourist than being the one family without jackets during a rainy season.
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There will never be a good excuse for having to resort to those tourist-trap plastic ponchos (we’ve all seen them at some point) and the same goes for last-minute sun hat purchases during unexpected bouts of blazing sun. The key to packing well, particularly when it comes to a city break, is layering. From base layers, to lightweight jumpers and jackets which can be piled up during colder spells and stripped off during hotter moments, it’s essential not to rely on one look only.
Unless it’s guaranteed to be warm for the duration, packing only dresses or only jeans, is likely to end in discomfort at least part of the time. Simple pieces that fold easily, like a cashmere scarf, will make all the difference – sparing room in your suitcase that doesn’t need to be reserved just for bulky items.
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Check ahead also to find out about facilities in your hotel or local area. Do the bedrooms come with an iron? Is there a laundry service? Knowing ahead of time will save a lot of stress. A two week trip away doesn’t mean fourteen sets of underwear per traveller if there’s an in-house laundry facility.
Consider also the dress restrictions in particular restaurants or hotels you might want to visit. In the US, for example, many premium hotels insist on both jackets and ties for men in the restaurant and lounge facilities, while other places have strict policies about poolside dining during the day (no sandals, etc).
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Try and get some inside knowledge regarding how the locals dress at your destination and consider what you will be packing on that basis. This means being aware of the clichés; very few people in Paris actually wear striped tops and berets, no matter what the films suggest. The biggest mistake we tend to make is thinking too much in practical terms.
The worry of being out all day, on our feet, makes us veer towards what we deem to be ‘sensible’ choices for dressing, although the reality is that we spend most of our lives out and about, on our feet anyway. If you wouldn’t wear something out for the day in your local area, then don’t take it away with you on holiday.
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One of the many benefits of travelling is to also collect mementos from your time away and these can often come in the form of fashion pieces. However, beware the temptation to delve too far into the world of local dress – flowing skirts and colourful kaftans might look fantastic on the residents but will they work for you? Try considering pieces of jewellery instead, from local markets, which will evoke memories of your trip and add interest and colour to your look, without overstepping the mark.
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Keep It Fresh
Finally, take as much care with your holiday wardrobe as you do with your regular wardrobe. Don’t fall into the trap of saving pieces just to take abroad, or keeping items for too long simply because they’re suited to a certain kind of weather. Go through your summer or winter apparel ahead of the season, throw away anything that you haven’t worn for over a year and stock up on key items at the time they come available. Try things on and make sure that they still fit well and are suited to your style. When you travel, you want to feel good and enjoy yourself, which means tailoring your packing to suit your trip.
Trust us, you’ll want to keep your precious memories as pictures and in the end, you’ll be grateful for having put a little extra thought in when they’re on display forever.