Women's travel clothing is an investment. You'd like to use what you buy on many trips to come - at least that's the idea.
So which items will give you the best value for money and how do you choose from the millions of items? What exactly should you look for? What are the best travel clothes for women?
These 19 questions will guide you in your choice of travel wardrobe: the more ticks in the box, the greater the chance you'll still be happy with an item half a dozen trips from now.
1. How comfortable is it?
You don't want your skin chafing from tight waistbands in the heat or trousers so tight you can't breathe when you walk. Comfortable travel clothes will keep you out and about longer than those that constrict you.
2. How much does it weigh?
These days, baggage allowances are going down and we have to pack as light as possible if we want to avoid excess charges (and lugging around more weight than makes sense). Lightweight travel clothes will allow you to pack more variety!
3. How quickly does it dry?
Traveling light means having enough clothes for every occasion without packing your entire closet. Especially important in the quick dry travel clothing category are your travel underwear and travel bras.
4. How easily does it wrinkle?
Natural linen is beautiful but it isn't convenient for easy travel (unless you're staying in a luxury hotel with pressing services). The best clothes for travel tend to be made of mixed fibers that are part natural part synthetic. Not only will these wrinkle less but they'll often dry faster. (This is particularly important if you're on a long-haul flight.)
5. How sturdy is it?
If you plan to wash something by hand often, it had better be sturdy and well made. Otherwise it might fall apart at the first rinse. This is where paying a bit more pays off. Also, some materials are more resistant than others to stains and dirt. Wear a natural fiber in black or white and you'll see what I mean. Will this item 'hide' a full day's wear easily? The best travel clothing brands will save you money by lasting longer.
6. How versatile and flexible is it?
To travel light you'll want something that can do double duty. A cheerful travel pouch or scarf can be both decorative and practical. A sarong can be used as a beach spread, a sheet over your hammock, or as a scarf.
7. Will the color hold?
Good travel clothes shouldn't run at first wash or look dull almost immediately. You want something that will look as new at the end of your trip as it does at the beginning.
8. Is it sprayable?
This is only something you have to worry about if you're heading where there are mosquitoes or other stinging beasts. If you are, make sure your clothes are sprayable with repellent and don't disintegrate in your hands at the harsh chemical treatment. Or - buy mosquito repellent clothing.
9. How secure is it?
You shouldn't neglect safety. Do your travel pants have a secure pocket? Does your travel skirt have a secret compartment? Think either zippers, because they're hard to get into, or velcro, because the noise will alert you if someone tries to sneak a hand in.
10. How appropriate is this item of clothing?
If you're planning to spend most of the time on your feet, leave those slim heels at home and consider a good pair of women's walking shoes, hiking sandals or hiking boots.
11. How culturally suitable is it?
If you plan on visiting plenty of churches or mosques, you won't need shorts or deep necklines. Make sure what you take 'fits in' with local mores. This doesn't mean you should dress like a local - there's a time and a place for that.
12. Is it temperature-appropriate?
Off to Finland in February? You'll want cold weather clothes. Greece in July? A travel hat is a must. November in Seattle? Waterproof clothing! (And if you want to check the weather at your destination, I've found Weather Underground to be pretty accurate.)
13. Is it resistant to UV rays?
Prepare beforehand for any long stay in the sun and if you're sensitive, take UV-resistant tops and trousers with you (and a good pair of sunglasses and a hat, of course).
14. Is it water-repellent?
If you're traveling during the rainy season this is worth a thought. You're not going to wear raingear everywhere but if your jacket repels water as well as keeps out the wind, it'll do double duty and be more practical.
15. How much does it cost?
Good travel wear isn't about getting the cheapest item, but the best item for the price you are paying. You want value above all, something that answers these questions at a reasonable price.
16. How compatible is it with the rest of your travel wardrobe?
Mixing and matching will help you travel light with what will seem like an endless wardrobe. Try to stick to a specific palette of colors and use prints and unusual colors as accents or accessories.
17. Does it look good?
No matter how resistant, practical, comfortable and cheap - if it looks like you're wearing a sack you won't wear it at all, so this may be last on the list - but it's a question that should be answered with a resounding YES! Stylish travel clothes will enhance your confidence by making you look good... Will it double as evening wear in case of an unexpected dinner with royalty?
18. Will it always fit?
Are you a woman whose weight fluctuates? If you are, make sure you don't get anything too tailored. Otherwise, a little weight gain and next thing you know you'll be huffing and puffing.
19. How practical is it?
Say you buy a few too many souvenirs and you can't fit another feather into your already heavy luggage: do you have a travel vest or jacket whose pockets you can stuff?
The best travel clothes for women are those that reflect quality, even if it is a little more expensive. There's nothing like good seams, strong stitching and fine finishing when it comes to making clothes last and look good, no matter how long you're on the road.