Road trips are a brilliant way to travel on a budget, explore at your own pace and discover incredible places. Packing for this type of trip is more difficult than your average beach holiday or city break, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to cross both the style and substance boxes.
In this guide, we’ll take you from the runway to the road, providing top tips to help you curate the perfect road trip wardrobe.
Essential considerations for road trip dressing
There are several factors to consider when putting a wardrobe together for a road trip. These include:
Most of us automatically conjure up romantic images of classic cabriolets cruising along sweeping coastlines with a backdrop of crashing waves and sorbet sunsets when we think about road trips, but wall-to-wall sunshine is not a feature of all tarmac-based adventures. Road trips take place in all kinds of climates, and the weather conditions can be unpredictable, even in hot countries during the height of summer. Before you start packing, check the forecast and get an idea of what the weather is going to be like during your trip.
Unless there is a very high chance of uninterrupted sunshine and warm, balmy nights, it’s best to be prepared for different weather conditions. If you’re travelling outside of the summer months, or you’re visiting areas where rain is common or there is a risk of storms, it’s worth taking some layers with you. Make sure you have a waterproof jacket and suitable footwear.
Whether you’re driving in a car, hiring an RV or exploring on two wheels, consider the climate. You want to ensure that you’re comfortable while travelling. If it’s very humid, for example, opt for lightweight pieces made from natural fabrics.
Road trips cover a dazzling array of adventures. One traveller’s itinerary may be very different from another’s. When you’re curating your wardrobe, consider your plans carefully. What are you going to be doing on your trip and what kinds of clothing and outfits do you need? Some people may be planning to spend every day at the beach and their evenings around a campfire while others may have trips to attractions, nights out or cultural experiences in mind. Figure out whether you need casual or smart clothing or a combination of the two and start writing a packing list. If you’re an intrepid adventurer, you’ll need to ensure that you have the relevant clothing, footwear and equipment. If you’re moving from one city to the next and you’re keen to sample restaurants and soak up the nightlife, you’ll need smarter, more glamorous ensembles. For sightseeing, it’s best to pack comfortable, stylish outfits you can dress up or down.
There are all kinds of accommodation options available for road trippers today. From camping and sleeping in an RV or a motorhome to booking luxury hotels and renting apartments, log cabins, beach houses or even treehouses, there’s something for everyone. Before you decide what to wear on your holiday, it’s a good idea to think about where you’re staying. If you’re sleeping in a tent, for example, it’s not practical to take a huge case full of clothes you would wear for fancy dinners. If you’re staying in hotels as well as glamping along the way, you might want to combine smart and casual clothing. Think about what you’ll be doing, the dress code and how much storage you’re likely to have.
No matter how far you’re driving, you need to prioritise comfort. Whether you’re on a motorbike zooming up the coast, or you’re navigating towns and cities or stretches of winding country lanes in a car or a campervan, comfort is key. Opt for soft, flexible fabrics and avoid anything that is too tight or restrictive. If you need to go from the car to a bar, for example, lay an outfit out on the back seat or pack a small bag so that you can change en route.
Safety is critical for every driver. The roads can be dangerous and there may be hazards lurking when you least expect them. The number one goal of any road trip should be to travel from A to B safely. There are multiple factors that impact safety while travelling. Most road accidents are caused by driver errors, including speeding, careless driving, distracted driving and failing to look before stopping, slowing down or turning into or out of a junction. If you’re injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you have the right to seek advice from a car or motorcycle accident lawyer, but if you’re at fault, you will be held liable for the crash. If you’re driving long distances, tiredness and distracted driving are major risk factors. It’s also essential to think about what you’re wearing. Footwear is particularly important when packing for a road trip. Trainers and flat shoes are much more suitable than flip-flops and high heels.
Tips for a stylish, practical road trip wardrobe
If you’re planning a road trip and you want to look your best, here are some top tips.
Create a capsule wardrobe
Capsule wardrobes are fantastic for all kinds of vacations and trips, but they’re particularly beneficial if you’re limited in terms of space or weight. If you can only take a small bag, for example, or you’re camping and you won’t have a lot of room to store clothes, a capsule wardrobe should be your new travel go-to.
To build your capsule wardrobe, start with the basics. Based on the weather forecast and the activities you have planned, choose a selection of essential pieces. For hot weather and sightseeing and beach trips, for example, opt for some plain tees and vests, throw-on dresses and skirts, a pair of shorts and a pair of lightweight trousers or jeans. Once you’ve got your foundation pieces, you can add a couple of statement items and some accessories. The idea is to mix and match items to create a host of different looks and add accessories to cater to different settings or occasions. Consider a jersey maxi dress, for example. You can go from the beach to a bar simply by swapping sandals for wedges and adding a bag, a belt and some jewellery. For a city break, team a cami with denim shorts or a midi skirt and add trainers or pumps and sunglasses for a cool, daytime look. Add a longline blazer, jewellery and block-heeled sandals for the evening.
Packing light is essential for a road trip. If you’re stopping off every couple of days, exploring different places, moving from one hotel to another or camping, you don’t want to be lugging heavy bags with you. Curate your capsule wardrobe, go through every item and ask yourself if it’s necessary and use packing hacks to make the most of every centimetre of your case. Roll clothes, store underwear in your shoes and try to limit bulky items. If you’re going on a trip with your partner or friends or family members, share toiletries and appliances like hair dryers and straighteners. If you’re travelling in groups, it’s also worth seeing if you can share and swap clothes.
Embracing versatility is an excellent way to master the art of packing light. Focus on items that you can wear for different activities or events, pieces you can dress up or down and layers you can add or take away. Co-ords are a fabulous choice for style-conscious travellers. If you have a matching top and trousers, for example, you’ve got three outfits before you even mix and match tops and bottoms. You can wear the outfit as a co-ord, wear the top with different bottoms and team the skirt or trousers with a different top. From there, you can add different tops and bottoms to the mix and use accessories to create a different aesthetic. Examples include shoes, bags, sunglasses, jewellery, hats and belts.
Celebrate your personal style
It’s great to take inspiration from fashion magazines, celebrities and social media, but fashion is subjective and you should always feel free to celebrate your personal style. Don’t feel that you have to dress a certain way just because it’s on trend. Your capsule wardrobe should be practical and functional, but there’s always room to add creativity and flair. Even if you’re going on a no-frills camping holiday, you can still channel your style. Choose outfits that make you feel comfortable and confident.
Road trips are exhilarating, but they can pose difficulties when it comes to packing. If you’re driving long distances, you’re hopping from one hotel to another or you have multiple destinations in your itinerary, it’s beneficial to pack light and create a stylish, cool, practical capsule wardrobe. Before you start packing and planning outfits, consider the climate and weather forecast, where you’re staying and what you’ll be doing. Prioritise comfort and safety. Build a versatile, functional road trip wardrobe by starting with basics and adding statement pieces and accessories.