I love pretty much everything about travel... except packing. There are so many questions. What will the weather do? How do I know what I'll need? What won't get wrinkled? Someone must have this figured out, right?
It turns out a few people do. I asked a bunch of well-traveled women from around the U.S. and abroad to share one of their essential travel pieces. And voila! Their suggestions make up a complete wardrobe that goes places. Check 'em off, ladies:
Trendy walking boots
Seattle-based photographer and travel blogger Richele Kuhlmann says she's long been on the hunt for her own version of "world walkers" -- hip boots that are comfortable for long sojourns in both urban and rural settings. "I finally hit the jackpot with Teva's De La Vina boots," she says. One of her favorite features is their heavy grip rubber soles, which are rugged and durable but not clunky. She also loves their fashion versatility, because "they look effortlessly great with whatever I'm wearing -- leggings, skirts, jeans, even cargo pants."
A wrap dress
"I always pack a wrap dress," says Dawn Duncan, owner of Colorado-based Yellowbright Inc. "I love black, but I also like patterns and brighter colors." There's so much versatility, because they can be worn day into night, dressed down with sandals or flats, and then dressed for up evening by adding jewelry, a scarf, heels, and a clutch.
Wraps, scarfs, and sarongs
Pretty much every woman I talked with suggested these versatile accessories. Tara Russell, founder of San Francisco-based Three Month Visa Coaching and Consulting says she always packs a wrap in light wool or cashmere "because it's a multi-tasking powerhouse that can serve as a head covering when visiting religious sites or as a blanket for chilly plane or train rides. In a pinch, it can even be used to carry things home from the market."
Similarly, Aussie Anny Reed never goes anywhere without a Stampato cotton sarong. "I have several in different colors, some with beautiful fine patterns," she says. "My favorite right now is dusky pink." The diversity is amazing: She's used them as sheets, blankets, towels, something to sit on, and as a picnic blanket.
Because she likes to be ready for anything, Take Your Big Trip blogger Kristin Zibell always packs black leggings for travel. "They can serve as tights, pants, and pajamas, and they roll up easily in any pack and don't show dirt," she says. She particularly likes this pair by Hue, because they're thick enough for a warm layer and light enough for warmer, humid climates. Also, bringing leggings to more conservative countries like India or Turkey is smart, because they cover your legs, extending your wardrobe of shorter dresses into outfits.
Lavinia Spalding, author and series editor of the Travelers' Tales "The Best Women's Travel Writing," says she loves comfy and cute shoes when she travels, and ballet flats are her go-to. "They have enough padding to be comfortable walking on cobblestones, but they're also cute enough for impromptu salsa dancing," she says. She's recommends Tsubo's Honnor or Tieks' Ballet Flat, but also notes that if you're on a tight budget, you can simply look around locally for something that fits.
A little black dress
Singer/songwriter Gabriella Coniglio never leaves home without a stretchy short black dress. "I can wear it on its own, over my swimsuit at the beach or hiking, or layered over and under other clothes, depending on the temperature, event, and modesty required," she says. Her go-to dress is one she picked up at a thrift shop more than eight years ago. This is encouraging for the budget-conscious traveler. Start searching!
For the woman who wants the best of both worlds--the timeless style of a skirt and the practicality of shorts--artist Faye Augustine suggests having a few skorts on hand. "I can't get by without mine," she says. She especially loves the many options available at L.L. Bean. And it's true, if you look through their selection, they have skorts for pretty much everything: fitness, trail, urban sightseeing, and water sports.
For anyone who's embarking on an off-the-beaten-path adventure, Carolyn Songin, a yoga teacher and concierge who lives in remote Mexico, recommends breathable sandals, especially those made by Chaco. "These sandals are perfect for walking in my day-to-day life, and also for hiking," she says. She loves their great ankle and foot support "with a little style."
Laurie Weed, writer, editor, and campervan enthusiast, also recommends, the Keen Newport H2. "My feet, which are wide, feel supported by them," she says. "They can go up the mountain, to the beach, or into the river; getting a little wet or even a lot wet makes no difference to them." And when they start to stink, as all sport sandals will, you can just throw them in a washer or sinkful of suds, and after an hour or so in the sun, they're good to go again.
This article first appeared at Thought Catalog.