Some people have asked, and now I’m sharing in a series of blog posts, what I packed on my recent trip to Uganda, Israel, Italy and the UK. Multi-country trips are definitely a challenge … especially in the shoe department. For me, the “three-pair and no more” rule is painful. For me, it’s like having to choose between Jim Caviezel and Hugh Jackman. (If only.)
Also, who wants to look like a tackily clad tourist or a backpacker 24/7? Not moi! On the other hand, you can’t exactly traipse around the countryside in your Hermès sandals or your Chanel “little black dress.” (I own neither, even though my cat’s name is Coco Kitty Chanel. What can I say? She’s a designer cat—a sweet, but snooty Ragdoll.)
Not to worry, my fellow middle-aged fashion mavens … the practical and the chic can coexist—even peacefully. (It helps that I’ve been buying and selling vintage and high-end designer clothes on eBay since 2008.)
I don’t claim to be a travel wear expert. But I do have a strong sense of style and aesthetics. Plus, my travels have taught me a lot about what works … and what doesn’t. Check out this series of travel wear blog posts. I promise, if nothing else, you will be entertained.
What to wear en route?
“Oy vey! What am I going to wear on the plane?” While entertaining even a modicum of angst over this dilemma is inarguably a first-world problem, there’s also some wisdom to be had in doing it right. For one, you don’t want to be like my sister who held up the line at airport security en route to France because she couldn’t remember where she had put things in her pocket-laden travel vest. I can relate. My cupboards are hideously disorganized for the simple reason I can’t remember where anything “belongs.” Chalk that up to ADHD.
Even the Coach crossbody purse I bought (because I had read that a crossbody was the safest way to guard against pickpockets) confuses me to no end. Three pockets for me means three more ways to get befuddled. “Let’s see … did I put my wallet in the middle or in side #1?” “Where’s my phone?” “Where’s my boarding pass … oh, here it is! Nope, that’s the old one.”
Come on, Jenni my girl, how hard can this be?” (Side note: Stop the negative self-talk. Embrace both your strengths and your weaknesses and find a workaround for your foibles and fallibilities. Or as my daughter said, “Mom, just pretend you’re a rocket scientist. Then you can fully embrace your absent-mindedness.”)
So what was I going to wear on the plane? That’s what I asked myself before my trip several months ago to Cornwall (UK)— and beyond to Italy, Israel and Uganda. Really, I didn’t have a clue. Here I was going from sunny LA to foggy, foggy dew London. We’re talking mercurial weather that could go any which way (pretty much like my personality).
“Wear a lot of layers” … “Wear your heaviest shoes” … “Wear slip-ons so you can go through security faster.” Really, there’s no end of “expert” travel advice on the web.
So here, after tons of research, and at the risk of this blog sounding like I’m a shill for Patagonia, REI or Acne Studios shoes, is some of what I ended up wearing en route and during my travels to four countries. (Side note: Being a cultural hybrid of NorCal and SoCal, I’m always split between the practical and the chic.)
But first, here’s my expert fashion suggestion on two of the best travel outfits you could ever wear … you know, the kind that will really🙃 get you noticed. 🙃
On the plane
Be sure to wear a tight fitting spandex jumpsuit, such as this 80s vintage one here. The shinier the better. Tight, baby. We’re talkin’ really tight. Make the heels spikes or platforms. Smack your gum and inform the flight attendant you work for a detective agency and you won’t take no lip from them trying to force you to give up your seat. What are you … a conservative talk show host? A Kentucky “doctor” who lost his license for running a prescription pain med mill?
Okay, so you’re no longer in your tight-arsed 20s, your cellulite is well, unforgiving, and you don’t have one single Insta travel post where every photo screams …
“Game of Thrones meets Rivendell meets a lost wedding party.”
What? This ISN’T how you and your friends all travel?
Me neither. So given that I don’t fancy having me hem of me long, white, flowy garment getting snagged on a craggy rock whereupon I would surely plunge immediately to my untimely doom—with no knight in shining armor to rescue me—it’s REI, Patagonia, Teva and Duluth Traders for me!
(At least en route and anytime on my trip that I’m forced to break a sweat.)
In between those earthy times, I like to think that I insert at least some glam into my travels. I’ll show those pics in another post.
Meanwhile, though this is the “mostly shoe edition” of my travel wear series, I’ll show you just one outfit I wore on the plane—from LA to Canada to Cornwall (UK). (More travel clothing photos from rest of the journey will be shown in a separate post. )
What you see here is so comfy, cute and very practical. Here’s why:
Jacket: Vintage 70s Banana Republic Safari vest. It’s a men’s small, because frankly women’s outdoor vests never seem to have as many pockets as men. Don’t ask me why that is. Maybe “they” think all we carry is lipstick, a cell phone … and mace.
Who cares if this is a man’s vest? I liked the way it looked, plus it had a whole lot of pockets, inside and out. The big pockets fit my passport, wallet, plane ticket, lipstick, sunglasses, eyeglasses, wipes, snacks, travel papers (including my immunization record when I went to Uganda)—the whole kit and caboodle.
When the weather got warmer, I ditched the vest and just used my crossbody purse. However, for cooler weather, this vest beats a purse as it’s a walking storage unit … and so cool looking! Added bonus: It’s much harder for kleptos to steal anything from this “Fort Knox” of a vest. Walk the streets of Rome or wherever banditos ply their trade and trust me, with these zip-up pockets, thieves will look for more vulnerable prey than you when sizing up their next victim. (Tip: Watch Scam City on Netflix to get helpful lessons on how and where thieves steal from tourists.)
Aboud Plaid Cotton Shirt: This plaid flannel shirt is not a designer or any kind of high-end brand, but I chose it for its light weight, its softness and the vivid orange and blue colors. And because its high-low style covers my derriere. You over-50 chicks know what I’m talking about.
Vince Leggings. Nothing better to wear while sitting in a cramped seat flying for 18 hours. Plus, these Vince leggings (hello, Nordstrom Rack!) are hands-down the most well-fitting leggings I’ve found—and I’ve tried a lot! Most either bag, twist and/or slide down from my waist. Not these. They’re so great, I bought two pairs.
Arcopedico mesh shoes. I’ll review these in my shoe section below. I will mention that this shoe is so great, I bought two pairs (grey and orange) from a comfort shoe store in San Clemente, CA, called Sam’s Shoes. It’s an amazing store with good ol’ fashioned customer service that’s been around for over 60 years. Love, love this store! They don’t have a web site (they don’t need one), but you can read about them here. On some plane rides, I switched to my Arche Dricks shoes (also reviewed below.)
Oh … one more jacket that I stuffed into my backpack en route, just in case I wanted to switch out the vest or wear it over the vest for added warmth. I loved this hooded jacket from Duluth Traders … I wore it all the time. And still do when I tool about town.
Lightweight, yet warm (but not too warm), with lots of pockets and super good-looking. Great as a top layer with warmer clothes underneath, or by itself for slightly warmer days. I wore it in the UK almost every day!
SECOND FLOOR, SHOE DEPARTMENT
Okay, so let’s get more specific. Here are my winning, tried-and-true choices for practical yet stylin’ travelin’ shoes. I’ve also thrown in a few not-so-practical choices that you might want to bring (space permitting) for dressier occasions.
For the plane, I switched between two pairs. One pair were these easy on, easy off Made in France Arche Dricks. Fabulous shoe company that really has mastered the longed-for marriage of comfort and style.
At almost $300, these shoes are pricey … unless you’re a savvy shopper like moi and wait for these to come up on eBay … in excellent, pre-owned condition of course. I picked up mine for a cool $48.00—in the hard-to-find size 11 no less! I’m just going to go ahead and borrow the description of this shoe from the Nordstrom site: “Arche’s signature perforations style a chic French flat cut from rich nubuck and fitted with a supremely comfortable, shock-absorbing latex sole. A distinctive back zipper makes for easy on and off, while adding an extra touch of flair.” No hype here; this is all true, my fellow female travelers. I LOVE these shoes and get LOTS of compliments on them whenever I wear them. You will too.
Teva! Teva! Teva! While in Italy and Israel (and later Uganda), I wore these puppies everywhere. Hiking up and down the steep streets of Jerusalem, in the Dead Sea (yes, “in”—they’re waterproof!), descending into dark caves, and walking around the uber hot and dry Negev desert. Comfortable? You bet.
Sadly, I have Cinderella stepsister feet … size 11 W, a misshapen toe (due to a car accident at age 5), and on top of that a bunion (that I affectionately call “Paul.”) So trust me when I tell you, these sandals are as comfortable as they are versatile and good-looking.
But what about those days and places when you can’t (or shouldn’t) wear sandals? You need closed-toes shoes but can’t stand the idea of wearing hot, heavy, bulky walking/hiking/running shoes—or the idea of adding those extra pounds to an already jammed-tight suitcase. No worries, mate! Portugal, the cheapest country in which to retire (and where certain rowdy Brits are now persona non gratis), has the answer … Arcopedico!
Love, love, love these lightweight, super comfy mesh shoes with surprisingly great arch support. (I added an extra arch insert for longer treks). And so good looking … got lots of compliments on these fabulous shoes. Loved them so much that I bought two pair … one in bright orange and the other in gun-metal grey, for my I-want-to-blend-in-with-the-mist-and-the-moor-fog days. What do you think?
First, I don’t run (unless I’m being chased by a handsome, tall Italian or Israeli man, in which case I would be running towards them, hair blowing in the wind, with culture-specific romantic music cued up). But I do walk and hike. Therefore, I wasn’t willing to trade my fave Eileen Fisher wedges (see below for dressy sandals) for a pair of walking shoes. Sure, they’re practical, but not very versatile … and too heavy for a suitcase when weight becomes a prime issue. However, IF I had the extra room and knew I was going to walk for hours in the Negev desert (which would only happen if the camels had gone on strike), I would wear my ASICS Women’s Gel Cushion Guidance line walking/running shoes. They’re more lightweight than most, plus I had custom insoles made for them. Again, for me, big feet, a thrice-broken toe and a bunion require special handling in the shoe department—at least when it comes to taking long walks, etc.
Enough with the Practical Already
But wait! What about those travel days when your outfit just begs for some semi-dressy heels? Those days when you know you’ll still have to walk a ways … more than just from your rental car (or train) to a restaurant? This begs the $64K question that all wide-footed women with all sorts of other podiatry issues always ask:
IS THERE A SEMI-DRESSY SANDAL THAT THAT’S FLATTERING, FASHION-FORWARD AND FUNCTIONAL? Yep … and here it is!
It’s called the Eileen Fisher Sports wedge. A shoe so great looking that even my NYC/LA fashionista daughter wanted to borrow them. I bought the first pair in soft black leather, tried them out and then loved them so much that I bought another pair in Nubuck suede camel. I wore these everywhere and with a whole lot of outfits … leggings, skirts, dresses, you name it.
Let me tell you, I’ve gotten TONS of compliments on these shockingly comfortable shoes. At $195, they’re a bit on the pricey side and rarely go on sale—which is no surprise given their popularity. The good news is that if you’re patient, you can find a pair in near mint condition on eBay, as I did with the nubuck camel pair. ($65.). Otherwise, expect to pay full price at Nordstrom, Saks, Neiman’s or Zappos. But even then, trust me—they’re totally worth it.
Finally, although there are many more upscale designer shoes that I personally love, I’ll stick to these two great pairs of stylin’ booties that I picked up on eBay and Net-a-Porter for those travel (and non-travel) days when my boots aren’t just made for walkin’ … but they will get a lot of people talkin’ …
ACNE LEATHER PISTOL BOOTS – A coveted Acne Studios brand style that’s hard to find, but find them I did—and for a song (relatively) on eBay. Love the look. As for the comfort? Well, they’re not Birkenstocks, but they’ll not let you down for just toolin’ ‘round town.
ISA TAPIA – Love these “techno-glitz” Isa Tapia booties. Not overkill—they have just enough shine to remind you—yes you!—that while you may be “over the hill” (it’s time to redefine “hill”), you haven’t lost that thrill. Again, not made for walking long distances, but perfect for that evening out in Tel Aviv where you can flex your fashion muscles more readily than in Jerusalem. (Look for my upcoming blog post titled: Jerusalem vs Tel Aviv: A Tale of Two Cities.)
AQUATALIA – These made-in-the-shade suede Aquatalia booties are comfy, yet good-looking (always my goal). They’re my go-to bootie when I need a pair of non-black shoes or something a little dressier than my more cowboy-ish Freebirds. The perforated, stitched sides give it that little sass for any style-loving lass.
Conclusion – How many shoes to pack?
Taking any of these booties along with you on your travels is assuming, of course, that you can fit more than three pairs of shoes in your suitcases. The travel packing experts tell you that more than three is a big “no-no,” and I’m inclined to agree; after all, booties do take a LOT of room. So limit your booties to one pair … if that. I managed to stuff five pair of shoes into my two Tumi suitcases (including one pair of booties), with two in my carry-ons. (Make that my overhead carry-on and a backpack/purse. I’ll review travel luggage in a separate post.) That was only possible, mind you, because two of those pair were my nifty, soft and pliable Arcopedico’s from Portugal. Obrigado, Portugal!
Ok, so that about does it. Your fashion-forward guide to shoes that are “shoe-ins” for travel—whether taking long walks on the beach, trekking up and down the hilly streets of Jerusalem or going to a romantic dinner in Florence.
Was this guide helpful? Disagree with my choices? Enjoyed the writing? Please do leave a comment on this post to let me know.
Happy traveling and have a safe, but stylin’ journey! Stay tuned for my next blog post on what to pack for a four-country journey.