Traveling Vintage

When vintage is all you own, traveling can be a bit of a burden in a way. Between getting folds in garments, worrying about damage on the road, not to mention all of the other travel anxieties, it can get a little hectic.

Your Suitcase

I travel using vintage luggage.  This is for a handful of reasons.  First they look awesome.  Secondly, if you are flying and you check your luggage, your suitcase will be much easier to spot when it comes out onto the carousel.  Additionally, hard suitcases prevent any extra pressure put on your clothes (causing more wrinkling) by other people’s bags being placed on top of your suitcases in travel.  And if you’re fearful of bed bugs, you really may want to travel with a vintage suitcase.  Bed bugs may find a new home for themselves (and thus possibly follow you home) in the crevasses of an upholstered suitcase, where as they will not with a hard suitcase.  I currently own a medium sized suitcase (which fits the carry-on size restrictions), a small day suitcase, a round hatbox and a train case.  However, for most trips I only take the medium sized suitcase and the train case.


When selecting your items for your trip, try to focus on items that do not wrinkle too much. Or items that de-wrinkle quickly.  I often pack patio dresses or sets, since wrinkles are part of their charm. And any out of place wrinkles come out with ease by simply hanging up the dress in the bathroom while I take a hot shower.  In fact any cotton garment will do this, so cotton blouses are an excellent choice.  Sweaters (although you may not be packing those if you’re off to Honolulu!) are another good choice.  Don’t pack linen unless you have time for ironing. Linen wrinkles if you look at it wrong.

Traveling is also a perfect excuse to expand your vintage inspired or reproduction collection.  I own a handful of vintage inspired garments that I like to wear when traveling, or at events when I want to feel like myself, but there is risk of a party foul. After all, it is much better to ruin a new dress, than a vintage one that in most cases is irreplaceable.  Vintage inspired/repro is less worrisome, and thus, very much suited to travel.  Many trips, especially to Disneyland, find me in repro western wear and newer high-waisted jeans such as here and here.

A key to packing is learning how to fold garments well. The better you fold, the more you can pack, and the less wrinkles you will have when you arrive at your destination.

If you are traveling somewhere where a jacket is needed, try to bring just one, and wear it while traveling. It will leave more room in your suitcase.

Try to also travel with one or two pairs of shoes. This keeps your luggage down to a minimum.  And keeping your luggage to a minimum is key.  If you’re driving, it is likely that you will find yourself stopping at thrift stores and antique shops, and buying things! So you want to leave room in your car for your purchases.  And if you’re flying, you really want to try your best to stick to carry-ons only.  When you have vintage clothes, they are often unique and one-of-a-kind and losing them in transit is simply heartbreaking, so avoid that risk by traveling with carry-ons.

If you must take a crinoline on your trip, fold it into quarters length-wise, then in half (bringing the bottom to meet the top) and in half again, then place it into a regular sized plastic shopping bag, and put that bag into another in the reverse direction. That will keep it contained.

Traveling with liquids is necessary. But also risky.  I put all of my clothes into my suitcase, while keeping all of my cosmetics and other toiletries in my train case.  When traveling by air, you are now limited to three ounce bottles of liquids, which are then required to be put into a quart size clear bag which is to be taken out at the security check-point.  I often double bag my liquids, taking just an extra measure that the liquids don’t run all over the inside of my case.

For those who enjoy curling their hair, I got this tip from Brittany of Va-Voom Vintage: “A friend and fellow blogger came to St. Louis to visit me a few summers ago and the airline ripped her suitcase open due to her Conair hotsticks, There’s a whole lot of metal in a set of hotsticks and she ended up losing half of them when they searched her bag. I’d recommend rag rollers or pin curls!”

Prior to leaving, I highly suggest purchasing some sort of stain removal pen (if you don’t have one already) or travel size/single use laundry soap.  On our last trip I got some grease from a burger on a skirt and nearly lost it. I found myself moments later at a Target purchasing some single use pre-wash stain removal as well as travel size laundry soap to wash the skirt in the sink of our hotel room.

Car Travel

If you are traveling by car, I find that pants are the way to go.  I’m a fan of the bobby-soxer or gone-camping for road trips. This usually means a cotton blouse and high-waisted pants or capris, often paired with penny loafers, saddle shoes or flats.  Some flats are extremely versatile and one pair can often take you from casual travel time to a nice night out on the town, while not taking up a whole lot of space.

Air Travel

I am of the notion that flying is glamorous (blame the movie Catch Me If You Can), despite the hoops created by the TSA and how modern people dress.  I wear a dress, heels and a hat when flying.  I wear a hat, because doing a fancy hair-do can cause problems.  Bobby-pins have been known to set off metal detectors, and while I have not encountered this myself or heard anything yet, it wouldn’t surprise me if synthetic rats showed up on body scans.  Also, a friend of mine was flying while wearing a snood, and TSA patted it down.  A hat still offers style, but without any of the risk.

If you are a stockings lover, beware.  Garters do show up on body scans. And even if you show your garters (creating a very modern pin-up moment) you will still be patted down in either a partial (specific to the area of the anomaly) pat down or a full body pat down, possibly causing embarrassment, uncomfortably, and missing your flight!  And I know from experience.  If you are flying and you must have your seams, purchasing seamed pantyhose or tights, such as these by Pretty Polly or these from Nordstorm.

Other things that show up on body scans… large buttons. On my trip to Redlands in December I wore a classic wool dress with two snaps and a 1 1/2 inch fabric covered button (with metal backing). The button showed up on the body scan.  Right now I am unaware if it was because it was metal, however since the point of body scanners was to pick up plastic explosives, I am betting even large plastic ones would show up.

Train Travel

Traveling by train has a lot of perks.  It’s cheaper than flying, you can move around the train as you wish, have lots of room compared to air travel and you do not have to jump through the hoops of TSA security, so you can wear whatever you want!  I often opt for similar garb to flying, since train travel really is a delightful, old-timey way of getting from point A to point B and calls for something classy.

Bed Bugs

I have not experienced the horror that is bed bugs. And I sure hope I never do.  But they are something that no vintage lover wants to experience from what I understand.  First, check out The Bed Bug Registry for hotels that have had incidents.

Even if your hotel(s) have no cases, take caution. Do not put your suitcase on the bed. Instead use luggage racks, shelves or keep your suitcases in the bathroom and closed when you are not using them. Check out your bed, looking in the folds of the sheet, under the bed, in the bed skirt, and behind the headboard if possible. Black dots, trails and blood spots are all signs of bed bugs.

In Conclusion

I hope this post has been of help! If you have any more tips, please share them in the comments, and I will update the post as needed.

I’m off to California for a few days.  Patrick is going on business and I’m tagging along, planning on visiting with my sister and grandmother a bit. So it should also be noted that my Etsy shop will be closed for that period of time.  I doubt I’ll be blogging, but ya never know!

15 thoughts on “Traveling Vintage

  1. Ohhh such wonderful tips! I’ve been on the look out lately for some lovely vintage luggage and this makes me want to get some ASAP. I hope you have a lovely time on your trip!


  2. Great tips Janey!

    As much as I love vintage luggage I just can’t bring myself to use it while travelling. It’s heavier than new suitcases and while I try to pack light the convenience of being able to wheel around my lightweight modern suitcase will always win out for me.

    I love train travel. I think it’s definitely my favourite way to travel and it’s so much more romantic than air travel. 🙂

  3. Fantastic post!! A friend and fellow blogger came to st louis to visit me a few summers ago and the airline ripped her suitcase open due to her conair hotsticks, There’s a whole lot of metal in a set of hotsticks and she ended up losing half of them when they searched her bag. I’d recommend rag rollers or pin curls! Another girlfriend came to visit and since she did carry-on only she had to seriously limit her makeup contents due to the liquid.

  4. This is a great post! I’m just getting ready to leave my dorm for Christmas break and was wondering how to get my vintage style to be more mobile. Thanks for the insight!

  5. This is one of the best, most thorough posts I’ve seen on the topic of traveling with vintage clothes. Fantastic job, dear Janey!

    Bedbugs were a huge problem in Toronto. Thankfully they never affected us personally, but a healthy fear of them really shaped the places I’d stay, the streets we’d live on (using the Bedbug Registry), and where I’d shop for second hand items. Even though we now live in an area of the country that is much, much less affected by bedbugs, I don’t think I’ll stop being very careful in these regards. They’re horrible, terrifying creatures!

    ♥ Jessica

  6. I didn’t realise that bed bugs were such an issue…good recomendations to combat them when I do travel o/seas. Wishing you a great holiday and hopefully great shopping too, I hear California can be a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to vintage. xx Shauna

  7. I use vintage suitcases when I travel by car, but never by plane, I have had a very bad experience with vintage ones and almost lost a full suitcase of vintage clothes because it opened during the flight… hopefully I used 2 straps to secure this suitcase, one was lost and the last small stap saved my clothes… Vintage suitcases from the 40’s-50’s were not created to survive our modern flights!!!!
    I never wear hats for overseas flight, often snoods, more easy to sleep… Never wear a petticoat by plane, I like knit sweaters sets to travel or coton dresses.
    I experience bed bugs many years ago in Canada but hopefully it was before travelling with vintage… but bed bugs eat blood, so you have some doubts when coming home, you can put your clothes in freezer!!!!

  8. Lovely hints! I took a 3 week road trip at the beginning of summer with my parents and fiance, and I packed a lot of vintage-inspired modern pieces , plus three pairs of shoes and two petticoats (why? I’m not sure. They were modern petticoats, and I folded the sides in and rolled them tightly to fit them in my suitcase.)…
    I completely agree with you about air travel, although I find that comfortable comes above stylish for me if I have to be packed into an airplane for several hours… A dress that doesn’t wrinkle easily is absolutely necessary for a longer flight. I agree with you about the undergarments and hair… simplicity is best for the TSA regulations! Although… The last plane trip I took I think I wore my hair in rag curls the entire way and although I was body scanned they took no issue with it at all.

  9. Great post! Last winter I wore pants much more frequently than I seem to be this winter, so of course the garter belt and stockings just smacked me in the head for our upcoming trip to my mom’s for Christmas. Thanks for reminding me of that!

    I have two tips. 1– Plan outfits ahead of time. Try them on if you can. On a number of trips in the past I’ve shown up with separates that don’t actually work well together because I hadn’t tried them on, like long sleeved shirts but bracelet-length cardigans. 2– I always carry my rollers in my carry-on bag just in case my luggage doesn’t make it with me the day I travel (you never know). Toiletries are easy enough to come by, but your rollers/pin curl clips/etc may not be!

  10. I love love love your tips! I really need to get myself a good vintage suitcase – what I use most of the time are my old military bags. And I could not agree more about how lazy and sometimes just downright sloppy people are dressing to fly – I am a firm believer in making the actual flight a trip in itself. Anything can be glamorous if you make it so!


  11. Very helpful post. I have been looking for vintage suitcases for years but they are usually in awful shape or are overpriced. Now you have encouraged me to not give up my search!

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