packing light: how to travel with just two pairs of shoes

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Well, hello! Aaron and I just walked in the door from a trip to Florida (we enjoyed some time on the beach and took our nieces to Harry Potter World, eep!), and we’re about to turn around and head out again — this time to New York City for a little romantic getaway, just the two of us. Travel season has officially hit the Rector house, and smart packing is at the top of my mind.

I’ll share my packing lists from both Florida and New York soon. But in the meantime, I wanted to talk shoes and travel, since we all know shoes take up a chunk of real estate in the ol’ suitcase, and they can be tough to narrow down. Today I’ll share:

  • The Wear One, Pack One formula I use to travel with just two pairs of shoes
  • The type of shoe I pack for almost every single trip I take (spoiler alert: it’s sneakers!)
  • Three guidelines to help you pick your ideal travel sneaker

Ready? Let’s jump in!

(And if you end up enjoying this post, you can shop it and support Unfancy at the same time by using the affiliate links throughout the post.)

THE WEAR ONE, PACK ONE FORMULA

I was introduced to the Wear One, Pack One formula by Jessica from The Belle Voyage, and it’s just as simple as it sounds. You travel with two pairs of shoes — a pair on your feet and a pair in your suitcase.

I try to use this formula for most of my trips. Not that I always meet that goal — sometimes it’s more like wear one, pack two…or three. :) To me, it’s not about adhering to a strict rule or forcing minimalism. Instead, I’ve found it to be a valuable starting point, no matter how many shoes I actually end up taking. It’s a fascinating thought experiment — it gets me thinking creatively and inspires me to do more with less.

Almost without fail, my Wear One, Pack One formula is:

  • a pair of sneakers
  • a pair of sandals (for warmer weather) OR a pair of booties (for cooler weather)

And that’s it! But notice, sneakers are the constant. They are my go-to travel shoe. No matter the trip, I always find them to be the most valuable + versatile shoe I can travel with. 

Take a look below for a few examples of the Wear One, Pack One formula for different trips, plus styling notes on each one.

VISITING THE FAM

Treasure & Bond Slide Sandals (available in more colors) // I have these in black and wear them with everything — cutoffs, dresses, jeans, you name it. The cushioned footbed is super comfortable for walking, and somehow they are just the right amount of chic and easy. They work dressed up (with a cute dress for a family dinner) or dressed down (with cutoffs and a tee for a game of cornhole in the backyard).

Vans High Tops // I love a good high top, and a casual family trip is the perfect opportunity to break them out. I’d style this all-white pair with a short, casual dress for an afternoon of shop-hopping downtown with my sister-in-law, or pair them with black skinny jeans and a tee to go to the movies, or wear them with athletic shorts for a brisk morning walk with my mom.

WEDDING WEEKEND

Bryr Clogs (available in more colors, made responsibly) // Clogs for a wedding, sign me up! I imagine pairing them with a fantastic jumpsuit, like this wrap one or this yellow one. Plus I could style them with a bodysuit and wide leg silk pants for the rehearsal dinner, or with a tee and crop jeans for the post-wedding brunch.

Veja Sneakers (made responsibly) // When it’s time for the after party, I love the idea of slipping on a mini dress with clean white sneakers — so cool, low-key, and ready for a night of dancing. Plus, they’ll pair well with comfy joggers for the plane ride (or car ride) back home. I’ve had a pair of Vejas for three years now — I love ’em, wear them all the time, and they are holding up great.

TO THE BEACH!

Reef flip flops //  Durable flip flops that can get sandy and wet without missing a beat? A must for any beach trip. But it’s also nice when they can pull double duty as a chic, minimal sandal. Just give ’em a good rinse and pair them with your favorite sundress for dinner.

Nisolo Slip On Sneakers (made responsibly) // Easy to slip on, easy to slip off — perfect for the airport. They’d also be great paired with cutoffs for a bike ride, market run, or whatever little jaunts happen to come up. Bonus: Nisolo sneakers have Vibram soles to keep your feet comfy and supported.

SIGHTSEEING IN THE CITY

Born Sandals (on sale, available in more colors) // These sandals may look minimal, but they are soft, cushy, and ideal for a day of walking. I love the nude color because they look a little chicer than they actually are.

Zuzii Grey Sneakers (available in more colors, made responsibly) // These are the sneakers I’m wearing in this post — clean lines and minimal design for the win! Plus the dark color means you don’t have to worry about getting them dirty in a big city. These sneaks are part of the Virtual Pop Up Sale that my friend Morgan of @thegarmentlife is currently hosting. If you’ve been around Unfancy for a while, you know Morgan hosts a Pop-Up each season to connect women with responsibly made clothes. So anytime between now and May 24th you can get 10% off these sneakers with code UNFANCY10.

HOW TO PICK A VERSATILE TRAVEL SNEAKER

Here are the three guidelines I like to keep in mind when picking out a travel sneaker:

  1. Look for a sneaker without any logos. If you’re considering a pair of Vans or Vejas, and going logo-less isn’t an option, look for a tone on tone shoe — like an all-white sneaker with white logos.
  2. Go with a neutral — white, black, grey, or tan — to maximize versatility.
  3. Try a slim-fitting, non-bulky shoe — they work with dresses just as well as they work with yoga pants.

What I’m wearing:Bandana by Madewell // White Tee gifted by Vetta (made responsibly) // Shorts by Aritzia // Grey Sneakers gifted by Zuzii (made responsibly, 10% off with code UNFANCY10) // Straw Bag gifted by Story Weaver Mercantile (made responsibly) // Sunglasses by RayBan

• • •

And there you have it!

So tell me, how do you choose which shoes to bring when you travel? Do you think you might try out the Wear One, Pack One formula on your next trip?

xo,

P.S. Don’t forget to check out the rest of Morgan’s Pop Up Sale if you’re interested. You can get 10% off at seven different small shops that focus on small batch, responsible clothing:

Zuzii Footwear (those grey sneakers I’m wearing, plus beautiful clogs)

Tradlands (tomboy basics with a Madewell vibe)

Winter Session (canvas and leather goods)

Jamie and the Jones (minimalist clothes in a rainbow of colors)

Encircled (soft knits, tees, and activewear)

Nettle’s Tale (swimwear)

Les Sublimes (french wardrobe staples)

Simply enter the code COMMUNITY10 at checkout to get 10% off your order — the same code works for any of the clothes in all seven shops, and it’s good through May 24th.

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