Travel Essentials: The Pashmina

Travel Essentials: The Pashmina

Welcome to a new monthly series I like to call “Travel Essentials.” On the first Monday of every month I will dive into an item that I almost always carry with me and why, whether it be an article of clothing, accessory or a camera lens. I’ll ask fellow travelers to weigh in from time to time so you don’t think I am crazy for packing what I do. So sit back and enjoy as we dive into the first item on my list…the Pashmina.

Sporting my pashmina in Rome, Italy

Whenever you start to pack your bag there will always be a few of the same things that make their way in there; a toothbrush (hopefully), socks and undies usually top the list.

There is so much more that you need, especially if you want to pack light. An oxymoron you say? Yes, I thought so too. But with practice I am mending my ways.

Double duty items are the name of the game and today I’m looking at the talented pashmina.

Why You Should Carry One

Trish from Trip Styler practices packing light with double duty accessories

My packing guru friend Trish at Trip Styler puts it best:

I’m going out on a limb here, but I think a pashmina is the do-all, be-all of packing light—the perfect blend of fashion and function. In one trip it can perform the following duties: 

a} scarf (for fashion or warmth}
b} plane blanket
c} bathing suit cover-up
d} make-shift umbrella (if a sudden storm threatens your tresses)

Blocking the sun with my light weight scarf in Portland

Mothers of small children will find a pashmina even more essential than the average traveler. You can use a pashmina, or in the summer a light-weight scarf, in the following ways:

  • Nursing cover up
  • Block the sun from your child’s eyes in the car or stroller
  • Second top when the baby spits up all over your first one
  • Blanket when the baby gets cold
  • Changing pad
  • Blanket or pillow in the car/plane/boat/train
  • Backup child outfit for unexpected diaper malfunctions

Culture Traveler dresses up an outfit with a splash of color

For those traveling long term the pashmina can be even more essential when trying to distinguish a limited wardrobe.  Carolina at Cultural Travel Guide says:

When it comes for travel attire I generally aim for comfort. That means hiking shoes (never white sneakers) and cargo pants, which is not a very flattering look for most women, and certainly not the most stylish.

Especially if you’re walking around Europe. And let’s face it, Europeans are a stylish crowd. My pashmina always comes to the rescue! I usually pack two or three pashminas in my luggage in different colors. 

Without taking much space in your carry-on the pashmina is a must have clothing item while on travel. If it’s the summer and you’re visiting religious sites, you can use it as either to cover your shoulders or as a makeshift skirt and comply with the dress code.

If it’s spring or autumn you can use it around your neck or over your shoulders for some extra warmth. Heck, it can even become a dress if you’re getting out of a pool! 

But most importantly, it dresses up even the sloppiest of outfits, complements your color palette and brings a bit of extra (and very needed) distinction and style to your travel wardrobe.

As the American Express campaign claimed: The pashmina, don’t leave home without it.

More Reasons to Love It

Still not convinced you should pack one of the most versatile pieces of fabric? Here are a few other friends giving their opinion as to why the pashmina is a travel essential for every type of trip.

A pashmina or big scarf is a great fashion accessory for the global girl. A pashmina can serve a multitude of purposes – brightens up a boring black outfit, a cover-up for visiting a temple and keeps you warm on a chilly plane or bus ride. It’s such a universal item. You can pick up a new one in almost every country you visit. It’s a great memento of your travels – much more useful than a lame “I was here” t-shirt. - Bethany at Flashpacker Family

Bethaney from Flashpacker Family got this pashmina from a little old Red Dzao lady while trekking in Sapa, Vietnam. They’re famous for their brightly coloured woven cloth.

I don’t always travel with a pashmina when we travel by car, but I always do while flying. I often find temperature fluctuations to be crazy on airplanes. I’m sweating one minute and freezing the next, and a scarf helps with that but isn’t bulky. Now that I travel with two young boys, one of which I’m typically carrying, a scarf comes on and off without having to juggle the baby around. And in a pinch, mine has served as a burp cloth or towel for cleaning up accidents. - Nicole at Arrows Sent Forth

Nicole from Arrows Sent Forth stays warm with in her pashmina

I never go ANYWHERE without a pashmina. My black one lives in my purse. I use it to wrap up when I’m having dinner in a chilly restaurant or riding in the car with husband who loves air conditioning. It is starts to rain, it becomes an impromptu umbrella. When I’m traveling, I carry two–the utilitarian black one and a colorful one. The colorful one becomes my easy accessory to change the look of my outfits, as a wrap by the pool and to roll up as a pillow or use as a second blanket on a long, chilly plane ride. - Cindy, editor at Traveling Mom

Cindy from The Travel Mom strikes a pose in red

I travel with a black wool/silk blend pashmina and love it.  Well, I wish it was softer, but other than that, I like it.  I use it as a blanket on planes, a wrap when I am a little cold.  Haven’t had to use it (yet) as a head covering, but I’m hoping to get some for our girls soon. – Susan Whitehead at Real Family Travel

Corinne from Have Baby, Will Travel’s (then) four-year-old daughter frolicking on the beach in Cuba wearing her mother’s super-handy sarong (that she brings everywhere) as a “Sea Princess” cape.

I always pack a sarong. It’s a total multi-purpose item. It’s a baby sling, breastfeeding cover, beach blanket, cover-up, shawl, and, of course, princess cape. - Corinne McDermott at Have Baby, Will Travel!

Not sure what to do with that pashmina or scarf once you have it.
A special thanks to Flashpacker Family for sending this video my way.

How to tie a scarf: 4 scarves, 16 ways via Nordstrom

Alternatives

The Scarf
I always carry some type of scarf with me as it’s one of those “can-use-for-anything” items. If it’s cold, I can wrap my head and/or neck. It can be a washcloth to bathe or wipe up spills. It’s my potholder for when I need to take our dinner off the stove. There’s no end to the uses! – Nancy at Family on Bikes

Nancy from Family on Bikes keeps her head warm while visiting the penguins

I love to pack scarves for two reasons. One is that they add a pop of color or design to any outfit. They make a regular traveling outfit look more hip or dressy depending on the scarf.  The second reason is that there are a lot of temperature changes while traveling.  For example, in the morning or evening it might be cold, or I might need an extra layer on the airplane or in a museum.  - Jenna at This is My Happiness

A wool scarf added extra warmth at the windy cliffs of Bodega Bay, California – Jenna from This is My Happiness

The Sarong
I love my sarong. My sarong has been used in Hawaii as swimwear cover up. It has been used in Bali as a light-weight skirt/dress. It has been used over my kid’s prams to allow them to sleep better or a blanket for snuggles, even a pillow. It’s been used as a cloth to cover a lamp and provide ‘mood’ lighting. It’s been used in Australia as a rug to sit on at the beach or park. My daughter uses it to play dress ups and I’ve used it as a skirt, scarf, dress and headband.

Most importantly it gets stuffed in a backpack whenever we are visiting sacred sites, temples, etc. On a hot day in Jerusalem I would often walk around in shorts and a singlet. One time I was unprepared and on a hot 40C day I had to wear my father-in-laws jacket to gain entrance to a religious site. Never again, I melted. Our next trip to historic Jerusalem & the Dome of the Rock, out came my beautiful red sarong to cover my shoulders in all propriety. Little did I realize this handy piece of cloth would make an absolutely stunning photo. I now always carry a sarong wherever we go; you never know when you may need to dress up a photo. - Erin at Travel with Bender

Erin at Travels with Bender in front of the Dome of the Rock

What is one of your travel essentials? 

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written by Keryn Means

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