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Going on a retreat? Whether at home or abroad get off to a good start by bringing the essentials so the focus can be on your experience, not on your belongings. Find out what to wear to a retreat!
What to Wear to a Retreat
Written by: Niki Landry
Everyone travels for different reasons. Some seek adventure, cultural enrichment, or a new experience. Other people use travel as a way to disconnect, unwind, or relax. A change from their normal routine to reinvigorate their minds and bodies. The act of traveling can sometimes cause stress in of itself, so a retreat with a pre-set itinerary is a great way to recharge.
alex at Koh Samui Detox Spa Retreat, 2012
The first step in getting the most of a travel retreat is to pack appropriately; therefore, I’ve gathered a list of what to bring (and leave behind) on a relaxing getaway.
Don’t let your packing and baggage stress you out.
The relaxing should begin before you even leave for the retreat. If you are a serial over packer, there is no better time to start packing light.
- Start by carefully researching your destination
- Plan a capsule wardrobe based on your research
- Use packing organizers to help you compress and organize your belonings
- Celeverly downsize toiletries with these tips
Don’t let your packing and baggage stress you out. Keep a minimalist packing list, and do NOT check a bag.
Going carry-on only is something that you should always strive for, but it’s even more important on a trip devoted to unwinding.
Just this simple step, will help you avoid baggage fees, let you move easily through crowded airports, and avoid the delays of baggage claim. It also eliminates the anxiety associated with lost or redirected luggage.
Here are tips on how to breeze through airport security!
Dress for comfort and functionality, not to impress.
Once you arrive at your destination, having a compact and simple wardrobe will make getting dressed easy and fuss free. The key is to dress for comfort and functionality.
Yoga, meditation, or detox retreats are all about your personal well-being, and the focus should be turned inward. Keeping this in mind, will assist and streamline the clothes packing process.
The focus of your clothing should be comfort. If you’ll be sitting for long periods of time in one-on-one or group sessions consider wireless bras like these (life changing), cozy underwear, soft fabrics, and layers if needed.
A soft shawl or wide scarf can be useful to have handy in an air conditioned room or for use as a blanket after yoga. Alternatively, you can also use a shawl or scarf if it’s hot to cover from the sun, shield your legs or shoulders from mosquitos, or throw it over you if your stay includes visits to temples.
Generally speaking, for a one week retreat bring 1-2 comfortable bottoms you can wear daily for any meditations, yoga practice, or talks. Leggings are perfect in mild weather while fleece lined options would be better in the cold.
In the heat, bring airy trousers or breathable jogger pants instead. Avoid anything that would stick to your body in the humidity.
For retreats in the tropics you may also want to consider loose, flowy maxi dresses to wear comfortably instead of pants for group work and also use them for sightseeing or dinners.
Obviously in cold destinations you’ll want to bring enough layers to keep you warm including a fleece scarf, sweater/hoodie/thermal layer and jacket on top when stepping outdoors.
For shoes, bring something you can easily slip on and off. In the heat traditional flip-flops or slides and in the cold soft booties or slip on sneakers you can remove and replace with ease. If you plan to do any hikes or outdoor activities, also bring a pair of versatile hiking shoes or running shoes.
Editor’s note: whether traveling to a cold or hot destination bring one pair of warm socks in case your feet get cold when removing your shoes indoors. On a one-week yoga retreat at Mundax in Kerala, India my feet were always super cold in the yoga room so I wore them instead of being barefoot.
Use your itinerary as your packing guide.
Health Oasis Resort in Koh Samui, Thailand
Most retreats have preset activities and a schedule that can serve as your guide when deciding what to bring. Many will provide a packing list to its guests, but if they don’t then ask then what to bring. This will help to avoid bringing unnecessary and “what if?” items.
Read more tips about how to avoid “what if items”!
The organizers are experts on the planned activities and the needs of its participants. Trust them and pack accordingly. Inquire about any dress code guidelines for any included dinners. Always check the weather in advance so you know what to expect.
Editor’s note: Rain, cold, snow, or heat, bring a swimsuit! During my first retreat at Ananda in the Himalayas I didn’t bring a swimsuit and missed out on the incredible luxury facilities. I never made that mistake again!
Even if you’re headed to a winter destination, bring one anyway. At my Healthy Farms winter detox in Bournemouth, England I had access to an indoor pool, sauna, and steam room. While I did bring a swimsuit, a few women ended up having to buy (an overpriced) suit so they wouldn’t miss out on the full experience.
Bring only the basics.
Don’t go overboard with makeup and hair products. Bring only the basics. There is no better place to embrace your natural beauty then at a retreat.
Bring face products that cleanse, protect, and moisturize, and leave anything that conceals behind. Go makeup free and let your skin detox, too!
For your hair, ties, bobby pins, and headbands are important for keeping your hair out of your way, but styling tools are usually an unnecessary burden. Choose comfortable accessories that won’t cause strain on your head.
Take a look at these low-maintenance hair accessories!
Take advantage of this time to pamper yourself and schedule massage and spa treatments to enhance your experience. You might even want to skip your pre-trip mani/pedi and have them done at your destination.
Keep your toiletries eco-friendly.
Some retreats may have specific products for their guests to use or restrictions on what you can and cannot bring; based on the facilities, environment, and the focus of the retreat.
Try to use products, like sunscreen and bug repellant, that won’t cause damage to the sometimes delicate eco-systems of your destination.
Here’s a round-up of eco-friendly, biodegradable beauty products!
Toiletries from Alaya Resort and Spa in Bali
Editor’s note: I did a retreat at the Alaya Resort and Spa in Bali and they had THE most incredible natural products in the room. I wanted to buy a full set to keep!
If you are unsure of what’s allowed or need suggestions, a quick email to the organizers should clear up any questions. If the hotel provides toiletries, this helps you save suitcase space to help you pack light.
Leave your gear and props behind.
Most retreats will provide everything you need to have a successful experience. Check with them on exactly what you need to bring, and leave everything else at home.
This goes for unnecessary electronics as well. Take advantage of your time away to really disconnect.
If you have difficulty separating from the internet and world, take steps to avoid the temptation. Bring a paperback book instead of an IPad. Once you have arrived at your retreat, limit your access to your smartphone.
alex at Bali retreat at Alaya Resort and Spa, 2016
Editor’s note: taking a 17-day yoga and spirituality tour in India changed my life in 2008. Disconnecting allowed me to fully open myself up to the experience and appreciate those that inspired me to make a bold life change!
I guarantee there is absolutely nothing more valuable on retreat than being in the moment. You have no idea how truly amazing travel feels when you don’t go online at all during tour trip. Give yourself that special gift. It’s powerful!
Do you have any tips to add on what to wear to a retreat? Comment and share below!
For more travel packing tips,please read:
- 75 Packing Tips that will Make Your Travel So Much Easier
- How to Stop Overpacking
- One Bag Travel: the Fashionista’s Guide to Going Luggage Free
- How to Choose the Best Travel Shoes
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Author Bio: Niki is an interior designer and artist from Louisiana. In addition to her design work, she writes for local and online publications, sharing her experiences and passion for travel. Niki is currently adding stamps to her passport while building her design practice, Niki Landry Designs.