by Barbara Khan
Packing Isn’t Easy
As an avid traveler, the long pandemic-enforced hiatus really cramped my style. I’m beyond excited to resume traveling and already have several trips for the fall to Europe and North Africa planned. Though I’m a frequent flyer with 30 years of international travel experience, I was always an over-packer.
Are You an Over-Packer?
If you tend to bring too much with you on trips, you are not alone. Packing isn’t easy. Over packers come in several different guises:
The procrastinator is someone who just never plans ahead. They wait until the night before to pack, then throw things in their bags without much thought. They often arrive at their destination with something important missing from their suitcase, such as a bathing suit.
The Soup to Nuts
The Soup to Nuts packer is the person who wants to bring all the options and packs five of everything. Usually they end up wearing a third of what they brought.
The Contingency packer packs for every eventuality as they do not want to be on the road without everything they need. What if it rains? Or if the strap on the sandal breaks? What if there’s an unscheduled cocktail party? You get the picture.
Emotional packers are those who have strong attachments to their things. They tend to have a favorite of everything which they need to pack. Traveling without these favorites causes great stress for this type of packer.
I was a Contingency packer for years. I considered every potential activity and all weather possibilities. A wide selection of shoes went into my suitcase in case of blisters. Why do the cutest shoes have to cause blisters?
Which type of packer are you?
How to Become a Streamlined Packer
Whether going away for a weekend or a month-long trip, you can learn to pack well for any trip. All that’s required is a little bit of time, planning, and careful selection.
Over the years, I honed my packing skills and with the help of the capsule-style travel wardrobe, I am now a streamlined packer.
What Is a Capsule Wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a group of versatile clothing pieces that can be worn in different combinations to create a variety of outfits. The items are harmonized by color. In a word, it is the perfect way to travel light. To make travel prep even easier, you can save the basic list of items and change up what you pack based on the destination, weather, and potential activities
Basic Capsule Travel Wardrobe Necessities, add or subtract as needed:
- 2-3 pairs of pants (jeans, chinos, dress pants, cargo, palazzo)
- 1 skirt (solid colors are best)
- 1-2 dresses
- 2-3 camisoles
- 3-4 T-shirts (short-sleeved, long-sleeved, or a combination of both)
- 3-4 lightweight tops or blouses (button down, tunic, denim/chambray)
- 1 lightweight sweater, fleece, or kimono/ruana
- 1 pair of leggings
- 1 rain jacket with hood
- 2-3 bras
- 1 pair of pajamas
- 5-7 pairs of underwear or panties
- 1-2 hats (baseball cap, straw hat, beanie)
- 4-5 pairs of socks
- 3 pairs of shoes (sneakers, sandals, one other comfy yet stylish option)
- Purses and a tote bag
- Accessories (scarves, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, belts, sunglasses)
How to Travel for a Week or More With These Pieces
I can easily travel for a week or more with these pieces. The reason I like button-down shirts is their versatility. If long enough, it can work as a bathing suit coverup, or you can wear it as a layering piece with a cami or t-shirt underneath. To create different looks, I bring a few tops that go with each of the bottoms.
If I am traveling to a colder climate, I always wear my bulkiest pieces on the plane, so I would wear a thicker sweater over a long-sleeve t-shirt, wear my heavier shoes or booties, and wear my warmer coat. I can easily remove things onboard the plane and store in the overhead bin. Also, lightweight packable down coats are perfect for travel as most can be squished into a zippered bag or even folded into the coat’s pocket, taking no more room than a paperback book in your luggage. My hooded rain jacket is also just roomy enough to accommodate a fleece or sweater underneath ensuring I stay warm and dry.
Regarding undergarments, there are some excellent microfiber panties available from several retailers and brands (Jockey Elance, Hanes Cool Comfort, and Soma Vanishing Edge to name a few). I do not mind taking fewer and handwashing a pair or two in the sink. Microfiber fabric quickly dries overnight. I utilize the pants hangers with clips found in virtually any hotel as a perfect place to dry them and any other things I might handwash.
Plan Ahead: Smart Shopping with Travel in Mind
While stuck at home during the pandemic, I did some strategic and savvy shopping. I found fantastic sales online at my favorite stores, watched YouTube videos on style, and read the pile of magazines I accumulated in 2019 when I was too busy with work. I found some really great additions to my closet as a result.
At this stage in life, I know what styles work with my body type and which fabrics are comfortable, wash well, and travel easily. I weeded out my closet and gave away items that did not work for me, which were usually impulse purchases. Some I never wore because they were too small, too big, the wrong fit, or itchy. Eliminating these items allowed me to identify pieces I needed to buy for my upcoming trips.
Why These Travel Tips Make for Easier Travel
Being a savvy shopper and traveler is something we can all aspire to. Remember, if you forgot to pack something, your strap breaks, or the weather changes you can always buy what you need, even if you are on a cruise ship in Antarctica! I enjoy exploring local department stores and boutiques when I travel. It is interesting to see what’s stylish and fashionable in Morocco or Greece and it is an opportunity to pick up a unique clothing item that none of your friends will have. Remember to plan ahead, use your capsule wardrobe, pack light and enjoy a sense of wanderlust.
FAQs About Capsule Wardrobes
Below are some commonly asked questions about capsule wardrobes. We are happy to share our travel tips!
What is a capsule wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a small collection of essential and versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched to create various outfits. It typically consists of around 20-40 high-quality pieces that reflect your personal style and can be worn for an entire season or longer.
What are the benefits of having a capsule wardrobe?
- Easier decision-making: With fewer options, getting dressed becomes quicker and less overwhelming.
- Saves time and money: You’ll buy fewer but more quality pieces, reducing impulse purchases.
- More sustainable: Capsule wardrobes promote conscious consumption and reduce clothing waste.
- Simplified packing: Ideal for travel, as you can easily create multiple outfits from a limited set of clothes.
How many items should I include in my capsule wardrobe?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on your lifestyle, climate, and personal preferences. However, the typical range is around 20-40 pieces, including tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear, and shoes.
How often should I update my capsule wardrobe?
Capsule wardrobes are usually updated every season, which is four times a year. However, some people prefer to have a year-round capsule and only make adjustments when necessary.
Can I still follow trends with a capsule wardrobe?
Yes, you can incorporate some trendy pieces into your capsule wardrobe, but the focus is on timeless and classic items that can be worn beyond the current fashion trends.
Do I need to get rid of all my clothes to start a capsule wardrobe?
No! You can gradually transition to a capsule wardrobe by first decluttering your closet and identifying your essential pieces. Over time, you can build your capsule with intentional purchases.
What should I consider when choosing items for my capsule wardrobe?
- Versatility: Choose pieces that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits.
- Quality: Invest in well-made clothing that will stand the test of time.
- Fit: Ensure that the items fit you well and flatter your body shape.
- Lifestyle: Consider your daily activities and choose clothes that suit your needs.
How do I store off-season items in a capsule wardrobe?
Store off-season items in bins or garment bags, and label them for easy identification. Also, we recommend you keep them in a separate area of your closet or under the bed to make room for your current season’s capsule.
Can I have more than one capsule wardrobe for different occasions?
Yes, some people create multiple capsule wardrobes for work, leisure, or special events. The key is to ensure each capsule serves its purpose and is carefully curated.
Where can I find inspiration for creating my capsule wardrobe?
Look for fashion blogs, Pinterest boards, or Instagram accounts that focus on minimalist and capsule wardrobe styles. These resources can provide ideas on how to style different pieces and create versatile outfits.
Keep in mind that the essence of a capsule wardrobe is to make your closet more intentional and efficient, so feel free to customize it to your personal taste and lifestyle.
About Barbara Khan and “Journeys By the Book”
Barbara Khan created Journeys by the Book in 2017 by Barbara Khan to marry her two passions, books and travel. Barbara is a lifelong book lover and a professional travel advisor since 1989. In 2011, she joined Goodreads and got serious about reviewing books. By 2013 Goodreads recognized her as being in the top 1% of reviewers on their site. She started a blog in 2014, followed by a Facebook group and page, Baer Books, where she promotes authors, posts reviews, and hosts giveaways. Barbara’s Facebook group and page continue to grow, now including many bestselling authors. A champion of authors, Barbara enjoys making connections with authors, booksellers, and readers to promote books, bookstores, and author signings. She was mentioned in the acknowledgments of several bestselling books and had a character based on her in Camille Pagan’s novel, Woman Last Seen in her Thirties. Barbara has published herself in Women Under Scrutiny and An Anthology of Truths, Essays, Poems, Stories & Art compiled by international bestselling author Randy Susan Myers. Barbara believes strongly that authors are the reader’s rock stars!
originally posted Oct 10, 2020
updated June 18, 2023