Going on a trip is exciting. Packing for it? Not so much. We often wind up carrying more than we need because “we never know when the opportunity will present itself.” As a result, we end up with heavy bags that are inconvenient to haul around and overweight luggage charges we didn’t anticipate.
How can you get out of this bind? How do you create a capsule wardrobe that will help you look good while traveling light?
To help you out, we did the heavy lifting for you and put together a travel outfit essentials guide — complete with packing tips — that will make getting ready for your trip a breeze.
Travel Outfit Essentials: Putting a Capsule Wardrobe Together
Why should we aim for a capsule wardrobe? A capsule wardrobe means bringing with you limited clothing pieces that work well together. This often entails mixing and matching classic clothes that feature neutral colors.
In addition to bringing just a few reusable pieces, you need to consider where you’re going and the weather in the area. Depending on the duration of your stay, you may have to do laundry too. Keep these in mind as you go through our list of travel essentials.
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Even if you’re going somewhere hot, we recommend carrying a long-sleeved shirt to protect yourself from the sun and pests. A full-sleeved button-up shirt, especially one long enough to be worn with pants or leggings but light enough to be tucked into slacks for a formal look, is THE item to pack for a trip.
Lightweight shirts or stretchy, comfy knit shirts are excellent choices. You can wear them as is or over other tops as light jackets or cover-ups.
If you’re going on a business trip, bring a tailored jacket and a skirt or pants. This pair will help you make a statement, balance your figure, and give you the confidence you need to ace your assignment. Make sure to choose a cotton-spandex blend over other materials because it is more crisp and comfy.
A basic black dress, particularly one that is fitted but not skin-tight, is the perfect way to elevate your look from casual to classy. For a formal style, wear it with your favorite jewelry and heels, or boots and a leather jacket. If you’re looking for something more comfortable and conservative, pack a maxi dress with vibrant colors and designs.
What do you bring if you don’t know what the weather will be like where you’re going? To that we say, the trenchcoat — your ultimate savior come rain or shine. It’s light and multi-functional, and you can count on it to keep you safe from the elements. Pair it with denim or sneakers or wear it with a dress and heels for a classy night out.
Fleece tops and wool sweaters can help keep you warm in colder climates, but they’re often bulky — not a good choice when you’re trying to pack light. Does that mean you should run the risk of freezing? Absolutely not. A lightweight cashmere sweater is just what you need. It’s soft, super comfortable, and goes with everything.
The bottoms you choose will be determined by the climate and location of your trip. As a general rule, we recommend wearing long bottoms because they protect you from the elements and help you blend in with the crowd.
Here are some options to consider:
- Leggings: Wear them for long flights or pair them with a fancy top for late-night drinks.
- Calf-length skirts: Pair them with a T-shirt and sneakers and with sweaters and tights.
- Pants: Slim black pants are comfortable yet formal enough to make a statement.
Opt for undergarments that are quick-dry and neutral-toned. Nude tones are recommended since they go with everything. For ease of use, choose synthetic fabrics. They’re generally less difficult to maintain than cotton. The same applies to socks. Synthetic fibers and wool can help avoid blisters by keeping your feet dry.
Comfortable loungewear is sure to be your knight in shining armor. Pajamas are fantastic, but we recommend investing in sleepwear that can also be worn as a daily outfit. Think silk chemises and fitness clothes.
When going on a journey, always bring a hat or scarf with you. They’ll add a touch of glam to your everyday ensemble while still providing suitable weather protection. Choose pieces that are breathable and waterproof. If you’re sensitive to the heat, consider investing in a hat with a cape to shield your neck and ears from the sun’s rays.
If you don’t know what kind of weather to expect or what kind of activities you’ll be doing, we recommend choosing versatile footwear that provides a balance between comfort, functionality, and style. A comfortable pair of walking shoes, flexible flats, and a pair of high heels are great choices. Choose footwear that doesn’t take up too much room in your suitcase and will go with most, if not all, of your outfits.
- Belt: Wear with pants and dresses for a sophisticated look.
- Jewelry: Hoops and other jewelry pieces add color and a hint of sophistication to your basic, neutral looks.
- Necessities: Take makeup and skincare essentials in plastic bottles with tight screw-on lids to prevent leaks. Take only the amount you need and leave the rest at home.
We hope that our outfit guide will help you create a capsule wardrobe that will allow you to look your best while traveling light. With regards to how many clothing items you’ll need for your trip, it will ultimately depend on how many days you plan to stay. Plan and pack accordingly.
The key to traveling smart is bringing a few key pieces that will work with the other items you’re bringing — no exceptions. When choosing what to bring, prioritize:
- Neutral colored pieces. They coordinate well with everything and save you precious luggage space.
- Performance fabrics. Outfits made of natural fibers tend to be moisture-wicking and breathable. You can also opt for clothes with moderate texture, wrinkle-resistant fabrics, and sun-protection clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating.
- Loose clothing. It helps you blend in with the local culture and will also keep you from being scammed by local vendors.
- Choose clothing with pockets. They’re great for keeping sunglasses, money, passports, and other items. They may also protect against loss or theft.
While we did our best to make this travel outfit essentials guide as practical and useful as possible, we still encourage you to tweak it to accommodate your favorite styles and absolutely essential items. Just remember not to go overboard and to pack practically and with moderation.
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When Keren is not actually tapping away at her keyboard, you’ll find her staring into space or drinking copious amounts of coffee. But make no mistake, she's hard at work even then. Come close enough and you’ll hear the whooshing noise of countless words as they go whizzing by - in her head of course.