ALLEZ ELIZABETH - FEATURED IMAGE - The Ultimate Carry On Bag Essentials How to Pack and Stay Prepared for Anything

The Ultimate Carry On Bag Essentials: How to Pack and Stay Prepared for Anything

When I travel I always pack 10 pairs of shoes and then wear the same crappy sneakers everyday. Why am I stupid?

Lilly Singh

We've all been there before: standing in front of our packed suitcase, questioning whether we need to bring that extra pair of shoes. Or packing so many clothes that we can barely zip up our bag. This is for you if you want to streamline your packing process and travel with only the essentials!

I'll discuss the benefits of packing a capsule wardrobe and sharing our top carry-on bag essentials. By the end of this post, you'll have all the tips and tricks you need to travel light and stay prepared for anything!

If you're like most people, you probably overpack for your trips. It's easy to do when trying to anticipate every situation you might encounter while away. But more often than not, we wear the same few items repeatedly and lug around a half-empty bag.

Creating Your Travel Capsule Wardrobe

A capsule wardrobe is a great way to streamline your packing and ensure you have everything you need without overpacking. Capsule wardrobes typically consist of a few basic pieces that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits. For example, a capsule wardrobe for summer might include a few pairs of shorts, a couple of flowy tops, and a sundress.

One of the best things about capsule wardrobes is that they can be easily packed in a carry-on bag. You won't have to worry about checking a bag or paying extra baggage fees!

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you get started.

  • What is the weather going to be like?
  • What activities will I be doing?
  • Do I need to dress up for any formal occasions?
  • Do you have a preference for certain colors or designs?

Use these questions to guide selecting the pieces for your capsule wardrobe. You want to make sure you have various items that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits. For example, if you know you'll be doing a lot of walking, pack comfortable shoes that can go from day to night. And if you're attending formal events, pack at least one dress or suit.

The key is to pack versatile items that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. With a capsule wardrobe, less is more! You'll thank yourself later when you're not lugging around a heavy suitcase.

Keep in mind that you can always wash clothes while on your trip. If you're traveling to multiple destinations with different climates, pack clothing that can be layered. For example, a tank top, cardigan, and scarf will work well in warm and cool weather.

Sample Capsule Wardrobe Packing List

  • 2-3 pairs of shorts/pants
  • 3-4 tops
  • 1 sundress/formal dress (optional)
  • 1 jacket or cardigan (for layering)
  • 1 pair of comfortable shoes
  • 1 pair  of dressier shoes (optional)
  • 1 pair of flip-flops or sandals
  • Socks and undergarments
  • 1 scarf or sarong
  • 1 hat or headband (optional)

Sample Capsule Travel Wardrobes by Season

Summer capsule wardrobes are typically light and airy, focusing on shorts, sundresses, and tank tops. Pack clothing in darker colors, like jeans and long-sleeved shirts, for a fall capsule wardrobe. For Spring, pastel colors and floral prints are always in style.  And winter capsule wardrobes should focus on layers, like sweaters, jackets, and scarves.

If you're traveling to a colder climate, pack a capsule wardrobe with lots of layers. Long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, and scarves will come in handy! You can also pack a pair of boots or closed-toe shoes to keep your feet warm.

If you're traveling to a warmer climate,  pack light and airy clothing in fabrics that breathe easily. Cotton, linen, and rayon are all great options. And don't forget to pack a hat to protect you from the sun!

 Summer Capsule Wardrobe

  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 3 tank tops
  • 1 sundress
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 1 pair of sneakers
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 pair of sunglasses
  • Swimsuit (optional)

Fall Capsule Wardrobe

  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 2 sweaters
  • 1 long-sleeved shirt
  • 1 hat
  • 1 pair of boots
  • 1 scarf

Winter Capsule Wardrobe

  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 2 sweaters
  • 1 long-sleeved shirt
  • 1 coat
  • 1 pair of boots
  • 1 scarf
  • a pair of gloves

Spring Capsule Wardrobe:

  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 skirt
  • 2 tops
  • 1 cardigan
  • 1 pair of flats
  • 1 pair of sunglasses
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A capsule wardrobe does not have to be boring.

When creating your capsule wardrobe, you don't have to sacrifice style for functionality. There are plenty of ways to mix and match items to create unique and stylish outfits.

One way to add personality to your capsule wardrobe is by choosing brightly colored or patterned pieces. Or, you can pack a few statement accessories like a bold necklace or a brightly colored scarf.

I'm a fan of bright lipstick, statement necklaces, oversized sunnies, scarves, and watches. These are all great ways to add a pop of color and personality to any outfit.

Another way to make your capsule wardrobe more interesting is by choosing unique cuts or silhouettes. For example, you might pack a pair of wide-leg pants or a flowy maxi dress. 

And don't forget about texture and fabrics! Mixing and matching different textures and fabrics is a great way to add interest to your outfits. You might pair a silk top with leather pants, a chiffon dress with a denim jacket, or a cotton sundress with a leather jacket.

Get creative with your capsule wardrobe and have fun mixing and matching items to create different looks. A capsule wardrobe doesn't have to be boring! With a little effort, you can easily create multiple stylish, comfortable, and practical outfits with a few key pieces. The possibilities are endless!

Capsule Wardrobe Packing Tips

Now that you know how to create a capsule wardrobe, it's time to start packing! Here are a few packing tips to help you make the most of your carry-on bag space.

  1. Roll your clothes instead of folding them. Use packing cubes. This will help prevent wrinkles and save space in your bag.
  2. Pack items that can be easily layered. This way, you'll have more outfit options without having to pack a lot of extra clothing.
  3. Choose versatile pieces that can be dressed up or down. This way, you'll be able to create multiple looks with the same items.
  4. Accessorize! Statement jewelry and scarves can easily dress up any outfit.
  5. Pack a few extra items like a bathing suit, sunglasses, and sunscreen. These items are essential for any summer vacation.

A capsule wardrobe is a perfect solution for any traveler who wants to be prepared for anything without lugging around a heavy suitcase. You can easily mix and match items with a capsule wardrobe to create multiple looks.

Creating a capsule wardrobe is easy! Start by choosing a color palette. Then, select a few key pieces that can be mixed and matched to create different looks. Finally, accessorize!

With these packing tips, you'll surely have a capsule wardrobe that is both stylish and practical.

Some of my favorite color and pattern pairings are:

  • denim and stripes
  • black and white
  • camouflage and neon
  • floral and gingham
  • floral and polka dots
  • houndstooth plaid and animal print
  • …and my personal favorite monochrome.

How Creating A Capsule Wardrobe Can Keep You Safe

No matter where you're going or doing, it's important to be prepared. It is also equally as important not to draw attention to yourself.  A capsule wardrobe is a perfect solution to being both prepared and discreet.

For starters, you won't have to worry about massive amounts of luggage.  This is essential when traveling by public transportation or in areas where it's not safe to drag a large suitcase. A capsule wardrobe can easily fit into a small carry-on bag. Packing light will not only save you money on baggage fees, but it will also make it easier to keep track of your belongings.

Start by going on Instagram and typing out the name of the city or country you're visiting to give you an idea of what people are wearing there. This helped me blend in France and Germany.

One piece of advice: leave anything flashy at home. Even if it goes with the capsule wardrobe.   You don't want to draw attention to yourself or your belongings by wearing anything that could be considered expensive or gaudy.  Opt for more simple and classic pieces that can easily be layered. Not only will this help you blend in with your surroundings, but it will also make it easier to mix and match pieces to create different looks. 

By following these packing tips, you'll be able to pack light and still have everything you need for any occasion. So ditch the heavy suitcase and try packing a capsule wardrobe the next time you travel!

*Hey, this page contains affiliate links. There’s no extra cost to you, but I receive a small commission when you decide to use them. They help me keep this party going.


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