How to Pack the Ultimate Capsule Wardrobe for Travel

Advice The Basics

Many times while traveling, things do not go as planned and my trip is extended (cancelled flights, opportunity to stay longer, whatever).  My first reaction was to add a couple new items to my wardrobe (yay, excuse to go shopping), then I learned the secret to extend my original wardrobe for another week (or more). I discovered how to pack the ultimate capsule wardrobe for the most mix and match options with a limited amount of luggage.  A little preparation while packing can give you loads of outfit combinations during your travels!

I spent many years traveling for work, and many more years traveling for fun.  Here are a few of my top packing tips to build the ultimate travel capsule wardrobe.

First pick your color palette (the base color to coordinate all of the outfits), the easiest one to start with is black.  As you get used to packing a travel capsule wardrobe, you may change up your base palette and experiment with more color.


  • 1 pair of black boots or closed toe shoes for travel (these are usually the bulkiest pair and I wear these on my travel days to save on luggage space). These may be hiking shoes, running shoes, or athletic shoes depending on your destination and planned activities.
  • 1 pair of black heels, flats or other dressy or professional shoes that will match dress pants, optional dress, skirts or jeans.
  • 1 pair of flip flops or sandals to wear around the hotel room, spa, hotel pool, weekend activities, or late night dinner.

Dresses (optional):

  • 1 or 2 casual, comfy dress to wear on the plane or dressed up for a nice event/meal.  If you are worried about space, pack one dress that can be dressed up with a jacket, or more casual look paired with a cardigan sweater.


  • 1 pair of dress black pants
  • 1 pair of jeans or shorts (optional, depending on destination)
  • 1 solid black skirt
  • 2 simple print skirts


  • 1 solid black shirt or blouse
  • 2 solid color shirts that coordinate with solid black or print skirts (long or short sleeve depending on destination).
  • 2 printed shirts or blouses

Lingerie:  Wear a pair, then pack an additional pair of panties up to 6 pairs.   Panties do not take up much space, but you can always plan to wash more often if you pack less.  Wear one, then pack 2 bras (I usually include 1 convertible bra for strapless, halter, or X back for more outfit options).  Plan to hand wash bras and panties once a week, or as necessary.

Extras:  Socks, tights, PJ’s, yoga pants, sports bra, tee shirt (1 or 2 max), one cardigan sweater, Black Coat/Jacket (that can be paired with any of the skirts or pants).

Hiking boots stuffed with rolled socks, shorts, and tee shirt

Extra, Extras:  Swim suit, colorful scarf (to add a pop of color to outfits)

For colder weather add a puffer vest and/or 1 or 2 cardigan sweaters for layering.

Travel Pro Tips:

  • Roll & stuff socks into shoes to keep their shape and minimize space
  • Roll clothes to match the shape of your luggage
  • Pack the large, bulky items first, then pack smaller items around to fill the space

All of this should easily fit into your carry-on roller bag for the overhead bin.  Sometimes, I cheat and stuff an extra sweater into my laptop case/personal item and wear the cardigan sweater on the plane.  I also stuff my makeup and travel size toiletries (TSA approved clear quart bag) into my laptop bag to protect it and for easy access to brush my teeth after the flight.

Remember, your travel ultimate travel capsule wardrobe is all about the variety of combinations with the fewest pieces.

23 thoughts on “How to Pack the Ultimate Capsule Wardrobe for Travel

  1. I am always guilty of over packing because I want to be prepared for all weather conditions haha. Agree on your tips though. I have the same shoes and love them.
    xx, Kusum

  2. Really interesting post! It’s always good to have such advice there is always something we don’t know but that can facilitate the package! For me it was the socks in the shoes. While reading I was thinking “this is a simple tip, why did I never think about that before??”. So thank you 🙂

  3. Would need a few accessories too, that go with the dress. I always have one pair of silver earrings and one gold and a watch that goes with all my outfits. And then, there is one light shawl that I always carry – I cannot stand chill. 🙂 This is a nice ready reckoner for most of us. Thanks for the list.

    1. Yes, a scarf or shawl is thrown in, depending on my destination. I usually wear my watch and earrings on the plane, so no need to pack those. I also have a small jewerly travel case to bring more than what I wear, if I have room.

  4. When packing for a trip, I usually pack one of every basic shoes (one athletic, one casual and one a bit dressy). It makes it easier to mix and match with other clothing items I have.

  5. Rolled socks in a hiking boots.. I have done it as well but not with t-shirts 🙂 Amazing post about packing our things as I tend to overpack… Thanks for your tips… esp with the one you add to your laptop bag,,,

  6. I like to mix and match when I travel, and find that accessories can really change the way an outfit looks. I do however always have extra stuff with me just in case. I try not to over-pack so I tend to pack a lot first, then remove what I am sure I can do without.

    1. Accessories are a great way to extend outfit looks. Shoes are my biggest weakness and take up the most space, so I am very strict on shoes when I pack.

  7. Thank you for posting such great tips. I will be traveling to south america soon for two months and thinking about what to pack has been doing my head in, but now i have some direction!

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