How To Pack a Travel Capsule Wardrobe: The Essentials

Written by: Lisa Patulny

Packing a travel capsule

Even those well acquainted with the concept of building a capsule wardrobe can baulk at creating one specifically for travel. There’s something about editing your wardrobe down to the bare essentials – especially when everything must fit in a suitcase! – that can be seriously intimidating.

If you aren’t sure how to pack efficiently (i.e. get maximum wear out of what you bring while avoiding packing things you won’t wear), let us clue you in. The key to nailing a travel capsule wardrobe is ensuring you’ve only got versatile pieces that mix and match in multiple ways. A curation of good quality wardrobe essentials will be what takes you from the buffet to the beach and then to the bar. (Plus, you’ll still have room in your case for sartorial souvenirs.)

Here’s how to get it right.

1. Create a travel capsule wardrobe

If you’re well versed in building a capsule of wardrobe essentials, you’ll have no trouble brainstorming a more tightly edited, travel-specific one. The idea is the same – focusing on hardworking essentials that can be worn together in multiple combinations for maximum versatility. The size of your travel capsule wardrobe will depend on how long your trip is and where you’re going (winter vacations tend to call for more pieces). If you’re off for a short trip like a long weekend, you’ll need fewer items, so it can help to plan out specific outfits. If you’re going away for a longer stretch, essentials you can mix and match will come into their own.

Here are some example travel capsule wardrobe ideas to use as a starting point:

Example summer vacation capsule wardrobe


Winnie One Piece

Winnie One Piece by Bondi Born 


Elevated tank or tee


Arnsdorf Pia Tank
Pia Tank by Arnsdorf


Lightweight button-up shirt

Classic Double Pocket Shirt
Classic Double Pocket Shirt by Matin


Midi skirt

Casitas Wrap Skirt by Faithfull the Brand
Casitas Wrap Skirt by Faithfull The Brand


Lightweight trousers

Herringbone Linen Pant
Herringbone Linen Pant by Matin


Breezy dress

Sala Dress by Marle
Sala Dress by Marle


Leather sandals

Nolan Sandals
Nolan Sandal by A.EMERY



Suede Sneaker by St. Agni
Suede Sneaker by St. Agni


Versatile handbag

Large Tote

Large Tote by Rylan


Statement jewellery

Link Bracelet
Link Bracelet by Rylan


Example winter vacation capsule wardrobe


Elevated t-shirt

Organic fitted rib tee
Organic Fitted Rib Tee by Arnsdorf


Long sleeved top


Open Twist Long Sleeve Top
Open Twist Long Sleeve Top by Christopher Esber


Button up shirt

Classic double pocket shirt
Classic Double Pocket Shirt by Matin


Lightweight knitwear

Darcie Cardi

Darcie Cardi by Marle


Classic jeans

London High Rise Straight Leg Jean

London High Rise Straight Leg Jean by SLVRLAKE


Tailored trousers

Tailored Trouser by Arnsdorf

Tailored Trouser by Arnsdorf



Celeste Suit Jacket
Celeste Suit Jacket by Arnsdorf


Hero coat

Double Breasted Wool Coat

Double Breasted Wool Coat by St. Agni


Low heeled boots

Soma Boots
Soma Boots by A.EMERY


Trainers or loafers

Scarlet Loafer

Scarlet Loafer by Mara & Mine


Versatile handbag

Soft Baguette Bag

Soft Baguette Bag by Rylan


Statement jewellery

Baroque Bodmer Earrings

Baroque Bodmer Earrings by Agmes


2. Check the weather forecast

You might be headed for Santorini smack bang in the middle of European summer, but it still pays to check the forecast before you pack – you never know, there might be a month of rain on the way! Packing light means being prepared for all scenarios, so base your packing list (more on that below) around the weather.

Find sartorial inspiration for your summer travel capsule wardrobe, here, and your winter travel capsule wardrobe, here.

3. Make a packing list, then finesse it

Create a checklist of everything you think you’ll need while you’re away. If you’re heading overseas for a destination wedding or have an itinerary of events, consider relevant dress codes and what you’ll need for each day, then pack accordingly. Once your master list feels complete, try on different outfit combinations and snap photos of them on your phone for reference. (Bonus: this approach is handy for remembering outfit formulas you like at a glance while away.) You’ll quickly discover if anything is missing. If anything you’ve packed isn’t pulling its weight or feeling versatile enough, you’ll feel more confident leaving it at home.

Struggling to plan your holiday packing checklist? Check out our lineup of 40 Wardrobe Essentials for Effortless Style.

4. Pack like a professional

Now that you’ve sorted your travel packing checklist, lay all your items out on your bed. Check every single piece for dirt or damage well before you start packing. (Pulling out something you’ve planned to wear only to find an obvious pull or stain is a bummer, but shopping for a replacement overseas at the last minute is worse.) Seeing how much you have to pack will also tell you whether you need to refine your list further.

When it’s time to pack, use all the tricks to maximise your suitcase space. Try Marie Kondo’s Konmari method, army rolling or compression packing cubes – they all have legions of fans, so use what works for you. Don’t forget to stuff your shoes and bags with socks and underwear to utilise every inch of space in your case.

Read next: This Is Why You Find It Hard To Get Dressed

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