My Travel Capsule: In Which Less Was More

Are we going somewhere? Image source.

When we traveled to New York City for two weeks last month, I was sure of two things, style-wise:

  1. Whatever I might forget or long for, can be found in NYC, and
  2. Dark jeans and/or knit skirts work for 99% of our events.

So I planned a small, simple travel wardrobe, knowing I could go “lean”. After all, the most wondrous shopping outlets would be at my feet once we arrived.

I packed:

  • Two pairs of dark jeans
  • Six tops, all washable, all in gray, navy and black.
  • Three knit skirts, black and gray.
Similar to this GAP skirt. Priceless for travel!
  • Two cardigans, black and navy
Simple classic cardigans, like this one from Lands End.

That’s it for the “building blocks”. I also brought tights and two scarves and a pair of great walking boots. I wore my Aldo mid-calf boots (similar) for travel. I brought a faux leather jacket, but traded it in for a real leather one at the Goodwill! I took only one necklace, one pair of earrings and a couple of bracelets. I find I don’t change my jewelry often while away.

The new jacket was a fab find. Only $25 and it looks like new! In the statue garden outside The Stonewall Inn.

I had more than enough outfits to cover all our NYC festivities, from an Einstein lecture to a wine cruise, to many-a-tequila at the Riviera Cafe. Here’s what I’ve learned from the less-was-more experience:

  • I have plenty of clothes. More than plenty.
  • I could “lose” about half my closet and not miss much.
  • Getting dressed is so easy with just a few clothes. Choose top, choose bottom, add cardigan.
  • And . . . I still love variety. I’m not ready/willing to cut to the bone. But I could, if we moved onto a tiny sailboat (or any NYC apartment we’ve seen)!
  • Shoes, baby, shoes. Shoes and scarves, gloves and hats add life to any look.

Does a travel capsule wardrobe work for you? Or do you pack a lot of options? Never a wrong answer, we all have our own comfort rules.

Happy Tuesday!

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  1. You clearly have the travel capsule thing down to a fine art, Patti! No cats, though, they don't like to travel, I find. I do OK, wouldn't call myself an expert, and since I pack for all the family, my stuff tends to be a last minute throw-something-in-and-hope job. But I usually build outfits round colours rather than neutrals. Always take too much jewellery though, but at least it's lightweight! xxxx

  2. I try to trim it down as much as possible. Also because I hate packing for holidays. One day I will learn to do a capsule wardrobe for travelling but I dopn't think I will find that anytime soon.

  3. I'm taking lessons! At least I could give it a try. I always take too much with me when I travel and I'm always surprised by what I actually wear.

  4. Patti, you would be very proud of me. On my last (recent) trip to Europe I was gone for 27 days and took a carry on. Yep, that's right, ME, Trina, I did it with a carry one. I love capsule packing and find it works quite well. I took 1 pari of skinny jeans, 1 pair of black and 1 pair of navy minis (pants), 7 tops (including merino pullover sweaters) and 3 pair of shoes plus 4 scarfs to interchange with my outfits. I even rolled in one workout attire. I found it was quite liberating and I actually enjoyed not having to worry about the decision of what i was going to wear.

  5. I'm the world's worst packer. Seriously I never want to limit myself. I've gotten better by packing only outfits. I take photos of each. This makes it super easy to get dressed when I'm away and also ensures I don't forget to pack anything. I try to stick with the same hues since that'll allow me to just pack one coat that'll go with everything. I find I am never able to go anywhere without at least 5 pairs of shoes. My feet are finicky and I always need options to change into.

    I'm sure you're able to fit everything into a carry on bag. Jealous!

    Normally here I'd be charged extra for my big suitcase but because my husband is a super elite flying we can both take 3 bit suitcases for free. Even the airline is an enabler.


  6. your capsule sounds fabulous!!
    I haven't traveled in AGES–last time was for work and since it was school (Concrete Restoration) I packed really casual stuff!!

  7. Some weeks ago I prepared a capsule for three weeks in Buenos Aires. I trew away things judged unnecessary. At the and I removed my impermeable jacket, too. (However my liitle blck dress for wearing on tango events and opera could remain.)

  8. I've not down much traveling lately (since I got rid of 80% of my wardrobe and started over). But, I do think I've conquered one of my biggest challenges. It's about having that core wardrobe that is carefully cultivated for fit, color, etc. But even more important – paying attention to fabrics. Thin merino wool sweaters, linen, goose down, silk, wool, etc. If I have these things with me and the color is all within my chosen range, it really works to layer and unlayer them as the temperature shifts. This was always my trickiest thing – trying to out guess the weather day by day and event by event. Impossible. Now, I know my thin gray merino wool sweater is warm enough to get me by – yet I can leave it on all afternoon in a conference without overheating. The natural fibers change temperature with your body and allow for that wide range of error and even changes in outdoor/indoor, morning/afternoon.

  9. Two years ago I went to Hong Kong and I took with me only a purse with documents, credit card, underwear and a bit cosmetic I even didn't have a luggage bag. I've been there for two weeks, finally when I arrived at home I had two big luggage bags full of clothing and other things:) I had to pay 400 USD for overweight:( now on I don't do that:)

  10. I either pack everything or nothing. I'm a terrible traveler and I'm rarely properly prepared. But I recently learned I AM capable of making a capsule wardrobe that's not just basics. I just prefer to keep a variety open to myself.

  11. Oh Patti, the post I did yesterday (that I linked here) was about 'less is more'. When I travel I have always been a minimalist. My daughters? Never give it a thought. hahahaha. Have a great evening.

  12. Hi Patti,
    This is just what I needed to read – heading for two weeks to Houston and don't want to lug tons over with me as I hope to bring back some items for our next winter.
    Love the kitty in the suitcase … they're such adorable little creatures.

  13. Looks like you've got your NYC travel wardrobe down to a science. I travel to the UK twice a year for 2 months at a time. I leave this week and am in the midst of figuring out a wardrobe to account for variable weather, all occasions and my love for color and variety. I can only take one suitcase and a carry one. Plus I have to fit in gifts for my boyfriend and bloggers I meet. It's a challenge to say the least.

  14. That pic of the cat is just too cute. Made me smile. I always pack too many things, then on the ohter hand it doesn't matter how much I pack I always will miss something I should have taken with me ;-( though.

  15. Just returned from 2 weeks in NYC myself. I pack similar, and shop similar once I've arrived. But I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your tips/blog posts. One of your post last year taught me about Adea. I always pack Adea layering top/s, I have several now, they are essential for me. I've figured out the flat rate shipping boxes for shipping home all those thrift finds, to keep my luggage light. Thanks so much, I am an avid reader. You are delightful.

  16. Sounds like a very sensible capsule wardrobe! I find part of the battle is actually having enough things in complementary colours. I am still prone to lash out and buy a hot pink t shirt that doesn't go with anything. (It doesn't un-go, it just doesn't go, if you know what I mean). I have gotten a lot better at packing light, though.

  17. I totally agree…we could all do with much fewer clothing options and be just fine…maybe even better off…but it's tough to do! Do you ever walk into your closet and just stand there and stare? Sometimes I don't know where to begin! Thanks for talking some sense into us!

  18. We taking off for trip this week and I am still trying to plan what to pack….love your ideas.

  19. I like to look my best when I'm traveling. Yes, things can be purchased once I'm there, but why should I waste my vacation time and $$ shopping for things I already have at home? I had a trip to Spain one time where I spent an inordinate amount of time looking for Pepto-Bismol. Apparently pink tummy meds aren't the thing there and nothing the pharmacy recommended, which wasn't cheap, ever did the trick. I'd rather be prepared.

    I will fiddle with my choices to get the most mileage out of what I take, but I often check a bag. I feel like I spent a lot of mental energy assembling a wardrobe I love, why wouldn't I want to make the most of it when I'm on vacation?

  20. That coat was the find of the year! I love nosing at other people's travel wardrobe. My packing is going to be the same as usual for India but my bag will be a whole lot lighter as Jon's bought me a e-reader thingy for my birthday – that means I won't be cramming in the usual 25 paperbacks! x

  21. Still figuring out the travel wardrobe. I did better on last weekend's trip, but there's plenty of room for improvement. Maybe the trick is to practice packing by travelling more often.

    Ah yes, the magnet attraction between cats and folded clothing. If we ever venture into house-sharing with a feline again I'm going to get a cat that matches my wardrobe!

  22. I hate to admit I always overpack. I will see what I've brought and be bored with it. Gives me an excuse to find something new in the thrift shops. tee hee hee

  23. That cat has the right idea. When you visit New York wear all black. You just can't go wrong. Sounds like you figured it out perfectly. I <3 NY!!!!!!

  24. That cat is not going anywhere!

    Your capsule sounds perfect for a couple of weeks, and similar to what I do – mostly neutrals and staples. It does make it easy for traveling – as long as you can wear it comfortably all day, inside and outside, that's what works. I don't need as much variety traveling as I do at home (the office is so boring, I need variety to make it interesting).

    I want a skirt just like that black one. Thanks for letting me know where to find one!

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