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I’m just going to be honest here. I am a type A, list-making, plan-a-holic. One would think that this skill (er, curse?) would benefit me greatly when packing for trips. On the contrary, it takes me down a rabbit hole of meticulously planning outfits complete with separate accessories and shoes for each day depending on myriad possibilities for the weather, the walkability of the locale, the fanciness level, etc. You can imagine the packing list spreadsheets that I’ve created for trips overseas, especially, where so many factors are unknown.

While I accept who I am fully, I’ve secretly always wanted to be one of those women who can pack on a whim for a spur of the moment trip and be effortlessly stylish in any setting in which she finds herself. So how can I be both the woman I already am and the woman I want to be? By pre-planning a capsule travel wardrobe that is all-weather- and all-occasion- appropriate! Stock up on these travel essentials so that you, too, can eat, pray, love your way through any travel destination without any stress.

1. Versatile flats

Let’s start with the shoes. You need something comfortable, that you can wear on the plane or that doesn’t take up too much room in your suitcase, and that go with multiple outfits. Enter, Rothy’s. Their flats are nice enough to wear out in the evening and super comfortable without exuding an orthopedic vibe, and their new sneakers are the perfect versatile, minimalist daytime walking shoe.

10 Wardrobe Essentials We Take on Every Trip_Shoes

Leopard print is reigning supreme in fashion these days, so capitalize on the trend with these classic pointed-toe leopard flats ($145) that can take you from day to evening. Beige shoes pair well with most colors, neutrals and denim, so the Rothy’s Sand Slip On Sneaker ($125) is our top comfy pick for travel kicks.

2. Black pants

Next up on our list is the perfect little black … pant. Don’t worry, we’ll get to the perfect little black travel dress in a moment. In the meantime, slim black pants that you can dress up for a night out AND that are comfortable enough to wear on the plane while still retaining their shape for multiple wears are a necessary component of your capsule travel wardrobe. This pair from Lisette L is time-tested and approved by our very own Cofounder Elizabeth Fox, who swears she has worn them eight times in the past seven days.

Little black pants

These Lisette L 28″ ankle length pants ($138) are flattering on all body types and hold their shape well for multiple wears. While we recommend the black for the versatility, the pants come in more than 20 colors and patterns.

3. Neutral tee

Of course you’ll need a basic tee that’s a perfect layer and also nice enough to be worn alone. The key to this piece is to find a tee that won’t stretch out easily and that has a slightly fitted shape. These two are great options, and you likely already have one or two similar ones in your closet!

10 Wardrobe Essentials We Take on Every Trip

This Uniqlo tee ($9.90) on the left is made with their AIRism material that boasts moisture-wicking for comfort in any type of weather. You can’t go wrong with the classic Gap v-neck ($16) that comes in a range of neutral colors.

4. Lightweight trench coat

When traveling, you’re always advised to wear layers, layers, layers. But what do you pack when you don’t know quite how cold or warm your destination will be? A trench coat! It’s casual enough to wear with denim and sneakers, yet formal enough to pair with a dress and heels. Just make sure to grab one in a lightweight material so that it’s comfortable in all climates.

Top 10 Wardrobe Essentials for Travel

The grey Badgley Mischka coat on the left is on sale for $129 (regularly priced $178) and comes in five colors at Nordstrom. The Club Monaco trench on the right is made of a soft, lightweight tencel fabric and is currently on sale for $229 (regularly priced $298.50).

5. Little black dress

The little black dress is so often named as a wardrobe essential, that listing it in our recommendations for a travel wardrobe will come as no surprise. And frankly, the two dresses below are kind of boring. However, boring in this case means plain, and plain means versatile! Think of the simple black dress as your foundation to layer upon your personality with jewelry and scarves —  items that take up very little room in your suitcase. Your foundation needs to be wrinkle-resistant, form-flattering and appropriate for all levels of dress. You can’t beat the two options below!

This basic dress by Sundry is ultra-flattering with a crew neck, short sleeves and ruching in the skirt. You can find it at Anthropologie here for $152. The dress on the right is from perennial favorite J. McLaughlin. Their clothes are perfect for travel since the high-quality material doesn’t wrinkle. You can find this Barry dress here for $208.

6. Scarves

Here are two suggestions for the aforementioned scarves that you’ll need to add some pizzazz to the basics you’ve packed. Get creative and colorful with these since you can pack several! You can wear them long and untied, looped as a necklace or draped gracefully over your shoulders.

This brown and black Madewell scarf ($12.50) balances neutral colors and a fun pattern well, so you can be sure this will go with multiple outfits. On the right, Tory Burch has beautiful large silk scarfs, and we particularly love this one with the pop of blue. You can find it here for $128.

7. Oversized wrap

Now that you’re set with the accessory scarf, you’ll need a large scarf or wrap to actually keep you warm on the plane and to throw over your basic tee and black pants. We like ours to be oversized in soft materials.

On the left, we’re a little obsessed with this striped wrap from Eileen Fischer, on sale for only $39 right now (regularly priced $88). This oversized cashmere wrap from J.Crew is sure to become a closet staple as well. Choose from seven colors for $198 (SB TIP: Wait for a sale on J.Crew to purchase!).

8. Tote bag

Next you need a large tote bag to carry on the plane and to hold all of those fabulous souvenirs you’ll no doubt pick up on your travels. Some people prefer theirs to be zippered, and others like an open tote for easy access. We’ve included two classic, stylish, lightweight tote bags below that are perfect for airports and sightseeing alike.

Perfect travel tote bags

On the left, Baggu’s large nylon tote is machine washable and folds into its own little pouch for easy storage. You can find it here in four colors for only $50. On the right, we love this olive canvas tote from ABLE. The leather handles elevate the bag without weighing it down. Find it here for $68.

9. Clutch

Now that you’ve got the perfect travel tote bag, all you need is a clutch. These handy pouches can hold your essentials to keep them from spilling out of your travel bag, and they can also double as your evening bag. Pick one that can be beat up a little bit, so look for sturdy material like leather instead of something more delicate with beading.

We love all of Clare Vivier’s clutches, but her Flat Tooled Floral Clutch is particularly suitable for travel. A bit of a splurge at $215, it’s durable, yet a little fancy with the embossed floral pattern. On the right, ABLE’s Emnet Clutch is an SB staff favorite. Several of us use it on a daily basis and carry it out on the town as well! Find it here for $98.

Now that you’ve curated the perfect travel wardrobe essentials, you need to plan your next trip! Check out our travel archives for city guides, weekend getaways and vacation ideas.

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