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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.