While attending the Women’s Travel Fest earlier this year, I asked a handful of experts to share their biggest travel mistakes. All of them said overpacking. As I started planning for my big summer trip to Europe, I knew that if I was going to be able to afford to go everywhere I wanted to go for as long as I wanted to go (six cities in three weeks), I needed to cut costs wherever possible. Because the budget airlines I took charged for a checked bag, I decided that traveling with just a carry-on was an easy way to shave a couple hundred bucks off my journey. But could I really pack for a three-week trip with just one small bag? I was going to try.
Earlier this year I tried wearing a capsule wardrobe for a month and ended up loving it. It honestly did help simplify my mind and wasn’t nearly as repetitive as I had anticipated. So I began by curating a miniature capsule collection for my trip. I kept things relatively neutral, with a few pops of pattern and color. (Because when you own a rainbow fruit t-shirt, you bring it on vacation with you.)
Here are the clothes I brought:
Not pictured: Undergarments and a lightweight scarf (use your imaginations, people).
Shoes take up SO MUCH space. Choose wisely. I made sure every pair I brought was practical and that each served a different function. The sneakers were great for those days when I was out exploring for hours on end. The sandals were great for the cities I visited that were super warm. And my trusty Dansko clogs were great for the evenings or if I wanted to dress up an outfit a bit.
These three shoes can be worn all day with zero discomfort, which really is key. If you have a pair of shoes that’s going to give you a blister after you wear them for half a day, you’re probably just not going to wear them after the first time. And then they’re just going to sit there taking up precious luggage space.
A few of my favorite outfits:
1. When I was traveling in Edinburgh, it was pretty chilly every day. And because I was there covering the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I was walking around the city all day. Layers were essential here. Most of the days I was there I had my sweater, denim jacket and scarf on over a t-shirt and jeans.
2. This is just about as fancy as it gets for me. I wanted to bring one nice dress in case I went somewhere a little more upscale at night. Because you never know, right? I actually ended up getting invited to a wedding while in London, so this ensemble worked out perfectly.
3. There’s just something so timeless about a white shirtdress. This one is from H&M and has been in regular rotation for me for awhile now. It’s breathable, stylish and easy to explore a city in. I often tied my sweater around my waist to give it a little more shape and so that I was prepared if the weather took a chilly turn.
4. This jersey skirt was my regular go-to throughout my whole trip. It was so comfy and stretchy and, unlike a pair of jeans, it allowed a nice breeze, which was vital during my time in ultra-humid Prague, Vienna and Budapest. I’m also pretty into the athleisure look at the moment, and felt no shame pairing the skirt with some sneaks.
Looking back, I am SO glad I decided to only bring a carry-on for this trip. With the amount of moving I was doing from place to place, it was so nice to be able to skip the check-in line at the airport and not have to worry about lugging a giant bag over uneven cobblestone streets. I wasn’t all that worried about repeat outfits, because here is my theory there: You’re in a place where no one knows you. And if it’s a multi-city trip, even better. If you wear an outfit on Monday and move cities then wear it again, who really knows you just wore it? No one, guys. No one knows. See the photo above to observe a prime example of me repeating an outfit and living to tell about.
So, is a travel capsule wardrobe possible? 100 percent. Will I ever check a bag again? Not if I can help it.
Psst, if you want to check out pics from all my travel adventures, follow me on Instagram @cortneyclift. And we want to know all your favorite packing tips + tricks! Share with us on Twitter @BritandCo.