How to Pack for a 10 Day Trip in a Carry On Bag

How to Pack for a 10 Day Trip in a Carry On Bag

Chronic overpacker here! My bag is always the heaviest

It never fails: After an agonizing hour of packing (peppered with plenty of essential other tasks *cough anything but actually packing cough*), 

adding an extra shirt or three (just in case), 

another pair of shoes (you never know), 

that cute dress that I've never worn but maybe I will (I won't)... 

And pretty soon I'm at the ticket counter, frantically trying to move things into my (also too heavy) carry-on bag to avoid paying an overweight bag fee. 

Sound familiar??

Enter: the travel capsule. I've recently cracked the code on packing the just-right amount of clothing. I feel cute, polished, and comfortable, even for longer trips, but I don't need to schedule a chiropractor appointment to fix my aching back the day I get home (speaking from experience).

With just 10(ish) strategic items, you can make as many as 30 unique combinations and kiss overpacking goodbye. 

It's a game-changer.

Here are a few tips that I’ve found to nail the just-right travel capsule. 

  1. Check the forecast
    • While the weather is naturally unpredictable, it’s important to pay attention to potential patterns such as a series of rainy days, or unseasonably hot or cold weather.
    • If the weather fluctuates throughout the day (warm during the day, and cool at night), make sure you have comfortable, easy layers that coordinate with the other items you’re packing.
  2. Stick to a color palette
    • This is crucial to making a small capsule work; choose 2-3 main colors (often colors like navy, black, white, and khaki are good foundational starting points). Then choose a couple of accent color that complement your foundational pieces. Nothing in your 10 pieces should clash; they should all harmonize. If you know your best colors, this will be easy; if you don’t, no worries. 
    • My own travel capsule color scheme is usually navy, denim, pink, white, and olive green. 
  3. Use what you own first
    • Rather than running to the store to buy a few new outfits, start in your own closet first. Starting with 2-3 bottoms, choose 3-4 tops that each coordinate with both bottoms. Then add 1-2 layering pieces that also coordinate with each of the top/bottom combinations. Finish it off with 1-2 pairs of comfortable shoes that work with each of the outfit combinations that you've put together. 
    • If you need visuals and a checklist to help you choose versatile, coordinating items, click HERE to get my free travel capsule checklist! 
  4. Use layers strategically
    • A layer can completely transform your look, and it's in the layers that you'll find so much more versatility in a limited number of clothing items. 
    • If you'll be in a warm climate, choose layers such as a breezy linen button down top or a lightweight kimono.
    • If you'll be in a climate that fluctuates, consider adding two layers; one lightweight and one that's cozier for cool evenings. 
  5. To play on the wise words of Coco Chanel, “When you think you’ve packed enough shoes, take one pair out”
    • If you're anything like me, you always add an extra pair of shoes (or three). Shoes take up the most space and add the most weight, so get strategic, and choose just a couple of pairs. Maybe a cute, comfortable fashion sneaker and a strappy pair of sandals.

Make it your own. Use what you already have in your closet to create a highly-functional capsule based on the colors and styles that you prefer.

If you want to see images and follow a simple checklist, click here to download my free Travel Capsule Guide. You can use the checklist to identify any gaps that you might have, and shop only for those items as needed.

Substitute as needed. My template shows a pretty casual capsule. If you're traveling for work, a special occasion, or a beach getaway, then you might swap out the jacket for a blazer, add a cocktail dress or a swim coverup, or swap the shorts for a second dress or a skirt.

10 items isn't a magic number. If you need to include something else, such as a skirt or an extra pair of shoes, go for it! Just add items thoughtfully, ensuring that they can be worn multiple ways with the other items in your capsule (i.e. a floral midi skirt could easily be worn with all 3 tops and layered with the button-down or jacket.

To get my exact template, checklist, and a dozen outfit ideas, grab my Travel Capsule Checklist here! 


Happy travels! 

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