• Lisa Berry

BLOG: Lisa's Cheat Sheet on How to Pack a Travel Capsule



I think this might be my favorite fashion/minimalism topic of all time. In fact, it has become my absolute obsession, to the point that packing my family’s suitcases might be my favorite part of our getaways!


My life was totally transformed a couple of years ago when I finally discovered the liberating joy of traveling with only a carry on. My husband and I went away for a week to Florida sans kids, and I got a week’s worth of “down-dog-to-date-night” looks packed into a small roller bag. I felt so free (and maybe a little smug) as I stood down at baggage claim with my husband waiting for his giant suitcase to finally come around on the carousel.


Since this trip, my husband and I, along with our three kids, have never checked a suitcase. We recently did a 2-week trip to Maui with the kids and three carry-on bags (plus a few shoulder bags,) and found that we had plenty to sustain us. And lest you think you might not be able to relate, please remember that my career is in fashion! I am highly conscious at all times of wanting to look and feel fabulous and am a far cry from the bohemian vagabond traveling the world with only a backpack. I assure you, if I can reduce to only a carry on, so can you!


If you want to give “capsule” packing a try, here is my general methodology:

1. Start with your shoes. Our footwear is what weighs us down and takes up the most physical space. My general rule of thumb, no matter the length of the trip, is three total pairs (and you’ll be wearing one of those pairs on the plane.)

2. Pick a color story. I typically go with two basic complementary colors and one or two accent colors (which I frequently add through my accessory choices.) Examples of some of my fave color stories include: black, white and red; blush, sage and white; grey, olive and peach; ivory, rose and navy. Never add in a piece that can only be paired with one other item.

3. Choose your vibe. It really helps to narrow your choices when you decide ahead of time what you’re wanting to “channel” on your travels. Are you going for boho, sporty casual, Parisian chic, New York street style, etc.? If you need inspiration, browse Pinterest and the Internet to see what resonates with you and captures the flavor of your destination.

4. Start with basics/essentials. There are a few pieces I almost never travel without, including some version of a denim jacket (or leather bomber for the colder months,) skinny jeans, a white v-neck tee, and black leggings. These are such versatile mix-and-match pieces, and most can be worn multiple times without having to wash.

5. Decide ahead of time how many total pieces you will allow yourself. I find that if I don’t assign myself a number, it’s too easy to keep adding on just one more thing. It has become a kind of game for me to see how few clothing pieces I can travel with! If you allow yourself 10 total pieces (this does not include nightgowns, underpinnings, swimsuits, shoes or accessories,) my guess is that you’re going to find this provides more than enough outfit combos to sustain you for a one-to-two-week trip. Don’t believe me? Start with 15 and my guess is that you’re going to find you have too much!

6. Favor one-piece items. I’m a huge fan of shift dresses, maxi dresses and jumpsuits for travel. Not only do you replace two pieces with a single item, but these articles of clothing tend to be highly versatile as swim cover-ups, run-around looks and evening outfits when paired with the right shoes.

7. Go wild with accessories. If you just can’t help yourself from over-packing, then concentrate your excess in the accessories department. Scarves, jewelry and packable hats like berets can go a long way in adding flavor to an outfit and creating a new look out of the same apparel items. You’ll quickly find that you can start to minimize even in this area. I now only bring a couple of pairs of earrings, necklaces, bracelets and scarves and still find I don’t wear it all.

8. Have a reality-check chat with yourself. Here are a few things I’ve had to remind myself of when the carry-on starts getting overstuffed: All of those cute clothes in your closet will still be there waiting for you when you get back. Nobody at the hotel or in your group is judging you for repeating outfits. There is a good possibility that you will be able to launder or hand wash pieces that get dirty on your travels. The likelihood of needing multiple outfits for each day (e.g. something to change into for dinner) is virtually nil—are you really going to take the time to go back to your room and change? Finally, the less time you have to spend unpacking and re-packing your suitcase, the more time you have to enjoy your vacay!


Remember, I’m also here to help if you don’t find this process as fun as I do! You can email me at lisa@zerowastecloset.com if you are interested in having me come to your home to help you pack. If you would like to treat yourself to a brand new capsule wardrobe to pack for vacay, I’m also on hand as your personal shopper and can go out and assemble that perfect mix-and-match wardrobe for you!

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