A Lazy Girl’s Travel Capsule Wardrobe

capsule wardrobe

I don’t plan my holidays and I don’t plan my travel wardrobe

I just pack a suitcase and go. I’m telling you this as a warning, in case you expected some sort of detailed graph showing how to make multiple outfits out of a few pieces. I’m not that girl, and I have neither time nor patience for trying on clothes and putting together outfits in advance.

But I don’t just throw random things into a suitcase, either. So, I guess we could say there is a system… A system that takes me about 30 minutes to pack and seems to work well enough.

But first, let’s define ‘travel’: I’m now talking about a holiday (vacation for my American readers) involving a stay at a hotel, whether for a weekend or a week or longer, as opposed to ‘commuting’ between Finland and the U.K. (i.e. travelling between ‘homebases’, when there is no need to pack toiletries, sleepwear, gym wear, laptop etc since I have all of this in both homes…)

capsule wardrobe

For starters, I usually take a suitcase with me 

It’s just easier: I often take my gym wear with me, and I might do some shopping (OK, lots of shopping…). So, it doesn’t matter if the suitcase is half-empty. It might be stuffed to the brim on the way back…

For my recent trip to Prague I packed gym shoes and exercise wear for both myself and hubby, so taking a suitcase was the only choice.

Aren’t I worried about my suitcase getting lost? Well, no. As I am a frequent traveller, my suitcase is often tagged as ‘priority’ and thus taken very good care of. Of course, my luggage can still be ‘misplaced’ during transit, which is exactly what an unnamed airline did last year as I was changing planes in Lisbon… And this is why I also have a little gizmo called Trakdot, which can tell me where my suitcase is, in case it gets left behind.

travel wardrobe

How do I decide what to pack?

As I said, I don’t plan my holiday in advance. Life is stressful enough as it is, a holiday should be an opportunity to relax a bit, with no plans, no obligations, and some room for surprise. However, this means I can’t decide what to take with me based on activities because I don’t know what I’ll be doing…

That being said, it is very unlikely I’d be doing something totally out of character, so I just need a good selection of my seasonally appropriate everyday clothes that I can then mix and match as I see fit.

Weather is an important factor 

when deciding what to pack, of course. However, experience has though me not to pay too much attention to weather forecasts. A weather forecast is a starting point, for sure, but I like to be prepared for the unexpected, too. So, if the temperature is supposed to be around 15 °C / 59°F, I pack clothes that are also appropriate for slightly colder and slighly warmer weather: 10-20 °C / 50-68°F. This would include something with long sleeves (a t-shirt or a cardican), some socks and a light coat.

travel wardrobe over 40

I always start with a coat and shoes 

The coat determines the colour palette; it has to go with everything else. And I need good walking shoes for the inevitable sightseeing / shopping / just-wandering-around-aimlessly. Obviously, the coat and the shoes should go together.

And what about another pair of shoes, for going out? Sure, why not. I never wear heels, so my going-out shoes is just a slightly more polished version of the walking shoes, or maybe sandals (though not on this trip).

The coat should be warm enough, in case the weather suddenly turns colder, but light-weight, so I can carry it folded over my arm without looking like I’m carrying a winter coat.

breton top

The rest is easy:

Now I just add a couple of t-shirts and trousers / skirts, all within the same colour palette so they can be mixed and matched, and a big scarf. I might throw a jacket into the mix, and two pairs of sunglasses. Finally, I add some jewellery: a statement necklace is always good as it dresses up a simple t-shirt.

And then all I need is 2 bags

One to use as cabin luggage: so, with enough room for a bottle of water, magazines and whatever electronics I plan to take with me (e.g. a camera, iPad etc.). And another, smaller bag for sightseeing and shopping. Ideally, this bag should be as small and light as possible, and preferably cross-body (to keep my valuables out of reach of pickpockets).

Hobbs trench

So, do I ever forget to pack something? 

Or pack the wrong clothes? Of course I do, all the time. And that’s why the first thing I do when I arrive in a new place is find a good department store or a shopping centre. Whatever I forgot (shampoo, allergy medication, a cardigan, you name it) can be replaced, and shopping centres in particular save a lot of time as you can find everything under the same roof.

But these days I make it a rule to always take with me both short-sleeved and long-sleeved t-shirts, extra underwear and an umbrella. Why? Because if I don’t, then that’s what I will need for sure…

Do I ever overpack?

Always, and on purpose. I’m rather impulsive when it comes to getting dressed. I may plan an outfit the night before, then change my mind at the last minute and wear something completely different. So, it’s good to have a few options. And I take the suitcase, remember? A couple of extra t-shirts don’t take up that much space in a suitcase, and even if I fail to wear them, so what? And I know from past experience that if I don’t ‘overpack’, I end up needing whatever it is that I left out…

So, there is no big secret to my travel capsule wardrobe: I’m afraid I’m just lazy or too busy to care. Or maybe I have learned that less really is more, at least when you have to drag your belongings with you all the time…

Do you plan your travel wardrobe?



Linking up with: 

A Touch of TartanElegantly Dressed and Stylish, Sydney Fashion HunterThe Pleated PoppyGet Your Pretty OnHappiness at Mid-LifeA Labour of LifeDoused in PinkCurly Crafty Mom


  1. josep-maria badia
    24 May 2015 / 3:05 pm

    Some things to discuss. Turquoise shirt and striped shirt are nice, especially turquoise. I like the jacket, accompanying the turquoise shirt. The necklace and scarf are two cuties. Good tips for preparing the luggage, thanks.

    • Tiina L
      25 May 2015 / 6:00 pm

      Thanks! You wouldn't believe how old that jacket is… But the necklace and the scarf are both new.

  2. Suzanne Carillo
    24 May 2015 / 10:54 pm

    I almost always pack in outfits, with layers. Sometimes I'll even print off the images so it is extra easy when I travel. Yes I can be a bit freaky like that, but I never have a bad outfit day. bisousSuzanne

    • Tiina L
      25 May 2015 / 6:02 pm

      Wow! You're organised! I just improvise…

  3. Mrs C
    25 May 2015 / 12:15 pm

    I on the other hand, always over-packed. I always end up with 3 pairs of shoes, and stuff like that. I tried to pack light and ended up not having enough to wear. So, I'd rather over pack than having to do laundry! Like Suzanne, I too pack in outfits. Maybe that's why I end up over-packing?

    • Tiina L
      25 May 2015 / 6:06 pm

      I see where you're coming from. I think it's better to have a few extra pieces than not having enough…. I learned to pack a few 'just in case' items after a few times being caught in the rain without a coat or an umbrella, or an unexpected cold day that only occurs when I only have sundresses with me, or something to that effect…

  4. Jill James
    26 May 2015 / 9:58 am

    Firstly , thank you so much for your advice on my layout problems , I really appreciate it.I like your way of packing, I definately am not one to be over organised, but always pack a coat in case of rain or unexpected cool weather. Great tip about the two bags. With all your travel I am not surprised you have your own packing down pat.

    • Tiina L
      27 May 2015 / 6:56 am

      Thanks, Jill. Yes, packing… I'm learning, slowly, but learning…

  5. Jane the torontoShopoholic
    26 May 2015 / 10:53 am

    I always over pack as well and always take a suitcase. Unless I am going somewhere for the weekend I am just not a carry on packer. I like the idea of having a colour pallet so that everything works!

    • Tiina L
      27 May 2015 / 6:58 am

      Yes, a suitcase makes it so much easier! And you can go shopping, too, because you don't want to bring back a half-empty suitcase…

  6. Natalia Lialina
    26 May 2015 / 6:58 pm

    You are a stylish traveler, Tiina! Love your printed pants and blue shades here. I'm a bit like you – I improvise, but I also think of mixing and matching options. I don't travel as much as you do, and mostly we take our car, so there is no need for a suitcase, we just take as many bags as we need (each person in the family is responsible for their own bags and what's in them :). I agree about having comfy shoes and a coat – and that the weather and the type of activities you plan to do are the main factors. I like the idea of over-packing just a bit – so you can have choices.

    • Tiina L
      27 May 2015 / 7:02 am

      I'm a very low-maintenance girls to begin with; I can get by with a very small wardrobe… I've been practising living out of a suitcase my entire life, so I actually have to remind myself on occasion that I can have a few extra options, too…

  7. Tine Jensen
    3 June 2015 / 9:51 am

    Very nice post Tiina, thank you! I've travelled a lot over the years. I used to be completely unorganised, always needing to buy stuff on location (not recommendable on secluded islands in the middle of the ocean) – then I started blogging, and taking advice from "expert", and became over-organised! In later years I've spent hours trying to figure out how I could do minimal gear with maximum number of outfits… The effect being that I didn't have any choice what to wear. Next time I'll certainly give your approach a chance – and avoid those far away, small islands!

    • Tiina L
      3 June 2015 / 10:16 am

      Thanks! Well, this works because so much of my wardrobe is in certain colours: I can just toss a few t-shirts, trousers and cardigans into a suitcase and know that they match… Or maybe it's just travel fatigue: constantly living out of a suitcase takes its toll…

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