|Checking out my lists from previous trips, and perusing old photos to see what I actually wore.|
I’ve been checking out packing lists from previous trips. Like the one below from our trip to Costa Rica in 2013. As you can see, I was just as concerned about planning a first aid kit as I was about what to wear. We always carry a travel first aid kit, especially when we go camping, particularly canoe camping when we’ll be in the bush far from… well… far from anything at all, actually. For our Costa Rica first aid kit, I used a great resource on the Government of Canada website.
|Costa Rica was a super easy trip to plan and pack. Only two weeks. One week we spent mostly around the pool, or on a beach or a boat. And one week on the road travelling into the interior for some hiking in the cloud forest. So… swimming attire, tanks and tees, shorts, jeans, a few pieces that could double as nice-ish dinner outfits, and one hot weather hiking outfit. Most items were things I didn’t mind getting sweaty or wet. What did I learn from packing for that trip? Always take my ski underwear, and a light fleece. We had one very cool night in a cabin in Santa Elena when I was happy to layer my long underwear under my sleeping attire and my fleece on top.|
|On the road between Quepos and Monteverde, Costa Rica 2013|
Three weeks in Florida in 2014 and four in France in 2015 were also relatively easy as far as planning and packing went. Well, except for my initial bout of worry about what to wear in Paris. But for the most part, I wore what I would wear at home. Jeans, tees, jackets, sneakers and sandals. Most of the walking on both these trips was in cities or towns, so I left my hiking boots at home and packed two pairs of sneakers. One pair that looked cool and one that was more fitness oriented. And even though we experienced a day of cold rain and sleet in Paris, and some hot days in Provence, I could just layer up or peel off layers, and change my sneakers for sandals as warranted.
|Planning lists for Florida 2014, and France 2015|
I checked out my France packing list against our trip pictures to see what I actually wore and what I didn’t. Clearly my cropped jeans, striped long-sleeved tee, and my Stan Smith Adidas were what I reached for most often. This black Helmut Lang jacket was a great item. I wore it with jeans and sneakers walking around Paris, and out for dinner everywhere with white jeans and loafers. Similarly my red Columbia windbreaker came in very handy. I wore it every day in the north when we were touring WWI memorials, and also in sunny Provence when, even though it was warm, it was verrry windy. Next time, I’ll leave my denim jacket at home. I wore it, but only because I had packed it and felt I should. It’s bulky to pack and, although it provided an extra layer on cool days, a fleece would have been a more comfortable and more flexible option. Two things I learned about packing for this trip. What looks good, I’ll wear… and vice versa. And always pack a scarf.
|Paris near Notre Dame, May 2015|
|At the beach at Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer, Provence, 2015|
|Rosie in Switzerland in her mauve and white tee, and plum cashmere sweater.|
I learned some good lessons from the 2003 trip. The first is that Hubby needs far fewer clothes than I originally thought. The second is to stop arguing with him over why he never wears half of his stuff. And to pack less for him, which of course, leaves more room for my stuff. Win, win. Another lesson I learned is to always bring a light toque and gloves. For our day-long trek of the Tongariro Crossing, below, I could have used real gloves and a hat that didn’t fly off in the wind. It was bloody cold up there. Another lesson I learned is that if I don’t love an outfit leave it at home. I bought light-weight trekking trousers specifically for the 2003 trip, a tan pair and a black pair. They were good for hiking, but I hated them. Which leads me to my last lesson: if I don’t take fashion advice from Hubby at home, why oh why, would I take it from him when we travel? I bought the pants at his suggestion. And, as you can see in the shot above, spent most of the trip trying to cover them up with a jacket or sweater tied around my waist.
|Besides relying on my own packing experiences, I trawled the web looking for sites which feature packing advice for travellers to South America. This one is good for trekking, especially if you’re camping, which we’re not, phew, wipes brow with relief. This one has lots of information, and packing lists for all kinds of destinations, albeit geared to travellers a bit younger than moi. Okay, much younger. And this one, geared specifically for Argentina, is pretty useful too. Still, I find “packing lists” and “what to pack” advice interesting to read, but not that helpful when it comes time to pack my own bag. I never find one list that fits my exact needs. They usually apply to a shorter trip, with more dressy outfits than I need, and with much less diversity of activities. But, they’re useful as a guideline. Especially if written by someone who’s actually been on the trip. The biggest problem about these generic lists is that they don’t conform to my closet. I need to be able to parlay what I already own into a decent trip wardrobe, with a few new pieces bought specifically for my destination.|
So, let’s recap. South America trip wardrobe planning so far. I’ve done my research. I’ve taken note of the lessons I’ve learned over the years on previous trips. I’ve made a list of activities for which I will need outfits. And the possible temperatures and weather we will encounter. I’ve reminded myself of previous trips and what I wore, what I packed but didn’t wear, and why. I’ve surveyed my closet, and drawers, and made a list of possible items I might take.
Next… comes the trying on, the keeping or casting aside, and the making of an “I still need” shopping list. Then I’ll draw up my final list of items to pack and possible outfits. Oooooh… such fun. I do love to plan.
I know it’s anal. I can’t help myself.
By the way, I hope you didn’t find the title of the post misleading. I’m beginning to have second thoughts about using the term “capsule wardrobe” for a trip like this… hot weather, cool weather, active wear, urban wear. Maybe two capsules would be more accurate? Cross-over capsules? Hmmm. I’ll think about that.
I also hope that you weren’t expecting to see my final packing list here. That’s a couple of weeks down the road yet.
Down the road… get it? Ha. Travel pun.
So how about you my friends? How do you go about planning a travel wardrobe?
53 thoughts on “Planning a Capsule Travel Wardrobe”
I plan just like you for our bi- annual trips. I write lists of tops,bottoms and accessories and how they will go together. I decide on a colour scheme and make garments in those colours as well as jewellery to match. I don't take anything that is irreplaceable or too precious but ,like,you,have learnt that I have to love what I take, It is such fun,isn't it- an important part of my enjoyment in travelling! Have a great trip!
Thanks, Sarah. I hope we have a good trip. But I'm keeping a lid on my excitement until a weeks before we leave. It's nice to meet another list-maker:)
I like all your serious preparation ( it's not just me then ) . We don't go so far these days but for nearly forty years I did serious packing . Scotland is a doddle now but further afield has more rules . Firstly it is about comfort & safety , to avoid any ricked ankles or burnt skin . Next I like to blend in with the locals . So in some countries that means covering up more , no bare shoulders or shorts . In others more sophisticated but still casual .I hate to look overdressed wherever I am & everyone seems pretty casual these days , even in major European cities . I think it's good manners to fit in but it also makes you more approachable & the locals will talk to you – always important when you travel . Lastly , but still important , I have to feel happy in my clothes so lots of old favorites & one or two bought for the trip . It's about feeling right , relaxing , forgetting about my outfits & looking around me .
Oh & nice to see you Rosie .
Wendy in York
Those are good rules to pack by: I like how you put it…that it's good manners to abide by local patterns of dress. And it's so easy to find out what people are wearing in various countries. For instance, I read that in Buenos Aires… shorts are NOT street wear but strictly for the beach. I wish we would adopt that idea…I am sooo tired of seeing people in very short shorts.
It's been a slow slig for me but I've finally got to the stage you're at, following a process like yours. Thus, the suitcases I taken on my last few trips served me so well. The latest element I've added is the trying on session and I think that was key to my last trip's capsule success. That, and looking back on what I've enjoyed wearing leading up to the pack and bringing that element into equation too.
And so with you on not listening to hubby's advice. I have totally unflattering and unwearable Rohan hiking trousers which remind me of that lesson. They bunch out in all the wrong places. Seems we have similar evidence to remind us of that pitfall!
So your packing process is definitely not anal, Sue, it just has to be done. And your photos show that you've got bloomin' good at it!
Thanks, Mary. Packing for trips is fun, I think…as long as we don't leave it to the last minute. That's a recipe for stress and ending up with all the wrong things.
Great post Sue! Your trip to South America sounds amazing.I'd been wondering how long you were going to be travelling. What an Adventure! So looking forward to reading all about it!
Glad you found that paragraph in my email interesting. I hoped you would but I debated whether to include it! Then I thought it's about clothes and planning, of course Sue will be interested!
Thanks for the compliment about my hair …I think it loves Switzerland as much as I do. From camping there in my early 20's I've always found my "difficult" hair so much more manageable there ..It must be the mountain water! 🙂
I've also found my packing choices for there have become my "go to" clothes for early morning trips to town this winter.So easy! Black smartish jeans, biker boots, charcoal cashmere roll neck or similar, longish black puffa jacket/coat and check scarf ..various shades of grey, plum and yellow.Dark grey Longchamp or black leather Coach backpack and I'm sorted!
Also since reading your blog,on longer trips I've started "what I've packed" and a daily "what I actually wore" lists.I've also made notes of how I felt in certain outfits! 🙂 They've made preparation and packing SO much easier! Thanks for all the tips and ideas!
Have a great weekend. Its crisp, frosty and white here. I've started my day out in town with a relaxing coffee ..or two (decaff!) whilst perusing my lists!!
Yeppp. you called it correctly… if it's about clothes and planning I'm interested. I'm off this week to see if I can find some light long-sleeved tees that don't cling with a high neck. I don't hold out much hope. Thanks for the tip about an extension cord. I wish I had had one when we were in the UK. Still remember that morning that Stu held the huge miror so I could dry my hair.
I'm not a big packing planner, but for trips like yours, we divide bags into active wear, and another one for urban wear – just makes it so much easier…and cleaner.
That sounds like a good idea. I recently bought some packing cubes so we can do something similar.
It sounds like you will figure out your clothes needs just as you have always done. Since you mentioned going to "villages" I am prompted to add a comment about being in rural areas in South America. I live in Ecuador and I travel to many such places. Unless you will be under the direction of a tourist service that will guide you to where you can find clean restrooms, be prepared. "Restroom" is a misnomer; you will want to be in and out as quickly as possible. Even marginally clean ones are few. Some places, like bus stations (although I expect you will be in private cars) will want 15 cents to enter the restroom so small change is necessary. I am thinking Peru will be a lot like Ecuador, so here are some ideas. Always carry a small vial of liquid soap in a pocket. Often even restaurant restrooms lack soap. There probably won't be any place in the stall to set your bag down. No hooks either. My bag has a strap long enough to put over my head, if need be. Carry some toilet paper folded in the amount you need each time. (Some tucked in my bra.) Toilet paper, if provided, may be on a roll mounted on the wall outside the stall. You unroll what you need and take it in with you. Often restaurants and private homes may not have any or too little. (I imagine you won't be staying in a private home, but just in case, don't expect a towel will be provided. Never wash cloths. Assume nothing will be as you expect.)Take many quality zip lock bags in small, medium, large sizes. If you are going to be on hairpin curved roads motion sickness pills can prevent losing your lunch. True when traveling in a private car. (Public buses actually hang "barf bags" for the taking so that's the clue. I carry my own even though I take a pill. It happened once despite taking one. I was never prone until going over the Andes. In Ecuador, gas builds up within because you ascend quickly and you feel like a balloon. Sipping a carbonated beverage during the ascent can help.) Carry some cleaning antibacterial wipes because places you go or stay may need 'help' to make things more pleasant. And, other hand wipes, of course. Something to wear on your feet, always. While some of these things may not apply in your case, Sue, other readers may be traveling in the future so I hope they'll help. Have fun!
Thanks so much for all this great info, Elaine. I had some experience with unsavory public washrooms when we were in Costa Rica. One even made me change my mind about "going." The toilet paper trick we learned from a friend who just came back from SA… but thanks for mentioning it. We totally took the car sickness comment on board. Hubby can get car sick if he's not driving… and we are taking a bus from Puno on Lake Tittikaka over the Andes to Cusco. So he's been warned! I've added your other tips to my list! Thanks so much for taking the time to write this.
Thanks for the mention, Sue. And once again, I must say I am in awe of your planning and organisation. Thanks for sharing some of this stage with us — your whole trip is going to be an adventure to follow, and the anticipation is much of the fun.
I hope it's an adventure of the good kind. With a few glitches for better storytelling:)
My goodness I had to laugh when I see the similarities between how you organize for a vacation trip and how I do…notebooks are great places to make lists and then adjust them as you rethink a wardrobe plan in the days prior to leaving. My suitcase is packed with colour coordinated layering pieces that save on weight and provide as many looks as possible for all sorts of occasions and weather conditions. Always make a point of trying things on and leave out things that don't feel or look great. With suitcase weight restrictions and the goal of travelling lightly, packing is not an exercise done at the last minute…thanks for sharing and enjoy your trip thoroughly! Cheers, Alayne
I love to look at my old notebooks. I spent way too long on my exercise bike the day I decided to read through old trip journals for my packing lists. And I've just discovered that I do need to get more layering pieces…so I'm off shopping this week.
We travel to Provence for two months in the falll…have been doing it for the last six years. I put everything on the bed tops on one side bottoms on the other…..match up outfits. We have to cover two seasons…so layers it is. I take clothes for one week and do laundry. My clothes are exactly what I wear at home. Sknnny jeans….ankle boots…sandals used as slippers as well. Someone above said always dress as a local. It's really true. You get treated differently.
Ah… Provence in the fall for two months…sounds wonderful! This trip is going to be a bit of a struggle for me…since we're trying to pack light. I may have to leave more of Hubby's stuff out that usual:)
Your organization amazes me! I've travelled a lot and have yet to get it down to a "system." I sort of wing it. Yes, I lay things out on the bed a few days ahead and have a general…and I mean general…idea of what I will take. I'm really a very organized person (!) but somehow actually putting things in a suitcase sort of puzzles me. Your trip has so very many elements; I've never had to deal with that much!!! Looking forward to the next installment.
Thanks Libby. I'm still trying to wrap my head around how some pieces will work in more than one climate.
Your trip would be amazing and you are really a great organizer. Looking forward all of your pre- and after posts. I always plan and make lists in notebooks,easy to compare and re-read later. Before travel,I lay all things I would take on the blanket on the floor,too.
I recommend to check with your epidemiology department about vaccinations (I refreshed my memory and on our pages some of the shots are recommended-not obligatory- for Argentina and Peru) and prevention measurements for zika virus (I assume,same as any other mosquito transfered diseases). I was never outside Europe ( although we were camping-when my son was a child- in some isolated and pretty wild parts of Dalmatia,in the mountains,where could be scorpions,gambol snakes and "black widow" spiders. My travel first aid kit is sometimes very loaded :-)), but my ex traveled a lot,once driving through Amasonas,sleeping in tents and sleeping bags. He got prevention pills against malaria,too-but it was area specific. I vacuum sealed all of his clothes,underwear and socks separately. Hope,your travel conditions wouldn't be so dangerous,but check and shake your shoes,socks and other clothes before putting them on when outside.
The comments here are very useful-especially Elaine Ness-priceless!
Planning the travel is half the fun for me!
Have a nice weekend
Nice to meet you,Rosie!
Thanks Dottoressa 🙂
Thanks for that Dottoressa. The Government of Canada website has a list of vacinations and recommendations which we always follow. We've had our Hep A and B, and tetanus, and typhoid (I think) shots. And we were relieved to find out that we won't be in areas which would require shots for yellow fever. Of course insect repellant…we're quite familiar with using that…a bit too familiar! And based on Elaine's comment we're packing motion sickness pills. My first aid kit will be bulging!
But, you know, better safe than sorry. When we were in Costa Rica, the teenage daughter of an American family staying at our condo resort suffered an allergic reaction to mild jelly-fish stings. Her mum (a physician!) was stressing because she had no antihistamine pills or ointment. I had everything she needed in my little first aid kit. I can't believe that people travel without doing any research. She just assumed that because we were staying at a "resort" it would be just "like back home."
Welcome to our countries, you have to know iguazu falls, it is of best natural wonder of the world (if you can). It's impossible not cry in front of them.
Thank-you, Marcelo. I hear that Iguazu Falls is spectacular.
I leave soon for two weeks on the north island of New Zealand. I'm thrilled to see the photo of you at Tongariro Crossing, which I will be hiking with my adult daughter. Long underwear, toque and mitts: got 'em! Thanks for the cold temp. reinforcement, Sue. This will be a sporty trip without dressy occasions. For packing, I've been laying out clothes on the bed for weeks. This trip will be Olive and Tan with Turquoise. My latest method has been a wardrobe consisting of two pairs of pants and two long sleeved button shirts. I have one set quick dry fabric for hiking and rain and one set of loose, cool linen or cotton for hot temperatures. I haven't finished packing yet but I'm thrilled to be sharing the excitement of it with you. For me, the planning is almost as good as the trip itself!
Ooh… I'm excited for you! We also found our Gortex jackets to be very useful in New Zealand. They cut the wind on Tongariro very nicely and meant that we didn't have to cancel plans when we had a day of rain. The day we did the Tongariro Crossing the park was reporting temps of 2° C at the summit. So toques and gloves are a must… just in case. The National Park lays on buses that will transport you to your dropping off point and pick you up on the other side… and they control whether or not you can even attempt the hike. There had been bad weather a few days before we arrived so people were not allowed to attempt the walk. We thought it was a fabulous experience.
Hope you have a great time in New Zealand, Lizette! Please stop by the blog when you get back and tell me how it went.
Susan, we just finished hiking the 20km Tongariro Crossing. You are one tough cookie, and so am I !!! What a hike! Not cold but long and tough. So exciting to witness our wonderful world and all it's beauty. Can't wait to see your next adventure. Thanks.
That's wonderful, Lizette. So glad you enjoyed it. No go have a hot tub…or a whirl pool…you must be stiff and sore. I'm always worse the second day after. But it's worth it.
You plan so well it will go great.I have learned so much from you–your notebook idea is just great. I will incorporate it in a dedicated journal for pre-trip and post-trip notes–thanks! We all can help each other so much. Greetings from the Amazon.
I loved reading this post; I am so in awe of how organized you are. While I can tick off a list for backpacking almost anywhere in the world, I cannot seem to get myself together for other types of travel. Probably has something to do with the mess I call my closet 🙁 The notebooks appear to be a very useful tool. Do you keep a separte notebook for each trip? I assume you log the planning process, the trip details and the post trip recap.(?)
I have backpacked to Machu Picchu (and rode the bus on my 2nd trip), rode the high plains train from Cusco to Puno/Lake Titicaca and spent time exploring the Scared Valley but you have some plans that are on my wishlist. I look forward to reading your pretrip plans, about the trip and your post trip wrap up! Thanks for posting such helpful information!!
I do keep a separate travel journal for each trip. They make for fun reading over a glass of wine many months (or even years) after we get home. But I keep all my planning and packing lists in my regular day-to-day journal…which is not so much a daily journal anymore as a chronological planning tool for travel, blogging etc. I am very bad about keeping my journal up to date the last few days of the trip and after we get home…I reach a point where I'm sick of writing and Hubby usually takes over.
I am impressed that you hiked up to Machu Picchu. I am a bit worried about my reaction to altitude…I have exercise induced asthma… so we're taking the bus up and will save the hiking for another day, and another place.
Very, very exciting stuff! Your trip is certainly an adventure. I'm a light packer but then again my trips have been only in three countries, wait…four. Here in the US, I only found it hard to pack one time for a 10 days in Hawaii trip followed by 4 in San Francisco. This was February, so it was a tough one-beach, golf and lots of dining out! Bermuda is a snap. Canada in the late summer also easy. In my trips to Italy, I've done what Wendy above mentioned…dress like the locals, well as best you can. I was happy I brought a well tailored blazer, good scarf and stylish shoes on all the Italian trips. To blend in there, you need to be understated but classic if you're our age. The young, as true most places, can get away with more trendy get ups. Just don't forget the scarf!
Your trip to SA is certainly going to be interesting! I'm looking forward to reading everything you have to say about it. And of course, reading your packing planner will be a trip in itself for me!
You are absolutely right about the young being able to get away with so much more in so many ways… not just with trendy get ups. What I find hard now is that I can't just throw on a tank top (any tank top) with jeans like I used to when I was younger. And on this trip my base layering pieces for cold weather have to be suitable for wearing on their own in warmer weather. So the bottom layers can't be too clingy or tight. So many variables to take into account.
That Hawaii/ San Francisco trip of yours sounds difficult to pack light for… can't wear your golf shoes out for dinner:)
This post was very timely for me as I'm at about the same stage in planning for our upcoming trip to Mexico and, like you, I confess to being anal! This will be entirely different from our Mexican resort vacation a couple of years ago. We will be spending two weeks visiting friends who live in a small town east of Mexico city. The weather at this time of year, though pleasant, isn't hot (though they've had a few unusually warm days lately). Apparently, it cools off significantly at night. As usual, I think layering and packing items that work for both casual and somewhat dressy occasions will be the key. I like your "cross-over capsules" concept.
Thanks, Elaine. Hope you have a great time in Mexico.
I plan just like you do. I'm totally anal about my packing and find it usually pays off. Your upcoming trip sound amazing!!
Thanks, Jennifer. Looks like you are having fun on your trailer trip:)
As always,I am in awe of your organizational skills! And LOL at how you pack "lighter" for your husband (I do the same for mine). You trip sounds like the adventures of a lifetime! xo
Thanks, Patti. I'm so glad I'm not married to a clothes-loving man… at least when it comes time to pack our suitcases.
Your planning and packing skills are inspirational. I too am particular about my travel wardrobe (and use excel to count, and how thing will mix and match…..yes anal).
Will you be able to do carry-on only with such diversified activities? Or once you add hiking, that automatically means checked luggage?
I will be going on a 8 week trip to the UK with a few walking tours and I would love to be able to do just carry-on but am really not sure if that is achievable. Maybe with your practice of less for hubby (hehehe).
Thank you very much for sharing. Suz from Vancouver
We do plan to check a bag each. I don't see the advantage of going carry-on only. I know it's faster on the other end, and you don't run the risk of them losing your bag. But I think the perceived need to do carry-on only is a bit out of hand, myself. On my past few flights I've watched harried flight attendants try (politely) to get people to store all their possessions and sit down so the plane will leave on time. Business travel when you fly all the time etc can see… but the rest of us…? We're checking two carry-on size spinner bags and taking back packs on the plane. I did carry-on only when I went to New York in October, but that was one season for four days.
You are awesome, so organized…I hope that you enjoy your trip and traveling mercies.
Thanks, very much, Antoinette.
Summer: 4-6 T-shirts, 1-2 dress shirts, 1-2 skivvies ( turtleneck T-shirt ) in case there's a cooler day or two, one pair of jeans, one pair of dress pants, 2-3 shorts, sandals, dress shoes, hike shoes/boots, one lightweight sweater ( V-neck or crewneck ), 1-2 baseball caps, 1-2 brimmed hats and a lightweight jacket or blazer
Winter: 4-6 T-shirts, two skivvies, two wool turtlenecks, one wool V-neck sweater, one crewneck sweater/sweatshirt, one set of trackpants, two pair of jeans, one pair of dress pants, dress shoes, sneakers, walking shoes/boots, one blazer, a winter coat/jacket, 1-2 baseball caps, a brimmed hat, a wool scarf and a pair of gloves
Sound like you are very organized, Cee. I 'll let you know my total numbers when I've figured them out:)
Hip hurray for the planner, the capsule wardrobe and the joy of travelling light! Never having been one to trail loads of bags, I am always amazed at the amount some people take. It quite livens up the check-in queue for me. Mostly I plan in my head, making just a few notes but I am going to follow your lead and start taking notes in a notebook. Pre-planning is part of the joy as is the washing and ironing. I once lived perfectly happily out of one bag and have never looked back since. I always, however, pack about two more sets of underwear than I actually need. It makes sound sense. You just never know…
I still recall the fellow that boarded at Heathrow a few years ago with a small suitcase, a garment bag, and three large shopping bags that the poor flight attendant tried to find a place for since he and his wife were sitting at the front of our section with no way to stow the bags under the seat in front of them.
I love the washing and ironing part of packing too…especially the ironing. Funny…that for someone who hates housework as much as I do, I love ironing.
Sue I've really enjoyed the variety of your January posts and the comments they have inspired. Very busy so no time to comment much but still following and enjoying. Sounds like packing for your upcoming trip will be a challenge even to someone as highly organised and experienced in the art of wardrobe planning as yourself but I have every confidence in you! Iris
Thanks, Iris. Happy to hear you're still tuning in and reading. Hope your busy time settles down soon:)
Can't wait to follow along on social media. What an adventure!
Thanks for linking up!
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