How to pack for a 12 day European adventure in only a carry on.

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I started using the “capsule wardrobe” method to minimize my closet, de-clutter my life, and cut my spending about a year ago. I’m completely obsessed with the concept (read about it here) and have not looked back since I started shopping + dressing this way. When my Spatular and I decided to only pack carry on sized bags for our 12 day trip to Europe, I knew I would need to apply the capsule concept to my packing strategy as well. We are SO GRATEFUL that we decided to pack light, each only bringing a travel backpack and a small carry on (a cross body purse for me and a drawstring track bag for him). It allowed us to easily navigate cities and public transportation, and took us mere minutes to pack up before moving on to our next city. I would recommend traveling light to anyone, but it can sound impossible at first, so I decided to share my Travel Capsule here on the blog to show you just how easy it is. Keep in mind I have very little fashion sense, so I’m not posting these outfits to show off my style so much as to share how easy and practical it is to pack light!
Here are a few tips for getting started:

  1. Pick articles of clothing in the same color palate, utilizing neutrals where possible, so everything can be mixed and matched.
  2. Check the weather for your destination and think about the activities you have planned to make sure you have the proper attire. For example, I knew we would be taking walking tours, biking through the Danube River Valley, and going out on the town at least one night, so I wanted clothes that could be dressed up or down, along with some comfortable shoes.
  3. Wear the bulkiest clothes on the plane and pack the smaller stuff. Since we were traveling in the fall, I wanted a pair of tall boots for when the temperatures dipped into the 40’s at night. Packing a pair of knee high boots in a carry-on is unrealistic, so I just wore them on the plane and for all travel days. It was pretty hot leaving Philadelphia (temps in the 80’s) but I was fine once I got to the air conditioned airport, and I was really glad to have the boots during those cold European evenings.
  4. When traveling in North America or Europe, it’s possible to buy pretty much anything you would have at home, so if I was on the fence about bringing something, I typically left it at home knowing that I could buy it in country if I really needed it.

In this post I’m just going to show you my travel capsule outfits, but I also packed the following:

  1. Dirndl + black flats + small purse for Oktoberfest.
  2. 1 pair of knee length spandex, 1 pair of shorts, 1 T-shirt, 1 long sleeve T-shirt, and my Nike’s for running.
  3. Shorts,T-shirt, a light weight sweatshirt for sleeping.
  4. A few pairs of socks, underwear for every day, and an extra bra.
  5. A toiletries bag, a make-up bag, a small medicine bag, and a hair straightener.
  6. My rain jacket, and at the last minute I threw in an umbrella.

Now on to the capsule!

CLOTHES

  1. Dark wash skinny jeans
  2. Dark grey leggings
  3. Navy blue pencil skirt
  4. Navy blue shift dress
  5. White T-shirt
  6. Heather grey long sleeve T
  7. Flannel button up
  8. Cranberry cardigan
  9. Navy and hot pink poncho

SHOES:

  1. Brown knee-high boots
  2. Nude flats
  3. Navy blue slip on shoes

ACCESSORIES:

  1. Patterned scarf
  2.  Skinny belt
  3. Statement necklace
  4. Long necklace
  5. Cuff bracelet
  6. Extra pair of earrings

Using these 9 articles of clothing and small bag of accessories, I was able to put together 9 totally unique outfits. Let’s take a look at them!

Outfit #1: Leggings + White T + Poncho + Tall Boots.
This is my go-to travel outfit. I love wearing leggings on planes because they are just as comfortable (if not more so) than sweatpants, but look much more put-together than a pair of old track pants. The poncho serves double duty as a blanket when it gets cold on the plane and the boots are a must because they take up way too much room to pack in a carry on. I wore this outfit to fly to Europe and again to fly home.

Outfit #1.2

Outfit #2: Navy Pencil Skirt + Grey Long Sleeve T + Navy Blue Slip-On’s
I love the dress up/dress down feel of this outfit. The slip-on’s and t shirt make it super casual, while the skirt dresses it up, just enough.  I changed into this outfit after we landed in Prague and wore it for a long walk up the river and through the park to the Letna Beer Garden.

Outfit #2

Outfit #3: Shift Dress +Skinny Belt + Nude Flats
When packing I chose pieces that could be worn multiple ways, with the ability to go fancy or causal (like this shift dress).  I loved how comfortable and casual it was to wear on our walking tour of the city, and then out to dinner and a pub at night.

Outfit #3.2

Outfit #4: Jeans + Flannel + Cardi + Slip On’s
Layering is a must in Europe, especially in the fall when the temperatures fluctuate a lot over the course of the day. The cardi added just enough extra warmth over the flannel, and although they were the  bulkiest thing I brought, I was grateful to have my knee high boots when the temps dropped into the 40’s.

Outfit #4.2

Outfit #5: Jeans + Grey Long Sleeve T + Blue Slip-On’s + Scarf
This is another classic and practical look, using the scarf to brighten up a super basic T-shirt and jeans.  I actually wore it with boots in the morning and swapped it out for the nude flats in the afternoon when things warmed up a bit.

outfit.2

Outfit #6: Pencil Skirt + White T + Poncho + Boots
This outfit was a little dressier than something I would wear for sightseeing at home, but it just felt like it worked in Europe. I love the poncho because it works as a jacket and is easy to fold up and stick in my purse when it gets warm later in the day.

 

Outfit #5.2

Outfit #7: Blue Skirt + Flannel + Long Necklace + Boots
This outfit is another one that would be a bit out of my comfort zone at home, but it turned out to be one of my favorite outfits. I paired the super casual flannel with my navy pencil skirt and boots for an outfit that was super comfy, yet polished. Unfortunately it was kind of a waste, because due to travel delays it saw nothing but the inside of a train!

Outfit #6

Outfit #8: Shift Dress + Leggings + Brown Boots + Scarf/Statement Necklace
On a chilly, drizzly day I paired my leggings under my shift dress for some extra warmth.  For sight seeing during the day, I added a scarf and a rain jacket.  In the evening for a Vienna date night, I dressed it up a bit with a statement necklace.

Outfit #8.2

Outfit #9: Jeans + White T + Cardi + Blue Slip Ons + Statement Necklace
This outfit is super comfy (basically just jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers) but looks put together thanks  to the cardi and statement necklace.  I actually wore it on a bike tour through Austrian wine country and wouldn’t have traded any part of it!

Outfit #9

If you made it this far into this excessively long post, you may be saying “that’s all fine and good Meghan, but what’s the point?  Why do you need to pack light?”  The reason is so I can have moments like the one below.  That’s me crossing the Charles Bridge at sunrise on a two mile walk to the train station.  It was such a simple moment, but it was beautiful, and peaceful, and one of the highlights of our trip.  Packing light and living light (still working on that one) have simply freed me up to enjoy more of life’s little moments, and I encourage you to give it a try!

backpack 2

 

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