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The benefits of a Travel Capsule Wardrobe

November 14, 2017


Photography by Cindy Charles, words by Cindy Charles


When it comes to travelling, I absolutely LOATHE lugging around a giant suitcase.

Coming from Tasmania, most of the time I have a long layover before boarding an international flight and generally have to drag my suitcase around an airport for a few hours before checking in. Giant bags are not ideal.

On every trip, I try to pack as light as possible by using a capsule wardrobe. A capsule is perfect for those who often travel because it is made up of pieces that have a purpose and go with everything (or almost everything). Every top you pack, goes with every bottom, every dress can be paired with an extra layer if necessary, every shoe can be paired with every outfit. You get the picture. Who actually has (or wants) time to spend figuring out the perfect outfit when there are 1200 temples to see?! Or $2 cocktails to be drinking? The answer should be nobody.


So what are the benefits of a capsule wardrobe?

Less luggage

Hey, you can even get it down to carry on size and skip the lines! When I was in Venice, and everyone else was spending 10 minutes every morning repacking their clothes and locking up their suitcases (after sitting on them and fussing with the zip of course), I was just shoving my bag in my locker and throwing a padlock on it. 

More time 

With less time spent worrying about what to wear/what matches/what’s clean, you will have more time to get out there and explore.

Clothes that suit you 

If you’re packing pieces that you have really thought about, that you love and know to go well together, you can head out every day knowing that you don’t look like a complete shambles. Win! The key is to make sure that almost every item works together in colour, cut and style.

It’s easier to keep track of your items 

If you only have 15 pieces, it is easy to notice when that white shirt didn’t come back from the laundry! 

You can carry it 

With less stuff, it’s much easier to deal with your bag if you have to walk somewhere or get around. Nobody likes climbing stairs with a giant suitcase. And not all hotels have elevators. And sometimes, you can’t get a car right to your hotel, and you may have to walk. Being able to carry your stuff is super important, especially for avoiding road/market sludge, rubbish and who knows what else (it’s best not to know). You DO NOT want to wheel your giant suitcase through that! 


Do’s and Don’ts

Do your research.

Really. Check out local customs and see what is appropriate for where you are going. If you are going to religious sites, don’t pack 15 Tank tops. If you are spending seven days at temples and need to cover up, miniskirts are an absolute waste of space.

Do think about the climate.

If you’re going somewhere tropical and want to avoid the sweat patches (if that’s your deal) pack white, dark or patterns, stripes are a win! Obviously, if you’re going to get dirty, you might want to avoid the white. If you burn easily, lightweight, long sleeve shirts or long pants can save you hours of sunscreen application.

Do choose quality fabrics.

Quality cotton t-shirts are the best, they are super comfy, can easily be washed in the bathroom sink and they breathe so they won’t leave you stinking like someone who’s been living in a tent for eight years.

Don’t pack pieces that can only be worn with one other thing.

Manage to get sunscreen all over your black T-shirt? Switch it to the grey one and move on — no need to change your whole outfit.

Don’t pack ridiculous items.

Do not pack that beach kaftan you bought five years ago after seeing it on Instagram, the one that in reality you have never worn because it makes you look like a potato, Even if it goes perfectly with your bikini/denim shorts/new sandals, if you don’t wear it at home, DON’T PACK IT.


What do I pack?

On my most recent trip to Cambodia, I packed a total of 15 items:

  • 5 Tops- One grey Tshirt, One White Graphic Tshirt and One Blue and White stripe Tshirt. A long sleeve (quality) plain white shirt and a grey and white long-sleeve T-shirt
  • 4 Bottoms- One pair of light denim shorts, some lightweight black pants, a black maxi -skirt and a colourful floral-patterned skirt.
  • 3 Dresses- One navy dress that could be used for going out, one navy basic singlet dress and one patterned long sleeve dress.
  • 2 Bikini’s- To be honest, this was overkill. One would have been enough. Lesson learned.
  • 1 Sweater (Navy Marle)

For shoes I packed a pair of black Havaianas, some gold/bronze sandals and a pair of light grey canvas flats for walking around. For the most part, my shoes went with everything else with the only exception being the gold sandals with the floral skirt.

If I was going somewhere cold, the shorts and pants could easily be swapped out with something warmer, and a couple of the t-shirts and dresses could be swapped for sweaters/long sleeve thermals. 

Less stuff definitely equals more time. Not wasting the limited time we have on choosing what to wear gives you the chance to spend your day doing what you love. Get out into the world and see more!

Follow Cindy and her travels on Instagram

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