My Overnight Travel Capsule Wardrobe

Overnight Capsule Collection

I used to travel with more than I needed. Even for an overnight adventure, I’d bring a carry on suitcase and a tote or large bag. A few years ago, I took a trip to Seattle and Portland with only a backpack, and a few months ago, I took a small carry on with me for a month-long adventure. (see that capsule wardrobe collection here) After those experiences, I’ll never check a bag or bring anything extra when I travel again.

On a few recent overnight trips, I figured out what I really needed and only brought that.

I wore: black tank, jeans, blazer and flats and in my laptop bag I packed my …

  • computer & charger
  • phone & charger
  • journal
  • id, credit card & insurance card
  • earbuds
  • pen
  • small make up bag
  • hair brush
  • dress
  • sleep shirt
  • underwear
  • sunglasses

I enjoy the freedom of moving through security lines with less. Navigating taxis or public transportation is easier with less.

A capsule wardrobe for overnights, weekends and even 3 months at a time or longer simplifies everything so you can enjoy traveling through the world and life a little lighter.

Do you usually over or under pack when you travel?


  1. says

    YES. each trip i take, i refine deeper. we pulled up at a hotel, my husband & i & our 4 kids. we had less baggage by half of what my mom & dad had. FREEDOM. (& being impressive to one’s mother is always a treat, yes?)

  2. kim says

    This becomes even more important if you have to carry medical equipment with you. I need my bipap EVERY night. It doesn’t count as carry on (although there were a couple of people who wanted to argue with me), but it sure is a pain to carry if you have overpacked! Thank you for what you do!

  3. says

    I can sometimes overpack a little for car-based travel, but I’ve always hated checking bags, so I only do when flying if something in a carry-on (e.g., SCUBA equipment for a dive trip). I strive to pack a little less each trip. Buying a Kindle really helped, as does having a smart phone and/or, which allows me to work or be entertained without a laptop or multiple books to take up valuable packing real estate. I haven’t quite gotten to the point where I want to wear the exact outfit two days in a row, but I definitely reuse items on longer stretches, and like items that are easy to wear for multiple days (versatile shoes; jeans). For overnights, I regularly pack just a small tote; for week-long European excursions, I pack the smallest rollaboard and a decent-sized tote that works for the plane and is also suitable for lugging a wallet and DSLR/lenses around once I reach my destination.

    Project 333 is perfect for trip planning; since you’ve already put thought into items that work well together, picking a subset that addresses the needs of a particular trip is a breeze. I had a long weekend (4 days) in Texas during my first Round in February 2013; I packed a skirt, 3 tops, jeans, a dress, running clothes, and PJs, and fit it all in a single backpack. It was a real light-bulb moment!

  4. Malkah Hochman says

    I’m getting ready to take a trip of a lifetime! Paris for 6 nights! I’m not checking a bag. I’m taking a carry on bag and a tote and I’m planning to wear my Chico’s travelers pants, Chico’s top, and flats on the plane. Very comfy! I haven’t packed yet but I am really going to try and go with less. I’m planning to pack 2 pairs of pants, 4 tops, a water resistant jacket, pj’s, a pair of walking shoes, undies, and toiletries. I am going to wear a pair of earrings and a watch to keep it simple. As I was going through my toiletries, I took out several things that I really didn’t need. I can’t wait to see how it feels to travel light! Thanks for your inspiration. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  5. Wendy says

    I’m way worse for car trips because a lot of time food packing is involved. But I have done 7 weeks in Europe in a carry-on sized bag. I choose to check a bag a lot of times just because I don’t want to carry it through the airport–even though it is carry-on size.

    My downfall is “keep me entertained” stuff (I crochet on trips) and toiletries (I’m an avid homeopathy believer so I have remedies galore with me). Also I’ve been doing scrapbooks-on-the-go on big trips which adds crap to my bags.

    Overall, yes I take more than necessary, but MUCH less than most women and I’m working on it.

  6. Jerilyn says

    We have taken two weekend trips in the past two months. I had one small bag for me and my three kids also had one small bag (confession: the second trip I had a swim bag seperate).
    The first trip my 2 year old had a massive blow out through his diaper and his pants onto my pants!! The second trip he threw up all over himself and me. I was fine in both cases :) and if that doesn’t prove I can travel with less, I don’t know what will!

    I have no problem wearing the same clothes for days in a row- as long as there are fresh underclothes… But I hope our next trip has less bodily fluids all over :)

  7. Laurie says

    I’d gotten pretty adept at carry-on travel until they instituted the 311 policy on liquids. As a contact lens wearer that makes it a bit challenging. Then I had my son and all bets were off. However we are planning a week-long trip across the country later this month and I have challenged myself to only a carry-on. I don’t think my husband is participating in this challenge though. Oh well, next time!

  8. says

    I go carry-on only for all trips, and somehow it still seems I overpacked even for a two week trip.

    We need so much less than we think!

  9. Amy says

    Wow, this is amazing. I can only dream of being this “minimalistic”. I am 50 and have just been diagnosed with ADD which explains alot of my issues with organization. I have so many clothes yet I never seem to have anything to wear!?! Sometimes it is so overwhelming yet you have given me inspiration to make changes. I will keep you posted. Thank you Courtney.

  10. old aggie says

    I recently took a 2-day business trip and was able to fit everything into a large purse! It was so exciting, as I usually waaaaay overpack. I took 3 sweaters (including a beaded one for an evening banquet) to go over the same tank dress, and my shoes were versatile (and comfortable!) enough for everything. I packed a couple nearly-empty toiletries, so I just discarded the containers at the hotel, as well as a sleepshirt and a couple other things, making room for the obligatory chatchkies on my return trip. I felt so streamlined, next to my fellow passengers with their 2 large carry-ons apiece. I’ll definitely try to follow this schema for future short trips, whenever possible.

  11. says

    I went back and forth from east to wear coast a lot for a few years and after a few truly miserable trips with way too much stuff I started making it a contest with myself to take less every time. I got really good with just one bag and even though we rarely travel now it’s always stuck. One bag for life!!!

  12. says

    I used to be a big time overpacker. Most of our trips were by car, and I would bring a huge duffle bag even if I was only staying a night or two. Over the past couple of years I have discovered the joy of minimalist packing. Now I bring a single backpack whether it’s for a day or two or a week or two. It’s so much easier to travel with just a backpack.

  13. KL says

    We just spent 10 days in France an Germany with a family of four. We only had carry-on luggage, except for the stroller that had to be checked in. We actually could have packed way less than we did, but the key was to use airbnb and stay at friends’ places so we could do laundry. Small kids get dirty, fast.

  14. Nicole says

    I absolutely LOVE the laptop bag in the above picture and have been searching for something similar. Can you please post a link or let me know the brand? Thank you!

  15. says

    Our last two big vacation trips were to Ireland and New Mexico (each trip a week long) and for both of those trips we each took a rolling carryon bag and a tote. It can be done! On the trip to Ireland we didn’t do any laundry during the week and we still had plenty of clothing. The trip to New Mexico I did do some laundry mid-week. We also tend to take some old pieces with us (underwear, a shirt or two) that we don’t need to bring back with us and toss those out as we go, leaving space for souvenirs for the return trip. On the trip to New Mexico we actually got rid of more than we bought, we had a lot of open space in the one suitcase. Our philosophy is that we aren’t there to impress anyone and we are not going to see any of these people ever again, so why do we need to dress to impress. Dress for comfort and practicality. And don’t take things you think you might need, take what you have to have and if you get there and find that you need something you can always buy it if you do. Chances are you won’t! It is so nice when you get off the plane and can just keep on walking, no having to wait on your bags. :)

  16. says

    My grandfather has a quote about traveling: “Pack your bag, walk it around the block, then take out half of your clothes and bring twice as much money.”

    Working on my first capsule wardrobe now, feels good!