1 Carry-On, 13 Days of Travel: Here's How I Did It

I like to pack light.

It makes sense for my travel style, because I hate lugging stuff around, and I also love the challenge of creating a tightly conceptualized wardrobe.

My belief is that you should always have fewer clothes in your closet, and use them to make more outfits. When I'm traveling, my suitcase is my closet on-the-go.

I recently took a 13-day trip to Europe for my honeymoon, and upon booking, I immediately decided I would take this opportunity to see exactly how much I could get out of and get into my CALPAK hard shell carry-on. 

Here's the approach I took when packing for this trip: 

1. Go with basics.

I'm a big fan of color, but I was worried I would get sick of color if I relied mostly on the usual brights I like to wear in spring. Instead, I choose black as the dominate color for the trip along with navy, taupe and white. While I craved color by the end of the trip, I was still completely satisfied what I had. 

 Bavaria, Germany: Wearing my basic black top, black boots and jeans to see Neuschwanstein Castle. To make the neutrals more exciting, I paired my favorite silver hoops and wide-brimmed black hat.

Bavaria, Germany: Wearing my basic black top, black boots and jeans to see Neuschwanstein Castle. To make the neutrals more exciting, I paired my favorite silver hoops and wide-brimmed black hat.

2. Comfort is key. 

The look of a garment or shoe has historically been way more important to me than the comfort of it, but for this trip, there was no getting around the fact that I needed to be comfortable. 

We were going to be walking around Amsterdam, Munich and Berlin all day, every day, so I needed shoes that would support me in my journey. 

I decided to go with my Texas staple, Tecovas cowboy boots. I also invested in a new pair of lace-up military-style boots from Kork Ease.  

3. Know the weather. Know thyself. 

I'm lumping these two points together, because dressing for the weather isn't just about what people typically wear at certain temperatures. It's about knowing how you like to dress in any given weather. 

When I first started packing for this trip, I saw the average temperatures for Amsterdam, Munich and Berlin would all be around 55 degrees. I pulled out my Blank NYC suede moto jacket as the one-and-only honeymoon jacket.

Last minute I decided to swap this jacket for my full length cashmere, and boy am I glad I did! While the moto would have worked for some people, I'm a true Texan -- I get very cold very easily. 

Make sure to be honest with yourself about what you'll need to feel comfortable on vacation. While another person would've been fine in the moto jacket, my intuition told me to go with something heavier. Always trust your intuition.

4. Accessorize like it's nobody's business. 

If you're a client of mine or you frequently read this blog, you've probably heard me say that you must wear accessories with every outfit -- they're the icing on the cake and the way for everyone around you (personally and professionally) to understand you are detail-oriented and thoughtful. 

To keep my neutrals fresh on every day of the trip, I relied more on accessories than ever before! I packed A LOT of them, perhaps a few too many, but they lived up to their job. Each accessory I wore gave me a creative and bright pop to an otherwise simple, neutral canvas. 

 A snapshot of the jewelry I packed for the trip. I included my wedding jewelry (bottom right) in the bunch for when I wanted a romantic touch to my look

A snapshot of the jewelry I packed for the trip. I included my wedding jewelry (bottom right) in the bunch for when I wanted a romantic touch to my look

 Another handful of pieces I decided to take to Amsterdam, Munich and Berlin plus the gold hoops (top left) I purchased in Berlin

Another handful of pieces I decided to take to Amsterdam, Munich and Berlin plus the gold hoops (top left) I purchased in Berlin

Taking the ideas above into account, here's what I packed for my 13-day trip:

1. BOTTOMS

  • blue jeans, black jeans, black pencil skirt, Athleta Restore Jogger pant, 3 pairs of work out pants

2. Tops

  • black v-neck dolman top, black turtleneck, taupe sweater, blush sweater, blue & white striped Rails shirt, 3 work out t-shirts
 Munich, Germany: my Rails blue & white shirt paired with my wedding jewelry

Munich, Germany: my Rails blue & white shirt paired with my wedding jewelry

3. Accessories

  • black wide-brim hat, green beret, black knit scarf, black tights, black gloves, bathing suit, 3 sports bras, undergarments, handkerchief cotton scarf
     
  • lots of jewelry -- see above for a snippet of what I brought

4. Shoes

  • Tecovas cowboy boots, Kork Ease lace-up military-style boots, sneakers (for working out only)

And with all that in tow, I headed out to Europe for two weeks! Like any experiment, there are things that worked perfecting and others that didn't.

 Day 1 in Amsterdam - All ready for cold weather

Day 1 in Amsterdam - All ready for cold weather

Here's what I learned from what I packed: 

1. Be realistic about what you will or won't do.  

I was tight with what I packed, but there were still a couple things I didn't end up needing:

  • a bathing suit: I love to swim, but honestly, taking a swim at the hotel after eating brats and sauerkraut was not the most appealing activity. It didn't happen. 
     
  • tights: I ended up not using these, because while I could shed other layers if I got hot, tights would have to stay on all day. I was worried I would get uncomfortable, thus they stayed in the CALPAK carry-on. 

2. Accessories are essential, but know your limits.

While every outfit needs accessories, I was sick of switching out accessories by the end of the trip just for the sake of switching. My favorite earrings are my big hoops, and I ended up wearing these 3 days in a row towards the end. I packed 7 pairs of earrings, and for future trips, I'm sticking to 3. 

3. I still had too much stuff! 

I know it sounds insane, but I really could have used only one pair of black pants (I packed black jeans and the Athleta Restore Jogger pants). Since they're both black, they essentially did the same job.

 Amsterdam, Netherlands: One of the days I wore my black pair of pants. Upon looking back, I think I could have only packed one and would've been just fine on the trip.  

Amsterdam, Netherlands: One of the days I wore my black pair of pants. Upon looking back, I think I could have only packed one and would've been just fine on the trip.  

 Amsterdam, Netherlands: Saying goodbye to Amsterdam and heading for Munich in my black pencil skirt and a top I picked up at a vintage shop in Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Netherlands: Saying goodbye to Amsterdam and heading for Munich in my black pencil skirt and a top I picked up at a vintage shop in Amsterdam

Want to pack the perfect carry-on for your next trip? I can help with that! Simply book a call with me, so I can get to know you and your style better. From there, we'll set up a 90-minute session dedicated to building a suitcase filled with pieces you'll love to wear on your next trip.