A woman sits on the floor holding up a red jumper with an open suitcase next to her

This is exactly what to pack for a carry-on capsule wardrobe

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Packing light doesn’t come easy to the fashion girlies, but it is possible.

Summer may be a little late here in the UK, but it’s already arrived across Europe. Whether you’ve already booked or are currently browsing a summer holiday, you’ll notice the inflated checked baggage prices on most airlines. And if you’re planning a multi-stop trip, such as island-hopping in Greece (on our bucket list), you may soon be regretting packing that extra pair of shoes, just in case, after dragging them from place to place.

We’ve enlisted the help of Neda Kalantar, a stylist who specialises in helping her clients pack for trips, including backpacking adventures, when each item must be packed with thought and consideration.

The ultimate capsule wardrobe packing list, according to Neda

  • Three swimsuits, colours
  • Two coverups, neutrals
  • A button-up shirt, light colour
  • Pair of sandals
  • Pair of nice shoes for evening (if you have space)
  • Pair of shoes for poolside
  • Beach bag (if you can use this as a handbag for the journey, even better)
  • Two sunglasses
  • Hat or cap
  • Two belts (one brown, one black)
  • Silk scarf
  • Light tank top
  • Dark tank top
  • Two casual T-shirts/crop tops
  • Two dresses (midi, mini or maxi)
  • Flowy skirt
  • Two pairs of shorts (one dark, one light)
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a woman sits on the floor cross legged packing a suitcase
A capsule wardrobe is best for carry on luggage

How to pack light

If you’re planning to travel only with hand luggage, overpacking isn’t even an option, but according to Neda, the habit is easier to kick than you think.

“What I usually suggest is an absolute minimum of two swimsuits — that way you have one dry option at all times,” she says, adding that packing colourful swimwear and neutral cover-ups, or vice versa, means you can create multiple looks with only a handful of items.

Neda also tells me people typically over-pack shoes they know are uncomfortable but want to wear, so take them on holiday only to return with them unworn. Considering the weight and bulkiness of shoes (depending on how strappy we’re talking), this can be a rookie mistake in building your holiday capsule wardrobe. Instead, she suggests taking a pair of shoes for the poolside and a pair of sandals for wearing in the evening or out during the day, and only packing another if you still have space (such as trainers, for the gym bunnies — which you can wear on the flight).

What not to pack when flying with hand luggage only

According to Neda, cheap jewellery reigns supreme on a summer holiday. Not only can flashy, luxury jewellery make you a target for theft, it can also be easily lost in hotel rooms or poolside, “and nobody wants to be Kim Kardashian at the bottom of the ocean screaming for their diamond earring”, Neda adds.

She also suggested staying away from synthetic fabrics if you’re trying to beat the heat, advising to instead opt for cotton and linen garments. “These do have a downside of wrinkling super easily when you’re packing,” she warns, although she adds that that putting clothes on a hanger in the bathroom while you’re having a steamy shower will help you brush the wrinkles out with your hands.

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A cut off shot of two women walking the street shoring just their elbows to thighs
You don’t need a dedicated ‘airport outfit’

The ultimate airport outfit

You’ve likely seen TikToks showing unique ways to sneak extra clothes onto a flight, from wearing multiple layers to using a neck pillow (or actual pillow) stuffed with clothes. With our packing list, you’ll likely be able to avoid having to do this, but your airport outfit still needs consideration.

Neda suggests wearing items to the airport that you can also wear on your holiday, rather than leaving things in the bottom of your suitcase until it’s time to fly back home. Her ideal airport outfit would be a T-shirt, linen trousers, crossbody bag and a pair of trainers.

She also says taking a denim jacket, cardigan or jumper can save you from both the air conditioning blasting out on airplanes and trains and chilly evenings if you’re going on holiday later in the summer season.

“The key to smart packing is really understanding the specifics and your itinerary of your trip before [you go],” Neda says before adding that, although it can be extra work to do so before your trip, it’ll make dressing on your holiday much easier.

Written by Priya Raj

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