The Staycation – how to pack a capsule holiday wardrobe to travel light for a ‘whatever the weather’ holiday

Posted by Victoria Lochhead on

I’ve written blogs and guides in the past for heading off somewhere hot, and sunny on holiday.  But this year many of us are sticking to UK destinations.  Cars full of kids, dogs, raincoats and wellies don’t leave much room for clothes.  So how can we pack everything we might need and still travel light, when the weather could range from anything between gales and heatwaves?  In our Facebook group I did a live video demonstration last week, showing how we can use the principles of a capsule wardrobe to pack small but have the maximum possible number of outfit combinations.  How we can take just 11 items of clothing and be covered for rain, hail, heat and everything in between.  So, here’s my tips on how to create a capsule holiday wardrobe:

Firstly, think about what you’re going to be doing on your trip.  If you’re lucky, you might get a few days poolside or on the beach, but in the UK that’s not guaranteed!  So think about all the things you’d like to do, such as sightseeing, walking and exploring, chilling out with a book or going out to eat.  What do you want to do or achieve with your holiday?  Use this list of activities and decide which shoes you’ll need to do those things.  You can’t do anything without the right shoes, and they’re often the bulkiest item in your case, so try and pick shoes that are versatile, that are a relatively neutral colour and that will make sure you can do all your planned activities.  I try not to take more than 3 pairs, including the pair I’m going to wear to travel in.

Once you’ve got your shoes laid out then you can start to think about colour.  Pick out a few colours that will go with the shoes you’ve chosen.  Ideally you want a couple of neutral colours (Use black, navy, grey, white, beige or brown for example) and a couple of accent colours – ideally pick out 3 to 5 colours.  If you’ve had a colour consultation, pick colours from your seasonal palette, or if you haven’t, just pick favourite colours, or colours you own lots of.  By starting with a colour palette you’ll be able to make more outfits out of less clothing.  In my demonstration I chose 3 pairs of shoes, and then 4 colours; sage green, peach, beige, cream and brown.

Once you know your colours, decide on your trousers and skirts.   Use colours that will go with your shoes and are within your colour palette.  For my trip I chose jeans, a pair of beige chinos and a maxi skirt of browns and greens.

 A capsule wardrobe for holiday packing

Choose your tops.  Pick out versatile tops or t-shirts that can be dressed up or down, and that you could put layers over if it gets cold.  It’s a good idea to pack a vest or sleeveless top incase it’s hot and you could wear it under other things if it gets cold. Choose tops that are in your colour palette, then they will mix and match with your bottom half selection.  I picked five tops in cream, beige, peach, and green, and then a vest in brown.

As we can’t rely on the British weather, you’ll likely need a few extra layers.  I picked a sage green sweatshirt, a green cardigan and a peach shirt.  Shirts are great as you can wear them buttoned up as a top, or as an outer layer unbuttoned over a t shirt or a vest (great for keeping the sun off your shoulders if it’s hot).  If it gets really cold, you could wear the shirt over the vest and under a jumper or cardigan, so they give lots of options for layering.  I’ve also packed a lightweight raincoat in a peach colour.

For accessories, pick a couple of versatile pieces to jazz up your tops.  I chose two long beige and gold necklaces and a wide silk scarf in brown, beige and peach.  A lightweight scarf can double up as not only a scarf, but also as a headscarf, a belt and even tied to make a shrug, and they take up almost no space in the case.

Once you’ve picked your items, it’s a good idea to hang all your choices together and review them.  Do all the colours work together?  Do you have something you could wear for each of your planned activities?  Do a ‘what if?’ test; i.e. what if it’s hot?  What if it’s cold?  Do I have something I could wear if we end up….(fill in the blank).  Next check how many outfits you can make from your choices.  I picked 11 items of clothing, from which I can make 48 different outfit combinations before adding any accessories.  If you’re happy with your selection, you can then separate out the outfit you’re going to wear to travel in and put the rest in your case.

Other items you’ll need to pack:

Pyjamas, underwear, swimwear, socks, books and toiletries.   For toiletries, I decant larger bottles of shampoo etc. into smaller hotel sized bottles, and I take a sample sized perfume and skincare rather than full-sized bottles, using small sample sized reusable jars.   I also cut down my make up range to the minimum.   I take a vac bag too as well as a small number of first aid items like plasters and paracetamol and ever hopeful, I pack a full-sized sun cream!


  1. Pack your smaller items, I.e. underwear in a small bag so you keep them all together and find things more easily.
  2. Put shoes in a plastic bag in the bottom of the case, and then pack around them
  3. I always pop in a Vac Bag in my case (a reusable plastic bag that has a sealable top and an air suck valve), then when the family laundry builds up, you can pop them in the bag. By sealing the bag and squeezing out the air, you can squash up the laundry to bring it home away from any clean clothes you might bring back. 
  4. Make up, toiletries and skincare go into sealable clear bags, with anything that might possibly leak going in together and ‘dry’ items in a separate bag.
  5. Once the bags of shoes, underwear, books and toiletries are in the case, it’s time to add your clothes. Rolling clothes can be a good way of utilising space in the case, and often means things get less creased.  For easy to crease items such as linen, you can lay them flat across the top of the rest of your packing.

 You can use my packing guide to prepare for your own trip, or create your own list from the attached images.  Wherever you’re going I wish you a very happy holiday and if you’ve got a holiday packing tip you’d like to share with us, please add it in the comments below.

Happy Holidays!

Holiday Capsule Wardobe Packing Guide
Holiday Capsule Wardobe Packing List

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  • Love this blog Victoria. So useful . I remember my grandmother showing how rolling clothes stops creasing and the vacuum pack for ‘dirty’ clothing is a fantastic idea ! Thank you. Debbie

    Debbie Miles on

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