One of my most popular travel posts is Packing a Carry-On for a Week in Cold Weather. I’m giving it an update with fresh styles and actually even less items that still provide plenty of variety in styling. This guide was created for a week in Europe but would apply to any urban destination. It’s focused on layers, changing weather, and lots of walking. With laundry capabilities, packing just these items could be multiplied into an even longer trip. I’ve done it so it’s possible. The key is choosing pieces that have the versatility to be worn at least a couple different ways. If an item doesn’t pass that requirement, it’s eliminated.
The other key is THE TOTE*. Combined with an OYSTER STYLE CARRY-ON, it’s amazing how much fits in these two pieces.
There’s plenty to work with here combining layers for long days or casual evenings. Days spent exploring the city mean a rotation of extremely comfortable shoes. Warmth and waterproof are elements that take top priority. For evenings, if I feel like elevating my look, I revert to all black or wear a silk blouse. A pair of great earrings and a swipe of red lipstick are the final touch.
Outerwear: I like having variety in this category. As I said, comfort is key, so a substantial coat is essential with temps dipping especially at night. This is usually the bulkiest item I pack, so I’ll wear it on the plane. Other pieces – a trench coat, lightweight shell and a blazer all fit in the suitcase.
Shoes: I always pack at least two shoes to rotate for long days walking. A lug sole boot and sneakers are a must – particularly for cobblestone streets. A loafer or low heeled boot is a nice switch for dinner. Additionally, I like to tuck a pair of soft, slipper type loafers in my bag for quick trips within the hotel to the lobby or breakfast. I wear my bulkiest shoes – usually the boot – on the flight to allow for plenty of space in the suitcase.
Bottoms: A pair of casual jeans and black jeans get the most wear. I’ll throw in another option like a cord, trousers or a legging depending on the trip and activity. All bottoms must work with all tops. I pay attention to length so I can switch between shoes without hem concerns. If I go with a straight leg, this is easy. It takes a little more planning with a wide leg pant.
Essentials: I love cashmere beanies for traveling. They take up minimal space in a coat pocket or crossbody bag. I rotate through several in one week for variety. Cashmere scarves are another must and an assortment of colors instantly changed the look of my outfits. My favorite are from White + Warren. I pack wool socks and find that laying them flat in my suitcase is most efficient. Tee-shirts, thin cashmere knits, and turtlenecks are useful as layering pieces or on their own.
*The tote: This might be the most important key to successful carry-on travel. All toiletries, chargers, electronics, an umbrella, and gloves go in the tote. I keep them separate from my packed clothing. It helps me stay organized knowing exactly where everything is. I wear a cross-body handbag but always allow room in the tote in case an airline counts it as a third bag while boarding. A large cashmere scarf travels with me wherever I go, even warm climates. Planes and hotels are often too chilly for me.
After using this system several times, I know it not only works but is efficient when getting dressed every day.
Love, love, love your packing posts! I purchased the tote on your recommendation and you could not be more right: it worked like a charm with my roll-aboard suitcase for a two-week to California and Cabo this January and then another across a few cities in Europe last month. Question, though: My carry on suitcase opens in two (the Tumi Alpha series) — do you feel strongly that the top load works better? Thanks for all of your excellent and inspiring posts!
Thank you! I’ve had both types of suitcases and strongly prefer the top load. The Briggs &Riley I use is spacious and easily expands. I love it!
Fabulous post, Karima! We will be traveling to Europe in October for a Rhine river cruise, and I will definitely be using this capsule and a few of your previous travel posts as guidelines. Thank you so much!
That sounds fabulous!!!
Karima – if you can fit 2 pieces of outerwear (in addition to the one you’re wearing on the plane), plus a blazer, AND 3 pairs of shoes (in addition to the chunky boots you’re wearing on the plane) as well as everything else shown here into a carry-on, you’re a much better packer than I am! (And I thought I was good!) I always enjoy and get inspired by your packing posts. I agree they’re great instruction for an efficient, versatile, packable closet for everyday dressing. as well.
Could you please link the blouses? Great, informative post.
They’re both Nili Lotan. Striped is available on Net-a-Porter but the tie neck is sold out.