The Minimalist Travel Wardrobe

by Jorunn Hernes (Norway)

A simple rule to keep in mind when travelling:

Everything you bring shall match all the other items. Travel Wardrobe = a condensed capsule wardrobe.

If there is something you pick that doesn’t match the shoes you are thinking of bringing, choose something else instead.

This is much easier if you have a colour analysis done and you are already building a wardrobe that fits your colour tone. Then everything will automatically blend.

Be patient. The longer you live with your colour tone, the more consistent your wardrobe will become. It takes time.

This is what you pack.
This is what you wear in transit.
And here you see some different combinations you can create with these items.

The heaviest shoes and the thickest, heaviest garments are what you travel in.

In addition you’ll wear a coat or raincoat.

A good tip is to choose items that can be layered – every one of the tops can be used over or under other tops.

The Packing List:

For a week-end trip to a European city, factor in:

  • going to museums
  • having lunch at sidewalk cafés
  • strolling down the streets
  • in the evenings, if going to eat at nicer restaurants, you’ll want to dress up a little.

2 Pairs of Shoes

One super comfy pair for walking, and one pair nicer shoes. You’ll travel in the one pair, and pack the other pair.

No heels. Speaking from experience, we spend a lot of time on our feet when traveling, and heels are usually not comfortable enough.

Choose wisely. Traveling is no time to test out a new pair of shoes. It’s best to bring shoes that you already know are comfortable.

Choose shoes that are comfortable without being trainers. Then you can go to nicer restaurant or wear them with your skirt without feeling underdressed. Unless trainers with skirt is totally your style.

3 Bottoms

Two trousers and one skirt, or three pairs of trousers. If you don’t bring a skirt, make sure one of the trousers is a nice pair that you’ll feel comfortable wearing to a show or at the restaurant of your choice.

5 Tops

Two of these should be cardigan/light jacket. In addition one outer garment according to season, for instance a trench or raincoat (this you’ll wear while traveling, not to be packed).


Then choose one or two scarves, ideally in colours that match and bridge the colours of the garments you are packing, but differently. Scarves are wonderful for transforming an outfit, and is super easy to fit in a travel bag.

** Of course you’ll also pack a suitable amount of underwear, socks and pantyhose/tights. 

The Minimalist Travel Wardrobe is ideal when:

  • You travel more than anytime before.
  • You are more focused on gathering experiences, not things, when traveling.
  • You travel often, and more likely on shorter trips.

The advantages of traveling with only hand luggage:

“There are two types of luggage: Hand luggage… and lost luggage.”

No more waiting at the conveyor belt

(for a bag that may or may not have been rerouted via Kuala Lumpur)

This is one of the major advantages by traveling with only hand luggage. You are already out of the airport terminal and on your way in to town before the others have spotted their suitcase on the conveyor belt. No more agonizing over whether the bag is going to make it, because you have it with you.


You are well dressed

Yes, it is true. With a thought through and well planned minimal travel wardrobe you can put together just as many outfits as if you had the suitcase stuffed with clothes.

You end up with a more well planned travel wardrobe if you give yourself some limitations.

You read the weather forecast for your destination and think through what kind of situations you will be dressing for, instead of just stuffing the suitcase with a lot of “just in case” items.

The challenges of hand luggage:

Choosing a good travel bag

How about those small, hard shell wheeled suitcases? They are super cute, and it is tempting to not have to carry it. But the wheel construction and the handle take up a lot of room, and these constructions steal valuable packing space. They are also hard and can be difficult to stuff into the small luggage compartments in the aircraft, and worst case scenario is that the cabin personell take your bag and place it with the checked-in luggage so that you may end up waiting for your luggage anyway.

A soft travel bag may be a better alternative than a hard shelled suitcase

In addition, it’s smart to take into account the weight of the bag. If an elegant week-end bag in leather weighs 3 kilos in itself, and a nylon bag weighs only 1,5 kilos, the lighter bag leaves 1,5 kilo more for clothing. When the maximum weight limit for hand luggage is as little as 8 kilos on most airlines, it goes without saying that it is smart to choose a lightweight travel bag.

The best travel bag I have found to date is the Pakt One. Whether it’s a week-end in Paris or two weeks on safari in Botswana, this bag is all I need. It fits in the overhead compartment of any aircraft and is lightweight and super easy to pack. Please note that I’m not part of an affiliate program and I’m not paid to write this. I simply think it is the best travel bag ever, and I’ve tried a few.


This is a challenge for many. Airlines have strict regulations for liquids in hand luggage, and lots of people find this so annoying that they just end up sending a suitcase anyways. I understand.

With a few simple tricks you have enough toiletries for a short week in one 1 litre bag, now doesn’t that sound just a little tempting?

  • Don’t bother bringing stuff that you know will be in the hotel where you’re going to stay. Examples: Soap, shampoo, body lotion. All hotels supply this, and even if the quality may not be the same as the shampoo you use at home, we can all survive a short time with hotel shampoo. A little change does your hair good. It is also worth noting that a hairdryer is also found in most hotel bathrooms, so leave that at home too.
  • Buy a small selection of little bottles and jars that you fill (and refill) with your own moisturisers, hair styling gel, contact lense liquid and other liquid toiletries. When you come home, just rinse the containers and they are ready for your next trip. If you find this bothersome, there are handy travel size versions to be bought, from toothpaste to sunscreen.
  • Other items like toothbrush, dental floss, eyeshadow, mascara and other items you pack in a separate small plastic bag. Ziplock bags are my preferred toiletry bags these days, being lightweight and easy to squeeze into small spaces in the bag. Are you going on a beach holiday and need more than a 100 ml bottle of sunscreen? Buy it at your destination.

Is it possible to travel for a long weekend with only 6 garments in the travel bag? 

Yes, it’s possible, if you pack smart.

Here is a suggested packing list: 

2 Bottoms– trousers and skirt (if you don’t like wearing skirts, make sure one of the trousers are fancy enough to go to the restaurant of your choice)

3 Tops 

1 Cadigan or Light Jacket

Scarves – (a couple of scarves are easy to pack and can transform any outfit)

1 Pair of Shoes – (in addition to the ones you travel in)

1 Small Handbag –  for going out to restaurants, unless you prefer to use just the one handbag

Underwear, Socks, Pantyhose


…Easy, when you have chosen a colour theme and made sure that all the tops you bring can be layered. 

Have a lovely trip!

Jorunn Hernes is located in Norway, where she offers in-person 12-Season Colour Analysis. Jorunn blogs in English and Norwegian about colour and style, with particular focus on minimalism and practicality. Please click the link buttons below for more information.
Jorunn Hernes

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