Carry-On Capsule: Winter / Portugal

About this time last year I took my first trip to Portugal. It had always been on my travel bucket list and the stars finally aligned for me to take a solo trip and meet up with some girl friends in Lisbon. (By solo I mean traveling without my husband and two boys).

My goal was to pack everything I needed in my REI Lookout 40 backpack. A 40 liter (2,440 cubic inches) backpack is essentially a large daypack so I packed super light but still had everything I needed thanks to my Carry-On Capsule. I felt comfortable, appropriate and confident in all my travel outfits.

This capsule was for one week but I could have easily lived out of my backpacks for several weeks with this capsule and been comfortable in a range of temperatures.

Before I get into all that. I’d like to take a moment to announce the launch of the Carry-On-Capsule Kit: Europe / Winter. The Carry-On Capsule kit is a step by step guide that will get you packed and prepared for winter European travel. I give you tools for creating your very own customized Carry-On capsule wardrobe and everything else you need for being fully packed in carry-on luggage only. You can read about it more here.

My Packing Diary:


Even though it was winter the weather was mild with the lowest temperatures dipping into the 40’s. Lisbon is typically rainy during this time so I had waterproof boots and a rain jacket. My rain jacket is an ultralight one from Montane but there are plenty of budget friendly versions out there. If you do ALOT of travel or want to travel ultralight then a rain jacket like the Montane is worth the investment and can be found on sale as well. I also brought two jackets: my trusty parka and my functional Patagonia Nano Puff for warmth.

My parka is something I feel I can wear with anything (even a LBD) and goes with my personal style. You can tailor your coat choices accordingly. The parka is by no means a “packable piece” it’s bulky and made of cotton and would probably take up half my backpack if I packed it. I wear it in transit since it is my bulkiest item. The Patagonia Nano Puff on the other hand is the most “packable” piece of travel clothing I own. It’s the last thing I put in my backpack and I literally stuff it in last and it magically compresses into the smallest of spaces.

Pro Tip:
Bring rubber soled shoes because the rain makes the beautiful tiled streets of Lisbon extra slippery.


I knew I was going to go to several nice dinners and we were going to be there during the New Year holiday so I had to bring a dressy mini-capsule. My travel companions are all seasoned travelers and I knew there would be A LOT of walking so I packed tried and tested comfortable shoes. Our itinerary included an uphill 1.5 mile climb in Sintra to Pena Palace.

Travel Laundry

We stayed at an Air Bnb with the holy grail for travelers, a washing machine. This makes packing light all the easier.

Parka, Montane Rain Jacket, Patagonia Nano Puff,
Button Down, Black Blouse, Turtleneck Sweater,
Gray Tee, Turtleneck, Cardigan,
Skinny Jeans, Black Pants, Black Dress
Black Booties, Teva Dela Vina
Crossbody bag, Small crossbody/clutch


I packed a Core Capsule of essential items that included:
One pair of high-waisted skinny jeans
I had fought the high waisted trend for awhile but once I tried a pair on I felt like it held in my mom-bod tummy quite nicely. AND I don’t have to worry about pulling my pants up constantly like I do with lower waisted pants/jeans. So, high waisted pants for the win. I wore a pair by J Brand (I found these on sale at a local boutique) and they held their shape throughout the trip (no saggy butt).

Black Pants
While I may not wear black pants in my day to day life that often they always go in my travel capsule. They are a versatile piece that work dressed up or dressed down. They are a no-brainer essential for a capsule. Plus, there’s no worries about spilling coffee or wine on them because they won’t show stains. I packed a legging style from Banana Republic. These also hold their shape quite well so I wore these in transit.

Button down shirt
A lightweight button down shirt is another capsule essential because it’s a layer. Layers are especially important for winter travel. Layered under a sweater or jacket it’s an easy 3rd piece to wear and adds warmth and a bit of polish. If you’re not familiar with the 3 piece layering rule, read this for a refresher. I packed an very thin knit button down from Current Elliot (bought on sale).

Tee shirt layer
Once again, layers. Love them. A tee shirt layer is comfortable and versatile. I would NEVER travel anywhere without a tee shirt layer. However, not all tee shirts are travel friendly. Look for synthetic blends only and stay away from cotton. Synthetic blends pack better because they are lightweight and they dry faster than cotton. The gray tee shirt I packed was 90% rayon 10% spandex from Target (Mossimo). If I had to change one thing about my capsule I packed it would have been to add another tee shirt layer.

A blouse is another capsule essential because generally they are made of lightweight silky material. They can add a dressy touch to an outfit without sacrificing too much luggage space. In this capsule a simple black blouse could be paired with the jeans or black pants. I packed an inexpensive blouse I bought at Nordstrom Rack. I paired this with my embellished cardigan from the mini-capsule.

Turtleneck Top
A winter capsule relies on layers and a turtleneck is an effective layer for staying warm. I packed the thinnest of turtleneck tees and I ended up wearing it in the evenings paired with my embellished cardigan. In colder temps a turtleneck is a wonderful layering piece and in black it looks minimal and chic. I got mine at Banana Republic a while back.

Turtleneck Sweater
A lightweight sweater is essential for winter travel. I like the extra warmth factor that a turtleneck sweater provides. I took a long hip-length sweater with a looser cowl neckline so I wouldn’t feel so constrained. I generally recommend a lightweight wool sweater but I thought that would be too hot for the mild-ish winter temps so I went with the loose turtleneck sweater made up of an acrylic/nylon blend from LOFT (similar). However, it is bulky because of the length and the neck so I wore it in transit. I worried about getting to stuffy in it but I was always comfortable. (If I did get too hot I could always pare down to my tee shirt layer).

Waterproof booties
Anytime there’s a chance of rain for your trip you want to include a waterproof shoe option in your capsule. With lots of stylish options available it’s worth the investment. I’ve been wearing the Teva Dela Vina on most of my trips lately and in inclement weather in my non-travel life as well.


I generally don’t pack a dressy mini capsule because when I travel with my husband and boys we keep things very casual and don’t go out to eat at super fancy places. This trip included reservations at several nice restaurants in Lisbon so I knew jeans and a tee weren’t going to cut it. I got to have fun packing a dressy mini capsule.

Black Dress
A versatile black dress is elusive but I knew I needed one for our New Years Eve festivities. I managed to find one that didn’t look too awkward with black booties and tights. The dress I packed was versatile enough that I could have worn it multiple times in different ways if I had to. It consisted of a pleated slip dress with a thin knit second layer. I could worn it with the button down tied at the waist or layered with a turtleneck underneath for funkier and casual looks.

Embellished Cardigan
This was my biggest splurge item as far as packing goes. I packed a bulky dressy cardigan from Anthropologie. It took up a chunk of room in the packing cube. I debated on bringing it but I decided it was worth sacrificing the space. I’m glad I packed it because I wore it nearly every evening for dinners out. It made my jeans and turtleneck outfit feel dressy and it was the perfect topper for my black dress.

Black Booties
I’m including these in the mini-capsule because I only wore these in the evening. But I could’ve easily used them as an alternate shoe for daytime travel activities. I have a well worn pair of Sam Edelman Petty Boots that I packed.

Not shown are my sleep clothes which were base layers. If the weather got really cold I could have used them under my travel clothes as an added layer of warmth. I also packed enough socks and underwear to last the whole time.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where I show some travel outfit combinations for this capsule and give you a mini-guide of Lisbon.

I’ve put together a handy checklist and travel outfit planner that you can grab here.

Amazon links are affiliate links.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.