Carry-On Capsule: Winter / Portugal : How to Pack

I hope you’ve enjoyed my series on Portugal and Winter travel. If you haven’t seen the capsule and outfits you can read that here and here.

With the right tools packing light with just a Carry-On Capsule is easy. First, you need a framework or checklist to get the packing process started. I start out with my worksheets that help me define the parameters of my trip. From there, it’s easier to be strategic about every single item I pack. If it doesn’t serve a purpose for my trip as I’ve defined it, it stays home. The biggest problem for me is narrowing down my options, for instance outerwear, that could all work for a capsule. Remember in grade school when you were told to pick the best option? The same applies here, choose the best option for your destination, the weather and the versatility in your planned carry-on capsule.

After your Carry-On Capsule is planned. How are you going to pack it all? What are you going to pack it in? If you’ve got a small carefully planned capsule like the one I’ve illustrated you can easily fit this in a carry-on size suitcase and have plenty of room for souvenirs.

I chose to pack in a backpack because that is my personal preference and I find a backpack easier to stow in airplane cabins than a suitcase. Generally, I can squeeze a backpack in a small overhead compartment space and in a worst case scenario I could have it at my feet if necessary. Whichever you choose there’s one thing that I consider a MUST HAVE when packing light and that’s packing cubes.

Packing Cubes

Packing Cubes are the best thing to happen to travelers. You don’t have to be a Type A personality to enjoy the organization that they bring to your luggage. A very long time ago, on my first “backpacking” trip to Europe I packed all my clothes in a stuff sack meant for camping/backpacking. It had the same function of a packing cube though, which was to contain all my clothing in one space separate from my other items. Since then, I’ve never looked back. I always use packing cubes when I travel. Especially, if you are traveling to several different destinations. Packing and re-packing is easier with packing cubes.

So, what makes packing cubes so great? They contain and organize your clothes for one. They also help limit the amount of clothes you take. I pack one large packing cube with my carry-on capsule items. Depending on the type of trip I’m taking I may add a smaller supplemental packing cube to contain my mini-capsule items. Some packing cubes also compress your clothes after you pack them. The Eagle Creek Specter Tech Compression Cube is the brand I use because in addition to being lightweight they have an extra zipper that allows you to compress your clothing even further.

Use smaller packing cubes to contain items like underwear, socks and sleep clothes. NOT everything has to go in a packing cube though. If you have easily compressible items you can stuff them in at the end to take up any extra air pockets in your luggage.

Not shown, is my airplane outfit which consisted of jeans, a button down shirt, relaxed turtleneck sweater, parka, booties and a scarf. I also wore compression knee socks for the long flight because my legs tend to swell during long flights. Here’s a list of what I packed:
3 outerwear
1 parka
1 “packable puffer”
1 rain jacket
2 mid-layers
1 relaxed turtleneck sweater
1 dressy embellished cardigan
4 tops
1 gray tee
1 blue button down
1 tissue thin turtleneck
1 black blouse
2 bottoms
1 Black pant
1 jean
1 Black Dress

Here’s my real life capsule I packed and 16 possible outfit combinations. The power of the carefully planned capsule is it’s versatility. The capsule outfit combinations can serve all your different travel needs. The fact that you can live out of a small backpack never ceases to amaze me, especially when we’ve become a culture of accumulating stuff. It’s nice to know that you can live comfortably, simply and stylishly out of a backpack for several weeks.

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You can grab this checklist to get you started on your packing process. If you need step by step guidance for packing, you can check out The Carry-On Capsule Kit: Europe / Winter.

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  • I traveled all through Europe (Portugal too!) for six weeks with a “school” backpack… Boy, was I struggling to repack each time I moved to a new location! Ha… Looks like I needed some easy-peasy packing cubes! Thanks for the advice… 😉