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How to create a capsule wardrobe for travel, according to stylists

Pack light and look stylish for your next trip.
Woman packing her suitcase to go on a trip
TODAY Illustration / Kathrin Ziegler / Getty Images

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No matter where you're headed this season, your trip should be as stress-free and uncomplicated as possible — and that includes the packing process. Because there's nothing worse than lugging a big bag through the airport, only to realize at the end of the vacation that you wore less than half of the clothes in your suitcase.

One way to simplify the packing process is by creating a capsule closet for your travel wardrobe. Here, two experts share their tips for how to do it.

How to plan a travel capsule wardrobe

The idea is pretty straightforward: Instead of throwing every item you own into one bag, you strategically pick 10 to 12 quality items that can be mixed and matched to dress up or down.

"When building a capsule wardrobe for travel, select pieces that are interchangeable and can work in multiple settings," fashion stylist Stacee Michelle said. "Be mindful of the temperature and planned activities and select layering pieces that can be added or removed throughout the day."

"You should focus on versatile pieces that don’t wrinkle, can keep you warm, withstand water and can be worn from day to night," added style expert Melissa Chataigne. Try keeping all of your items within one color palette, to make styling easy, she said.

With that in mind, we asked the fashion experts to share their picks for the essential pieces that should make up your vacation wardrobe. Below, everything you need to stay stylish and stress-free, from departure to return.

Spring travel capsule wardrobe

Lululemon Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve 2.0

While this Lululemon long sleeve shirt is technically made for workouts, Chataigne said it can be a great casual option for travel. "Pair it with shorts, jeans or leggings for an everyday look that will still keep you cool," she said. "The fabric is a soft nylon blend and has a four-way stretch, which wicks away sweat."

Numi The Signature

Chataigne likes Numi's stylish tops which feature a moisture-wicking gusset under the armpits and are made with a thermo-regulating TENCEL material. You can choose between a variety of styles, from tees to bodysuits and crop tops, but you can't go wrong with the brand's top-selling Signature shirt. It comes in five neutral colors and can be worn under a jumpsuit or styled with a pair of shorts or pants.

Chico's Travelers Classic Crops

Chico's Traveler's Collection features a range of elevated fashion staples that you can wear for almost any activity. Chataigne likes these pants, which are made from a wrinkle-resistant fabric to keep them looking their best for your entire trip.

Dr. Scholl's All Day Lace-Up Sneaker

White sneakers are like the little black dress of footwear, they're versatile and easy to style, and this pair from Dr. Scholl's gets Chataigne's seal of approval. The cushioned footbed is said to offer comfort and support and the leather accents and knit material make them a fashionable pick.

J. Crew Ruched Bandeau One-Piece Swimsuit

"This jewel-toned one-piece swimsuit is a must-have for easily alternating between sand and city," Michelle said. "Wear it to the beach, then quickly transition to an on-the-town look by pairing it with denim shorts or a flowy skirt." You can save an extra 30% on the swimsuit when you use the code SALETIME at checkout.

New Balance Women's Impact 2-in-1 Running Short

If your vacation plans include plenty of hikes or runs, you're going to want to have a good, comfortable pair of shorts in your suitcase. Chataigne likes these ones, which she said, "check all the boxes." They're made with quick-drying fabric to help keep you cool, and have pockets on the inner shorts, so you can keep your phone and hotel key on you at all times.

Classic Medium-Wash Jean Jacket for Women

"A denim jacket is arguably the most versatile layer in your closet," Michelle said. You can wear it over a tee, turtleneck or as a buttoned-up layer underneath a coat for additional warmth. "Save room in your suitcase by wearing it on the plane and using it as a pillow," she suggested.

J. Crew Tissue Turtleneck

A lightweight turtleneck is another great layering piece and Michelle likes this one from J. Crew. It comes in more than 15 colors and is available in sizes XXS to 3XL to fit a range of body types.

Levi's Wedgie High Waist Straight Leg Jeans

"You want a pair of jeans that are comfortable yet highlight your curves and hold their shape," Chataigne said. She likes darker pairs, like these, because they'll hide any dirt or stains so you can get a few more wears out of them before washing. One way to keep them fresh? By turning them inside-out and steaming in the shower with essential oils, she said.

Half-Zip Sweatshirt

When you want to feel cozy and comfortable on your trip, opt for a half-zip sweater like this one. This style of sweater can easily take you from day to night, Chataigne said.

Naadam The Essential $75 Cashmere Sweater

Cashmere may be pricier than your typical sweater, but it's worth the higher price tag. Because the fabric is breathable, the sweater will feel comfortable on warmer days but will also keep you cozy when layered over your favorite long sleeve button-up when the temperatures drop, Michelle said. She likes Naadam's $75 Cashmere Sweater, which is one of the more affordable options out there and comes in more than 20 colors.

Madden Girl Dafni Bootie

No wardrobe feels complete without a pair of booties. And Michelle specifically recommends a black or brown pair like these. They'll easily fit in with other pieces in your suitcase and the subtle heel makes them appropriate for dressier occasions.

Birkenstock Arizona Hex Slide Sandal

These comfortable shoes can take you from the city streets to the beach and just about everywhere in between. "They are the perfect walking and travel sandal, with a contoured footbed that mimics the shape of your foot and provides excellent support," Chataigne said.

Amuse Society Bolero Too Hat

Look stylish and keep cool with this straw hat. "Hats are a great way to accessorize while also protecting yourself from the sun," Michelle said. "This flat-brimmed style will add just a subtle touch of flair to any outfit."

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