We’re getting so excited about our road trip from Austin to Seattle! While we’ll have all our belongings with us in the car, my clothes will be in a vacuum sealed bag and I won’t be able to get to them. So I’ve been carefully planning out the clothes I want with me. Here’s what I’m planning to pack:
Crop Tee / Grey Tank / White Tee / Sweatshirt
Jean Jacket / Cape Cardigan / Dark Grey Denim / Denim Shorts
Easy Skirt (similar) / Converse / Birkenstocks / Chelsea Boots (similar for less)
Backpack / Sunnies / Bracelets (solid or cutout) / Necklace / Scarf
Our road trip agenda isn’t fancy — just a few fun stops with plenty of exploring. I’m mostly concerned about being comfortable in the car, but I wanted to include a few pieces that I could spruce up for a fun date night — like the easy skirt and necklace.
So far, I’ve made about 15 outfits from these pieces, so I feel like it’s the right amount of clothes. We’ll be traveling through multiple climates, so I’ve got plenty of layering options, like a sweatshirt, scarf, jean jacket, and cape cardigan.
All in all, I’m packing four tops, three bottoms, three shoes, and two jackets, plus a few accessories.
Crop Tee: Even though it’s a pretty basic tee, to me it feels like a statement piece because of the crop cut and the stripe. This tee + dark grey denim + Birks + sunnies = one really comfortable outfit that looks right on.
Grey Tank: It’s an unassuming basic that’ll be great for long stretches in the car, but I also plan to pair it with my easy skirt and jean jacket for a cute date look.
White Tee: It’s so plain, but I always feel fresh and confident a white tee. Planning to pair it with denim shorts and Birkenstocks for hot afternoons.
Sweatshirt: I can throw this sweatshirt over any of my tops to ward off a chill at night or when we’re up north. Bonus: I can fit it underneath my jean jacket or cape cardigan for an extra layer of warmth.
Jean Jacket: Ever since I got my unicorn jacket, I’ve never left town without it. It’ll look great thrown over any of my tops, and it’ll add a little more style to the look.
Cape Cardigan: As much as I love my jean jacket, this will be a great option for those times when I just need a soft, comfortable, warm layer. You know, those times when I basically need to wear a blanket.
Dark Grey Denim: Lately we’ve been taking a few little trips around Texas to say goodbye to family, and my dark grey denim ends up in my bag every time. Like my white tee, I just feel confident + fresh in ’em.
Denim Shorts: These shorts are so comfortable and they’ll be great for long days in the car. I can pair them with converse, my grey tank, and my blue scarf.
Easy Skirt: This skirt isn’t in my current capsule. I pulled it from my summer 2014 capsule because I knew a feminine skirt would be nice to have on a long road trip. It’ll be great to dress up a bit, of course. But it’ll be a winner for car rides too, since it’s just as comfortable as sweatpants.
Converse + Birkenstocks: Comfortable shoes for any exploring we may do along the way.
Chelsea Boots: Perfect for cooler weather or rain.
Backpack: This was a birthday present from my awesome mom, and it’ll be perfect for any day excursions we do during the day. I can stick an extra layer, some snacks, and my tiny purse inside.
Sunnies: A necessity.
Bracelet + Necklace: Great little accessories to spruce up an outfit.
Scarf: If I’m chilly, I can toss this on over any top or jacket in my bag. And if I wake up one morning and decide I need a little color or pattern to my outfit, well, this scarf takes care of it.
Here are a few other things I’m taking that aren’t in the picture:
Toiletry bag: I have to admit, while my makeup bag is minimal, my toiletry bag definitely isn’t. I’m big on a nightly routine, because it helps cue my brain that it’s almost time to sleep, so I bring along just about everything I use at home. I like this particular toiletry bag because it keeps everything organized.
Travel steamer: In the past, I probably would have though it too high maintenance to pack a steamer, but after recently getting one, I don’t think I’ll ever go back. Not only is it going to keep my clothes wrinkle free, it’s also great for a quick sterilization to keep my clothes feeling fresh on the road. I don’t know why I always scoffed at steamers before — I think I thought they were going to be super expensive and bulky, but this one’s the size of a travel coffee mug and it’s $29.
Yoga pants + athletic shoes + a swimsuit: For any active adventuring we stumble into.
Been on a road trip lately? Got any tips for us?
If it were me, I don’t think I could do 10 days in a car and sightseeing with three light colored shirts. They would all be stained with food and smelly in three days. I’m a messy eater, especially in the car. and in full TMI, I tend to get really sweaty in cars so a white tee would basically be ruined. I think I would pack pretty similarly for a road trip except I’d swap out any light grey and white for like 4 dark tanks for a fore mentioned reasons. I’ve never tried using a steamer to “refresh” clothes, but it seems like a great idea.
Carissa Grace says
I would only add a light SPF sunscreen! It’s easy to bake in the car without realizing it, especially your arms & hands.
I second that. On one of our family vacations, I forgot to apply sunscreen prior to hitting the road. Ended up with a nasty sunburn on my right arm. Ouch! Not a fun way to start a trip.
This is great! … and I LOVE your blog! It’s the first thing I check every morning, (right after Facebook). ;)
I’m a very visual person, and although I’ve started piecing together my first spring/summer capsule, I want to be able to “play” with pieces on the computer screen… What app/process do you use to get your pieces with the white background? Or do you photograph them on a white background and upload them that way?
Thanks for sharing all of this!
If you find out how to do this would you please let me know! I’ve emailed her asking if she would do a post about making her collages but never heard back :( I think it would be so helpful to visually see everything together on paper instead of hanging in the closet but I couldn’t get similar enough pictures and it just looked sloppy!
I asked the same question – I should have found your comment first to avoid redundancy. I guess a few of us are interested in how Caroline makes here “digital clothing boards.”
I think I found a way on polyvore…still playing with it but it looks like that might be how she does it. You may just have to look for similar items to clothes you already have. But overall it looks like you can make things like uniform!
After some international and domestic travel, I won’t leave home without an inflatable neck pillow. If you’re driving with only one other person, you only need one, because hopefully only one of you is resting while the other person drives ;) I like the inflatable ones because they pack away nicely into a purse or backpack and you’re not lugging around this annoying pillow-thing the rest of the time.
Sarah Kristen says
Um WHAT. I too thought all steamers were huge and bulky and expensive. I’m all in for that travel steamer. Thanks for sharing!
I have to admit that I’d pack a base layer shirt (tee or tank) for every single day to feel fresh on the road. However, I don’t have a capsule wardrobe, so I’d probably think differently if I was fully in that mindset!
Amy BB says
Me too! I am getting that steamer ;). Best tip this week!
My favorite road trip activity is to ask my friends & family to make me themed mix tapes. Then when you’re on the road you have to try to guess the theme! It’s really fun and it makes me feel like my friends & family on joining me in spirit on my trip!
What a timely post! I was just browsing [stalking ;)] your last summers capsule/posts as I get ready for warmer weather and I LOVED that black eyelet skirt–it’s perfect for dressing up or down. I have my eye out for one now. (& also those great black silky shorts!) Then I came across some packing posts and thought it’d be interesting if you did another one! Ta-da
What great timing! I am leaving tomorrow for a 10 day road trip from Chicago to Vegas (many stops in between) and way overpacked! I have maybe 35 items of clothes “just in case” and my bag is bursting. I am convinced I can leave a few pieces at home!!
I love that backpack! I have one too…use it at the airport every time I travel. Good luck on your road trip!
(By the way, I think its snowing in the mountains right now. May want a warm pair of tights, just in case!)
When we were dating, my husband and I took a big road trip during the month of May from St. Louis -> CO -> Utah -> Idaho -> Wyoming -> you get the picture. One of the things I didn’t anticipate is the cool temps in those mountainous states. I love everything you’re bringing, and while I don’t know your exact route, I would personally recommend another pair of pants and just one more long-sleeved option. Either way, keeping a limit on what you bring is the best way to go!
I had the same thought! I’ve done a similar trip, though it was the other direction (Chicago – Vancouver – Las Vegas – Texas , etc etc), and though we camped and slept in tents for a large portion of it, this was in June/July, and I would absolutely make sure I had some warmer pieces of clothing available. Some days/weeks I pretty much lived in fleece pants and sweaters! During the day it can be ok, and of course you can make the car a comfortable temperature, but for sightseeing and experiencing it’s good to able to stay warm.
Also – raingear!
As for tips, I’m sure I’m not remembering a fraction of what I learned on that trip, but let’s see… Keep a gallon of water in the car, visit National parks if you can (they are awesome), stop and see and visit more things rather than less (I probably regret the things we didn’t to more than what we did), Vancouver is so worth a visit (yes I know it’s north of Seattle, but still), Washington state has some nice things going on (Tillamook cheese factory! We got to participate in cheddar cheese ratings!), and the forests of Northern Californa. Basically, my take-away from that road trip is that you can find magnificent and beautiful things and experiences no matter where you go, and while you can’t to everything and follow all suggestions, what you do will be great. Because.
Will you be sharing an update with some outfits you created from this mini capsule? That would be amazing!
Your backpack is really cute! Also, great idea about bringing the travel steamer. I’ve traveled quite a lot and one thing that always comes in handy is a sun hat (wide brim or fedora style). This will not only be useful to protect from the sun while in the car, but while you’re doing your excursions. Have fun! :)
I just did a 12 day road trip from Los Angeles to Ohio and back over Christmas with my boyfriend and our two dogs! I had one carry on suitcase for the entire trip. I had one pair of jeans, one pair of black pants, doc martens, 3 sweaters, 2 sweatshirts, 3 tshirts, and two cardigans. That’s it! It made getting dressed in the morning super easy and fast, everything went together and I didn’t look like a total garbage pile when we took pictures at various stops.
Since you’re traveling with a dog, I recommend La Quintas all the way! Look for newly constructed ones and check out Yelp reviews. They don’t have a pet fee – we have a 90lb german shepherd and an 8lb chihuahua schnauzer mix, and every time we’d get to a new one they’d fawn over them at the front desk and give them treats. Best of all, if you’re in a newer one, they’re nice enough that you don’t hear the other pets in the hotel and your dogs won’t stay up all night barking at other noises.
Another thing we found we really liked to do was stop at dog parks along the way! Most larger cities have them, we found them pretty consistently along the way. We started doing it because our big baby GSD wouldn’t go to the bathroom on a leash and it was a necessity, but in the end we liked it too because it was a good excuse to stop and stretch our legs for an hour and tire out both of the dogs. We were doing anywhere from 6 to 12 hour drive days, so a one hour break was much needed!!
For the car, look up podcasts! We could only really do about an hour a day of music, it just doesn’t pass the time as well. You can get an app called Overdrive and rent audiobooks from your library too. For podcasts I’m sure everyone has a recommendation, but the one we listened to the most was You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes – he interviews comedians and actors mostly, but then there will be like, Bill Nye!! The episodes are about 2 hours long and hold your attention, they were my favorite for passing the time through the long, awful stretches through the Texas pan handle, or parts of New Mexico where it’s just the same flat scenery for 6 hours at a time.
I could go on forever!! I feel like I am an expert now, haha. It’s hard, but it ended up being one of my favorite things we’ve ever done together, I’m sure you guys will have an awesome time!!!
Iris R. says
These are great recommendations! I’m driving up from Colorado to Alaska in June with my dog (also a 75lb German Shepherd mix) so it’s good to have additional ideas for accommodating him. I’m planning on taking the trip slowly so we can stop often, stretch and hike. I hope we can camp mostly, but I didn’t know about La Quinta and hadn’t thought about dog parks. I’m already obsessed with audiobooks and podcasts, so I’m definitely stocking up on those.
Great ideas :)
Awesome!! Yeah La Quinta is the best. Our GSD is just so big and he’s got long legs and looks to be well over 100lbs, and a lot of hotels have weight limits and restrictions and pet fees. We are now die hard La Quinta patrons, haha!! Plus they have free breakfast, with a waffle maker – SO convenient when you have a dog and can’t leave them alone, it was so helpful for getting everything done in the morning so when we packed up the car we could just leave and not have to stop 6 more times.
One other thing! Definitely get a free radar app and try to watch the news for weather! We were unknowingly headed into a giant snow storm that shut down the chunk of the I-40 we would have taken, I happened to catch the weather on TV the morning we were leaving and we re-routed to Phoenix instead of Flagstaff – we would have been stranded there for two days had we not checked in!! We did get through a bit of snow too, but it was a huge relief to check the app and figure out how much longer the poor conditions would last.
Have fun on your trip!!! It was so hard traveling with the dogs but in the end it was an awesome experience!!!
This is a great road trip set. I am in love with that backpack and so sad that they are sold out! I have really been looking for a functional backpack for our Italy trip that won’t make me feel too much like a tourist.
A few days ago I stumbled into your web site and found it to be a breath of fresh air as I think about the simplicity in your thinking and the ability to put a capsule together that will work for days on end and look good every time. So my question is, do you wear the same shirts (3) over and over again? Don’t they get smelly. Just a thought. I also struggle on how to match my clothes. I make the mistake of over buying and still end up with not knowing what to wear. If you have any suggestions please let me know. thanks
Hey! As a Seattlite, I highly recommend a rain coat, as it rains here quite often. ;) Also, lately the weather has been wonky and we’ve had clear nights that led to really cold temps in the morning: it’s currently 40 degrees at 10am! I hope you have a fun and safe road trip. Enjoy the adventure!
I agree to be prepared for un-summer weather for early May travels. I live at the top of Texas, and our temps are still down into the 40’s at night and mornings even when hitting 70’s or 80 during the afternoons. The high elevation (and wind) will make a difference.
Be sure to visit the Cadillac Ranch for unique pics just west of Amarillo on I-40. http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2220
such good advice! i’m planning a road trip / vacation in michigan next month, and this is really helpful. might order that steamer before we leave.
Daisy @ Simplicity Relished says
YES! We do a lot of driving between LA and San Francisco, so we’ve figured out when it’s best to do the drive. One time we started at 3AM and did a sunrise drive … it was amazing!
We got a travel steamer (maybe ConAir brand?) last year for an international trip and I love love LOVE it. I work in a formal office so I used to spend a lot of time ironing shirts, pants, skirts and now it takes me about 60 seconds to get wrinkle free clothes. The only thing I’d add is that you should use bottled/filtered water instead of tap water – otherwise you’ll get mineral builld-up after a while, and you don’t want to be spraying that all over your clothes.
Thanks for the steamer recommendation! That actually looks amazing. I hate ironing so I might have to invest in one of these myself! I never knew they could come in such small sizes!
A pillow of some kind is a must for me! It’s very easy for me to get sleep paralysis when sleeping in an upright position. And it definitely makes it more comfortable when taking breaks between driving. :)
The Peculiar Trouth
I have been wanting to snag that denim jacket from madewell for a while but I don’t live by a store. Sometimes their sizing is weird so I’m not sure what to order….what size did you buy?
Size up! I am very petite, only 5’1 and a small frame, in madewell I am always an xs if not an xxs. I was in the store recently and when I tried it on, the sales associate suggested going at least one size up if you want an oversized fit. I got a size small and I LOVE how it fits. If you want it to be more fitted, buy true to size, if you want it a little looser definitely go up one size. It’s so soft it feels like wearing a sweatshirt!!
I think I would need a few more shirts because of how gross I always feel after a day in the car, but I love the pieces you chose!
I’m so excited for you! Road trips are THE BEST.
I would pack another non jean pants/shorts item.
Jeans in the car for long rides? No fun at all.
I was in the car for a total of something like 70 some hours over Christmas break – cross country drive and back! Since we went through the midwest and that huge snow storm in the southwest on the way back, jeans were really the only option. I thought I would go insane and be super uncomfortable but I wore them every day and it wasn’t uncomfortable at ALL! I was surprised, but I guess they had enough stretch so I didn’t feel too confined? I also managed a cross country flight in them, 7 hours each way. I think it’s all about finding the right ones!
More power to you if light tees work for you, but I would personally NEVER pack a white shirt for a road trip (or any trip really). Part of that is because I’m clumsy, and part of that is because I have four kids which means extra wardrobe jeopardy. But even when I’m travelling without kids (like next week) my travel clothes are almost all dark colors (a LOT of black, some olive green, and a couple of deep blues). I love your shoe choices and layering options and am fascinated by the steamer.
Oh, also. I’m not sure when you’re leaving or what route you’re taking, but it’s snowing across Utah and Montana right now (and in high elevation spots like Yellowstone there is usually snow well into June) so you might consider throwing a pair of gloves and a cozy hat in just in case. They won’t take up that much space.
Hi Caroline, it is so exciting to hear about your trip! As a grad student in the midst of a 4 year program, I am so jealous of your ability to up and leave to pursue your dreams just like that. I was wondering, how do you and your husband sustain this lifestyle? Blogging is probably one of the more flexible jobs, do you both plan to work remotely during the 6 months? Are you renting out your current place? Sorry if I’m prying too much, just very very curious :)
I’d like to second that request. I know that this is primarily a clothing blog, but I’d like some tips/logistics on how to live a more mobile lifestyle.
This is SO helpful! We have a major road trip coming up in a few months, and I feel like someone just handed me a cheat sheet. :) PS — I’m a born and raised Seattle girl (though I now live in LA) and I just LOVE the city. I’m sure you’ll have such a great time there!
I would definitely suggest a couple more tshirts. I’ve done quite a few ten day/ two week trips and always took five or six tees with me. I’ve never regretted it, in fact, I’ve been downright thankful on more than one occasion.
I just road tripped with all of my belongings from Houston to Boston and all I can say is – fancy snacks! Having almost a full year in total on the road, I’ve learned that fancy, semi-healthy snacks are the key to surviving weeks on the road without gaining a few pounds. They aren’t even that hard to find. Try Target or the grocery store for some favorites:
Boom Chika Pop – I LOVE this stuff! It’s healthy[-ish] and comes in sweet and salty flavors
Bags of freeze-dried fruit and/or veggies
Easy peel fresh fruit (Cuities/Halos & bananas) OR those kiddie fruit puree packets (don’t judge) ;)
Avocados (all you need is a knife and a spoon)
Nut mixes (Planters sells various combos in individual packets)
Krave Turkey Jerky
Brookshire dark chocolate covered acai berries & blueberries
Beets & Sweets chips or plantain chips
Udi’s or Bear Naked Granola
And when you finally land in Seattle, head over to Kau Kau in Chinatown for the best Chinese BBQ pork EVER. And Dick’s Drive Inn for old school burgers and shakes. And Market Spice in Pike Place for some bomb cinnamon. And eventually take the ferries to explore the small islands around the sound. <3
Congrats and have fun!
This makes packing so much easier! Thank you for sharing this, and I hope the road trip goes well. :)
What a create selection of comfy & stylish pieces. I love the Everlane backpack–they can hold some much and a very durable. I would add a baseball style hat for after camping hair-days and to cover-up on a hike. And I agree with Helena, pack extra healthy snacks! and bring a small cooler to keep some fresh produce or cold drinks. There is nothing worse than being hungry and not knowing where to find healthy food options. Have a fun and safe trip!
It’s currently snowing!!! (Like feet of snow) in Utah. While I’m not one hundred percent sure of your route, I would second the other comments and pack warmer clothing! You’ll probably have to drive through the mountains and/or deserts, where temperature swings of 40 degrees in 24 hours aren’t uncommon. For example, on Monday, it was 75 and sunny in SLC where I live, and by Tuesday evening, snow was pouring down and temps were in the low 30s. For someone used to warm temperatures, these shifts are brutal. I might bring along some booties and wool socks plus lots of cardigans!
Good luck and have a blast! I can’t wait to hear about it on the blog:)
I am so excited to hear about your journey. How amazing!
I usually wear a maxi skirt while traveling so I have a built in blankie but can pull it up if I am hot.
I too think you might get cold. Here in South Dakota it is supposed to snow tomorrow but then warm up to 60 on Friday, which is short sleeved weather for me now if it is sunny. When we first moved from Phoenix, 60 degrees felt really really cold. It’s always windy here too so that makes it feel colder. I would pack one more long sleeved tee if it were me.
I second the comments about warmer options! Wool socks are a must for me, even in summer, in the high elevation interior and on the foggy coast. I never regret having a wool hat, too – I’ve had to buy one on every road trip I’ve been on because I never remember to pack one. Worth the space it takes up!
Also… Raincoat :) if you ever want to spend more than five minutes outside (e.g. dog walking) in the Pacific Northwest.
What a great adventure! Enjoy :)
If you decide to come up into Montana, rather than thru SLC, you will definitely need a warm hat and maybe a lightweight puffer jacket. I carry those around even in the middle of the summer because the weather up here is sooo unpredictable. You’ll be glad you have them, especially if you stop at any outdoor hot springs (go to the boiling river in Yellowstone!) or do any short hikes. Have fun! You will be driving through some beautiful country either way!
I love this list! I was just thinking with the coming traveling season that I might want to do a post on what to pack (and not go crazy with regret immediately upon stepping onto the plane), but I’v never been very successful doing that. When are you guys beginning your trip?
I also just noticed your comment at the bottom about steamers… I bought one 6 months ago and I will never iron again! Total necessity. I pack it even when I’m going to my parents’ for the weekend least I forget how to use and iron and burn holes in my clothes.
What a great idea to dedicate a blog to a stylist minimalist wardrobe! I’ve been following you for a wee while I love what you’re doing, Caroline. I am working on pairing mine cap. wardrobe down. Even in spring/summer, I have to go with dark colours due to sweat and food stains potential. I’d rather have light colours actually, as it gets hot as heck in Miyazaki, but c’est la vie! I have to ask you, what software to do use to create your lovely clothing “boards” for the web? Do you take photos of each of your items? I’d love to try something similar- don’t know where to start! Keep up the good work!
Wow, only this for ten whole days?! I’ve been trying to dress minimally and mix up items so that when we go for holidays I can just take a small bag, but I’m not this efficient yet – I would probably pack this for just a weekend! Guess it takes a more practise for some. :)
ack! you guys are going to have so much fun!! xoxo
Prudence Yeo says
The crop top and cape cardigan are chic options, great pieces to bring on a trip!
Have you shared your nightly routine before? I would love to hear it if you haven’t :)
I always pack earplugs, an eye mask and a small pillow on roadtrips, so I can nap in the car to recharge for any late-night driving.
Curious to know what kind of luggage you will be using!
Thays Dos Santos says
These are great choices! I would love to do a road trip, I just need to find someone who wants to do it with me :P Hope you have a wonderful time.
Damon and Jo says
AMEN to converse. Swear you can dress them babies up and go out at night with them, you can wear them to the beach, you can smash them in your bag, and you can even get them dirty and they look good too! We always have a pair on us!
I wish Aritzia shipped to the UK – it looks like the epitome of what I’m looking for in a boutique :( That cardigan is perfection.
Lovely and inspirational as always, Caroline!
perfect post! thank you!
I’m actually going to be going from NYC to Oregon this summer, so this is SPOT ON!
This past Thanksgiving my husband, 3 year old and 2 month old embarked on a 10 road trip from DC to Amarillo, TX, with plenty of overnight stops along the way. It’s difficult to pack minimally for small children. On a good day they require 3 outfit changes. As I was in a post natal fashion phase, my capsule included yoga pants and tunic tops. For shoes I narrowed it down to Uggs (i know but they are warm), Nike joggers and ankle boots. We were staying with friends and family and were lucky to have access to laundry facilities. Ultimately the clothes took a backdrop to the amazing experience of seeing our country from the road. Safe travels and thanks for the inspiration!
Such a simple yet effective way to road trip! I definitely will be consulting this for my future road adventures.
This is a great and veery useful packing list which I will look at packing for my next holidays :)♥
Terry Ray says
Perfect choice of items to pack. Ten days road trip is a long time so you definitely need more comfortable stuff. The cosmetic stuff are also extremely important, in order to feel as much comfortable as possible.
Thank you so much. I have learned a ton from you over the past four seasons as I have tried to simplify. I knew when getting ready to pack for our NE road trip your site would guide me perfectly.
Really nice and helpful article ❤️ I am planning a big roadtrip from Quebec (Eastern Canada) to California and I am sure this will help a lot ! Thanks xxxx