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This capsule wardrobe guest article was submitted by Keri Thiel after getting loads of great feedback in our HPLWorld community.
My husband and I were planning a 12-day vacation to Italy in the last 2 weeks of April to celebrate our 10 year anniversary.
After coming across Brooke’s “Ultralight Packing List: I Traveled for 3 Weeks with a 12L Handbag” article a couple years ago, I’ve been on a minimalist packing journey ever since and was planning to make this trip with just my Osprey Mira 34 backpack and a small purse.
We were only going to be doing sightseeing activities on the trip (the weather fluctuates between the 60s to 70s F during this time of the year), so I planned my wardrobe accordingly.
But when the pandemic swept across Italy, I realized that this dream vacation was not going to happen. About a month before, we ended up canceling the trip.
I was so disappointed that we weren’t able to go, but I was also disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to put all of my hard work and planning the perfect 10 piece capsule wardrobe to use.
My Virtual Italian Getaway
Maybe it was the fact I was going stir-crazy from quarantine (I was home about 4 weeks by this time), but the day before we were supposed to leave I decided to pack just as if I was going on the trip.
I wanted to see if I could actually fit it all in the backpack I had planned to take.
My husband walked into our room and found me packing and asked what I was doing. I looked at him seriously and told him, “I’m packing for our vacation tomorrow.” Naturally, he thought I’d lost my mind. Little did he know what I had in store…
The next day I put on my travel outfit and told him that we were “going to Italy” and laid out my plan. We were going on a virtual vacation. I was going to wear only what I planned to take on the trip, looking at the weather forecast for our destinations each day and dressing accordingly.
We would even look up the excursions and hotels we were going to enjoy each day and find virtual tours of sights if possible. He reluctantly agreed to play along.
Looking for some virtual travel tours?
Viator has several virtual tour experiences on their site that can help you explore everything from Berlin to Kyoto to the haunted history of London.
I Shared My Trip on Facebook
Each day I had one of my boys take a picture of my outfit as I imagined what we would have done had we been there in person.
I was completely blown away at how much fun others had with my virtual vacation! Friends posted tons of comments saying how much they were enjoying my daily posts. When they saw me outside, neighbors asked, “Where are you going in Italy today?”
One dear friend even made a special trip to my house to deliver us some homemade Limoncello! It was amazing, and I highly recommend planning a virtual vacation if you’re missing traveling.
My Perfect 10-Piece Capsule Wardrobe
- 2 top layers – for warmth on chilly days and to expand the outfit options
- charcoal gray cardigan by le Verde
- cream cardigan by cabi
- 1 convertible clothing item – for variety
- black Chrysalis Cardi by Encircled
- 4 shirts – in a mixture of ¾ length sleeves and tank tops for varying temps
- black Tee by cabi
- tan Tee by Dress Barn
- flower-patterned tank by Banana Republic
- white tank by Banana Republic
- 3 bottoms – that I knew I’d be comfortable in
- white jeans by Lee
- black with white pattern by Lisette
- wine pants by Old Navy
- 1 scarf – floral pattern infinity scarf from Target
- 2 statement necklaces – 1 bought during the virtual vacation
- 2 pairs of shoes – black slip-on Sketchers; silver weave pattern by bernie mev
My Daily Outfits & Itinerary
The captions for each of the outfits below are pulled directly from my Facebook posts (with some minor edits) so you can see how the trip unfolded.
Day 1: Overnight Flight
My would-be travel outfit – white jeans, black tee, charcoal gray cardigan; black Chrysalis Cardi styled as an infinity scarf to keep me warm on the overnight plane ride.
Day 2: Rome to Sorrento
We would have landed in Rome today and taken the train to Sorrento. It’s in the low 60s and raining. Yuck. Good thing I had room to pack a rain jacket!
Day 3: Sorrento
Low 60s and rain in Sorrento calls for layers! I’m sure my raincoat would have come in handy again today.
Day 4: Isle of Capri
Well… rain in the forecast again today for the Amalfi Coast. We had a boat tour to explore the Island of Capri for the day scheduled. It would have been really interesting if we would have gone, or if they would have canceled.
Today, I’m wearing my Chrysalis Cardi by Encircled as a cardigan. It would have been perfect to take the chill off for the rainy 60-degree weather.
Day 5: Pompeii to Florence
Finally no rain in the forecast! We would have packed up and said goodbye to the beautiful Amalfi Coast and good-riddance to the rain!
Today’s itinerary included a tour of Pompeii in the morning (I was soooo excited for this!) and then a train ride to Florence after lunch. We had a cute Airbnb booked for our 4 days in Florence; it would have been fun to live like a local a bit. Plus, we made sure we booked one with a washer/dryer so we could do laundry halfway through the trip.
The forecast is sun and high 60s/low 70s so I would have been able to enjoy this fun sleeveless top.
Day 6: Florence
Another wonderful day forecasted in Florence. My husband and I had planned a day of sightseeing all the beauty and history that Florence has to offer.
I’m wearing my “wonder scarf” (as my mother-in-law has dubbed the Chrysalis Cardi) as a long skirt today, paired with a breezy off white Banana Republic sleeveless top. My black Sketchers are hiding under the skirt.
Day 7: Tuscan Winery Tour
Today would have undoubtedly been the highlight of our Italy trip. We booked a private Tuscan winery tour with a guide recommended by Rick Steves. When I imagine an Italian vacation, images of sipping wine and wandering through vineyards is what comes to mind. My husband and I have never been to a winery together so this would have been extra special for us.
Today was another beautiful day – mid-70s and sunny. I would have worn my “wonder scarf” as a dress. It’s hard to see in the pic, but I love the way the dress drapes in the front and back. It’s super cute and really comfortable.
And, for those of you who are looking closely, no, that’s not actually wine in my glass. I do love a good glass of wine but 9:00 AM is a little early to crack open a bottle, even for me.
Day 8: Florence
We had another day of sightseeing in Florence planned today. The weather was 70s and sunny so it would have been perfect weather to walk off all that wine from the winery tours yesterday.
Day 9: Tuscany to Rome
My husband and I weren’t going to be satisfied with just one Tuscan winery tour, so we had booked a second one for a half-day today with a small group. The weather was perfect again. I think the rain at the start of our trip would have made us extra-grateful for these last few glorious days in Florence. This afternoon would have been a train ride to Rome, where we planned to spend the remainder of our trip.
Day 10: Rome
A full day exploring the ancient city of Rome! We had so many places on our list to explore, it would have been amazing. Some rain and possible thunderstorms in the forecast today so we probably would have searched out the museums and other indoor activities.
Having this trial run of my travel capsule has been a great exercise and I highly recommend trying it if you are considering it. I realized that I should have packed a few more necklaces for some more variety. I decided to buy a new necklace during my “virtual vacation” just so I could wear this one today! Hey, it’s my pretend trip so I can imagine anything I want!
Day 11: Rome
My husband and I would have enjoyed another full day exploring all Rome has to offer. I expect by this point of the trip, we’d be pretty worn out so I would imagine a lazy day of wandering and simply letting the day take us wherever. Who knows what beautiful and unexpected adventure we could have had!
We would have been pleasantly surprised with today’s weather. They were calling for a 40% chance of thunderstorms all afternoon as recently as last night when I checked the forecast. When I woke up this morning (already 2:00 PM in Rome) it showed sunny and high 60s. Perfect weather for spending the day roaming the streets.
Day 12: Rome
Today would have been our last day in Italy. A final day sightseeing in Rome, taking in all its wonder and history.
Day 13: Travel Day
This is a bonus pic of what would have been my travel outfit home with the white jeans and the Chrysalis Cardi styled as a cape. I get cold on airplanes so the cape would have been perfect to cuddle up in for a long flight back to the States.
What I’d Do Differently
Aside from being a lot of fun and a great diversion during lockdown life, doing a test drive of my “perfect” capsule wardrobe showed that it wasn’t as perfect as I thought.
All in all, I was thrilled with the variety of outfits I was able to put together from the 10 pieces, and I never felt like I was wearing the same thing over and over. Doing this dress rehearsal of my chosen wardrobe really helped me figure out what would work and what would not.
For my real trip, whenever that will be:
- I’ll pack at least one more scarf (scarves are super versatile!) and probably a couple of necklaces. Accessories like this take up no space but can really change the feel of an outfit.
- I’ll pack a pair of comfy sandals, too, something I can walk around in but also dress up if we go to a nice dinner.
- I wasn’t very excited about wearing the tan shirt, so I’ll swap it out for the real trip.
- Finally, I liked the white pants for a color option but didn’t like how baggy the jeans fit me (it’s amazing how different clothes look on you in a pic vs. a mirror!). So I’ll probably find a new pair of white pants that fit better.
What do you think of Keri’s capsule wardrobe and her virtual Italian getaway? Will you plan your own virtual getaway?!
About the Author: In normal life, Keri travels regularly throughout the U.S. for her job. Over the last few years, she has been on a minimalist packing journey and now takes great pleasure in being able to pack all she needs in just a backpack.
Freonie Hingley says
Hello. Love the capsule ! Agree with the white pants… in fact don’t take white ( not easy to keep clean). Perhaps a pair of long leggings and a pair of 3/4 leggings ( preferably athletic, breathable type) . Swop our tops with a tunic of two with the leggings.
Sue I. says
Lori Stewart says
We had planned a week in May siteseeing in Paris followed by a bike and barge tour east of the city. For the biking week we actually took our holidays and biked all over Winnipeg. We followed the rivers up one side and down the other and checked out the bike paths on our bike path. We started out doing 30 km and worked out way up to 60 km at the end of the week. We took one day off in the middle and only biked downtown–the art gallery was finally opening so we spent a relaxing afternoon there. I tested out some of the clothes I had planned for my trip but was in the midst of putting my wardrobe together when the lockdown started so didn’t have everything. I wonder about the wisdom of travelling with white pants–I always plan for black on the plane in case of spills. Even when I am home, I can only wear white pants once before having to wash them and jeans would be hard to wash and dry while travelling so not so versatile–I would go with grey.
I loved this! I agree about the white pants – very brave to wear them on the flight. I absolutely love the multi-colored top. I agree with adding a pair of sandals to dress up for dinner. We had to cancel a 2 week trip to France that included a river cruise, so I feel your disappointment!
I wondered was your Tuscan Winery Tour to be with Roberto Becchi. I have done two day tours at different times in Florence and Siena with Roberto who does some work with Rick in his shows. We had a great time with Roberto
and I highly recommend him.
Susan Skipwith says
Your post was so much fun to read! I am challenged to pack less my next trip even though I don’t have one planned. *sigh*
Thanks so much!
I love this idea of taking a virtual vacation! I just might have to take my own “virtual vacation” with my own family!
So fun! I would suggest switching for a dressier pair of shoes. Especially in Italian cities, those chic Europeans will make you feel bleh. I think your cape outfit has plenty of glam, though!
We too were planning a trip to northern Italy this year, which would have been coming up in the next week or so. Didn’t think to take a virtual vacation, but I had selected my travel wardrobe, black gray and purple and had “practiced packed” it a couple of times to be sure everything fit into my underseater and backpack. Have been traveling carryon only for several years and at least 3 trips, to San Diego, Scotland and Switzerland ( from Virginia) and will never go back!
So glad you enjoyed your virtual vacation, and thanks for sharing!
Shirley Oldland says
I would never take a pair of white pants for travel! You could run the chance of getting them dirty on the first time you wear them and then be short an outfit for later on in the trip! I am curious about the Chrysalis cardigan-where did you say you got it?
Hi Shirley – Would you wear white pants when at home? You can always wash them if they get dirty, even when you travel 🙂 We have a review of the Chrysalis Cardi here: https://herpackinglist.com/encircled-chrysalis-cardi-review/
Samantha Da Fonseca says
Such a lovely upbeat article. Thank you for brightening my day. Obviously we won’t be going anywhere this year, but I will definitely refer back to this article when we do go on holiday.
Great packing list. I do agree that the white pants aren’t quite right. A nice slim Jean that you can also cuff would be great. A sandal needn’t take up any space and would add another dimension. The brown top looks good, but you need to feel great in all that you pack. You will nail that trip to Italy!!
I think this is a VERY clever idea! How wonderful to have fun while in lockdown.
What a fab idea to have the trip virtually and see how it all works. Given the changed world we’ve all been through in the last 2 years packing lighter and just taking cabin baggage is going to be the way forward I am sure. i’m going to try this for a week in Greece in October as it looks like we should have a good week in the UK coming up. thanks for the idea.