These Are the Only 3 Outfits You Need to Pack for Any Trip, According to a Carry-on-only Traveler (2024)

Before I became a travel journalist, I was a buyer in the fashion industry for over 15 years, working with brands such as Brooks Brothers, Michael Kors, and the former Liz Claiborne, so you can say that I have a keen eye for style, quality fabrics, and a good fit. These days, I put my former skills to work in a different way. On average, I travel twice a month and it’s not unusual for me to be zipping through the airport on any given day, so I pack light and maximize the outfits that I’m taking with me.

At first, it wasn’t easy to streamline my packing lists for each destination; I was always stressed that I had left an essential top, pair of bottoms, jacket — you name it — at home. But, with the help of my former fashion buyer brain, I developed the ultimate travel capsule wardrobe, complete with three foolproof outfits that help me create dozens of looks (without needing to check a bag, I might add). Here are my favorite mix-and-match separates that suit any type of trip itinerary — both work and play — along with some must-have accessories that'll widen your wardrobe horizons.

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Outfit 1

Duer LuxTwill Trucker Jacket

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Duer LuxTwill High-Rise Trousers

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Minnow Navy and Dusty Red Stripe Sweater

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I’ve been a huge fan of the Canadian clothing company Duer for several years now, and its LuxTwill Trucker Jacket and matching High-Rise Trousers are one of my favorite outfits to bring on work trips. Both the jacket and pants are made of 98 percent cotton and 2 percent elastane, so the pieces have a structured look while allowing for some stretch for comfort.

While it’s a great set, I also love to wear the jacket as a separate, over dresses, leggings, or jeans. And, to save suitcase space, I'll sport it on the plane. I've found that it's a versatile essential that’s great for work and play destinations. The trousers pair well with knits as well as button-front tops. I especially love pairing it with a slouchy novelty sweater like my favorite one from Minnow; it's an excellent transition piece for spring that works with denim, pants, skirts and shorts and is constructed of a dreamy cotton-cashmere blend, making it super soft and comfortable.

The timeless nautical pullover is also cozy, but not bulky and the dolman sleeves are fashionable and functional, allowing you to move freely when traveling. I own two of these sweaters and find myself bringing them on work trips and vacations because they match with nearly everything that I own.

To copy the look for less, pair this cropped jacket (on sale for $24) with these $40 high-waisted trousers and this nautical-inspired crewneck sweater that's currently $31 — all from Amazon.

Outfit 2

PrettyGarden Two-Piece Sleeveless Vest and Wide-Leg Pants Set

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I’m in love with Amazon's two-piece sets because not only are they available at amazing price points, but they're super sleek and can be styled in so many ways. Here, the vest is drapey and offers a sophisticated and elegant look, although it also works well with denim; when I'm home, I like pairing it with my Everlane Super-Soft Relaxed Jeans for a laidback SoCal vibe, but when I'm on the go, it goes perfectly with the Duer LuxTwill High-Rise Trousers featured above (and I can layer the brand's LuxTwill Trucker Jacket on top or pair the PrettyGarden trousers with my Minnow sweater).

The bottoms are like palazzo pants and flare slightly, with a loose fit throughout. I like that they aren’t too tight, making them perfect for work meetings, long travel days, and itinerary-heavy days. They also have functioning pockets that are great for holding your essentials while on the move. The set comes in eight colors and sizes range from S to 2XL. Both pieces are machine washable; I’ve put them to the test in the wash several times and they come out looking just as good as new. A word of advice: Make sure you hang them to dry or lay them flat so they retain good shape.

For a more tailored look, you can get the set with a tighter-fitting cropped vest for $52. But, if this look is too business casual for your destination, I also pulled some stunning two-piece sets; check out the now-viral Anrabess Short-Sleeve Mockneck Sweater Set on sale for $40, the tropical getaway-ready Anrabess Linen Tank Top Matching Set that's currently $30, or the PrettyGarden Rib Knit Matching Set, which trades trousers for an elegant maxi skirt.

Outfit 3

Vuori’s Short-Sleeve Lux Crew Jumpsuit

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Vuori makes my favorite activewear, so it’s no surprise that this super-flattering jumpsuit is on my list of favorite travel outfits. The jumpsuit's performance knit is so comfortable, especially in the summer when it feels good to wear loose-fitting clothing, but is also perfect for travel days, road trips, as well as lounging poolside (save room in your carry-on by using it as a swim cover-up).

To make this outfit extra cool, slip the brand’s Halo Performance Hoodie over it when heading to a Pilates class or an early morning stroll. You can also wear it with a cropped jacket (like the Duer trucker jacket that I mentioned earlier) for a night out on the town. When the dress code calls for something cozier, I'll layer my Minnow sweater on top so it feels like I'm wearing a sweatshirt and sweatpants — even though the combo looks effortlessly chic.

If you’re not a fan of onesies, don’t fret. Vuori's Villa Wide-Leg Pants can be paired with its Energy Top to serve a similar look. And, if you're looking for more budget-friendly jumpsuits, over at Amazon, you can get the Anrabess Short-Sleeve Crewneck Jumpsuit for $40.

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Best Accessories for Travel Outfits

Now, it's time to put the finishing touches on these travel outfits. Similarly, my go-to accessories can be mixed and matched to be styled with different looks, ensuring that everything in your suitcase is functional and will get plenty of use on your trip. Below, you'll find my favorite travel shoes and travel purses to tie your outfits together.

Kizik Venice Slip-On Sneakers

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A while back, I kept seeing these amazing hands-free slip-on shoes that you can put on and take off without having to bend down or fuss with laces. The Venice slip-ons are by far my favorites. They’re easy to slide right into, super lightweight, and hassle-free to pack. I love wearing them on long flights because they don’t feel constricting (plus, they make going through TSA security a breeze and I can easily slide out of them once I'm in my seat). And, when I'm at my destination, their cushy insoles and grippy rubber soles keep my feet comfy and supported when I'm on the move.

They go with everything and really elevate any outfit. I'll pair them with my Duer set for more casual affairs and use them to make my PrettyGarden vest-trouser duo more playful after work meetings. And, of course, they're the long-lost soulmate for my Vuori jumpsuit, especially on travel days.

Sapahn Jori Crossbody Bag

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I used to be partial to labels and monogrammed bags, but I’m currently loving the Jori Crossbody for day-to-night use. During a recent trip to Santa Barbara, I found myself using it instead of my trusty Lululemon Everywhere Belt Bag — which says a lot. Although it looks small, it actually fits everything that I need for a busy day on the go; I can store a small notebook, wallet, makeup compact, and smartphone in there without effort.

The best feature of this bag is that you can switch out the straps to give it an entirely different look, making it transitional from work to play. There are two pockets inside for organizing smaller items like lipsticks or receipts. It comes in four colors, although the khaki hue is my favorite because it’s great for spring and it goes with everything — whether I'm dressed up in my PrettyGarden vest and wide-leg trousers, dressed down in my Duer LuxTwill Trucker Jacket and matching High-Rise Trousers, or out grabbing coffee in my Vuori jumpsuit.

Amazon is filled with leather crossbody purses that are equal parts versatile, functional, and stylish — starting with the Gladdon Crossbody Bag (that's on sale for $16), the $13 FashionPuzzle Small Dome Chain Strap Crossbody Bag, and the Afkomst Crossbody Bag, which has a similar gold buckle detail in the center. For extra flair, I also spotted this on-sale Fossil crossbody that has a color-blocking print and a roomy build.

Milmo 1813 Tote Bag

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Milmo's 1813 isn’t just another tote bag, it’s a lifesaver for travel. I often use it as a personal item (paired with my Vuori jumpsuit) when flying because of its versatility and roominess. I also love that it has a removable and washable interior liner that easily comes out with snap buttons; I don’t have to over-worry about spills and messes (the company also offers a two-year warranty on any defects outside of normal wear and tear).

Its durable rope handles, which attach along the lower half of the bag, can hold up to 300 pounds, which is why it excels as a travel bag. As a tote, it's elegant, structured design is boardroom-ready (with my PrettyGarden two-piece set), but it can also be worn as the perfect off-duty bag thanks to its convertible crossbody straps (I can sport it around town in the Vuori jumpsuit or Duer duo when I want to be hands-free). The exterior zip pockets allow for quick and easy access to your essentials while in line at the airport or a local eatery. It comes in four colors, but my choice is green.

Over at Amazon, you can replicate the look by adding the KouLi Buir Quilted Tote Bag ($40) or Missnine Laptop Tote Bag ($30) to your cart. But, if you want vast color options, I recommend the Wrangler Vintage Convertible Tote, which is available in 33 hues and is currently on sale for $49.

Everlane Day Glove Flats

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While I’m a huge fan of my Mansur Gavriel flats, I usually opt for Everlane's Day Gloves when I'm traveling because they’re just so comfortable and sleek. Praised for their buttery soft leather, the shoes mold to your feet for easy movement and endless support. I can take on a full day of walking wearing them. The rubber soles create a solid foundation and provide grippy traction on uneven and slick surfaces.

Made in an Italian factory, they come in 13 colors and sizes from 5 to 11, with the option for narrow or comfort width. I own several colors and rotate them when traveling. Plus, they hardly take up any room in my suitcase, which is always a win if you're a carry-on-only traveler, and can help spruce up professional outfits like the PrettyGarden vest and wide-leg pants, or make laidback styles like the Duer trucker jacket, matching pants, and Minnow sweater dressier.

Their comfort is hard to match, but Amazon shoppers assure that the Trary Mary Jane Flats are another supportive option (and they're only $35). You can also get the Square-Toe Ankle Strap Ballet Flats, which are teacher-approved, from DreamPairs for $33. Knit flat fans can score the popular Frank Mully Pointed-Toe Flats for $36 thanks to a limited-time deal.

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These Are the Only 3 Outfits You Need to Pack for Any Trip, According to a Carry-on-only Traveler (2024)

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