Packing for a trip with your kids ranks pretty high on the list of “stressful mom tasks.” It’s right up there with juggling multiple birthday parties in one day or “two kids in two different sports in two different towns happening at the same time.” A capsule wardrobe can fix that!

Like most moms, I leave the packing of my own clothes to the very last minute and bring whatever fit in the space left in the suitcase. This means I end up wearing a hodgepodge of clothing that, while I like, doesn’t really look right together. Having a suitcase packing strategy can make or break a trip. But, before you roll your eyes and think I’m going to overcomplicate and Marie-Kondo-this for you, have no fear. The strategy doesn’t entail using packing cubes or putting every outfit into a Ziploc bag in advance.

How you put the stuff in your suitcase is totally up to you. But before you can get to that step, you first have to determine what you should even pack. The solution? Create a capsule wardrobe for travel!

But, how do you chose what to bring? I met with Meghann Vander Baan of MVB Style to shop my own closet and help me pack for an upcoming trip! Here’s where we started.

Think about what activities you will be doing on your trip.

This is a class MVB tip that I just LOVE: dress for where you are going! First, I had to identify where we would be going and what we would be doing on our trip. While my husband and I would maybe get a chance to go on a date, our trip would mostly be hanging out in a city-like atmosphere with the kids, sight-seeing, walking (a LOT), exploring, and eating delicious things. I didn’t need dressy clothes or shoes but items that made me feel pretty and put together but also comfortable and functional. So basically just like every single other¬†day of my mom life.

Identify a few items you really love and make them the basis of your capsule.

Knowing the types of places we would be going and activities we would be doing on our trip, I started to pull things from my closet for my capsule travel wardrobe. I started with a long-sleeved leopard print dress, a long cardigan, a pair of moto leggings, a cable-knit sweater, and dark skinny jeans. These are pieces I regularly reach for already and know how to mix-and-match.

Except that, on a trip, you don’t have access to your entire closet. So how do you mix-and-match with limited selections? Here’s where a little time spent planning will make all the difference.

Layout a favorite piece and think about how adding an item could create a new look.

Items laid out for capsule wardrobe

I started with the leopard Reese Dress, an absolute fave and closet staple of mine from Sonnet James. Using this as a base, I started to play around with different ways to wear it. It could be worn alone with heels for a dressed-up look or, on this trip with kiddos, flats or booties. I had at least 2-3 ways to wear my dress.

So what did I decide to pack? The long cardigan and moto jacket (more options to wear both below!), and a long-sleeved tee (easy to pack and takes up minimal space. ALSO, my pro hack, this can double as a pajama top after you’ve worn it out!). Outfits 1, 2, 3 were done! Now, rinse and repeat this process.

Back to the closet and the items I had pre-selected: Spanx moto leggings and a pink cable knit sweater. Together they made a great single outfit (#4) but I could repurpose both so easily too. The sweater would pair with jeans (#5) and the leggings were great under a sleeveless sweater dress/tunic. (#6)

Cream tunic sweater dress with moto leggings

Pink sweater with black jeans.

The dress could be worn with tights and the long cardigan for a cozy and comfortable Outfit #7!

My final “must pack” piece was a pair of dark denim jeans. I have a LOT of favorites but ultimately settled on a high waisted pair from Evereve, The Barbara from Hudson and these black Spanx jeans! (Outfits #8 and #9!) Both would be a great staple that I could wear multiple ways which means they would make for lots of stress-free outfits on the trip. I firmly agree with the advice that you should have one amazing pair of jeans you LOVE and look amazing in. It’s worth spending the little extra on, I promise.

Identify the “filler” pieces you need to buy but stick to classics!

A quick jaunt to Target or Amazon will usually get you everything you need but stick to the classics. If you’re looking to maximize your space and bring as little as possible, this isn’t a time to bring trendy pieces. I found a great pleated sweater skirt in blackberry, from Target, which I plan to pair with a leopard tee and tall boots, adding a jacket or sweater to change the look (Outfit #10!). I may even try it over the leopard print Sonnet and James dress I mentioned above. (Outfit #11!)

Finally, think about the completer pieces you need (also an awesome MVB tip!) Usually, this will be a belt, pair of shoes, or jacket. In my case, I decided on a pair of black Nike Quest sneakers and a casual skirt that could be paired with tees and sweaters and tall boots.

Keep accessories simple and also classic.

Finally, when putting the finishing touches on an outfit, you’ll be tempted to pack ALL of your amazing jewelry. Don’t!

Pick a favorite pair of earrings that will look great with every outfit. For me, that means a gold pair of hoops like these or these. I’m leaving my statement necklaces at home (ok, maybe bringing JUST ONE) and choosing a thin gold one that also goes with everything.

Layout your clothes and set them aside right away.

This one might be the most difficult for me to follow but I’m committed! Once you’ve created your capsule travel wardrobe put all of the clothes to the side and leave them there until you’re ready to pack! You’ll be tempted to continue to wear your favorite dress or jeans but this will only cause you to rethink your choices when you have to gather everything up again.

You’ve done the hard work and thought things through, don’t undo all of your hard work! In fact, create a list of your outfits on your phone so you don’t have to think about what to pair together each day!

And there you have it. Mom’s wardrobe is officially packed in advance! Now you have ample time to tackle the second impossible task of packing for travel: limiting toiletry items.