Let's Review :: One Backpack, Two Weeks

I'm back! One backpack, two weeks, 22 pieces of clothing, four flights, five hotels and a whole lot of train rides. Here's the recap on what I packed if you're interested.

So today, I'm going to recap what worked, what didn't, and what I'd change the next time I pack. Thanks to blogging, I've gotten really good at packing over the past couple of years. I've definitely become more thoughtful about what I include in my luggage, how I construct a small capsule wardrobe, and making sure I get the most out of every piece.

Backpack = Awesome Idea:

Okay, so the backpack was an awesome idea. Not only were they small enough that we could fit two into the lockers at train stations (essential on days where we had lapses between check out/check in at hotels), they were SO much easier to walk around with than rolling luggage. The packing cubes were essential for fitting everything, though. I knew exactly what went in which cube, so repacking was a breeze. I would not have wanted to try and repack a backpack every time we moved without them.

The MVP:

This Uniqlo Ultra Light Down was definitely the star! I learned a cute coat was essential, because it was pretty much in every single photo we took. I loved that it stuffed into a bag, too. If I got hot or took it off at restaurants, I'd bag it up and throw it in my daypack. Next time I travel when it's cold, I'll probably pack this coat and then wear a different one on the plane for a little variation.

The Good:

This little bag from Marc by Marc Jacobs was a dream! I ordered it last minute from Shopbop before our trip and had it rush shipped so I'd get it before we left. I highly recommend this bag for travel - it fit everything I needed, including a small point in shoot, sunglasses, wallet, phone, hand sanitizer, etc. I also loved the "secret compartment" aspect. The fold-over flap is the access to the main part of the bag, but the zipper opens and allows you to store things in the lining as well. I stowed my passport and wallet there for a little more security. I definitely recommend traveling with a normal purse over a travel purse. It helps you fit in a little better and not stick out like the tourist you are (although, in Japan, there was no avoiding that).

Wardrobe Workhorses:

Most worn item was definitely my leggings. I'm not sure I would even pack jeans again - they were uncomfortable and I didn't wear them as much as I thought I would. A slouchy jogger or ankle pant would have been a better choice. For tops, my most worn item was either my white collared shirt or my grey cashmere sweater.

Should've Left at Home:

In my head, the black cape was going to be a wonderful addition to my capsule. It was cozy, warm, and I could wear it around the hotel when we were lounging. In reality, it took up valuable room that could have been used for something else, didn't layer well under a coat, and wasn't that warm as a layering piece. I would have been better off packing another sweater.

Same goes for my blazer. For a work trip or a warmer climate, it would have been an essential layering piece. For Japan, it wasn't warm enough to wear on its own so it often got left behind. A leather jacket would have been a better choice, although much more difficult to travel with.

I've traveled with these Zara flats before, and I packed them to add a dressier element to my wardrobe. The first day I wore them, we walked over 10 miles. My feet were KILLING me by the end of the day. I didn't wear them again, so I wish I'd left them at home and used that space for an extra scarf.

I probably didn't need two skirts, if any. I packed skirts thinking it would add a little variation to my wardrobe, but they were my least worn items. I liked the change but it was often too cold or windy to wear a skirt. On the upside, I enjoyed having the option because the girls in Japan are always dressed to the nines. Many of them wore skirts without tights (I can't imagine! Brr!) so I liked having a dressy item just in case.

What I Wish I'd Packed:

More makeup. Seriously, this sounds crazy, but the Japanese girls were SO CUTE. They were always well put together, with perfect hair and makeup. Having some different eye makeup choices would have made me feel a little less plain.

More color. I ended up packing only two scarves, and more scarves in more colors would have been really nice. Since I wore the same jacket in every photo, scarves and hats would have been the only way to vary my look.

More sweaters. Open layers like cardigans and jackets weren't practical for this trip since I had to wear a coat so often, so a few more sweaters (in something other than black and white) would have been smart. This grey cardigan was my only open layer that I really wore without a coat.

My Ugg boots. I know, I know. For shame. I actually saw a lot of girls commuting in Uggs and I missed how cozy and warm mine were. I wish I'd invested in a pair of short black ones for travel, and I may do so for my next cold weather excursion.

What I Learned:

Overall, this was a great packing experience. I never had that "nothing to wear" feeling and everything in my suitcase seemed to go with everything else. Some things were more practical than others, but for the most part I felt like I had a really solid wardrobe for the trip. The only thing I really needed was more socks (things got sketchy there towards the end). I would absolutely travel using only a backpack again - in fact, I might prefer it. It was just easier to move around. I also need to take my own advice and make sure I pack plenty of tops, take it easy on bottoms.

Tomorrow, I'll be recapping the actual trip and linking to these little stories I made throughout the last two weeks if anyone's interested in what we actually DID while in Japan. The trip was so incredible, I really didn't have time to think that much about what I was wearing, which is exactly the kind of trip you want to be on. So, I do apologize for not documenting daily outfit photos while I was on my trip, but they'd probably be boring anyway compared to what we actually did! If you just can't wait, you can catch up with our travels on Instagram.