I’ve never really possessed an ability to “pack light”. I’m more of a believer in the “always be prepared” philosophy so it’s not uncommon for me to haul a large variety of items on vacation with me on the off chance that I just might need them.
Most of the time this approach causes little trouble for me. Sure, there’s the occasional embarrassed look as the bellhop hoists a particularly large bag onto the luggage cart. Sometimes it’s tricky to navigate airport crowds with my large, heavy, Patagonia duffel bag in one hand, three “handbags” slung over my shoulders and two children with their attendant luggage hurrying along behind me. All in all, though, a small price to pay for having everything I might need or want right at my fingertips.
Only twice has this particular approach given me pause. The first time was during my inaugural journey to Paris in 2012. It was impossible to predict what I would need so I brought it all……long, heavy dresses for dinner, tall, silver high heeled shoes, multiple bags and purses, shoes for every conceivable outfit. My large, American sized suitcase was stuffed to the brim. It was also quite difficult to navigate the small turnstills, crowded spaces and multiple stairs of the Paris Metro system with that damn suitcase in tow. I am a problem solver, however, and I solved that problem by getting myself back to the airport via taxi. Much easier. Oh, and more expensive. Goodbye 100 euros.
Two years later I traveled to Italy, arriving in Venice and then taking the train first to the Cinque Terre and then on to Rome. I suppose I packed a bit lighter this time. I did leave the dinner dresses and high heels at home, after all. Somehow, though, I still managed to have a heavy, unwieldy American sized suitcase attached to me. If you’ve even been to Venice you know that it is built over a series of canals. To traverse the canals there are stairs. Many stairs. Up and down. Over every. Single. Canal. My suitcase and I thumped along. By the time we had finally found our hotel on the first day there I hated my suitcase. My back and shoulders ached. I was sweating profusely. I was NEVER packing like that again.
When planning our recent trip to France, I channeled all my previous heavy suitcase angst and made a better plan. I made a concise list of what I really needed and would use. Turns out that there are stores in France. You can buy things there if you need them, forget them or want them. Weird. But handy.
We were traveling for three weeks. I packed five interchangeable outfits, three pairs of shoes, one swimming suit, one pair of pajamas and a few books. I felt great anxiety. What if I didn’t have the perfect outfit for the occasion? What if my clothes weren’t Parisian enough (don’t worry, they won’t be)? What if, what if……
Turns out, this is a brilliant way to travel. They less a person has to haul, drag, keep track of, or worry about, the better. The less you bring, the more you can enjoy. Next time, I’m bringing even less.
Below is my “essential” packing list and a few thoughts about the utility of the various items. I hope this helps you pack light(er) on your next journey. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Five outfits: I prefer to mostly use dresses to fulfill this requirement. They are versatile, easy to dress up with a scarf or other accessory and always look pulled together. I brought four dresses and one skirt with two shirts that could go with it. I also brought one pair of dark rinse denim that could go with either of the shirts I brought. One lightweight, three-quarter sleeve navy blue cardigan from Anthropologie could complement any of the above outfits as needed.
Of the four dresses I brought, two turned out to be ideal. One of these was the Kit and Ace cap sleeve dress in a deep purple. If you haven’t discovered Kit and Ace yet, do yourself a favor and take a look. They carry beautiful, classic clothes in technical fabrics that wear and wash beautifully. Perfect for travel. My other favorite dress was a simple knit v-neck knit dress from Boden. Flattering silhouettes in great fabrics are always a win.
The other two dresses I brought were worn less for a variety of reasons. One was a very pretty print dress from Anthropologie but the fabric was synthetic and it was hot and sweaty in the summer heat. The other was a bright yellow A-line dress again from Anthropologie in a cotton fabric. It was comfortable but tended to wrinkle more and the bright yellow color felt out of place in Paris.
Next time I will stick to my classic shapes and colors in technical or knit fabrics.
The skirt I brought was a white knit and paired nicely with a variety of tops, including the two I brought and others I purchased along the way.
Quality denim jeans are a must. You only need one pair but you will be glad you brought them. Bring your best fitting, darkest wash pair and you will feel tres chic.
One pair of comfortable pajamas, one swimming suit, one light weight raincoat. I almost left the raincoat at home and that would have been regrettable indeed.
I brought two scarves to accessorize my outfits, three pairs of simple and classic earrings, one necklace and a few bracelets. Between these items and some treasures I bought along the way, I had plenty of accessories to keep my outfits feeling appropriate and fresh.
Shoes——I love shoes but for this trip I brought only three pairs. I wore my pair of Tiek ballet flats. Amazing travel shoes. I brought one pair of nice Birkenstock sandals and a pair of Naot sandals. All were perfect for logging lots and lots of miles in relative comfort.
I did bring my running gear, too, as I love to run in Paris. One tank top, one pair of shorts, one bra, one pair of socks, one hat. One old pair of running shoes which I threw away in Paris before coming home.
A few other necessary items came along as well. Electrical converters are a must, bring one with multiple plug-ins if you can. Also laundry soap, a travel umbrella, a small clothesline and toiletries. Bring the smallest size toiletries you think you can possibly get away with. You can buy more there if you need. I did, and survived to tell the story.
Tide stain remover pens are a life saver. I also brought my own coffee (because I’m a coffee snob) and peanut butter (because the French don’t love peanut butter like I do). These two items made breakfast in the flat very lovely, indeed. A reusable shopping bag is a must as well if you plan to buy any groceries at all.
This final item is a bit controversial but I’m glad I brought it. I toted along my MacBook laptop. Yes, it’s a bit heavy but we were traveling for three weeks and it was invaluable when I needed to look up information, make reservations, buy train tickets or watch a pinch of English language TV. Could you accomplish these tasks in other ways? Yes, but it wouldn’t be as convenient. For me, it was worth it to have the laptop but I realize this is a very individual decision.
That’s it. Pack light, pack smart. It’s my new travel motto.
#packlight #packsmart #paris #youcanbuyitthere #KitandAce #Boden #throwawayshoes #peanutbutterisanamericanthing