Packing for Paris.
Once upon a time, those words made me feel more than a little apprehensive. It’s such a stylish city, and it is easy to feel like you might muck it up. Thankfully, visiting Paris at least once a year for the past decade has removed my packing nerves. But I won’t pretend that I’m a last minute packer who can stand in front of my wardrobe, throw a few things into my case and nail my travel style.
To my mind, successful packing takes time and thought. And more than a little planning. Recently, I started thinking about what I’ll need to pack for our upcoming European vacation so I thought I’d take you behind the scenes and share my four step packing process.
Before We Start
Let’s talk weight.
Whether you are a dedicated ‘carry-on only’ sort of traveller, or someone who is happy to take larger luggage, you need to consider how much you are prepared to lug around with you.
Airline restrictions are one thing, but you also need to think about your trip. If you are planning on moving between locations, you may be required to carry your own bag. If this is the case I definitely recommend packing as light as you can. I’ve heard too many tales of travellers injuring themselves – and ruining their long awaited vacation – thanks to very heavy luggage. Often these injuries involve carrying heavy bags up stairs (Paris has lots of stairs and very few elevators – or perhaps that’s just how it seems to me much of the time) so it is worth thinking about accessibility both in and around your accommodation choice.
Personally, I try to travel as light as possible. For trips up to a month, I take a four wheeled carry on case, which I check so that I can also take an extra tote bag onto the plane. Knowing that I only have a limited amount of space to work with forces me to really think about what I’ll need.
My Four Step Packing Process
Step One – Planning On Paper
Before I even peek into my wardrobe, my planning starts on piece of paper. I make notes about where we are travelling and what we will be doing. I also print out a copy of the relevant Distant Francophile Packing Guide as a reference. For this particular trip I need the spring packing list.
We will be travelling for three weeks, visiting both the Czech Republic and Germany before heading to France for two weeks. About half of my time in France will be in Paris – I’ll be leaving Scott in Germany to catch up with some very special friends in Paris.
While we are travelling together, Scott and I have at least one fancy dinner and a dressy day when we will be in Paris for Scott’s birthday. We are visiting four ‘new to us’ cities on this trip, so there will be several days of sightseeing. And we are catching up with friends in Germany as well as France.
In looking at our itinerary I’ve decided that I won’t be needing frocks – the weather will most likely be cool to mild, and my black jeans will cover the dressier occasions with the right tops and accessories. With that in mind, I’ll be leaving the classic black pants at home and will travel with three pairs of jeans instead.
And – just in case you are wondering – I won’t be packing heels. I learned a long time ago from some very stylish Parisians that flats can take you almost everywhere.
Step Two – Speaking Of Shoes
I, like so many other travel and style bloggers, always start my packing plans with shoes. There’s a reason for this. Shoes are bulky and heavy and they eat into your valuable luggage real estate. Given this, wherever possible, I travel with only two pairs of shoes, unless we are doing something unusually fancy that does require me to wear heels.
In thinking about how much walking we will be doing on this trip, it wasn’t difficult for me to conclude that I need to go with two pairs of comfortable and relatively flat shoes. These shoes also need to look good enough to take me from casual to dressy and back again. With this as my criteria, my first choice are a pair of black leather ankle boots that have an almond toe and a slight elevation. I’m planning to wear the boots on the flights and also for the dressier events.
Once upon a time, I would not have bothered to take a second pair of shoes for a visit to Paris at this time of year. But after being caught in an unseasonal spring heatwave a few years back that forced me to buy shoes a lighter pair of shoes in a hurry, I’ve learned to always take a warm weather alternative. This year I’ll be packing my very versatile, metallic gold ballet flats.
(Now I know what you are thinking. And yes I agree. There are worse things than shopping for shoes in Paris. But feeling like you have to buy shoes not only eats into your travel budget, it also takes a lot of the fun out of shopping. Especially when you know that you already own any number of perfect options and just hadn’t been clever enough to pack them.)
Step Three – Onto The Clothes
With my shoe decisions sorted, I can then start building outfits that work well with those shoes.
But first I have to pick a colour scheme that complements the shoes. My preference is to build my travel capsule wardrobes around three colours. For this trip, I’ve chosen the very neutral trio of black, white and grey.
With all the foundation choices made, I begin transferring all the clothes I think I might want to take with me onto a portable wardrobe rack (or, before I realised how affordable those racks were, the bed in the guest bedroom).
I’ve spent a number of years building up a wardrobe of travel friendly clothing that usually find their way into my packing choices. These items are light, easy to layer and most importantly, resist crushing.
I also make sure I include all my wardrobe essentials. For me, that includes a white button down shirt, a dressy black v-neck top, my favourite skinny jeans, a white t-shirt and a cashmere sweater. I also consider possible outfits for my dressy days.
The first clothing cut for this particular trip includes:
- 3 pairs of jeans in black, grey and blue denim
- A black singlet for layering
- A white singlet for layering
- A grey short sleeve t-shirt – for layering or for casual days
- A slightly dressier grey three quarter length sleeved top
- A slightly dressier black short sleeve t-shirt
- A velvet short sleeve top
- A dressier black v-neck top
- A black button down shirt in a soft travel friendly fabric
- A long sleeve white t-shirt
- A dressier long sleeved white top
- A white button down shirt
- A dressy taupe top
- A grey cashmere sweater
- A fitted grey merino sweater
- A black merino waterfall cardigan
- A cropped black leather jacket
- A packable down jacket in blue grey
Step Four – I Wait
And I think.
And I really question myself.
Once you can see everything the questioning becomes easy.
I’m writing this while sitting in front of my rack of possible choices for our upcoming trip. Here are the queries running through my mind right now:
- Have I chosen too many items? Spring is always challenging to pack for given the variability in the weather, especially when you are visiting multiple countries. And most of the tops I’ve selected feature super light, technical fabrics. But I really like to test myself to ensure I travel as lightly, yet stylishly, as possible.
- Do I really need three long sleeve white tops? Could I swap in a short sleeved white t-shirt?
- Are two grey sweaters necessary? There cuts are quite different, but they are almost identical in terms of colour. And I have plenty of layering options so I’m not too concerned about warmth.
- I’m wondering whether I should replace the packable down jacket with my black trench coat?
- What do I want to wear on the flight? I know for sure that the waterfall cardigan will be in my carry-on because it is nice and cosy. And at this stage, I’m thinking that I’ll also have my leather jacket with me, in case it is chilly when we land in Prague.
I’ll let those questions rattle around for the next week – and check the weather forecasts – before I make my final decisions. I promise to post what actually made it into the bag once I’ve packed it.
What does your packing process look like? Do you spend time planning what to pack? Or do you avoid even thinking about it to the last minute? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
And until next time – au revoir.