Friday, April 4, 2014

French Friday: Packing for Paris in a Carry-on

First, I have a blog announcement...

Instead of publishing one humongous post all about my trip as usual, I have decided that I will write and add pictures a little at a time and spread it out over many entries. Following my 30th birthday trip to Paris with excursions to Versailles and Rouen, I plan to post each Friday in a 'mini' series entitled French Friday. You definitely do not want to miss them!

Since I am an experienced traveler, I have learned to travel with only a carry-on and a personal item. I am doing the same for this particular trip, so I thought I would start the series early and share about packing for my week-long trip. I depart on Wednesday, April 9th and return on Wednesday, April 16th.

For clothing, shoes and scarves, I am taking:

1. white scoop-neck tee from Ann Taylor Factory Store
2. white cross-over 3/4-sleeve t-shirt by Merona from Target
3. black and white striped long-sleeve slubbed cotton tee from LOFT
4. plum cross-over 3/4-sleeve t-shirt by Merona from Target
5. dark gray and white striped boat-neck 3/4-sleeve t-shirt from H&M
6. black scoop-neck tee from Ann Taylor Factory Store
7. black cross-over 3/4-sleeve t-shirt by Merona from Target
8. dark blue Levi's bootcut jeans in short length with buttoned back pockets from JCPenney
9. black wrap dress from Ann Taylor
10. black 3/4-sleeve crew-neck cardigan by Cherokee from Target
11. white camisole by Sonoma Life + Style from Kohl's
12. another of the same white camisole
13. black camisole by Sonoma Life + Style from Kohl's
14. black silky camisole with lace from White House Black Market
15. gray and white pajama pants by Gilligan and O'Malley from Target
16. 5 pairs of panties, a nude bra and a black bra
17. pair of white ankle socks
18. khaki single-breasted trench with belt from Banana Republic Factory Store
19. black leather ballet flats with black patent cap toe by Naturalizer
20. black flip flops with white polka dots from Target
21. dark pink scarf
22. black scarf with white polka dots

A lot of layers are ideal for travel during the spring season. It can be warm during the day (like mid-60s), yet cold at night (like mid-40s). Each day, I plan to wear a tee over a cami, cardigan, trench, scarf, jeans and ballet flats which I can tweak according to the current weather conditions. Neutral clothing choices allow for each piece to go with everything else. I favor sailor stripes for my French travels. I may add another neutral bottom. The right choice might make going from day to night more distinctive. If I do add, say, a skirt, then I can see subtracting a tee, perhaps the purple one. I reserve the right to make last minute decisions. It is my birthday, after all.

There are a few pieces that I just had to pack for this specific trip. Apparently, Paris can have sudden downpours, so that's why I have a trench and plan to bring a sturdy umbrella. I like the idea of a classic khaki trench for my trip to the fashion capital. Also, the right shoe is very important for a trip with so much walking, standing, and (Velib) bike-riding involved. I live in cute yet comfy ballet flats anyway. I adore both the comfort and style of my Naturalizer ballet flats. I have already worn them, so hopefully I will not develop any blisters. The polka-dotted flip flops are for the shower as our hotel has less than stellar reviews.

While I do want to look good, this trip is not about what I wear, but rather what I experience. I tried to pack lightly, so that my luggage doesn't burden my beautiful birthday trip. I don't have to check a bag (even though Elizabeth will) which saves time and money, and I can easily lift and carry it up and down Metro (and possibly hotel) stairs. Each item I have selected can be multifunctional and/or be used twice. Each scarf can serve as an accessory, a layer, and a blanket for the plane ride. The trip is 8 days long but I am only bringing 6-7 tees. I will probably wear the three plain camisoles twice each. The fancier cami may even do double duty for evening, going under the LBD one time and layered with the cardigan another. I will only wear the pair of white ankle socks to be a bit more comfortable on the flights each way. Obviously, the bottoms for sightseeing and sleep will have daily use. I plan to do sink laundry once, after about four days or so, and then allow them to dry overnight.

Non-clothing items including accessories:

1. 19" black soft-side carryon spinner by Samsonite (does not expand) with bright luggage tags
2. black mesh-front Eagle Creek packing cube with zipper closure from Samsonite (similar)
3. small black leather cross-body bag with two zippered pockets from Target
4. passport in a red leather cover from Samsonite
5. driver's license, and favorite coffee shop's card (to take a picture with for their travel wall)
6. some euros and US currency
7. debit card and Capital One credit card (without foreign transaction fees)
8. copies of important documents, cards, reservations, and itinerary
9. travel-sized toiletries, liquid makeup, primer, liquid laundry detergent sample, and Coco Mademoiselle sample squeezed inside a 1 quart freezer ziploc bag (to be placed in outer zippered luggage compartment for easy access through airport security)
10. toothbrush in plastic travel case
11. powder makeup, only one makeup brush (perhaps even the tiny never-used brush that comes with the blush compact?), eyelash curler, tweezers, empty contact lens case, travel-size bar of soap and a prescription medication in a small black bag with white polka dots that zips shut
12. large round CZ stud earrings (When not worn, they can be stored in this little organizer that my friend F made me at night. I tend to purchase a pair of earrings as a souvenir.)
13. watch
14. black/brown reversible leather belt from Target
15. ivory money belt with single compartment featuring zipper closure
16. black auto-open/close Windguard umbrella from Samsonite (can be clipped to cross-body bag during trip and placed in lower outer luggage compartment en route)
17. small flat iron from study abroad experience inside heat-protective travel sleeve
18. travel folding hair dryer from study abroad experience
19. hair brush and hair clip (this, #18 and #11 go) in a larger matching black bag with white polka dots that zips shut and has handles
20. small lined notebook with black leather cover, a pocket, and an elastic band from Target, and pen (in handbag)
21. 7" Kindle Fire HD (fits in handbag) with 2 books downloaded:
   1. Paris: An Inspiring Tour of the City's Creative Heart by Janelle McCulloch
   2. Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life by Karen Karbo
22. new phone (with cheaper international service by T-Mobile), its charger, and useful apps:
   1. Google Translate
   2. TripAdvisor: Paris
   3. Rick Steves Audio Europe (for its walking tours) [I've listened to a dozen interviews so far!]
   4. Yelp
23. digital camera with new battery, its charger and an adaptor (and an empty memory card)
24. Rick Steves' Paris 2014 Guidebook
25. small Rick Steves' French Phrase Book & Dictionary
26. small snack

I am a fan of rolling my clothing in order to fit everything I need inside the carry-on. For this trip, folding each piece into thirds length-wise and then rolling seemed to pack well. I place the rolls in the crevices created by the two bars of the extending handle. Then, I kind of have a flat surface to pack bags on top of. I further compact (and conceal) my rolled panties, rolled camis, bra and pajama pants in an Eagle Creek zippered cube. (I wish I had more of these genius things! You can squeeze more into a smaller space.) Heavier items are placed towards the wheels. I wear some of the items I listed including the jacket so, of course, I don't have to pack every single thing.

That little black handbag in the middle on the right in the picture above has enough space to fit my journal, a pen, small French dictionary and phrasebook, camera, that coffee shop card, and phone when going around town in Paris. I will be wearing a money belt holding my passport, other ID, cash, debit card and credit card. For truly lightweight travel, I intended for this cross body bag to serve as my "personal item" (to go underneath the seat in front of me on the plane), but while my Kindle does fit inside, I have such a rough time zipping it closed with it there, let alone with anything else like boarding passes! So, I will likely have to slip the whole handbag inside an additional personal item, probably my much bigger monogrammed black and white patterned canvas tote. I can also pack that pair of white ankle socks I wish to wear to be more comfortable on the flights in it, even though I never sleep on planes. We have two shorter flights surrounding a layover in Iceland anyway. That larger handbag would allow me to stow my flats while wearing those socks. I suppose I really want to travel as lightly as possible. It's on my travel to do list to only go someplace with only a passport, a good book and essentials.

I was originally planning on packing a green 24" non-wheeled duffel (pictured below) inside so I could check a bag of dirty laundry on the way home and keep my precious souvenirs with me. I did have space for it; it fit nicely inside this separate zippered door compartment in fact, but since that was the case, I realized that I had plenty of room for my purchases. Plenty of room for that little Eiffel Tower sculpture among other souvenirs and a few gifts. Plus, I could use my clothing to wrap, cushion and compact delicate items so they don't break and slide all over the place (which tends to get things into trouble).

I didn't stay packed as I only have a capsule wardrobe as well as limited extras and need to wear these pieces, but I am happy to know it all fits with room to spare. Plus, I intended to share this long ago since I could possibly inspire someone to pack more lightly next time.

There are many other packing tutorials out there that, frankly, are much better done than this post. I have collected many of them on a Pinterest board.

Words cannot express how excited I am for this trip! I depart this Wednesday!


  1. Nice job packing! I am so impressed with people who can travel with just a carry-on. I thought I was doing well with my 24 inch suitcase - ha! Thanks for posting such a detailed list. It's refreshing to see someone who shops where I do (not Hermes & Chanel)! Have a wonderful trip- you're going to love Paris. We were there a few years ago and would love to go back - maybe next year! looking forward to your posts. D

    1. Merci! You can too! It certainly takes practice. It takes many trips of realizing you don't need all of these particular items many times to wisen up. After rolling two huge 29" suitcases with a full backpack that was tipping me over across the cobblestones of Rome after my 3-month study abroad experience back in 2005, I decided "no more!" I wanted this list to really be ...real and I am pleased that you got something out of it. This is also for my travel partner. I haven't heard from her since she said she as going to do a test run in packing. The golden rule of packing to lay out all of your stuff you want to take on your bed and then only pack half of it.

      Looking at the weather forecast, it may be too chilly for a dress without tights and tall boots (that wouldn't fit inside my carry-on!) so I may go Parisian chic with all black- black lacy top with black pants...

      Thank you. I think I will have an amazing time! Stay tuned for future posts so you can return vicariously through me!

  2. I wonder if there is any way that you can email me your post! I need to use these suggestions for my Paris trip. I purchased both of those Rick Steve's books and they arrived on Friday! Oh your tips are really going to help me.
    My email is if you get a chance to send this.
    Merci beau coup.

  3. I did email it to you, along with a surprise extra.

    I like anything Rick Steves. My friend bought another guide; I'll have to look through that.

    Make sure you read my French Friday posts. You know I will be as detailed on how to take the train from the airport as I will with the eating experience of a pain au chocolat! :)

  4. Which airline are you flying? Just be sure your weight req. is ok, even if the size dimensions are!

    In case you are still worried about blisters (love ballet flats!), I have found Band-Aid brand "Blister Block" to work wonders preventing them! Just rub some of it on places where your shoe hits/may hit and voila`! I think it only costs around $5. Maybe worth a try just in case? :)

    1. Icelandair. I checked the restrictions long ago and weighed my packed carry-on today. At only 15 lbs., it's far under the 22 lb limit. Thank you for the tip though!

      Its too late for another purchase for this trip but I'll keep it in mind for the next. Since I have worn them, I think they'll be fine. You should see my closet full of neatly organized luggage and travel accessories!