What to pack?

It’s getting close to the time of departure for my trip touring through France, starting in Paris! Just 16 days to go!

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Now we’re getting to the fun part; what I’ve been waiting for – actually preparing to leave!

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Women always seem to focus on “What shall I wear?” and I’m no exception.  I’ve been planning what I will wear and therefore, what I need, to pack in my luggage. I like being organized and prepared and I’ve found that a bit of planning contributes to having a stress free travel experience. Once I decide what type of clothing is appropriate for the weather forecast, I gather all of the items I would like to take together in one place. It helps if I pretend as though I’m actually leaving tomorrow.

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I get the appropriate luggage out for the trip I’m about to embark upon, pack it up to see if the items I’ve chosen will fit in the luggage and determine if it will meet the weight limits for the airlines. Taking this step also allows me to know what last minute items I might still need to purchase before I leave.

I checked the forecasts for the various locations in France I’ll be touring. Generally, I can expect temperatures to be in the low to mid 60’s with cooler evenings and probable chances of rain here and there during my stay.

For clothing requirements, that equates to ‘layering’ in order to adjust each day, and time of day, accordingly. Since the weather will be quite similar to what I experience here at home in southern Oregon, I’ll be wearing what I usually wear with a couple of new colorful and comfortable blouses added to perk up my wardrobe. I am all about wearing comfortable clothes to travel in. I dress casual; nothing fancy or requiring dress shoes to match for me which allows me to stay within my budget!

After I ‘practice pack’ the bags the first time, I usually need to fine tune it a bit. More often than not, my eyes are bigger than my luggage. I decide which items are not absolutely necessary but instead fall into the “nice-to-have-along” category. If it really isn’t necessary, I don’t bring it. “Why carry it if I might use it only once or twice?” is my motto. Nor do I bring anything I’m not willing to lose, like nice or expensive jewelry for example! I also often remind myself that there are stores in Europe and if I need something which I forgot to bring along, I can always buy it when I get there.

Since I’ll be using mass transit at the onset of the trip, I chose the following luggage: one medium ‘checked’ bag (super lightweight and with wheels) and one carry-on size backpack.

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I can handle these two pieces easily by myself on trains, buses and while ascending stairs without difficulty or assistance when necessary. Each piece should ideally be a maximum weight of approximately 20-25 lbs. (The lighter – the better!)

When I leave Paris and am using a rental car to tour and explore the countryside, I can also adjust what I have in each piece of luggage. I will use the backpack to carry only my valuables and the other items needed for a day or two to take into the hostel with me; leaving the remaining bag in the locked rental car out of sight. I don’t have to constantly haul both bags in and out of various locations all of the time.

If you’re not sure what you can personally carry, I highly suggest you practice. Take the time to pack it all up and actually go on a bus or train ride somewhere in your town with all your gear. Walk around the streets and window shop for at least a half an hour, eat a meal, walk up and down some sets of stairs, etc., in order to see what you can comfortably handle on your own and what will be required of you while traveling.

Many times, especially if one plans on using mass transit, one will find it necessary to walk some distances with luggage in tow in order to get from one place to another. This can include some difficult navigational scenarios which can include cobbled-streets or uneven pavement, turn styles, narrow spaces, stairs and escalators….just to name a few. Toting over-sized or cumbersome luggage, or too many pieces of it, can prove tiresome and next to impossible, especially if traveling ‘solo!’

One of the things I like about this backpack is that the shoulder and waist support straps can be stowed away in the zipper openings in the back of it, turning it into a easily managed carry-on.

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Clothing is by far the biggest element and therefore takes up most of the room available. My trip will be almost 6 weeks long – 41 days total. I can’t possibly carry enough clothes to have a clean outfit to wear every day of my trip and yet I want to take enough for variety and so I don’t have to spend precious time doing laundry very often.

It’s important that the pieces I choose are interchangeable, coordinated, and can be worn in a variety of combinations. I pack enough clothing to last about 2 weeks and schedule time in my itinerary for doing laundry. It’s also prudent to select pieces of lightweight clothing which dry quickly. Try to avoid heavy fabrics, such as thick denim for instance, or bulky sweaters if at all possible. I prefer light cottons and knits.

Here are examples of the various pieces of clothing I decided upon:

Tops: IMG_04039 long-sleeved blouses, 2 of which can also be worn as an ‘over-shirt’ for layering purposes with adjustable sleeve lengths. IMG_0416

 

 

 

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5 knit long-sleeved and 3/4 length Tee-shirt type tops in a variety of colors

 

 

4 short-sleeved shirtsIMG_0408   IMG_0411

 

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4 sleeveless

IMG_0420  1 long lightweight knit sweater blouse

3 lightweight knit long-sleeved sweaters

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These blouses will be paired with 8 pairs of pants IMG_0470(all skinny jeans in lightweight stretch denim blue or black).
I will also include a outdoor type vest and a lightweight fleece jacket in case a sweater is not sufficient to keep my upper body warm on cooler days and a lightweight and water-resistance coat with a hood in case of spring showers which can roll up small to fit inside my purse.

In addition I will pack the following miscellaneous undergarments:

10 pair panties, 2 bras (1 white, 1 nude), 12 cotton camisoles to wear under tops in various colors and of course some socks (6 pair for flats, 6 pair for tennis/walking shoes)

Other miscellaneous items include a belt, bathing suit & cover up, pajamas, a couple of cotton handkerchiefs, a pair shorts or Capris and 3 pair of shoes: basic black flats, my favorite walking shoes and boots (each fitted with new cushioned insoles for additional walking comfort). I will wear the boots on the airplane to save space in my luggage. Make sure you choose footwear which are already ‘broken in’ and won’t create blisters or feel uncomfortable for any reason. Nothing is worse than developing sore or blistered feet after touring sites and attractions all day because of wearing brand new shoes!

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Once I’ve narrowed it down and decided on each individual item, I make a complete list of what I have assembled. Since I wear most of these clothes on a regular basis, I make the list of what I ultimately decided upon so when the time arrives to actually pack my bags to leave for the airport, I can easily refer to my list and grab the items from my closet which I have previously decided upon. The list I prepare also includes all toiletries and miscellaneous items as well.

Here is a list of the toiletries I generally pack:

IMG_0465My make-up bag contains foundation, blush & blush brush, mascara & lipstick, hair cutting scissors (my bangs grow fast and often need trimming!), toenail clippers, moisturizer, eye makeup remover, hand cream, razor, tweezers, floss, a couple of Band-Aids and Neosporin, hairbrush, toothbrush & toothpaste, emery file, Q-tips, lip balm, a couple of hair ties and a clip, feminine products and a small snack-size zip lock bag containing a few pain relief tablets such as Ibuprofen and Excedrin. For ease in make-up application (and so I can see what I’m doing) I also include a small travel size magnifying mirror (with a light) which can stand  by itself.

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The other toiletry bag serves as a shower kit containing small squeeze bottles of shampoo & conditioner, a small bar of soap in a plastic storage box and a washing scrunchy. The shower kit has a hook attached to it so it can be hung in or near the shower for easy access. I also like to add a few zip lock bags in various sizes for holding and keeping any wet items separate, such as a wash cloth for example.

The shower kit will also contain a hairdryer & flat-iron. If I don’t already own one that was purchased in the country where it will be used, (and therefore, have the correct type of plug attached to it) I just buy it when I get there.

For instance, I brought a hairdryer from home when I went to the UK last year along with a converter and adapter that I was told would do the trick. It worked – slightly – but not enough for the hairdryer to actually dry my hair; it didn’t end up having much ‘output’ of air to do the job as expected and desired. So I went shopping and bought one complete with the correct plug to match the UK outlets when I got there. Much easier and much more efficient! When I return to the UK in the future, I’ll have it to take with me. If you stay in hotels, you probably won’t have to pack a hairdryer; most have them available just like here in the USA.

There are a number of miscellaneous items I also personally like to include:

Small travel size packages of facial tissues, 3-4 “pods” of laundry soap for doing laundry (in a zip lock baggie), a round flat sink stopper for washing small amounts of laundry (I’ve found a few sinks without plugs), a travel sewing kit (complete with a couple of safety pins and paper clips), a padlock with key (to use when there are lockable storage cupboards available at hostels to stow luggage for security purposes in while I’m out visiting sights and attractions), an airplane memory foam neck pillow for the long flight and a security waist pouch that can be worn hidden around my waist to hold my passport, big cash and credit cards while traveling (or sleeping – if there aren’t any locked storage cupboards available for use in the hostels)

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Another kind of unusual item I like to pack is an insulated picnic basket with carrying strap which contains a few pieces of plastic silverware, napkins, salt & pepper packets, and small storage containers for salads, etc.

I really enjoy a picnic lunch outdoors in a park or while I’m cavorting around the countryside visiting small villages, castles, and other interesting sights off the beaten track. I can pack my lunch (with some ice in a zip lock bag to keep the items fresh) and I’m ready for an adventure without worrying if I’ll be able to find somewhere to eat when I get hungry. I like shopping in local markets to gather the picnic ingredients and try to choose “local” and “in season” ingredients which allows me to experience the culture and its cuisine I’m visiting. It also helps with the budget; minimizing the amount of prepared meals eaten out at restaurants. I have found it’s really nice having the picnic basket along and so I always include it.

I also use it inside my ‘checked’ luggage to hold items such as liquids that might otherwise leak inside my luggage all over my clothing or break while stowed in the belly of the plane – double purpose! Another plus to having it is when I am staying at a hostel which has a self-catering kitchen, I can stow my grocery items inside it in the refrigerator with my name on it and can pack my refrigerated grocery items on ice while in transit to the next location.

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Since I am a Pacific Northwest coffee lover, a “nice-to-have” item I pack is a small, individual-serving French press with enough coffee, cream & sugar to last for a couple of days (don’t want to risking being without my fresh brewed coffee first thing in the morning – EVER!)IMG_0402IMG_0397

The last few items include:

‘Dirty Duds’ bag (to keep dirty clothes separated from clean in the suitcase) and a canvas tote bag (used for numerous tasks such as carrying clothing and necessary toiletries to the bathroom for use after a morning shower, grocery shopping or stowing my purse in while out and about. It looks as though I am a ‘local’ out doing my shopping for example.)

In addition, I usually include 2 micro-fiber, fast-drying wash clothes (there are never enough, if any, washcloths available) and a full-size bath towel. Since I often lodge at hostels, having a towel from home is another one of those ‘nice-to-have’ luxury items I usually manage to take along. Hostels usually offer towels ‘for rent’ but they usually are not very large nor absorbent! If the towel will fit, I will pack it.
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These last items all fit nicely (if laid flat) inside the zipped inner pocket in the lid of the suitcase.

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Hey, look! There’s my “Buddy” cat wanting to know if I’ll pack him as well to take along on this trip.

I try to utilize electronic devices as much as possible to store and gain access to a variety of handy information I need, and want, while traveling. For instance, as I’ve shared with you before, I have the whole itinerary mapped out in a google map I created for my trip which I can access online whenever I have WiFi connections or have access to any public computer. I scanned a copy of my passport and taken a picture of it as well, to have available electronically if needed.

I use an iPad, iPhone and an iPod. IMG_0466

I use the phone to take pictures and so I don’t have to carry around an extra camera.

I download various audio tours, walking tours and podcasts to my iPod to use when I am touring museums, taking a walking tour or visiting other interesting sights. This allows me to save money in many instances by not having to pay for the rented ones attractions offer for a fee.

And finally, I bring my iPad. I don’t want to carry around a heavy laptop in order to post to my blog. The iPad has a bigger screen than the phone for viewing and creating entries to my blog on a daily basis. Also included are the cords needed to charge the various devices (equipped with the appropriate adapter plugs I’ll need to physically plug them into electrical outlets in France). Since I plan on posting daily to my blog, and will therefore, be typing quite a bit, I also pack a Bluetooth full-sized folding flat keyboard; it makes it so much faster and easier than trying to ‘thumb’ type on the small keyboard of the iPad!

I have all the information I need stored on the devices, including my favorite guidebooks. However, just in case I find myself in a location where WiFi is not available to me during my travels, (which is rare these days, yet still possible) I also carry a printed out “hard copy” of a few important documents.

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These documents include:  my passport (plus 1 copy for in case I should lose it while traveling or it is stolen); a road map of the region I’ll be driving through; my international driver’s license (in addition to my regular driver’s license); a printed out copy of my travel itinerary with dates and lodging accommodations’ addresses, contact information, and booking confirmation numbers, as well as other special navigational instructions I want easy access to.

I like a ‘calendar version’ of my itinerary in order to “see-at-glance” what day it is and where I need to be next. I also like having a copy of each of my fellow travelers’ airline reservations so I’ll know what flight they are arriving on and when. There are also some other minor items such as copies of prepaid tickets, in this case – the Eiffel Tower, and a small notepad and pencil (not shown) that will also prove helpful.

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All of these items fit quite nicely on the outer zipped pocket of my backpack for easy access that I use as a carry-on during flights.IMG_0474

Another thing to keep in mind while packing is what each piece of luggage will physically contain while traveling on an airplane.

Due to airline restrictions for carry-on’s for example, I pack everything that could be (and therefore will be) scrutinized by airport security personnel into the ‘checked’ bag which goes in the storage area of the plane.

For instance, as I mentioned earlier, I pack all liquids (which I store inside plastic zip lock bags within my zipped picnic basket to prevent spillage into the rest my luggage compartment should a container leak or explode), heavy items, and anything the security personnel will want ‘revealed’ to them (and possibly taken from me and put in the trash) during check-in such as “weapons” I might be carrying (i.e.; nail file). Before embarking on your trip, check your airlines website for a current list of items which are restricted or prohibited in a carry-on bag.

Finally, in case my checked baggage should get delayed (or heaven forbid – lost) I try to pack enough clothing for at least 2-3 days in my carry-on so I won’t be stuck in the same clothes until my delayed bag arrives or I can go shopping to replace what was lost.

The last remaining item that I pack is my travel purse with adjustable shoulder strap & zippered openings.  It contains a wallet with my drivers’ license, a small amount of cash in the currency I’ll be using once I arrive (Euros in this case) which I get from my bank before I leave and my credit & debit cards and a couple of packages of travel size tissues. I also like to bring a small hidden pocket I can wear around my neck under my shirt where I can stash my credit and debit cards, driver’s license, passport and cash in a concealed and secure manner (if necessary).

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This purse easily contains all of the above items as well as my iPad and some snacks. It’s not a large purse by any means. I don’t generally carry a big purse because I don’t want to carry a lot of unnecessary weight around. I especially try to minimize what I carry while traveling and while visiting attractions such as a museum or cathedral that often attract pick-pockets.

I also enjoy being ‘hands-free’ so an adjustable shoulder strap is a must to allow for carrying on my shoulder, or over my head and across my chest for additional security. I don’t take the wallet I regularly use at home which has a ton of stuff in it. Instead I use a small, lightweight, travel type wallet just for that purpose and only carry the bare essentials.

The small iPod fits very nicely in one of the smaller zipper openings on the front of the purse allowing easy access and hands free storage so I don’t have to hold it in my hands while I’m listening to a podcast as I tour a museum for instance. I can turn on the podcast I want to hear and then place the iPod in a front pocket of my purse leaving my hands free.

In addition there is another zippered opening that my iPhone fits into on the front, again easy access, so I don’t have to “dig” in the main compartment of the purse to find it in order to easily take advantage of the numerous and unending photo opportunities as they arise.

Packing light and efficiently, yet effectively, can definitely add ease to your traveling experience and therefore make it a lot more pleasurable.

I hope you enjoyed and discovered some new and useful packing tips from this entry for your next trip. If you would like to share additional tips with me and my readers that you particularly like to utilize, I’d love to hear what you have to share by posting a comment. The more ideas, the better!

Thanks for your interest. I’ll talk to you again soon. My next post will probably be the day I depart. Until then… Best Regards and Happy Traveling!

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving American 64-year young great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

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