5 packing mistakes (that I made on our first trip to Paris)

View of Eiffel Tower Paris from rue de l'Universite. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Traveling to Paris had been a dream of mine since I was a child. When we planned our first visit for a few months after my 50th birthday, no aspect of the upcoming trip caused me more anxiety than figuring out what to pack for the one of the world’s most stylish cities. I researched, I pored over travel sites and street style blogs (the few that were online in 2007), I shopped…and still got it mostly wrong.

I’m working on a few updated travel wardrobe posts for the next few weeks, but first, here’s your opportunity to learn from my early travel wardrobe mistakes. 😉 While Paris is the reference point here, learning from these errors and making adjustments has helped me put together better travel wardrobes for destinations from London to Rome to Hong Kong to Phuket, to Las Vegas.

avoid these travel wardrobe mistakes
No, this isn’t that first wardrobe. 🙂

1. Overpacking. 

Oh boy, did we ever! Our big and heavy suitcases barely fit into the tiny elevator in our hotel, and occupied some substantial real estate in our hotel room. We fell victim to the “just in case” mentality, and brought shoes and clothing that were never even unpacked, let alone worn. And multiples of everything…I certainly did not need three different pairs of dressy black pants for an 8-day trip!


  • select pieces that will do double-duty; for example a cardigan that can be worn open as a lightweight outer layer, or buttoned up as a middle layer.
  • garments that can be hand-washed or laundered and re-worn will save packing space. Often just pressing or freshening is needed to make clothes re-wearable; a travel steamer or a spritz of Febreeze (then let the garment hang overnight) work wonders.
  • be honest about what activities you’ll need to dress for. Example: if you don’t have any fancy venues or parties on your itinerary, don’t pack an outfit that’s appropriate only for special occasions.
  • let your accessories add variety. Scarves and jewelry can easily change up simple outfits.
  • give yourself a number limit of items (granted, not everyone is comfortable with this) or keep in mind a formula of one bottom for every two or three tops.
  • remember that no one is going to notice if you are wearing some of the same clothes for a few days in a row.

2. Lack of cohesion (or “I have nothing to wear!”) 

As I mentioned at the top of the post, I worried that some of my clothing wouldn’t be chic enough for Paris, so went out and bought a few things…without much consideration of whether they worked with other pieces in my wardrobe, or were styles that worked for my shape. Some tops I packed only worked with one bottom, or visa versa. Some of the pants only worked with one particular pair of shoes. I thought I “had” to have a Little Black Dress which resulted in another bad choice, and the very chic swing jacket I was so excited to wear was too bulky to go underneath my outerwear, and not warm enough to wear on its own. Ultimately, I ended up wearing the same few pieces for the majority of the trip.


  • pick one or two neutrals that will be the basis of your wardrobe, and then another one or two accent colors (cardigans and scarves are both good vehicles to add color and/or pattern).
  • I can’t stress this enough, but once you think you’ve selected your wardrobe try everything on, and in as many combinations as you can. Just because pieces are “good on paper” together doesn’t mean they’ll work on your unique body. Anything that doesn’t work with at least three or four coordinating pieces should be swapped out for one that does.
  • again, pieces that will do double-duty are a boon.
  • ditch anything that isn’t comfortable. You either won’t wear it or you will and be grumpy. Who wants to be grumpy on a vacation you may have planned for months or even years?
  • simple styles and knit fabrics are your best travel friends.
  • think “tabletop dressing.” Simple, dark pants and skirts that will pair with a variety of tops will provide the most wardrobe versatility.

3. The wrong clothes. 

Too bulky (try carrying that heavy sweater or jacket around for hours on a walking tour once the day warms up), too fancy (the dresses, jewelry and heels for the “just in case” situations that never materialized) too Not Me (clothes that were more tailored/structured than what I normally wear, and not comfortable either physically or emotionally).


  • “Smart Casual” will probably be as formal as you’ll need. We’ve not yet been turned away from any nice places for not being dressed to the nines. As long as you are neat and presentable and look as though you’ve made an effort (e.g. in clean and coordinated street clothes, not exercise wear) you’ll be appropriate.
  • dark neutrals tend to look more polished than bright colors or splashy prints.
  • think Lightweight Layers. Temperatures might fluctuate substantially over the course of any trip, and being able to pile on or remove layers will help you to “fine tune” your own thermostat. Garments that will layer under or over other pieces are ideal. Leave bulky pieces at home. (The only exception to this would be extreme winter travel, and then you’ll need to do what you must to stay warm. A lightweight down coat like this one won’t add much weight or bulk.)
  • pack and wear the styles of clothing you’d wear and home and that you are most comfortable in.

4. The wrong bags. 

I packed three very stylish shoulder bags (one small for evening, one “day” bag and one large tote) and after the first couple of days, bought myself a lightweight cross-body bag that I used almost exclusively for the rest of the trip. The shoulder bags were tiring to carry, and made my neck and shoulders ache after several hours of walking.


  • My ideal bag for travel is now one that has a shorter handle plus a longer cross-body strap. The cross-body strap is great for daytime touring, and then I can carry by the shorter handle for evenings out.
  • Think about the weight of the bag!! If a bag weighs 3 pounds empty, once you’ve added contents it’s going to feel like carrying a small child by the end of the day. Hardware, structure and interior compartments will all add to the weight.
  • Think about security. While I’ve never felt the need for one of those anti-theft bags, I do only travel with bags that zip completely shut, and can be worn toward the front of my body where I’ll keep a hand on if the situation begins to feel a bit dodgy. Cross-body bags are also harder for a snatch-and-run thief to get away from you.
  • Be sure the cross-body strap is wide enough to be comfortable on the shoulder. Chain straps generally will not be.

5. The wrong shoes.

Of all of my first Paris travel wardrobe mistakes, this was the one that has most impacted how I now plan travel wardrobes. I’d packed a few pairs of “cute” shoes (ballet flats, and heels of various heights) and quickly realized the difference between running-errands-on-lunch-hours-comfortable and walking-all-day-on-various-surfaces-including-gravel-and-cobblestones-comfortable. After about an hour of walking around in those cute ballet flats, I was practically in tears, my feet hurt so much. Not a good look or mood for my first close-up view of the Eiffel Tower! Fortunately I’d also packed a pair of somewhat clunky but well-cushioned and supportive black walking loafers, and wore those almost non-stop for the rest of the trip.


  • When planning a travel wardrobe, start with the shoes. Footwear is probably the hardest part to get right, but also the most crucial. Fortunately there are quite a few brands now that offer shoes with both comfort and style (look for some recommendations in an upcoming post), and it’s just a matter of finding the features that work best for you and for the climate you’ll be visiting. When shopping, try on as many different styles and brands as you can, and then once you’ve purchased, wear for extended periods while on your feet to be sure they’ll stand up to travel demands.
  • You want footwear to be secure and stable on the foot. Too loose and your legs will tire more quickly, too tight and you may find them uncomfortable if your feet swell over the course of the day. Shoes with laces or adjustable straps may be a good option.
  • Look for rubber soles for traction and water resistance. Leather-soled shoes can have a rubber half-sole added by a cobbler; this will also extend the life of the shoes.
  • You will want sufficient arch support and cushioning under the heel and ball of the foot. As we age, we may lose padding on the soles of the feet, and need that additional cushion.
  • Dark colors may be better options as they will not look dirty as easily, but during warmer months you may prefer a lighter-colored shoe or sandal. (Updated to add: white sneakers which used to be a sure sign of a tourist, are now “on trend” in many European cities. So if you have a favorite pair, feel free to include them.)
  • Unless you have a bona-fide “special occasion” on the itinerary, leave the heels at home. Seriously. A loafer, brogue or Mary-Jane style shoe can be “Smart Casual” enough for evenings.
  • One of the first things I noticed in Paris was how even the best-dressed women were usually wearing flats or low heels, and even the occasional now-ubiquitous sneaker.

What packing or travel wardrobe mistakes have you learned the most from?

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  1. I agree with these points and will add:
    1. Mules or backless sandals are dangerous when negotiating buses or subways- do not wear.
    2. In fall, winter or spring, II take Bogs (the Harper model, not the high boot), because wet feet make me miserable and shoes take a long time to dry. I fly in them, removing on plane and wearing slipper socks.
    I recommend Lole pants (the Travel and Romina models), which look smart and sink wash/dry overnight. They’re more stylish than the pants sold by travel-clothing specialists. On top, knits all the way-linen n summer, cashmere or light merino other seasons.

    Women fret about not looking like tourists, but they are visiting the most-touristed city in the world! The locals truly do not care what you wear, unless you are a guest at a private function.

  2. We just returned from an off-season tour of the Mediterranean, and your packing posts were a HUGE help. I did overdo the “neutrals” part, though; by the end of the trip I felt pretty drab! Next time I will throw in a few more layers of color.

  3. Having been to Paris and throughout France for many years, I’ve learned to pack wisely. I’ve been lucky I’ve stayed with family in Paris and had someone to launder my clothes for me–and when we are in the Cote d’Azur, we are in the apartment so I’ve got a washing machine–that REALLY helps in packing much lighter.

    And over the years, I’ve learned that in Paris–well, you don’t have to dress to impress but it helps to look good so I keep the packing simple. But the shoes. I SWEAR by the Cole-Haan Air Nike Ballet flats. I’ve written about them in my blog a few times because they are the perfect traveling shoe. They just don’t wear down! They stay comfortable and make the transition from walking around doing the flaneur or tourist thing to going out to a bistro or cafe for a casual dinner.My shoe wardrobe consists of ballet flats, a pair of kitten heels and a pair of Rondini sandals for the beach.

    As far as a bag goes. I’m lazy. Extremely lazy. One bag goes with me. It’s always a Longchamp le pliage. The bag is lightweight, holds a TON of stuff AND can multi task as a beach bag when I’m in Theoule.

    The most important item: An umbrella. You just never know when it’ll rain in Paris!


    1. I can’t seem to find the Cole-Haan Air Nike Ballet flats on their website. Are they called something else now? Thanks

  4. When I was last in Paris October, 2014, everyone wore sneakers, literally everyone. And they were not subtle about it: the shoes were bright, sparkling, thick soled….they were very fun shoes and I saw them everywhere: locals, older ladies dressed to the nines, young people. What I never saw was the athletic shoe (and never ever the clunky white athletic shoe favored by Americans at that time); these were sneakers with function and style. I keep an umbrella in the outside pocket of every suitcase I own to be sure I never forget to pack it..

  5. I live in New York City and have learned that anything that looks good in New York also looks good in any major city in Europe, Latin America or Asia. I am just back from a week in Paris and think I got the wardrobe right this time, thanks to mistakes I made on earlier trips and to some of your columns . I ended up doing exactly what you have recommended here. The one thing I would add is Monoprix. It is a great place to pick up an extra scarf or basic knit top and of course, it is so much fun to shop when travelling. I wasn’t in the market for jewelry but if I had been, there were great pieces in the museum shops.

  6. Sparkly sneakers, animal prints with sparkle or shine, you name it, are all the rage here now, which is nice cause it gives a sporty fun look to an outfit. It has only gotten even more so since 2014. Spring fashion is now in the stores and it seems every type of shoe sporty, loafers, heels, has a gold or silver option or an in between gold/silverish (can’t describe the color exactly).

    My colleague even wore a pair with dark leotards and a t shirt dress, it looked cute actually, and almost made me do it. I may see about that because it would help tremendously in all the walking I do on my vacations.
    I bought a pair of navy blue shiny snakeskin type sport sneakers the other day, my girlfriend almost ripped them off my feet:)
    Nice thing is they had a very high back so when I removed the sole and put my ortho sole in them they fit properly. Yes I think packing outfits around the best shoes I have for walking would be the way to go this time.

    Great advice as always Susan, thanks!

    1. To add to this I bought a pair of Xpendible (brand) sneakers. They are black suede with patent leather and a small bit of silver. I jazzed them up with silver/black shoe laces.
      I brought them with me to Greece and was so glad I did. I always dressed up for vacations but now my feet are so bad I swore to wear my ortho soles in my sneakers.
      I managed to dress them up and kept my wardrobe to white grey black colors then nice silver jewelry. I added color through my fuschia scarf. I brought also my white scarf that has some silver threading it really dressed everything up.
      While it was colder than exptected in searching for a bakery I came upon a village lady that crochets. I bought a beautiful shawl pink with pearlescent thread through it. It is beautiful and cheap I ordered a black one with multi shine thread and grey with silver. She banged them out in 2days!
      Basic outfit colors to mix and match and a bright scarf and a bit of sparkle and shoes or sneakers with a bit of sparkle or metallic makes packing easy your comfy and look elegant.
      Oh and I found a pair of sandals rubber sole all the rage with a comfy footbed in black the foot and ankle strap are wide covered in rhinestones! Comfy and cute.
      Ok I ain’t cover in sparkle I swear is just the scarf/shawl and some on the shoe, the rest is basic with no prints so it stays elegant not carnival:)

  7. Good advice to start with shoes. I did that for my trip to Paris in December, taking a pair of short black boots from Mephisto (very comfortable even for lots of walking) and navy shoes from Ecco (also for walking), with a pair of dressier loafers “just in case” that I wore just once then again on the plane home. I selected my clothes to go with the shoes.

  8. I find the items that can get heaviest and take up the most space are not clothes but toiletries, hair stuff, misc chargers and electronics, and “extras” – a book ( when power runs out), knitting and/or embroidery supplies for relaxing, etc.

    I always pack a duffel bag that
    I can check on the way home for purchases, and for the way things in your suitcase seem to expand as you pack to go home.

  9. I agree, start with the shoes. I recently added a new item for the flight attire, compression socks, (not the official medical ones, a pair from smart wool, the kind used by runners-maybe?). They were great on the flight and although I did not use them during because it was a beach holiday, they probably could work very well for a long walking day too.
    Your travel packing advice is spot on – I did a search of your blog to find your last hot weather trip to help me with my recent Riveria Maya trip.

    Again, thank you for another wonderful post!

  10. When we were in Europe a year ago, Paris being the last stop, I started with two suitcases; by the time we reached Lyon, I realized that I’d never even donned some of my clothes. I went to the post office, picked up some boxes, went back to the hotel, packed those boxes with all that I’d presumed I’d wear, and sent them home. Left the oldest suitcase in the hotel room. What I mailed home: blue jeans, a pair of not-so-comfy ankle boots, about 4 pair of slacks, two sweaters, and other bulky items I never wore — and I never missed a one of them. Underwear, comfy shoes — mine were very slim flats, but were my go-to shoes, dark slacks, sweaters, and a few scarves, one light coat, and several knit tops, tunics & tee shirts, that could go with all my other items. Oh. And leggings, that fit with the tunics — these are the things I’ll take on all travel. Rule #1 – one suitcase — if you find you need something, buy it there, it can be your one French (Italian, Greek, etc) article that you can bring back home.

  11. Great thoughts! I have found that bringing one “dressy piece” is not really necessary. You can make smart casual clothes look dressy enough for most destinations.

    I’m surprised to see wedge sandals in your list. I learned the hard way not to rely on these. I have a pair of Taos wedge sandals I have no problem wearing to walk all around my neighborhood, but I had a miserable day at Disneyland in them. Even that slight heel is not good for being on one’s feet for hours.

    1. That depends. I don’t like wedges – I don’t buy anything I can’t ride a bicycle (a short distance for errands) in – but often I’m more comfy in low chunky heels than flats. Depends on your feet.

  12. I am so grateful for your travel advice, it’s taken me years to get this right, and you’ve quickly helped me tweak the packing a great deal. I do take regular painting trips to Ireland, and have needed clothing suitable for highly variable weather, and a few ‘nice outfits’ for ‘better dinners out’ (not the local pub). I’m finally getting this right (with your help), and bringing lots lighter loads (more room for painting gear…which has also been greatly pared down over the last 10 years. There’s another mention in the replies of Smart wool socks, which are indeed really comfortable for long days of walking…keep your feet happy- I agree starting with the shoes- is the smartest thing!!

  13. My biggest mistake was packing too many dark tops for an Autumn trip to Rome. Those black and navy tees looked good but boy did they soak up the sun. I was too hot walking around during our daytime outings. I had thought they wouldn’t show small stains, which they didn’t, but I will take some white next time.

  14. ,In winter I stick on black, in summer I prefer white. Both colors you can jazz up either with an other color, modern or luxury
    jewellery or a pretty scarf…and don’t forget you can change the style with your make up . I also pack Camper shoes for the day and Ballerina for the evening.For daytime I use my black nylon Hedgren Urban bag with separated spaces and zipps and a satin clutch. for the evening. Finally I have to mention that the Parisian’s are not so stylish as they are called.

  15. Terrific post – I’m heading to Paris for my 50th in June and so appreciate your tips. Would love to have more info on lightweight bags – either nylon or leather. I also like a crossbody style with a shorter handle as well.

    1. I love my Healthy Back Bag, size large, as it can be a shoulder or cross body bag. It is sort of like a small streamlined back pack with lots of pockets inside and out to keep organized. I use it as a day bag, then take a small cross body/shoulder Baggallini bag for evenings. The Healthy Back bags come in various sizes and colors, both in nylon and leather. Baggallini makes a huge variety of bags that are nylon and very lightweight, with interesting hardware. They launder easily and wear like iron.

      1. I have two healthy back bags, and will be buying a red or other colourful one for summer (probably red, which is “formal” somehow). They pass as professional enough for the work I do, and they are great on a bicycle.

    2. I’ve had an MZ Wallace nylon bag for years that I use exclusively for travel. It has a strong cross-body strap and lots of zippered compartments for hiding passport, wallet etc. It would take a pickpocket hours to rifle through it to find my goodies. It’s lightweight and extremely functional. They have various styles but I opted for slightly larger so I can pack a water bottle, iPad mini and small collapsible umbrella.

  16. I visited Paris as part of a tour on a tiny motorcycle. My allowable luggage was limited to half a small saddlebag. I had packed a black washable skirt, a couple of wash and wear black tops and a selection of bright coloured scarves (also good for head covering or keeping warm on the bike). Cute tote of light-weight nylon and casual shoes worked fine for the city. But OMG, I had to stop at a pharmacy to get some soft insoles for my shoes!

  17. Remember that even if you are travelling to a city that has very cold winters, some days will be frigid, others merely freezing point or even above. Layering remains a key. With climate change, seasons vary more: there was practically no snow in either Montréal or Moscow until New Year’s this winter and it was often well above freezing in both cold cities.

    Not much mention of undergarments: bras, panties, leggings, tights etc.? And you do need something to sleep in, no matter how torrid your romance.

  18. I have been traveling to France on and off since 1967, when women wore gloves and high heels and no pants/jeans anywhere, and like here, the Parisian style has evolved from a somewhat formal, dressy look, even for daytime, to jeans and a smart looking top and a scarf. I have seen many French people wearing jeans to dinner in nice restaurants and even to the theater. I now bring one pair of black pants and 2 pairs of jeans along with 8 tops for 6 weeks and find this formula works well. I would urge you to try apartment living for one visit-you’ll never want to go back to a hotel again. Aside from the convenience of a washing machine, you have the opportunity to shop at the lovely food markets. It certainly adds another dimension to the trip.

  19. Such a great post, Sue. Last year was my first trip to Paris.. and I researched like mad before we went. And I was so , so happy that I packed my Stan Smith Adidas. I wore them everywhere. All the time. And so did everyone else, it appeared. You sure have refined your packing skills, girl! You are the master of packing now… or should I say the queen of packing??? Empress??? Well, you get my point:)

  20. Great post – my french friends have taught me to wear mostly black tops, and bring three or four scarves to change up your look. I bring versatile pants, like leggings, and a pair of jeans. Always comfortable shoes, Parisian women are wearing cute kicks all over town, so those are very stylish there. If you will be going out to somewhere special, bring a black blazer to dress up your look. And, always use a purse that zips shut. I was almost pickpocketed in the subway on my last trip, and it was only because my wallet was in my zipped compartment that I came out of it unscathed. I agree with getting an apartment, I always do that now. It is always so much more fun to get food from the Monop or an outdoor market, and eat it before going out. Healthier and less expensive, too! Bon vacances!

  21. I love posts like this. Even though I don’t get to travel as much as you do, I am always dream packing for a vacation! I have to chuckle over your dressy clothing comments, though. About twenty years ago I accompanied my husband on a trip to England when he was attending a conference. I planned my wardrobe for weeks, managed to pack light, and to this day when I look at the photos I am pleased with how I looked. However, my husband neglected to tell me there was a moderately formal evening event. I found out about it the day of when I was on an excursion with some other spouses. I was already wearing my dressiest clothes for that outing (black twin set and a long skirt with sandals), so I explained to the women I was with (all of them local and several decades older than me) I had nothing to wear. They were quite gracious and told me I’d be fine. My outfit was okay, slightly more casual than everyone else, but if I’d had a nicer pair of shoes it would have been much better. The moral here is not to overpack for “just in case”, but to ask your traveling partner specifically, especially if your trip is centered around business, what exactly will we be doing?

  22. Your post came at a great time. We are traveling to Greece for 2 weeks in early May and this will help a lot with planning my clothes. On your recommendation I bought one of the EF silk tanks and it will be perfect. Will probably buy one more. One of my good friends is trekking across Spain (500 miles) in March and I have learned a lot from her about packing light. Will read all the comments later for other good ideas.

  23. When in Europe I wear black or grey tunics with leggings and knee high black leather boots. I wash my clothes in a sink and can do 3 weeks in a carry-on. I bring one scarf and buy a couple when I am traveling. Easy peasy and my luggage with contents weighs 24 pounds.

  24. I read your blog when I was packing for a trip to Ireland in the spring and London in the summer. I brought layers, dark neutrals and some jaunty scarves . I fit everything into a carry on we called ” ol yeller” (because of the color )and was prepared for all eventualities. My friend packed much more than I did and was miserable! Thank you for the advice. I enjoyed both trips tremendously!

  25. I am planning a trip to Sicily in June. It will be in the high 70’s to low 80’s. I always wear pants – never shorts and rarely skirts – but not keen on hot, dark knits. I am the Queen of Overpacking and need to do it right this time. I am also bringing art supplies as one week of the trip is an illustrating and writing course at an estate that is a cooking school in the country. I am thinking of looking for some lightweight A-line summer skirt, “maxi” or “midi” dresses, and capri pants. Or I may stay home! LOL! Your essay was very helpful!

    1. Hi loretta i used to be a pants only girl. I vote maxi! They are sooo comfy like pjamas yet you can dress up with delicate jewelry in the evening and sandals day or night. Love em so much is now my travel outfit. If you buy a solid color black or gray you can do so much with it and knit is somehow warm and cosy cause it wraps around you if needed on the plane yet billowy to stay cool outside. Heck throw a cute jean jacket scarf and leggings hidden under with some boots and you are warm if needed.
      This saved me in Greece when the weather was unexpectadley cold.

  26. I think I must have been the only person in the Jerusalem Youth Hostel in 1978 who was lugging around a suitcase full of clothes. Some very kind Americans took me to a shop to buy a backpack and I duly posted most of the clothes back home. Do you think I learnt a lesson? Of course not, 38 years later I still overpack. It must be a genetic mutation. I need Sue to do a home visit to help me pack.

  27. Wonderful, real-life advice, Susan! I too have found that “dressy” clothes aren’t necessary in NYC. Basics plus a pair of sparkly earrings usually gets me in anywhere I want to be. And shoes! Nothing more important than great walking shoes. xox


  28. Great advice, Madame! You’ve influenced my packing strategy greatly, and all to the good. For my recent trip to Las Vegas, there were only two items in my suitcase that I did not use. I’ve had success with switching my neutral colors to navy and browns/tans/ivory, and adding accent colors via scarves. I continue to enjoy your fashion posts. Thanks!

  29. Last spring in Paris I did not pack tennis shoes. We were putting on 8to10walking miles a day.
    A stop at Printemps Paris ohhhh the store was dripping in flowers as I was coming up from the metro I could see how beautiful the store was dressed,Amazing.
    I wandered into the shoe department and bought myself some stylin tennies Nike,black-ish, from Printemps
    Happy feet happy me!These are always the 1st pair of shoes in my suitcase.
    I’m just back from Rome. No sore feet. Dansko lulu shoe.
    Found this miraculous product from my local shoe store”premier lambs wool” it’s a package of loose lambs wool it pads your foot. I used it for the balls of my feet.
    It’s cool and comfortable. Ballerinas use this in their toe shoes. Best ever!
    Ok one more thing
    I forever get the weather wrong. I think beach and it ends up cold and rainy.So,my pajamas have had to pull double duty Yikes! I pack black or dark grey loose leggings with v-neck
    t-shirts add a scarf a good jacket an call it a blessing. Happy Adventures!!

  30. Mark’s and spencer have a range called footglove.designed with feet experts . They are great to walk miles day. Some cool sneakers.

  31. Totally agree about the cross body bag. Brilliant for travel. Also the shoes, except that I prefer good quality sneakers with arch support for walking about. Often wear Italian silver leather sneakers and a silver handbag (last year I bought a fabulous silver leather mock croc Roberto Cavalli bag in St Tropez) with an all black or all white outfit when going to a special Michelin Star restaurant or to the Opera Garnier. Almost never wear neutrals though. I pick a range of colours to theme for each trip. It may be pinks/reds and oranges – or blues, from navy through to turquoise. A few things in black and some in white. I have heaps of silk scarves and good costume jewellery. Always buy more when there anyway, including a new handbag and always time travel to Paris to coincide with the sales.
    We’ve been travelling to Paris every year in the past four or five years – about 4 weeks spread between Riviera and Provence and then a month in Paris. So husband and I never rely on just carry-on – we always take at least one suitcase each and usually come home with two more. Otherwise would be terribly bored with just a few clothing items – part of the fun is feeling properly dressed for nice places to go. We often dine at fabulous restaurants and go to the opera as much as possible. Travelling for over two months also means being prepared for different weather conditions – from heat waves to rain and the chills. Best wishes, Pamela

  32. Love reading everyone’s thoughts. I like your list and yes I have done the same and way overpacked too. I am getting better. The last trip to Europe I had stylish sneakers and also comfortable sandals, which are essential if it gets hot and your feet swell, sandals are the best. That said though, it’s rained every trip I’ve ever done in the summer in Europe and you’ve got to have lightweight sneakers that can dry out! In winter boots are the best and as everyone said, heels are a waste of space. Since you walk everywhere they just look ridiculous even to dinner. I’ve also found scarves to be the best in France as you feel chic and they can change up your look. A good looking lightweight jacket and a ultralight puffer are both wonderful. The puffer is perfect for cold days or nights and packs to nothing and can look stylish if you have a pretty one. I found them to be a dream on planes and trains as well as they are so cozy.

  33. Always start with the shoes! I wore some that were too short and lost both of the nails on my big toes. My feet felt like slushy watermelons by the end of three days of constant walking. My other shoes were flip flops. Also not a good choice and shoes are expensive in Europe.

  34. You make some excellent points! We were in Europe (my first time) two years ago for three weeks. I most likely overpacked although I think I wore almost everything and even did laundry in Bruges. The most important lesson for me was that my suitcase was too big. It wasn’t too heavy but the size of it was very difficult to lift onto a train or bus. I’m 5’4″ and my husband had to do it for me. Lesson learned. Also, I bought the perfect Burberry quilted jacket for the trip but was told at the last minute I should have a raincoat with a hood. Ended up borrowing one from a friend but it was a very unfortunate shade of blue. I look ridiculous in my pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower.

  35. This was such a great post. Thank you so much. We’re traveling to London and Paris in May, and this will be so helpful. ~~Dee

  36. Clark’s booties were my go to shoes for long Italian walks over rough old streets. Need a heel due to plantar fasciitis. Add Taos sneakers in a metallic color and either tall boots in cooler seasons that I wear on the plane with leggings or a pair of sturdy semi-sandals such as Eileen Fisher Iris. I pack lightly…13 items plus underwear, a jacket, a few scarves and some jewelry, and toiletries…as yes…the EMME bag is brilliant. Easy stuff. Great tips Susan!

  37. Another reason for packing less (and we always go carry-on whenever feasible) is to have room to pick up and pack a few lovely souvenirs. And my “souvenirs” usually come back on hangars. Also, always pack for rain. If it rains at home, I stay inside. If it rains on vacation, I’m not staying in the hotel.

  38. Yes to everything you wrote.

    My first trip to Paris in 2003, I brought a brand new pair of “European style” Josef Siebel walking shoes. They were definitely not “European style” nor were they comfortable. Thanks goodness for the pharmacie and the ampoule band-aids recommended by the sympathetic pharmacist. My rule now: no shoes that are not at least six months old.

    I would agree with the others, you have been my main informant when I choose my travel wardrobe for my annual trips to France. I too, only travel with a carry on. My proudest packing moment: a week in cool Lyon followed by a week in hot Lake Como with only a carry-on bag full of clothes.

    I’m already thinking about my trip to Paris in March. I want to get a pair of waterproof ankle boots to wear on the trip and since I’m past the six months mark, I’m going to need to buy this week and then to start wearing those guys ASAP!

    By the way, have you chosen your jacket for your December trip? I saw that Nordstrom has a nice Burberry Brit anorak with a removable hood and I think it also has a zip-out lining. It’s on my Christmas list!

  39. Susan your such a pro about packing. Could you write about unpacking. It seems to take me days. It’s ridiculous. What is your method if you have one. Also do you have duplicate makeup? Do you keep your makeup bag filled so you don’t have to pack it up for each trip? Thanks, Sandy

  40. I am a tour guide an need things that do not let me down.

    Ecco shoes are great. Heals or flats. So comfortable. Once you know your size (they hardly stretch at all, even after years) you can even buy them online with confidence as the size is reliable. To add further comfort, Scholl insoles (the ones with good arch support) are wonderful, bought off the peg. No need for expensive made-to-measure ones. You may need one size larger shoes to fit.

    Muji does wonderful small bottles, jars and other travel accessories, super neat and super light. Selfridges in London and Corte Ingles in Spain sell them.

  41. Love your travel suggestions! What brand are the grey sneakers in your photo over the caption “No, this isn’t that first wardrobe?” Cute!

  42. I am just back from a tropical vacation. And mistakes, did I make mistakes. Number one, pack nude under garments. It’s all you need. They always work under light gauzy things. Pants with pockets. Change for the bus, tips, you need to get at some things fast. Try everything on before hand. My shorts were always sliding down. My phone fell out of my pocket while running across a road! Don’t stress about looking like a model in an airport selfie. You’re not a model. Most people look very much like they do at home. Just normal folks. -Lily

  43. If winter, I use pants, (mostly cigarette style or light weight wool leggings) a puffer and a black, chic, motor jacket (MK made a fab one a couple of years ago with faux fur and pleatherette) sans sleeves for somewhat warmer days. 2-3 merino /cashmere sweaters. 1-2 scarves and a couple chic “garçons” style hats when too cold, or rainy or bad hair days. 1 large Cross body purse and an umbrella is ubiquitous at all times.
    Arch (the French company) boots for rain/sleet are a dream. Ankle or knee high version. Get them in France or New York.
    In summer, linen all the way, mostly loose, flowing pants or loose, cool looking skirts. These last allow ventilation in super hot days, like in Greece last year. Also I bring linen dresses sans sleeves, and a sun umbrella. Sandals with thic rubber soles for both air flow and comfort.
    I keep it quite simple and buy what I think I need/want wherever I find myself. So much fun.

  44. People are the same everywhere. There are chic ones and not chic ones as well as thin ones and heavier ones. (I have visited more than 30 countries and have found this to be true.) Pack what you wear at home. If you look put together there, you will look put together in Paris or London or Sydney or Buenos Aires. Sue, I think your story about packing for your first trip to Paris is a good lesson.

  45. My first trip to Paris was a spontaneous decision made while staying with friends in Sweden, and this meant I had virtually nothing with me that I considered appropriate for Paris. There is a boutique for larger women in the little city I stay in when in Sweden, and I was able to buy a few pieces there. But I’d say the biggest mistake I made on my first trip was not packing for the weather, because I didn’t even check the weather, and it was miserably hot in the middle of July, for Bastille Day and the next day, my birthday, which is why I went (and then it rained for six days in a row). And then another time I went, I also did not have the right clothes for summer in Paris again, because the last time I was there, in 2016, it was over 90F and I was miserable. I had good shoes, though. 😉 Ecco floral slip-on sneakers, but also bad sandals that did not do well on cobblestones, as well as another, lower-heel with shank support by Clarks which saved me. But it does seem like at least two times I’ve been in Paris it has been so hot, and I was not, it has to be said, entirely prepared.

  46. Susan, LOVE that your posts are based on actual experience and that you are willing to “admit” to mistakes made. What a relief after seeing so many travel fantasy-packing sites, whew. Hello? Footwear! Yes indeed! I’ve traveled all around the word and consider myself to be an organized, and light, packer. I am embarrassed at how poorly I packed for Italy in fall 2019. It was WAY hotter than the forecast and my ponte slacks and nice loafers remained packed for the 19 day trip. My EF silk l/s tees were warm but served well for the trip. Thank you and keep posting!