How to pack for Paris

I’m just starting the process of sifting through the 500+ photos from our two weeks in Europe, but I thought I’d start with the most important thing: how to pack for a trip to Paris.

If you’re like me, you either can’t or don’t want to pay airline baggage fees, so everything needs to fit in a carry-on. As a pro-tip, European airlines are often stricter with size and weight limits than U.S. airlines. Colin and I try to avoid hard-sided suitcases and instead pack in backpacks and duffle bags to avoid steely-eyed flight attendants telling you you’ll need to check your bag.

But what to put in that bag?

I mean, start with the basics:

  • Clothes. You need some. But you don’t need that many because even real Parisians only have about a suitcase-worth of space in their apartments to store their clothes, so rewearing outfits—c’est la vie. Choose outfits wisely. Black, grey, stripes: these are good choices if you want to blend in.
  • Shoes. You also need these. They should be comfortable because you may find yourself walking 12 miles in a day. Perhaps related: I almost never see Parisians wearing stilettos or flip-flops.
  • Toiletries. Yes. Hygiene is important.

But then there are the things that you REALLY MUST NOT FORGET. I realize these may not be on your radar right now, so I want to flag them for you. Do not leave home without them.

  • A picnic blanket. I know, you think I’m joking because who is going to make room in a carry-on for a picnic blanket? Answer: ME. And you, too, because what is Paris without picnics by the Seine? If you forget, you will have to do as Colin and I did last year and buy one two. (The only exception to this rule is if you’re traveling between November and March, outside of picnic season.)
  • A cheese spreader, or two or three. You can’t bring anything sharp since you’re carrying on your bags, but having a utensil is essential. There is no exception to this rule. You absolutely must eat cheese when in Paris, and some of it must be gooey. You can break your bread with your hands and drink wine straight out of the bottle, no problem, but you cannot eat fresh chèvre without a way to scoop and spread it.
  • A scarf. You may be thinking, “But I’m traveling in the summer!” Trust me, there is no season to scarves in Paris. Colin made that mistake and opted not to bring one, and he was embarrassed by his bare neck and had to go shopping to assuage his guilt. If shopping is part of your plan, félicitations! But if you’re hoping to save your euros for cheese (see above: it’s non-negotiable), then just pack one.

And there you have it—everything you’ll need for your trip to Paris. Oh, and remember: the less you pack on the way there, the more cheese you can take on the way back.

Scenes from a successful trip to Paris: hooray for having a picnic blanket, cheese spreader, and comfy shoes!

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