In April, I went to Paris for five days and Prague for another five. Before I left, I spent weeks carefully packing and creating an outfit strategy plan. There were lists, charts, and an intensive meditation process. My goal was to only take a carry-on sized suitcase—especially since I’d be pulling it through cobblestone streets and loading it onto shuttles.
(But take note, ladies—some airlines will weigh your purse with your carry on suitcase. And then make you check your tiny suitcase anyway. And you may or may not cry because you’re just so, so tired. FYI.)
So you want to pack light, but in the age of Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook likes, you want to look as goddamn fabulous as you feel, strolling through the streets of Paris. You don’t want to look like a schlub in sneakers and sweatshirt.
Here are my tips for packing light and looking amazing and totally not like someone who spent weeks planning their outfits:
- Pick a color scheme:
- My color scheme was grey/blue/black/white with pops of red. I brought a pair of black pants, dark jeans, and a black dress. Along with some basic tops in grey, black, and black and white stripes, as well as an off-white blouse. I also brought cardigans in dark blue and red. I laid everything out in my apartment to make sure I had several outfit combinations. Then every morning, I didn’t have to try too hard, since everything matched.
- Have a pop of color:
- For me, it was my red scarf or red flats. In photos, the red scarf really adds something. I had actually brought another scarf that I ended up not wearing as much because it didn’t look as good. (And I bought a scarf there as a souvenir.) A pop of color could also be a hair accessory, a statement necklace, shoes, or a cardigan. The only limit is your imagination! Or something!
- Note: If it’ll be chilly enough that you’ll be wearing a coat, then what’s under the coat matters less than things like scarves or gloves. So you may have the most amazing shirt that anyone has ever seen—the 1889 World’s Fair of shirts—but no one will see it.
- Plan to visit a laundromat:
- So exciting! Just what every traveler wants! Go see the Mona Lisa, pop by the Louvre, and then finish your day by experiencing true French culture and attempting to wash your clothes in a foreign laundromat. (Or possibly, your hotel/AirBNB/hovel might have an available washer/dryer.) Do this either a day or two before you leave for the next country or just after you arrive. Make sure you’re leaving yourself an outfit that’s NOT in the wash, in case things have to air dry. But this is the easiest way to bring less stuff—by wearing dark colors and washing the stuff you already wore.
- If it’s not summer, bring boots:
- That’s always been my main piece of footwear on European trips. A pair of comfortable black boots that are just one step above casual. If it rains, you’re covered. They match with everything. And you look less like a tourist than if you wear sneakers. If you think you’ll be going someplace fancy or you simply want another option, I suggest a pair of fancy flats—just make sure those are also comfortable.
- Bring things you feel you can throw out at the end of the trip:
- If you’re packing light, you may not have room for souvenirs. So bring those slightly old pairs of socks instead of newer ones. You can toss them at the end to make room. Also, same with toiletries. Don’t bring any toiletries you wouldn’t feel cool throwing out if you had to.
- Remember that if you forget it, you can buy it there:
- This is true of Europe, but may not be true if you’re traveling someplace more remote. (Although even Belize has an American/British grocery store down the road from the airport.) In a city like Paris or Prague, you’re not SOL if you forget a toothbrush or a pair of pantyhose—you can just buy it. So you don’t need to over pack or prepare for every single potential hurdle. Chances are that everything you bring will be fine, but if it’s not, a visit to the local drug store/pharmacy should fix everything. (Just don’t forget, like, your contacts or prescription medications. Then you’re up Shit Creek without a paddle. But if you spring for my airfare, I’d be happy to bring them to you.)
Is this helpful? I don’t know. But have fun! Take so many pictures that your camera runs out of memory, and you’re like, “I thought this thing could hold 50,000 photos?” And then you check and you TOTALLY took 50,000 photos.