Packing a Suitcase

To begin my tips for packing a suitcase, I will look at a few of the “odd extras” that you will need before we actually begin our travel packing list. Packing light will be our mantra. One suggestion that shows up time and time again is to lay out all your clothes that you think you will need and then put half of them back in the closet!


Packing Cubes


A very good investment for travel packing is  packing cubeswonderful rectangular zippered containers in all sizes that make packing a suitcase a breeze and keep your clothes from getting wrinkled. They also keep you from having your suitcase contents scattered if customs opens your bag for a check! In a pinch those nice, large, two gallon zip-lock storage bags work really well so include a couple in your travel packing list! They are nice for wet clothes.

Voltage and Adapters

  • Voltage current in France is 220v whereas in the US it is 120v. Many applicances have a voltage converter built in to the plug. Check the plug to see if the voltage range goes from 110-220. Even our computer plug has a voltage converter built in. If your plug doesn’t indicate that it falls within this 120-220 range then this  voltage converter on Amazon gets good reviews and has the added benefit of USB ports for your mobile phone, ipod, etc. It also come with  universal plug adapters (Type E/F). A plug adapter changes the type of prongs that are inserted in to the wall outlet. Our cell phone cord, laptop and camera battery charger all only need a plug adapter. You can buy these at any travel store or from the Amazon.com links I have provided. Several years ago, we purchased a hair-dryer while in France when our US hairdryer quit mid-vacation. That may be the best move ever because we never have to worry about a plug converter for it!
  • This little USB adapter is another great option. It has 4 USB ports so you can charge  your mobile, e-reader, or any other tech device that has a USB cord. All you will need is one plug adapter to make it ready for the country of your choice.

Day Packs are a Must

  • This tip for packing a suitcase is actually for packing your day packs ! A light-weight day pack is a nice place to stash the guide book, water bottle, a light rain jacket and your purchases of course as you sight-see! Any lightweight backpack will serve the purpose but I was amazed when I googled “day packs” to find day packs that are now less than a 16oz., collapse to a small packet, and have built-in clips for security (whereas we tie the zipper pulls together!) A big deep purse does not work as well because it will become uncomfortable if overloaded as the day progresses. Don’t forget to utilize the smaller packing cubes for organizing your day-pack and even your purse.
  •  Travel tip for packing a suitcase or backpack – Front pockets of backpacks and/or daypacks invite theft. Open top purses are also easy targets. Avoid placing anything of value in these easy access places. My first trip abroad found me walking through the Naples subway with a pickpocket’s hand in my backpack! I did not even realize someone had their hand in my backpack until my daughter happened to see it! I was lucky in that a water bottle was wedged into the pocket which saved me from getting my camera stolen.

Tips for Packing a Suitcase


No Flashy Clothes

The first thing to think about when packing is safety – yes, safety! Store copies of your passport deep in your suitcase and think about the statement your clothes make as you pack.

The best travel advice for safety is to blend in with your surroundings and always be aware of your surroundings. Avoid wearing glitzy outfits and masses of jewelry and, of course, talking loudly. Also avoid wearing t-shirts with large logos printed on them.

Notice the clothes colors in this mid-July picture taken in Dijon- nothing flashy. Keep this in mind as you lay out your clothes to pack. Pick one main color and coordinate all your outfits to that color, mixing and matching means more outfits but fewer clothes to pack.

This little tip for packing a suitcase will keep your energy levels up as you travel because you are going to focus on packing light. As you lay out clothes for your travel packing list, remember packing light is wise not only because of the luggage fees but because it is easier to carry one light suitcase up 5 flights of stairs (you can’t count on elevators in some older buildings) to your room than one heavy suitcase!

Pack interchangeable pieces of clothing – you will have more outfits yet fewer pieces of clothing. Contemplate changing the look of a plain top by packing two different scarves – or buying scarves in France.

My number one tip for packing a suitcase would be to make sure you pack comfortable shoes! Talk a nice long walk in them to be sure that stay comfortable over a long period of walking. Packing light weight shoes in your bag and wearing the heavy weight pair makes the most sense.

Be sure that your shirts and pants/skirts are made of a low-wrinkle fiber that dry easily overnight. Packing light means avoiding denim unless it is tencel denim – plain denim is heavier to pack and dries slowly.

Finally, my last travel tip for packing a suitcase before we actually start on the travel packing list is to try to pack only travel-size toiletries to save on space and weight. You can easily buy more when you get to France and what fun it is to shop for different product lines than you can get in the states! You will know you are a savvy packer when you can get all your toiletries in one 5×8 packing cube!

Let’s address that travel packing checklist. To keep it simple (one list for everyone), a (W) appears beside items that are women only. As you organize, plan for tops to go in a separate packing cube from skirts and pants. This will help you stay organized.


  • Shirts: 2 long sleeve or 3/4 sleeve (can be rolled or pushed up if it warms up) and 2 short sleeve
  • Pants: 3 pairs of long pants or capris(W) (one long pair of pants is a must ladies)
  • skort(W) or biking shorts: If you plan on cycling any extended amount, biking shorts will be a luxury. A skort is a nice alternative to shorts if the weather is really warm because European women do not wear shorts in public.
  • 1 skirt(W): can be dressed up or down and is a preferable alternative to shorts on a hot day in Europe.
  • socks: 5 pairs in a cotton blend (100% cotton dries very stiff when air dried and may not dry overnight)
  • underwear: 5 pairs
  • one extra bra (W) (one is drying while one is being worn)
  • swimsuit (pack it in its own ziplock bag or waterproof packing cube)
  • one pair of walking shoes (not white tennis shoes – Europeans wear tennis shoes only for exercising and white tennis shoes shout “tourist”.)
  • one pair of sandals (if these are not waterproof then a pair of light weight flip-flops for the shower is also good)
  • light-weight sweater (for layering)
  • light-weight rain jacket (I prefer a rain jacket with hood to carrying an umbrella as it leaves my hand free.)
  • compact umbrella
  • 1 scarf (W) (I always buy one or two after I get to France as part of my souvenirs.)
  • 2 pair pajamas/gowns  (one can be drying while you sleep in the other pair)
  • 1 belt (optional)


  • toothbrush/toothpaste/floss
  • shampoo/conditioner/styling gel
  • bodywash
  • lotion
  • deodorant
  • bandaids/antibacterial ointment (I never travel without a package of these blister bandaids)
  • brush/comb
  • razor/shaving creme (non-aerosol)
  • sunscreen/insect repellant
  • feminine hygene products(W)
  • makeup (W)
  • spare glasses and/or glasses prescription
  • nail clippers/nail file
  • 6 clothes pins (great for clipping drying underwear to a clothes hanger for overnight drying)

Put These in Your Carry-on

  • prescription drugs
  • OTC meds (pain reliever, anti-nausea, etc)
  • small hand sanitizer
  • money belt

Finally a small dictionary such as Lonely Planet French Phrasebook is always useful if you don’t speak the language. I remember my first pharmacy encounter in France before I had learned French. We were in need of mosquito repellant and I am sure the clerk was amused by my trying to mime what I needed because I had left the dictionary in the hotel room!

No matter how many tips for packing a suitcase you list, something is likely to be forgotten. If you forgot something, even though it was on your travel packing list, a store like Monoprix will have it so you do not have to pack your entire closet! When I am packing items from my travel packing list, I try to be very careful to pack everything on the list but in the end I know that if I left the house with only my ticket, passport and camera then anything else can be bought when I get there.