Bonjour mes amis! I see a lot of posts about packing or how to pack from others who are traveling abroad, so I figured I’d write my own… because the way that these people pack does not resemble the way that I packed in any way, shape, or form. The pristine, exact lists of others that detail how you should bring exactly 3 sweaters and 7 pairs of underwear feel distant and unrelatable to me. I guess I’m not very precise and organized, because I have no idea how many sweaters ended up in my luggage. Definitely more than 3 though.
For me, the more interesting part of packing is the process. How do you approach deciding which of your personal possessions bring the most comfort and functionality for your plans? Going from a two bedroom house to a few pieces of checked luggage is a trying process! Especially when your second bedroom has been functioning as your personal walk in closet… I was admittedly unorganized in my own process, throwing anything I might possibly want into a pile and then condensing it to the things I liked most that would fit.
My husband and I are fitting 8 months worth of personal comfort into 3 small suitcases and a couple of backpacks, so in my opinion we are travelling pretty efficiently. We are leaving the US in a little over a week, and we are pretty dang close to fully packed up. I started packing a little less than a month ago, which seems a bit overzealous, but it really helped me with my stress levels. I just started taking everything that would be too warm to wear for the rest of my time in Eugene and packing it up. Voila, winter wardrobe, check. My closet is completely empty at this point, I’m basically living in my favorite 3-4 outfits that will go into my carry on bag until we leave next week. As my clothes went through the laundry the last week or so, I’ve just been plucking them out, rolling them up, and wedging them in my suitcase until it’s full of all the things from my wardrobe I like most. Make sure you roll instead of folding! It saves so much room in your bag to pack this way.
I don’t have the discipline or desire to break things down by category or to try to achieve some perfect clothing balance. Nope. I probably have way too many pairs of tights and Free People sweaters in there, and not enough jeans or socks, but that will feel like home to me. Packing is not a one-size-fits-all solution — you have to take the things that are important to your comfort, happiness and well being. There’s no universal checklist for that. If I end up desperately needing something during my time in France, I’ll go find it! It’ll be part of the experience of living there.
With that said, there are a few things that I’ve specifically packed because I don’t think we will be able to find them (easily) while abroad, including:
- Random items of convenience that are difficult to find, like Euro-to-US plug converters, reusable water bottles (which are not as culturally ubiquitous as the US), and silicone wine glasses for drinking while traveling.
- American Foods
France is a foodie’s dream destination. My husband and I are both excited to try a variety of new wines, cheese, and cuisine. But we also anticipate missing the comfort of home, and we’ve heard that French Mexican food is less than delicious. So we are traveling with a couple of American food items, including taco seasoning for when the Mexican food cravings hit. We are also bringing along some stuffing mix for our Thanksgiving in France, as well as some onion soup mix because I have no idea whether they have it and we always use it to make burgers. Hopefully the customs agents don’t have a problem with these sealed, dry foods.
- BO control…My freshman year of high school, my world history teacher Mr. Muilenberg gave us a piece of sage advice: Always bring your own deodorant when you travel abroad. Many American accounts of French deodorants confirm that this is indeed pertinent wisdom. Costco size pack of Dove Extra Strength, check.
Some over the counter American medicines are not sold at all in France. Others, like Ibuprofen, are sold in tiny quantities (think 8 pills). I’m filling my checked bag with a Costco sized package of DayQuil, NyQuil, and Advil to keep colds and headaches at bay. I’m also bringing a couple of big bottles of Vitamin C sour gummies because the gummies are better, and what if they don’t have them???
- English language resources
One of the most exciting (and simultaneously, scariest) parts about moving to France is that we will be living in a non-English speaking country for the first time in our lives. Originally, I planned to bring a lot of English language books and literature to make up for this, but luggage weight limits make this idea a little implausible. I will be traveling with my trusty iPad as an e-reader instead! I am, however, bringing English language phonics/educational flashcards, English language stickers for my students, and English language resources that show off Oregon, like local newspapers and brochures from the parks & rec department.
I’m also bringing some German workbooks with me, because one of my goals for the year is to work on learning a 4th language since I’ll have more free time than I’m used to. I don’t know that I’m quite ready to learn a foreign language from French (yet. But soon!)
- Beauty products
I know France is supposed to be beauty/fashion paradise, but I’m really attached to my shampoo, you guys. I’m also not sure how much of a thing purple toning shampoo is in France. So I’m taking 2 liter bottles of it and hoping that’s enough. I’m also bringing an ungodly amount of makeup because I’ve heard brands that are mid-range here (i.e. clinique) are outrageously expensive there. So I’ve got myself a compartment of glossier, mac, benefit, and chanel. Super prepared.
Next week when I am completely packed, I’m going to try to make a much more detailed post about my carry on bag…That’s where I’ll be trying to stuff all my true essentials…This backpack has to get me through a 5 day trek from Eugene, to LA, to Paris, to our new home in Cognac in under 5 kg…quite a challenge, it would seem.
Do you have any amazing packing tricks? Share them with me below!