The following is a guest packing list from Meg Rulli. Affiliate links are denoted with an asterisk.
Whether you are on vacation or a long-term backpacker, you want to visit Paris in-style and look as chic as everyone else on the street. You also want to pack light and hopefully leave some extra room in your suitcase to bring home souvenirs from the Eiffel Tower or clothes from a French boutique.
When I visited the city of lights, I was 4 months into my RTW trip. I had a tiny 32 Liter backpack (that was supposed to get me 12 months around the globe) and was on an incredibly tight budget.
With the limited room in my backpack and the desire to look hip in this whimsical city, here was my perfect packing list for Paris:
3 Solid Color Tees Or Tanks – I prefer the solid prints because they are casual and versatile, and you can dress them up with accessories for a more hip look!
2 Bras – I always like having the option to exercise, so I always pack my sports bra along with my regular bra. (Editor’s note: Check out the Ta Ta Tamer)
5 Pairs Of Underwear – I love my Exofficio Give-N-Go® Lacy™ Bikinis.
2 Pairs Of Socks – Be sure to pack one heavier pair of socks in case it’s rainy and cold in the city.
1 Wool Cardigan – Weather in Paris is pretty unpredictable and yucky. One minute it can be a beautiful sunny day, and the next it is raining cats and dogs. As such, packing a warm sweater that you can use as an extra layer to your cute Paris outfit is advisable. Cardigans are great as a layering piece and look elegant to boot! The one I brought was a black North Face wool cardigan that kept me nice and toasty while walking to and from all the Paris sights. I did not have a light jacket with me, but this might also be a nice thing to have in your suitcase!
1 Raincoat Or Umbrella – Like I said previously, Paris weather can be yucky and it rains A LOT. Be prepared… Enough said. (Check out this packing list for staying dry.)
1 Scarf – Every lady traveler / backpacker should have a scarf on hand in her backpack. Scarves are a wonderful multi-purpose accessory. In Paris, they are great to have because they class up any outfit, add a little colorful pop to your wardrobe, and also keep you warm on colder days. In addition, French women love their scarves, so why not join the party?!
1 Pair Of Jeggings – Tony thinks that jeggings are the most fascinating piece of clothing for women… Whenever he teases me for wearing them, I like to think that he is just jealous that he doesn’t have a pair. They fit your body like skinny jeans, can dress up any outfit, are easy and compact to pack, and don’t wrinkle. I am so glad I had these to wear around Paris, as opposed to my convertible hiking pants, which screamed tourist! As an added bonus, jeggings are uber stretchy, which can come in handy if you are binging on all the delicious cheese, wine, and sweets that Paris is famous for… I sure know that they came in handy when I travelled there!
1 Wrinkle-Free Dress – If you are looking to spend a night on the town or dine out at a nice French restaurant, then you want to dress the part and fit in with the trendy locals. Having a cute dress in your bag can come in handy when you want to step up your wardrobe a notch. My recommendation is to bring a low maintenance wrinkle-free dress, such as a silk dress, so you don’t need to worry about finding an iron when your plane lands.
1 Pair Ballet Flats – Prior to arriving in Paris, Tony and I had spent three months hiking around South America. Most of my gear and clothing was made for hiking, but I refused to wear my big clunky hiking boots perusing around downtown Paris. Luckily, I packed a pair of Puma ballerina flats*. These flats were sensible enough to walk around comfortably in the city, while also looking somewhat dressy. As an added bonus, they were bendable and rolled up into a little ball, taking up little room in my backpack.
1 Pair Sneakers Or Hiking Shoes – Like I said previously, I enjoy exercising when I can. But on colder days or rainy days in Paris, you might want to wear sneakers or hiking boots to stay warm – Just be sure they are waterproof! If you have extra room in your suitcase, rainboots might be the way to go on this one.
1 Pair Flip Flops – I like having my flip flops on hand in case it’s a warm day out!
Shampoo/Conditioner/Soap – TSA friendly of course!
Toothbrush/Paste – With all the red wine I drank in Paris, having my toothbrush handy was key!
Deodorant – I know some French folks may not be big on this… but you should be!
Razor – Same reason as above.
Brush – Gotta have nice looking hair in Paris…
Makeup – …Same for your makeup!
Hair ties – I have thick thick hair so this is a MUST pack item for me!
Protection from the Elements
Sunscreen – Even though it may be cloudy out, you still want to protect your skin!
Tums – With all the rich foods we ate in Paris, we sometimes ended some of our days with a belly ache. Be sure to bring some Tums or antacids to help your cause!
Camera – This one is pretty obvious… But it is the #1 item you do not want to forget to pack. Paris has so many wonderful sights (The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, etc.) that you are going to want to photograph. You do not need to go crazy and buy a ginormous and expensive DSLR, but you are going to want to bring a high quality camera that takes high quality pictures.
Kindle – I am obsessed with my Kindle and it is perfect for travelling, as it allows you to have tens and hundreds of books in one journal-size electronic reader. If you travel to Paris, bringing a book to read is a MUST. Try Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast” so you can imagine Paris in the 1920s as you sip your coffee in the present.
One of the best activities to do in Paris is to spend a day hopping around the adorable street side café’s… Why not join in with the locals and get your read on while you are sipping your cappuccino and people watching?!
iPod – Another great toy to have on the airplane or during your café stakeouts!
Necessary Chargers – Remember: You will need a European adapter plug!
Passport And Necessary Visas – For visitors from the United States, a visa is not necessary if you are staying in the European Schengen Zone for less than three months out of the next six.
Deck Of Cards – Good for playing games with your travel companion at a local café.
Stain Stick – If you are a lady that adores food (like me), you will be eating LOTS of food and drinking LOTS of wine while in Paris. After all, it is the food capital of the world! If you are ALSO a slob like me, then you might be prone to spills (especially when eating messy Nutella crepes), so packing a Tide 2 Go or a travelling stain stick can definitely keep your wardrobe looking fresh… No matter what!
Have you ever been to Paris? What was in your backpack/suitcase?
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Author Bio: Meg Rulli writes with her husband, Tony, for the blog LandingStanding. “Carpe diem” is her favorite cliche and also her motto. Meg is a high-energy girl that loves being active (and the naps that follow), spending time outdoors, and eating (A LOT). Meg and Tony left their jobs in January 2012 to go RTW and try out this location independent thing. They are aspiring entrepreneurs & digital nomads that blog about travel, food, and all things ridiculous. You can follow their adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
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Katelyn Knapp says
As a current Parisian resident I have to say I am a little disappointed in your list. Parisians would never be caught dead in jeggings or sneakers, and flip flops are a sure sign you are a tourist. If Paris is your only destination, I would also recommend taking a blazer. These are far more common than cardigans and usually protect against the elements slightly better. However, like you said, solids are a sure way to fit in and ballet flats are a must. As long as you have lots of neutrals, scarves, and flats you will be fine!
Thanks for the insight and tips, Katelyn!
I will be studying abroad beginning in February. Are rainboots a no-go? Mine aren’t cheap, Sperry black nice boots.. But I don’t want to bring them if it makes me stand out. I also have a black long puffer coat, but it’s slim and from J.Crew. Someone said that might not be a good idea. I kind of was under the impression that as long as I dress fashionably and not loud, I would be fine. Your opinions?
Emily: I studied abroad in Paris a couple years back starting in January. Winter/Spring can be pretty cold and rainy. If your sperry boots look closer to hunter wellingtons bring them(wear them on the plane) but I’ve never seen anybody in paris wear duck style boots that ll bean and Sperry produces. The black long puffer coat will be fine, because it’s black. 😀 At the end of the day, parisians will know at first that you are not a native. It’s okay. So bring what’s confortable for you. But don’t bring too much, you will want to shop. Your goal is to be able to interact with other parisians without them switching over to English. That’s when you know your French is good. Bonus points if you get stopped for directions.
Another thing I would like to add to the list is a reusable bag,like baggu. If you are cooking in your accommodation or just want a snack, you will probably go grocery shopping(Monoprix!). However, grocery stores charge you for a grocery bag which can add up quickly if you are buying a lot of groceries.
I agree! Lovely idea, but this list might be better titled “What not to wear in Paris.” I was in Paris for a month last spring for work, and I brought: dresses, a couple nice jackets and blazers, heels (often you’ll take a cab anyway) and ballet flats for days with lots of walking. I am American and also learned a few basic phrases and was treated wonderfully everywhere! I’m blonde so I certainly don’t look French, but I will say I used this same packing philosophy in northern Italy and Vienna last year, and locals regularly approached me speaking the native language and were surprised I was American. I try to explain this to my sweet parents every time they travel: Imagine if you walked into a museum or nice restaurant in the States dressed like you were ready to cross the Cumberland Gap? Ditch the sneakers! Unless they’re Isabel Murant. 🙂
Dear Rachel – many of us traveling to Europe cannot afford to travel everywhere by cab and rely more heavily on public transportation – i.e. the metro. And on foot. This can mean a LOT of walking, on cobblestone streets and concrete steps. I certainly would bring a pair of heels if you’re planning to go out (you have to have nice shoes to get into many clubs and restaurants) but for day, flat boots or oxfords or even chic, streamlined sneakers are perfectly acceptable (and far more comfy) for those of us on a budget!
I myself wore flat motorcycle-style ankle boots most everywhere in Paris and felt like I blended in with the young, hip college crowd, which is what I wanted anyway.
Also there are plenty of blondes in France, so I’m sure you blended in just fine!
Siri 🙂 Great recommendation on the boots! Especially with the cobblestone terrain. I travel to Paris (and other French cities) often and prefer to walk. I think one really gets to know the city on foot, rather than by taxi. And yes, MUCH of Paris is blonde as you noted. I couldn’t help but to giggle a bit on that one.
I have to politely disagree with Katelyn on some points. I have lived in Paris and black canvas sneakers were completely acceptable (at least in the Latin Quarter where I lived)– in fact, I didn’t bring sneakers to Paris but ended up buying them there because everyone looked so cute in theirs. Also, cardigans were everywhere, although blazers were too. My typical outfit was: boots, jeans, a solid color shirt and a cardigan or a blazer– in warmer weather, a skirt or a dress and flats. I do agree that flip flops will completely give you away as a tourist. I had a nice pair of leather sandals but even then I only wore them a few times.
I agree 100% with Katelyn! Leave your jeggings and flip-flops at home! A blazer is a nice suggestion and it is also a lot dressier. I also can’t believe the outdated stereotype about Parisians not wearing deodorant….
Hi Katelyn. After reading your post I am worried. I will be in Paris for a week the end of April and had planned on bringing just dresses under which I wear leggings or opaque tights and ankle boots. Since you stated Parisians wouldnt get caught dead in jeggings I am concerned. What thoughts could you share…
Uhm, if you’re American and you come to Europe? We will be able to spot you.
That said: traveling to a major city anywhere in the world and going there by plane I personally wouldn’t bother to bring things like a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. Hit the first supermarket and buy some stuff you like the look and price of and you’re set.
Bring one or more of those nifty traveling use once toothbrush stick things for the plane, and a travel size deodorant, I’m pretty sure at the end of the flight everyone pretty much smells the same…
If you’re coming to Europe to study and you want to fit in, don’t buy clothes especially for your trip. Save your money and buy them when you get here. I went to Australia as an exchange student many years ago and we shipped a huge box of summer clothes. I think I wore maybe one or two things from that box. Most of it made me look “like a foreigner on holiday” and by the time it arrived I’d already bought some things because summer arrived early. Looming back we should have saved the shipping cost and just done a clothes budget instead.
Also, if you find you’re in the country and you’ll be staying there for another few months, and there are things you simply can not go without, I’m pretty sure your family will be happy to send you a care package 😀
Nicole, in response to your “we will be able to spot you” comment, I completely agree but I don’t always understand how! When I was in Rome a few years ago, random people came up to me to speak English! I have no idea how they could tell I was American! I was on vacation from a study abroad in Spain, so I was wearing clothes I had purchased from there. I was wearing shoes I’d gotten in Brazil earlier that year, so no tennis shoes! I didn’t have a camera around my neck or any other tourist paraphanalia! I am a runner, so I am very lean. My great-grandfather was 100% French, and I resemble his side of the family. To this day, I do not know how I was spotted!! I was traveling alone and wanted to blend in, but no such luck! :).
Hehe, so funny Brittany! I think there’s something in the way American’s carry themselves. I often play the “spot the American” game when I travel, and I’m usually correct. Americans walk differently… have different mannerisms. Just something you can’t change so easily 😉
Brittany, I honestly don’t know. With guys it’s usually the hair and the stance. Probably it’s the same with women. Fingernails? I don’t know! The ever present water bottle? The phone, the thingies hanging from the phone? Chewing gum, headphones, taking pictures of everything with the iPhone….
With guys, as I said, the hair and the stance. Baggy shorts. Sneakers with sneaker socks. (I find in Europe those socks are for women only.) A bottle of water/coke/something no alcoholic. And playing with your phones a lot, though that’s become standard for anyone, everywhere now…
Don’t worry it’s something common of the all “tourist’s nation”.
I explain myself… I’m a french parisian girl (excuse my english;-)) and I live in a city where we saw a lot of people from differents nation all year long. That’s why, I think, with the experience et observation, I can recognise Italian , American, English, Polish, Corean, japanese, german, spanish and chinese people.
How ? By the clothes (the color, the style), the faces (including the make up), the hairs, the shoes, the size and the attitude.
By the addition of somes clues I can recognise the country were most of tourists come from.
But, you’re right Brittany it’s not just about the clothes. I remember that a nice old men spot me as a french in a dinner in Florida althought I was wearing a pair of flip-flap, an pair of Levis and a Mark and Spencer cardigan. He told me I looked so french…???
When traveling to Paris always bring your most beautiful clothes, because everyone there can appreciate a great sense of style, individualism and dont worry being diferent, being diferent makes people come up to you and talk to you, believe me that interesting people, which are the best kind of people, if they see you dressed great and exotic, theres no going wrong, so have fun in Paris, go to some shops but never let your style be violated!
Biggest tip is to dress minimal yet elegant, always mind your manners, be respectful, and don’t speak so loudly that you can be heard five tables away. All basic things really.
Yes, respecting a country and its customs are very important but I do think that so many Americans get so caught up in “looking the part” that they miss the point– to ENJOY.
Yes, as Americans we have a different style and culture then the French, however it always seems silly to have this attitude that all Americans are brash and need our edges smoothed… there is absolutely nothing wrong with being an American in Paris. 🙂
The country is amazing and offers so very much, take time to delight in all it gives.
carol k says
Im a 65 year woman from USA. meeting my Swedish daughter in Paris. I always wear black lu lu tight pants and Gym shoes. So what if they know I’m American. is it ok? I’ll talk quiet and I am a really nice person and not overweight or anything,
I have just returned from three weeks in Paris in April 3012 and the only flip flops was the weather. Paris in spring can be high summer, mid winter and everything in between. Take comfortable, chic, long boots that you can wear with a skirt, groovy trainers and dark coloured flats that will make you feel okay in a smart restaurant. Jeans, smart pants and a skirt plus solid-coloured t-shirts with a nice neck line in long and short sleeves, a couple of cardigans, one fine wool and one warmer. All this should be able to be cleverly mix and matched. Add a warm scarf, a colourful silk scarf and an understated classy one and you can slide through most situations without feeling too obviously out of place. Finally you will need to be prepared for cold rainy weather so take a compact umbrella and a mid length trench. My experience is that we will never look truly French unless we were born there, but it helps to not feel entirely gauche. It’s partly the scarf thing. La Francaise and her scarf is a dark art.
Thanks for the list. I live in England and I have plans to visit Paris (DISNEYLAND!!) in a couple of weeks.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it sounds a lot like our weather here in London haha.
I’m 16 and traveling out of California for the first time so this list and the comments have been very helpful! My trip is only three weeks away and I’ve been on edge a little bit as it will be the first time I’ve been away from my family this long, luckily I’m going with my best friend who is Slovakian and is fluent in English, Spanish, Slovakian and French!
I would like to add though this article and comments have kind of surprised me because that last thing I thought about when going to Paris is blending in with the locals, I’m going to study the history and the culture. But this has defiantly been eye opening for me!
I went to Paris on a mission trip (“Paris? You mean, not Africa of South America?” Yes, Paris!) and we were required to fit in as much as possible so that the residents there would actually talk to us. Here were some of our guidelines:
Sleeves that reach the elbow.
LOOSE jeans. Absolutely NO JEGGINGS. Skinny jeans were alright as long as they weren’t tight all the way down.
Shirts that cover your bottom/back pockets.
NO SHORTS. Bottoms MUST reach mid-calf.
No brands such as Nike, Adidas, Puma, etc. If the logos didn’t show, then we were okay.
No bright colors, sequins, lots of glitter, etc.
Toms, Sperrys, and ballet flats were suggested.
Finally, the neckline of your shirt/blouse should cover your collar bones. No lower than that.
I hope this helps!
I’m honestly not sure what you fashion advisers were on about. Tom’s and Sperry’s definitely not. Elbow length sleeves . . . ?? Covering your rear? No logos?
No no no no.
Super skinny jeans – yes.
Short shorts -very yes.
They must have been reading travel guides from 1955. Classy and chic yes, but definitely not dowdy. My apologies but this is just wrong.
As a 15 year old who has traveled all around France multiple times (I’m leaving for my 10th trip to France in two weeks). I’d say most of you are correct, but also incorrect. For Elizabeth’s mission trip, that’s not exactly what you’d be going for if you were trying to look Parisian. As for Tala, that’s what you would wear if you were about my age- but it all consists of a certain balance between the two different styles of clothing, Elizabeth’s style and Tala’s. The last time I visted Paris I brought a few flowered dresses, a pair of wedge sandals for a night out (Absolutely no stilettos! The cobblestones will murder you!), a pair of high waisted jean shorts, 2 cardigans, a adais satchel with the logo printed in purple on the front, ballet flats, and converse for a rainy day. I also brought 2 pairs of jeans and light, cotton skirt. On a grey day when I went to a café with my friends, I wore a cream cardigan, the navy cotton skirt, and a tucked-in flowered shirt and my ballet flats. My friends were wearing jeans, a leather jacket and very stylish boots. The boys wore jeans, t-shirt and a jacket. Yet, somehow they make it a bit more stylish than the “spotted” tourist you speak of. When I went sightseeing with my extended family, I wore a flowered dress and converse. My cousin wore boyfriend jeans, heels, a black shirt. Later that night I changed into my wedges and a LBD with my cream cardigan. When I was in Paris we went into a small boutique and I bought a pair of Nike sneakers with a wedge built in, and my cousins died of jealousy! About 6 months later they came into style in the US! Long story short, think ahead of the game. Sometimes styles in Paris take 6-24 months to become popular in the US. Do your research, and look up “paris street style” in Google. Boyfriend jeans are bigger over in Europe than USA. Leather jackets are much more practical as well. Honestly, it all depends on what time of year though. I usually go in the Summer because my Aunt takes off from work, but last year I recieved pictures from my cousins wearing black leather skinny jeans and boots in Winter! Just be yourself and have a great time. No one will judge you unless you’re the loud, rude American. At least attempt the language and be respectful, and you will recieve the same. Toms, boatnecks, and shirts that reach the elbow are a great idea, looking back to Elizabeth’s post. And skinny jeans are acceptable, so don’t trash them if your going to Paris! WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO OVERLY DISTRESSED JEANS. It’s a bad idea. Anyways, I hope this helped! Have fun in Paris et bon voyage xx
My fiancé will be traveling to France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy for a 15 day honeymoon in late September/early October.
I need help on what to pack…I’m reading through all these blogs and it is completely overwhelming. Really, I could care less if I’m noticed as an American because…I am. I have a pretty casual and classy fashion sense. As bad as flips are for your feet I love them and plan to rock a comfy pair of Rainbow ones. I also thought about bringing my Toms. Both travel very each and good for walking around. Flats, jeans, tshirts, sweater (??), dressy shirts, shorts, swim suit, sundresses, waterproof jacket, sleeping/comfy wear…anything else?
Also, I have a terrible addiction to cosmetics and want to purchase a few exclusive to each area that I can’t get here in Maryland. Any recommendations?
This is my first time out of the country. I just purchased an REI Venus 70 backpack and plan to use that, a small cross body and maybe my large Longchamp purchase as my carryon and to bring home souvenirs. Good idea?
How are you planning on getting around in europe? Rail pass or rental car or some other way? If you’re going to have a car I wouldn’t use a backpack, I’d use a rolling suitcase, they’re just simply easier to pack and you won’t have crumpled clothes. For rail and lots of walking I’d probably go for the backpack, but that’s a personal preference thing really.
I personally pack whatever I feel like wearing at home, too. Some short sleeved tops, some long sleeved tops, a skirt and two pairs of jeans. I don’t go for “posh” dinners usually because I have kids, so I don’t pack dressy clothes. For Sept/Oct I’d bring a jacket on the plane (too bulky to pack) and definitely pack a sweater and/or a cardigan whichever you prefer. I’m not sure you’ll need the sundress, if it’s small to pack, bring it, if not think about buying one you love once you hit a spot where you’d want to wear it. September and October are definitely not hot months usually, though with the weather we’re having right now it’s hard to predict.. I’d wait to decide on what to actually pack until about a week or so before you travel, you can just check forecasts then.
Cosmetics.. I prefer cheap, myself, and I’m in germany. So, I’d recommend hitting a dm shop and checking out their things. I like Clarice, p2 and essences (definitely super cheap but good quality), but they also sell L’Oreal and Astor, so yeah, good selection there. Depending on where in germany you visit there may be other shops like dm (Rossmann, Ihr Platz,…) which you might want to check out. In Austria there’s also dm I think and bipa I think, I’m not sure, they should have a good selection, too. If you have the money to spend, check out Douglas 😉
Have fun on your trip!
Thank you Des for the fantastic info.
We will be using the trains as our main transportation. Renting a car for one day in Germany to visit certain areas. I have Clarice and P2 on my list…thanks for the store recommendations.
I’ve heard Milka chocolate is delicious so I plan to check that out. I think I’ll need to see what Douglas is all about!
Jennifer, if you go to Aachen, check out lindt, bahlsen and lamberz factory outlets. Lindt makes the best chocolate, but it’s more expensive. Alpia chocolate is cheap and in my opinion a lot better than Milka and available in almost all supermarkets.
Sorry for going off-topic here but I feel quite concerned about your planned itinerary. I think visiting five countries in 15 days for your honeymoon sounds terrible. Please consider cutting this to only two places. Otherwise, I fear you will spend most of your trip packing, unpacking and travelling. Which will result in huge frustration about what you rushed past but didn’t get to enjoy.
A day to arrive and settle in. A day to leave at the end. Each new location is a day of transit. That cuts six days from your trip. Whcih leaves 9 days for relaxing and enjoying, or less than two days in each place. You may feel that a day for transit seems like a lot, but thats how those days will roll. And they are tiring.
I travel a lot. I love it. I travel with my husband. I travel with my young family. There are trips I do with good friends. I just spend six days with one of my best friends in Florence. It was fantastic, but not even close to enough time to really enjoy that wonderful city.
If you can re-schedule your trip – do it.
Great basic list of things to pack. But since this is for females, you absolutely cannot forget tampons or pads…
Dresses and skirts with length appropriate for your age. Dark jeans, skinny or more appropriate for the newer high-waisted flares. No white sneakers, but there are some cool-colored ones sold there. A nice bag. Opaque tights, maybe in a cool color. Brights are mainly confined to shoes, bags, accessories. Scarves. A LBD, doesn’t have to be silk or a fancy fabric. Shorts are for very young travelers. (late teens, twenties). Dark clothes, generally black. LEATHER! Leather ackets even when it’s pretty hot, especially moto — for all ages, over anything. Leather short boots, not the real feminine style. Chanel type shoes a lot. Neat and well-groomed, with little makeup but messy bedhead. I didn’t notice streaky highlighted hair, as you find so much in the U.S. Understated, clothes well-tailored, even if worn for years, and well-kept. I managed to pass a lot. And I didn’t overpack. And in spring, I did take a trench. I’m short and terrible with umbrellas.