The Eternal Dilemma of What to Pack

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Let’s face it. No matter what you do, you’ll never look like a local. It takes years of living in a country to blend in with the masses, and even then, your hairstyle or the way you walk or wear your handbag will give you away at some stage! So you may as well go for comfort and practicality. I’ll never forget the time Black Cat spied a group of people way across a vacant allotment on Magnetic Island in North Queensland and said “Those people over there are French”. And you know, it turned out they were !

The range of temperatures you are going to encounter also makes a difference when you’re packing. If it’s going to be 0°C at night in Orange and 30°C in Townsville on the same trip, you virtually need two sets of clothes. But if you’re coming to France in May, it’s going to be much easier.  How often you can wash will also determine what you take. If we are travelling for a month, I try to alternate accommodation with and without a washing machine so I can wash every few days.

Sometimes when we get home from holidays, I put the whole suitcase in the wash. That’s when I know I took the right clothes. If you come back with things you didn’t wear, you should note it for next time. I don’t usually take anything very dressed up. In France, at any rate, people don’t necessarily change to go out at night. They simply wear smart clothes to work that are also suitable in the evening with maybe a change of shoes or bag that they keep at the office. In fact, that’s one way you can pick the tourists in a restaurant  at night – they’re the only ones dressed up!

Pick one or two basic colours – not necessarily black! – from your wardrobe and see if you can work around them. It’s fairly pointless taking a top that only goes with one skirt or pair of pants, for example. Remember that no one is going to know that you wore the same outfit the day before, except that you changed your T-shirt or blouse. If you get sick of wearing the same clothes all the time, shout yourself something new.  Everyone says layers are the best and they really are except that you don’t want to end up looking like the Michelin man!

Skirts and tops are obviously more versatile than dresses because you can adapt more easily to the season. Though I’ve seen Black Cat – who really is French because she was born and bred here – wear a dress with a top or pullover as though it were a skirt. Unless you are absolutely certain that you aren’t going to gain a gram during your holidays, avoid clothing that is skin tight in the hope that by osmosis with the slim French women of your imagination, you might just shed a few kilos along the way. Wishful thinking I’m afraid!

Perhaps you’d like something more specific. Well I’ll try and remember what I took (and wore) on our holiday to Croatia last year where temperatures ranged from 10°C to 35°C and our activities included cycling, walking, swimming and sightseeing. I prefer to wear a lot of blouses so I’ve learnt how to track down inexpensive ironing services wherever I go! I also have a foot problem which means comfortable shoes are a must.

–          1 pair of lightweight jeans
–          1 pair of beige pants (full length)
–          1 pair of light brown pants (full length) and more dressed up than the others
–          1 pair of fushia ¾ pants
–          1 pair of white ¾ pants
–          1 pair of ¾ jeans that can also be used for cycling if it’s a bit cold
–          1 brown skirt the same colour as the long pants
–          1 red polo neck sweat shirt (to go with all pants except fushia)
–          1 blue polo neck sweat shirt (to go with beige & white pants & jeans)
–          1 light brown jacket same colour as pants & skirt (to go with beige and brown)
–          1 white denim jacket (for fushia & white pants & jeans)
–          1 long-sleeved denim shirt/jacket
–          3 T-shirts (white, red & light blue) (I don’t often wear T-shirts but they can be useful)
–          3 white blouses (for fushia pants & jeans)
–          1 pale yellow blouse (for brown & beige)
–          1 pale pink blouse (for brown & beige)
–          1 green & white sleeveless check shirt (that only goes with one thing but it’s my only sleeveless blouse!)
–          1 decent-looking caramel-coloured waterproof jacket with hood and white fleecy-lined front-zip jacket to go underneath
–          1 pair of walking shoes
–          1 pair of walking sandals (also used for cycling)
–          1 pair of ordinary sandals
–          1 straw hat
–          enough underwear & socks for 5 days with 2 pairs of socks for each pair of pants
–          swimsuit & pareo & plastic shoes
–          cotton kimono & scuffs
–          2 pairs of denin shorts for cycling (because they’re the most comfortable)
–          2 cycling T-shirts that are fast-drying and no-iron
–          1 windcheater for cycling

What would you add or subtract?

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6 thoughts on “The Eternal Dilemma of What to Pack”

    1. Excellent lists Abby. Thank you. I have only dealt with clothes, whereas you’ve listed the other things such as passports, etc. My mother was a great one for lists but with four children and a lot of car travelling and motel stopovers, she had to be organised. We used to have our clothes laid out in the living room for days beforehand! One thing I forgot to say is that you should make sure a few days ahead that everything is washed (and ironed).

  1. Thank you so much for this list. I have been going crazy trying to prepare my suitcase for flying to Paris next week. What is a pareo?

    I am reassured greatly by the fact that I don’t need to get really dressed up. What about accessories? I have read that French women are great at accessorising with jewellery and scarves.

    1. A pareo is one of those long bits of material that people wrap around themselves in Tahiti. I thought it was an English word … sarong maybe? Ah, yes, accessories. Well, in winter, I usually wear scarves if I have a plain jacket but in summer, I don’t usually bother, I must confess. Jewellery is something different. I am always afraid of mislaying it on holidays (see Things that Disappear and Reappear!) or having it stolen so I just wear a gold necklace and earrings and leave the jewellery for when I’m at home.

  2. Fraussie you have just about covered everything. I like the idea of a cotton kimono. At the moment my dilemma is finding what still fits me!! But Clyde still says I pack too much, although I am getting better, and only brought home a couple of items not worn when we went to Brissy earlier in the year! – Now, a visit to Melbourne might be a different matter.

    1. It’s just so much easier for men to pack than women! You did very well only bring home a couple of items not worn. Melbourne sounds more like France weather-wise – extremely variable. I have added a photo of the kimono, particularly as it was made by the very talent Black Cat!

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