I must confess to a guilty pleasure that I enjoyed during the long, tedious months of lockdown in the surreal year that was 2020: Emily in Paris. Oh yes, I did live vicariously through her, imagining myself as Emily, complete with her slim, lithe frame, sashaying through the streets of la belle ville while wearing impossibly high heels and mini skirts…**
Alas, for those of us who aren’t spending a year in Paris wearing couture and don’t possess a magical closet in our tiny apartment that just keeps on fitting more stuff in wrinkle-free, I present to you the packing checklist, for one week*** in la ville lumiere whilst traveling like an airline employee… Adjust according to the temperature at your time of travel, bien sur.
- 1 Dark water resistant coat, heavier or lighter according to the time of year.
- 2-3 scarves. 1 warm, 2 lighter weight silky fabric to add color to outfits. (Silky scarves are actually something you can easily take more of because they weigh nothing and take up very little room and will give you variety in your daily wardrobe, which will fool people into thinking you’re not wearing the same thing every day even if you are).
- 1 pair of boots, comfortable for walking hundreds of miles. Waterproof if possible, but still stylish (this is Paris, after all). I own two pairs of Sorel boots, one brown suede and one black with sort of a moto look, which are ideal for this purpose and which I have in fact walked hundreds of miles in.
- 1 extra pair of walking shoes, so you can get blisters somewhere else just in case the boots you thought were so comfortable actually aren’t.
- 1-2 pairs dark pants that can be dressed up or down. Stretchy and wrinkle resistant is best.
- 1-2 pairs jeans.
- Colorful tees as a base layer. Take one for each day you will be gone. This way you will always have something clean next to your skin, while keeping the outer layers from getting dirty (remember how much you will be walking!) You can also do turtlenecks, but they are not really necessary because of the scarves you should also be layering on. Trust me on this- a scarf can make all the different in the world in keeping you warm, and Paris can be so chilly!
- A button-down blouse or two; the non-iron version of these being preferred.
- 2-3 thin wool, cashmere, or cotton cardigans or sweaters in dark or neutral colors. These are an essential item. They don’t wrinkle at all and are lightweight enough to put under your coat, keeping you warm without making you look like the Michelin man.
- Tuck a pair of gloves into your coat pocket. They will have the added benefit of making it so you don’t have to touch anything should you decide to ride the Metro.
- 1 lightweight crossbody bag with zippers that you can keep your hand on at all times. Pickpocketing does happen. Leave the designer handbag at home- it just makes you a target. Not that I have designer handbags…not being Emily and all. Shoulder bags work too if you don’t like a crossbody-just something you can keep close to your body.
- If you’re going when it’s really cold, add a warm hat to your list of essentials along with those scarves.
- I will leave the undergarments and socks up to you.
Makeup, toothbrush, hairbrush, and clean undies go into the carryon bag if you’re checking your bag (though I ALWAYS carry my suitcase on, having learned the hard way, and rarely take an extra carryon bag). So often in Europe you are walking and having to carry everything, so it gives you a new perspective on packing light. And the Paris train system often seems to have neither escalators nor elevators.
So there you have it. If you pair a dark cardigan with your dark pants, a long sleeved tee, your boots, and a colorful scarf, you’ve got what I consider to be my travel uniform. The tees won’t take up much room in your suitcase, and neither will the scarves. I always wear the boots onto the plane because they take up so much room, and who needs that sort of nonsense? If you carry the coat as well, you also have an extra blanket in case your airline is stingy.
And now, just don’t forget to greet everyone properly, s’il vous plait!
*Non-rev is what airline employees (or family of airline employees, as is the case for me) call ourselves. It means non-revenue, which means the leftover scraps of seats on planes that are ours for the taking, when we are lucky and the stars have properly aligned as the planet that we call home orbits the sun. Hence the need to travel light and think on one’s feet. I love it.
**But come on, couldn’t she have just picked one focal point piece rather than the garish, over the top combinations she typically wears? And why is she always so scantily clad? It’s cold in Paris MOST of the time. Seriously. And how does she have such a huge budget for clothing at her age? I choose Sylvie as my style icon anyway (so elegant! So chic!), but there are some big problems with reality on this show. Which might be why I binge watched it in 2020.
***Honestly, you don’t always have to bring more if you’re staying longer, especially if you’re staying in a VRBO or AirBnb type of accommodation, because you can do laundry. Hence, a longer stay does not necessarily mean a bigger suitcase. You’ll thank me for this tip when you’re hoisting a bag onto an overhead shelf on a train.