I can hear you. Why would anyone want to organise a 6-week holiday to la belle France and travel with an airline-approved, international carry-on bag as their only luggage?
Is it even possible? Why would I want it to be possible?
Ask my ex. After all, my inexplicable desire to cram 45-odd days of living into a case designed as a weekender would have fit the bill perfectly as one of those, um, questionable qualities of mine which invariably drove him to distraction.
It’s important to be compact. Considered...and a little bit crazy. Is it God – or the devil – that’s in the details?
I start weeks beforehand, purchasing a few new items (lippy, mascara and chic stockings) which I know will stand me in good stead as I unpack my few delicious things at my destination. I polish my shoes. I repair my jewellery. I dry-clean my stoles and scarves. Minimal doesn’t mean meagre. I want lush. I want cashmere. It's only a carry-on bag, so I bring only the best of what I have.
I consider the weight, function, practicality and versatility of every item being packed. Every gram of ‘what-the-heck, I’m bringing it’ translates into sheer ‘merde!’ when it’s being hauled up the inevitable 5 flights of stairs to that chic little apartment in Paris. Each ‘I-might-want-to-wear-that’ item bulges in the not-so-chic suitcase at peak hour in the Metro, screeching ‘tourist’ to every pick-pocket within cooee.
First, versatility. Think two colours. Maybe three. Whew! That’s the fashion side of things sorted. Did I mention that I like elegant, classic style? Don’t really do fashion. How many things can this black silk knit top go with? Seriously? It's coming.
Second, think natural. Cashmere. Bamboo. Cotton. Silk. Choose voile and lightweight knits.
Finally, think layers. Take a vacation from the chunky look when travelling. Too bulky and heavy to pack. The word 'luggage' is literally the noun of 'lugging'. Just sayin'...
Herein lies a definite quandary. Everyone knows that you can make so much more of your wardrobe with a change of accessories, but shoes - sadly - are difficult to justify for the lightweight pack. They are heavy, spiky (well, mine can be) and notoriously difficult to pack into a tiny space. No amount of trying to squish seven pairs of panties into the toes (the maximum) can warrant the unsightly mess that shoes make of expertly folded clothes. Gone are the days when you could try to make amends to your neat packing system by arranging toiletries into the arches and around the heels. Everything in Zip-lock bags now, remember?
So, back to black. One pair of dress heels (bien sur!). One pair of flat, uber-comfy, red ankle boots for fashionable walking – the winners! And the last pair? Hmmm. The woman in me wants heels. The sensible-me says flats, and the Libran-me wants to get out of having to make a decision. So, it’s into decision-land for the shameless shoe-lover. Some kind of purgatory...
Back into heaven we go. Scarves are the ultimate traveller’s friend. Lightweight, versatile and delicious, scarves can transform an ordinary outfit into sublime chic with a casual flourish. Wear a scarf around your hair, waist, neck, or on your bag. The thoughtful addition of a wrap to an ensemble can enable us to linger as the sun sets, and the air cools. Flung out over a cushion, they provide a reliable place for a siesta. And, of course, they are absolutely ‘de rigeur’ en France. For that reason alone, I must take five.
Per cubic centimetre, jewellery is heavy. Fact. Most jewellery is made of metal, stones (read ‘rock’), wood or glass.
This is where quality is definitely streets ahead of quantity, and diamonds really are a girl’s best friend. Seriously, though, a few carefully chosen pieces will serve you infinitely better than acres of bling - which is heavy, gets tangled, and which you'll probably grab and stash in the ‘just-in-case’ category. Think it through, choose well, and consider wearing your favourite, heavier items (as long as they are comfortable) on the journey.
Finally, pack everything everything else into plastic. Use plastic bottles, Zip-lock bags (excellent for jewellery, cosmetics, and digital hardware). This is the time to bring the miniature cosmetics and skin-care samples out. I even have a tiny red Estee Lauder lipstick that I keep for travelling!
Gather together all the things you are looking to take. Just feel how heavy they are.
Now, picture yourself (in the absence of some uber-cute homme helping you) lugging it all through the metro, and up endless flights of stairs, at the end of a 32-hour international flight. (I'm from Australia...). In isolation, individual items may not feel that heavy, but along with everything else (and I saw you pack that extra pair of shoes…) it’s no kind of a way to say ‘bonjour France’.
Sometimes, I do put my carry-on bag into stowage, so I can get my nail file and scissors through security (having had to bin my beautiful scissors at the security gate once), but I still choose to travel with a onboard bag for the sheer pleasure of moving around with it. If you doubt the advice that I'm offering, go park yourself at a train station at peak hour near the airport for 30 mins one day, and watch the strained faces of the delightful travellers arriving in their version of paradise.
Travelling with 30+kgs of baggage is just (not) fun. No matter how much you paid for the extra-light bag.
10-day Tours to the French Riviera
Small-group Tours for Women staying on the Côte d'Azur
Discover the Côte d'Azur: Visit Villefranche sûr Mer, the hilltop village of Èze, the gentle town of Antibes, vieux Nice, artsy St Paul de Vence, and more. Tour the Villa et Jardins de Rothschild and the divine Villa Kerylos, and dine in any of the fabulous restaurants in the region.