Qu’est-ce qui est dans mes valises ? // What’s in my suitcases ? [Part 1]

Here it is. The packing post I intended on making a couple of months ago. The prospect of packing 7 months’ worth of clothing and belongings in just a couple of suitcases is daunting. Pinterest and blogs from former assistants served as vital resources for me during the months leading up to my departure.

Step 1: Determine which type of luggage is appropriate and how many pieces you plan to take.

For myself, flying economy on AirFrance meant that I was allowed to check one bag up to 50 lbs for free, and carry on one bag and one personal item. The personal item is classified as something small – a camera or laptop. We all know my personal item was a gigantic purse and my carry-on bag was a suitcase clocking in at the maximum allowable dimensions.

I searched far and wide for the perfect set of luggage. I weighed my options, trying to decide between a large rolling duffle bag and a large rolling suitcase. Once I decided on rolling suitcases the hunt was on. I came across a suitcase that I fell in love with, but was unable to find a matching set. After days of driving to stores all over Michigan and hours of scouring the internet I found a luggage set worthy of bringing home with me.

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My bags of course were stuffed full, therefore when I was told that my checked bag was overweight by 8 lbs I had no room to rearrange anything; meaning a hefty fee equivalent to what I would have paid for checking a second bag. While I did check the cost of overweight baggage before leaving for the airport I was hoping the baggage attendant would take pity on my poor soul (hah, right) and let me slide with a few extra pounds in my suitcase. That didn’t happen.

Step 2: Explore space-saving options.

You will want to take everything. You will not be able to take even half of everything. Knowing how much of an over-packer I am, even for the shortest of trips, vacuum bags and packing cubes were a must this time around. The packing cubes were especially useful during my first week in France. I didn’t want to completely unpack everything knowing that I would have to repack in a week after moving into a new apartment. I was able to take items out of my suitcases while keeping everything neat and organized.

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I found these packing cubes and space saver bags at TJ Maxx and Marshalls. Both stores have a good selection of travel accessories for great prices.

Step 3: Make a list.

I love lists. I’m an organization freak and making lists is a favorite pastime of mine. Starting your list a few months in advance is a good idea. While you probably don’t need three separate lists like me, it helps to be able to add items to your list as they come to you. This way you won’t forget anything essential. Making a list also helps create a sense of accomplishment – I mean who doesn’t love crossing items off a nice list.

Step 4: Lay out everything that you want to take.

It’s important to consider the weather in the location you’re headed to. Nice has a fairly mild winter, especially compared to Michigan winters. Not having to pack a significant amount of bulky clothing and outerwear saved a lot of space in my bags. (Don’t get me wrong, you will definitely need a coat in Nice. Just don’t break out the Canada Goose.) In August and September I began grouping together items that I planned to take with me, that I knew I wouldn’t need before leaving. About five days before my flight I laid out everything I wanted to take in one room. It helps to see just how much you’ve amassed over the years. Having your worldly possessions spread out across an entire room can put into perspective just how much you have and just how much you don’t actually need.

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Go through and cut these items in half. Then do it again. Many people suggest carefully crafting your wardrobe with neutral, versatile pieces that can be combined to make dozens of different outfits. This is great advice, but for myself I knew I wanted to bring a variety of colors and styles. 7 months is a long time to be wearing the same clothes over and over again. (This is perhaps where you should think twice about heeding my advice)

Thankfully my parents had offered to ship me some items that wouldn’t fit in my suitcases so I didn’t have nearly as hard of a time leaving things behind. Take it from me. You might think you need all 6 grey sweaters, but you really don’t.

Step 5: Determine what you will need immediately and what can wait a few days.

As a precaution, I packed enough clothing in my carry-on to get me through a couple of weeks. Worst-case scenario, if your luggage is lost or delayed, you won’t have to go out and buy new clothes immediately. I also used my carry-on as a way to save pounds in my checked bag. Anything heavy that could be carried on a plane went into my carry-on.

I also made sure I had everything I might need for an overnight flight in my purse. This allowed me to lock my carry-on suitcase and leave it in the overhead compartment during the entire flight without worrying about anything inside of it.

In Part 2 I will detail the items I brought with me, things I haven’t needed up to this point and things I wish I had brought with me. Happy packing !

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