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What should you pack?

Especially if it is your first trip to Europe, there is always the question of what to pack. Here are some suggestions.


View Dordogne and Occitanie & Around France and through Switzerland 1998 & Provence 2014 & Pays de la Loire & Around France with Jean 2000 on Beausoleil's travel map.

Place Benserade in Lyons-la-Forêt

Place Benserade in Lyons-la-Forêt

Luggage and bags: Your destination and activities will guide your packing. Try to take as little as possible. Many airlines are charging per bag, including carry-ons so it's wise to take as few as possible. Check your airline for allowed bag weight and dimensions. Weigh and measure your bags to make sure you won't be repacking at the airport. We've seen it and it doesn't look like fun. We each take a carry-on that we check and a school-sized backpack that we carry on the plane. If it won't fit in that, we don't take it. Try to leave a little room for souvenirs on the return trip. If you are going to Paris, you will be taking your luggage up and down steps and on escalators so be sure you have rolling suitcases or backpacks. Our cardinal rule is: Be able to handle your luggage yourself . . . under any circumstances including while carrying an umbrella. (A large plastic garbage bag nicely covers your rolling bag in a rainstorm.)

Itinerary printed on a business card to fit a luggage tag

Itinerary printed on a business card to fit a luggage tag

It is a good idea to put your full itinerary on a luggage tag attached to the handle of your luggage. It is an even better idea to put another copy of your full itinerary inside each piece of luggage. If it is delayed or lost, you will eventually get it. If your home address and phone are on the tag, they will call you at home . . . only you will be on vacation and without your luggage. We've had our luggage shipped to us all over France and Italy when it disappeared. The longest wait was three days and it's usually on the next flight. If your info is with the bag, they can contact you and ship it to wherever you happen to be when they find it. Sounds silly but it works. I've attached a photo of a business card I use in my luggage tag and another photo of an itinerary placed inside the luggage. (The names have been changed for reasons of privacy.)

Itinerary printed on a sheet of typing paper to put in each suitcase

Itinerary printed on a sheet of typing paper to put in each suitcase

Le Quartier Saint Antoine (from near the château entrance)

Le Quartier Saint Antoine (from near the château entrance)

Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Many people want to avoid looking like a tourist. You can't. You buy your clothes where you live; they buy their clothes where they live so you are going to be dressed differently. Then there is the matter of class and gender. You can't win this one so don't try. Take comfortable clothes that are appropriate for the weather and your activities. Don't buy all new clothes for your trip. Nothing screams "TOURIST" more than clothes that still have the manufacturers fold lines on them. We simply take our normal clothes, enough for a week and then do a laundry when we need clean clothes. They sell anything you will need so if you forget something, buy it there . . . and you'll have a nice souvenir in the bargain. Always take two pairs of shoes. If you walk through a heavy rain, you will have a dry pair of shoes waiting for you. I take two pairs of shoes and a pair of sandals that I use for bedroom slippers. Men may want a suit and the easy way to do this is take a sport coat that matches a pair of your slacks. You can wear them separately or put them together for an instant suit. My husband uses his sport coat instead of a windbreaker-type jacket so he has one less thing to pack. We both take raincoats but wear them on the plane so we don't have to pack them. Tuck them in the overhead during the flight unless you are chilly.

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Ste. Odile Fountain in Place Beffroi, Obernai

Ste. Odile Fountain in Place Beffroi, Obernai

Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Make sure you have enough of your required prescription medicines and put them in your carry-on bag so they aren't lost if your luggage doesn't arrive with you. Accidents happen so carry an official prescription copy with you and have your doctor put it in generic form so it can be read by a European pharmacist. Other than prescriptions, don't worry too much about taking what you need. If you forget something, go to the nearest store and buy it there. They sell Ivory soap and Colgate toothpaste in Europe too. They have most of the brands you use at home and it's also fun to try local brands. We don't take most of our toiletries because we go for a month so we buy them when we arrive and they are usually gone when we're ready to leave. One less thing to put in the suitcase! If you are planning to drive, France requires you to have an extra pair of eye glasses with you in the car. It's always a good idea to have a spare pair of glasses in case you break yours. Sun glasses are not a problem because it is easy to buy them there if you forget them. I've also broken my glasses frames a couple of times and had no trouble getting them repaired in a village optical shop.

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La Porte Calendrale in Barbentane

La Porte Calendrale in Barbentane

Photo Equipment: This is very personal. I have a digital camera, an extra large memory card and 3 spare batteries along with a charger. You may want more equipment or you may want less. I also take a laptop and transfer my photos each night into a dated folder listing where we were that day. Then I burn a copy onto a flash drive and clear my camera disk for the next day. I keep a written journal to jog my memory when going through the photos at home later. It's given me a lot of pleasure but it's probably overkill for most people. DO take a dual voltage battery charger. Look on the back label for 110-240 or figures very similar. If your charger says 110-120, go to the drugstore and buy a dual voltage charger so you don't have to carry a converter with you. Most these days are dual voltage but it's a good idea to check.

Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: We used to put our camping equipment (including tent) into a large duffle bag and check it through. Since 9/11 and hypersecurity, we've given up camping in Europe. We camp only where we can drive, so in Europe we use budget accommodation, including Gites de France in France, Agriturisimi in Italy and Gasthauses in Germany. Check the Travel Guides for budget ideas in your chosen country. I highly recommend Logis de France (hotels) and Gites de France in France, and Italian Agriturismo in Italy. We love them.

Most public swimming pools in France require men to wear speedo-type suits and none that I've seen allow cut-off jeans or "made-up" swim wear. You may also be required to wear a bathing cap. Beaches along the Atlantic and Mediterranean have various to no requirements so check when you arrive. If you rent a boat, they will have the equipment that is legally required although you may have to pay separately in some places. Again, either check their web site before you go or check when you arrive. Local tourist offices are a great place to get recommendations. The more you can rent, the less you have to pack . . .

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Château de Fougères

Château de Fougères

Electricity: You can find all you will ever need to know (with photos) at: Electricity Information web site

There are two things to consider. First is an adapter that simply fits your plug into the European wall outlet. The second is an actual power converter that converts the 240 volt European electricity down to a safe 120 volt power that will be accepted by your appliance. The first (adapter) is inexpensive and light weight. The second (converter) is more expensive and very heavy. It is easier to avoid taking the converter by taking only dual voltage appliances. This is an appliance that says 110-240 v somewhere on the appliance, usually the bottom or near the plug. If it says 110-120, it is not dual voltage and you will need a converter. It must go up to 240 v. Always check your appliance; never assume it is dual voltage.

Château de Goulaine near Nantes

Château de Goulaine near Nantes


Basically, if you have dual voltage (110-240 v) appliances, you need only a small adapter so you can fit your plug into the wall socket. If your appliance is 110-120 v, you will need a converter to change the voltage that goes into your appliance. European voltage is 240 and that will fry your US 110-120 appliances and it may start a fire. You can get new dual voltage appliances or get a converter. The converters are available at Radio Shack, Walmart, Target, most drug stores and all department store luggage departments and luggage stores.

We always take a few of adapters because European plugs are shaped differently from US so you plug into the adapter and the adapter plugs into the foreign wall socket. These are very cheap so get one that takes grounded USA plugs and is adjustable for different countries, a universal adapter. The universal adapters are available at Radio Shack, Walmart, Target, most drug stores and all department store luggage departments and luggage stores. In addition to the Universal Adapter that can be adjusted to fit in any country, we take a few C adapters that are flat and can be used with either the older 2-prong outlets or the newer grounded outlets. If you have problems, ask at your hotel desk. They usually have a drawer full of different adapters. They will probably not have a converter so don't count on that.

View from Château de Saumur

View from Château de Saumur

If you take a hair dryer (I don't), be sure it is dual voltage or that you have a heavy-duty power converter (not an adapter, but a converter) to change the European 240 down to your appliance's 120. Most hotels and B&Bs have hair dryers so you probably don't need that hair dryer and converters are heavy and a nuisance to pack. It's something to consider. If you must take a hair dryer, the easiest and safest thing to do would be to buy a dual voltage travel hair dryer. Too many hotel fires have been started with hair dryers and inadequate converters.

Posted by Beausoleil 14:34 Archived in France Tagged france packing luggage electricity

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