I’ve been spending a little time trying out some new sewing blogs to find some new ones that I find inspiring.  Also, frankly, to weed out the tall, skinny 20-something sewers.  You’re doing some great work, folks, but some of us have different fitting issues (“the pattern fit size 2 me right out of the envelope!”  YES OF COURSE IT DID.)

So I came across this blog called “Would I Wear It in Paris?” and it hit me, like the dork I am, that I–as in me–am going to be in Paris next summer.  OH YEAH THAT.  Partner is doing the Paris-Brest-Paris bike ride, so I will meet him at the end of that, then we’ll go down to Provence to spend some time with his sister.  And it’s time to start thinking about organizing all that, booking hotels, etc.

This will be my third trip to Europe and fifth out of the country, not to mention our nearly-every-weekend trips in the summer to my partner’s cycling events.  So I thought I would collect here some ideas that I have on packing and how my experience differs from what is often the standard packing advice.  I travel with one carry-on size rolling bag that I check, plus a tote bag and a small purse that I bring on the plane with me.  I think that’s pretty good, considering that I have to bring extra things like my special hard-to-find laundry detergent and toilet paper for sensitive skin.  Next time I’m going to try to go lighter.

Go a bit dressy for more flexibility.  Yes, you’re on vacation and you want to be comfortable, but clothes that are slightly-dressier versions of your comfy clothes will be acceptable in more places.  If all you pack is your white T-shirts and shorts, then you’re going to have to bring EXTRA stuff for that nice dinner out or the night at the opera.  That cathedral you want to tour may not let you in if you’re wearing a tank top.  Something like this is basically a T-shirt, but the nicer fabric and cut makes it more versatile.  This principle also applies to shoes; get some nice-looking walking shoes and use those instead of flip-flops.

—  Lightweight, soft, breathable fabrics–mostly knits–are your friends.  I cringe when I see polyester clothes marketed as “travel fashions.”  Many tourist destinations are humid or hot, and you’re going to be miserable in polyester.  I bring mostly soft cotton-blend knits; they roll up very small in your suitcase, they’re comfortable in hot weather, they don’t wrinkle much, and they dry overnight after you wash them in the sink.  My partner swears by these lightweight pants, which are very tough but acceptable anywhere.  I bring cotton-blend capris and a pair of black knit pants which can be dressed up or down.

—  Skip bulky thick clothes, if you can.  Use your light fabrics to layer when it gets cold.  Unless you MUST have them, don’t bring jeans; they’re space-hogs, they don’t fit well in a standard bathroom sink, and they take forever to dry.  On our last trip to the UK, temperatures ranged from 85 F in London to about 40 F (with rain and an icy wind off the North Sea) in the north of Scotland; instead of bringing a coat that I’d only use for a few days of the 3+ weeks we were there, I stayed warm by adding more layers plus a rain shell that I picked up on clearance in Edinburgh.

—  Don’t “pack only neutrals,” because BLEH.  Pack what you actually like to wear.  I love my colors, so I would much rather pack three colorful knit tops than one black one and four scarves.  Why in the world would you want to be messing around with scarves when you’re traveling?  Travel is great, but it’s also often stressful, uncomfortable, and disconcerting.  Pack clothes that make you feel confident and like yourself when you’re away from everything that is familiar.  Everything should go with everything else, but it doesn’t have to be boring.

—  Listen to Rick Steves on packing.  His best piece of advice:  pack for the best case scenario.  If you need anything else, if the country you’re in has their first snow in a generation, whatever, you can always buy what you need.  Second best:  you will always carry your bags more than you think.  Consider how common it is to spend one night here, then take a train, walk to another hotel for one night, and repeat that kind of itinerary over and over.  Also consider that things in Europe are designed to get maximum use out of limited space.  Stairways are tight and elevators tiny or nonexistent.  Can you haul your bags up two flights of narrow stairs?

Because I have back problems, I’ve used a rolling bag up until now, but I’m thinking of overhauling my travel bag stash and going to a Rick Steves-type backpack + purse combo. Wonder if I can find a suitable pattern to make one?  Hmmm . . . .