Q. I will be traveling to Europe this coming May and will only be able to bring one 22” carry-on and one overnight bag (that will fit under the seat). I'll be in Paris from May 5 – 11, and then in Barcelona from May 12 – 16.
The weather should be okay, but most likely there will be rain. I'm stumped as to how to best pack so I'm prepared for anything while packing as light as possible.
What shoes would you recommend for daytime walking (a lot of walking!)? Jacket or sweater? How many pairs of jeans? How many tops?
This is my first big trip to Europe so I'm trying to be proactive and figure out now what is needed. Since I will be responsible for lugging my own bags from Paris to Spain, I am truly limited for packing purposes. —Marianne VanAuken, Chandler, AZ
A. Since this is your first trip across the pond you should know Europeans' idea of casual is a bit more pulled together than Americans'. Parisian culture is steeped in fashion history and they take it seriously, so if you don't want to stick out like a sore thumb, bring your best casual looks and buy some new things too. I always think of myself as a representative of our country when abroad and step up the style quotient.
Here are some of my travel tricks and things I love to help get the most out of your suitcase:
Bring or buy a black or navy jacket that has a good fit. This jacket can go over anything and keep you looking sharp. Try this one from L.L. Bean. You’ll need a nylon anorak that folds up easily in your bag and is a must for rain. Try this one from Ralph Lauren at Macy's.
For shoes bring one pair of sneakers, and if yours are not in good shape then buy a new pair! Ecco has comfortable sneakers in leather so it's more dressed up than a nylon one but still has the comfort factor. Nothing worse than old sneakers to make you look sloppy. Bring a ballet flat, a heel for a special dinners out and maybe a short bootie or another casual shoe.
Pack in 3 or 4 color palettes and stick to them. For example: navy, white, and tan, or black, grey, and white. Use accessories like scarves and necklaces for color accents.
Use a straight-line dress as a tunic with slim leggings for a more casual look and add a long scarf as a belt. This is my "go to" trick on the road.
Weather can be changeable so I would bring a puffer jackets from Uniqlo that roll into a little ball and fit in a pouch. Use it on the plane if you're cold (a tiny package!) and you will have if it gets cool. Also it's waterproof.
Victorinox's Spectra carry-on weighs only 5.6 lbs and has 8 wheels for maximum maneuverability.
This Biaggi 20" carry-on weighs 7.3 lbs and its sides fold down for storage in those small European hotel rooms you may be encountering.
Have a great time!
Mimi Lombardo is Travel + Leisure's style director.
Packing is rarely easy—we're here to help. Send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.