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Over packer needs help

I confess, I am a heavy packer and if I could magically pack my entire bedroom in my suitcase I would. I am headed to London and France (Normandy & Paris) in November and trying to be more strategic about my packing methods. I plan on bringing 1 large suitcase and I'll have a washer and dryer in my flat.

What should I bring and what can stay at home? Should I bring an umbrella or would a jacket with hood work? Are gloves necessary? How cold does it really get? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


Posted by
991 posts

In November I would want to have gloves. It could get pretty chilly. I always bring an umbrella, but you don't necessarily need to bring one because you can always buy one there. If you are going to have a washer and dryer, the best thing to cut back on is duplicate clothes. Pick a few outfits that can mix and match and leave the rest at home. The packing lists you find on this website can be helpful to consider. I pack just 2 or 3 pairs of pants and 4 tops, a jacket, a scarf or two, walking shoes and one pair of shoes that can be dressier. It gets a little old always wearing the same few outfits, but it is well worth it to me to not have to lug around heavy luggage.

Posted by
2393 posts

November can rainy too. We've gone in January several times the weather is similar but perhaps a bit colder. You won't see a lot of hard rain but misting & light rain is frequent. Days can be overcast but we have also experienced a sunny day here & there too. Days are also growing shorter.

I always had a 3/4 length coat - nice & warm on the legs when walking around. Be sure & have a warm hat. scarf, gloves and comfortable warm waterproof shoes/boots - it really is no fun if you are cold.

I tend to be hot - all of the time - so I just wear a shirt & pants under my coat so when I go indoors I do not have to strip off several layers to get comfortable.

You do not NEED as many clothes as you think you might - repeating is fine - no one but you will notice.

Posted by
14175 posts

Agree with Christi about not needing as many clothes as you think you might, especially in winter. Every picture you have will probably be you in a coat, gloves and a hat, lol!

You are going to wear your coat so that wont be packed. If you take an umbrella, take a small light one that will go in your purse in a ziplock bag. Keep the ziplock in your purse so if you've been using the umbrella and go in to a building you can shove it back in the ziplock in your purse without getting anything wet.

I also agree about being cautious about layers. I try to wear layers I can take off which means no base layers unless I am doing an outdoor athletic activity otherwise I will be too hot when I go inside. I wear a waterproof layer and a fleece layer and I make sure they have full zippers (not the 1/4 zip pull overs) so I can vent them more effectively. You may be more sensitive to cold than I am, though.

Do you have your packing list started? Do you want to post that so we can offer suggestions or would you prefer not to get it picked apart? Having the washer and dryer will definitely allow you to pack lighter. In winter you may have those nice heated towel racks in the hotel in London which will make it easier to dry your clothes.

Posted by
4132 posts

In 2 weeks that time of year, you should expect some days of cold and/or wet. But of course the mystery is what about other days?

Here are some low-bulk items of clothing that can add warmth in a pinch: lightweight long underwear, either "wicking" polypro or silk, and a fleece headband and thin wool watch cap. Carry the cap with you and deploy as needed for extra warmth. Layer other stuff as appropriate to the forecast.

The point is that having a combination of layers appropriate for every likely day will be less bulky than having 3 different jackets appropriate for every likely day.

For you I suspect the issue is what not to bring. If you have access to laundry you can do a load ever other day, so no need to bring your whole wardrobe. No more than 2 pair of shoes, one of which is on your feet.

Posted by
5697 posts

And going the other way -- I tend to overheat so I take along one or two sleeveless tops to wear under a sweater in case I need to strip off the outer layers.

Warm socks!! Gloves!! Muffler!!

Posted by
1194 posts

Your problem is that you are taking outfits instead of a capsule wardrobe with clothing that can mix / match / layer for multiple outfits and multiple temperature ranges. You can get a beautiful set of outfits from just a few well coordinated pieces and accessories. As mentioned by others, your coat is a key component as you'll be wearing it a lot. Make sure it is waterproof (not water resistant) and use scarves to change up the look.

I would do the following:
1) Google "capsule wardrobe for vacation" - this will give you plenty of ideas of how women pack for weeks at a time only using a few pieces of clothing.

2) Google "packing for two climates" - this will give you ideas on how to layer for differing temperatures / weather.

3) Download the packing list from

Posted by
796 posts

Hi Stacey. I too was once an overpacker. A few Rick Steve's tours changed that.

First a few basics. I use a packing list that is a combination of Rick's list and travelfashiongirl (dot) com's list. Travel fashion girl has lists for many seasons and locations. I use her list that has 15 clothing items, tweaking them for my lifestyle. I make a word doc sheet and print it to take along which helps when moving locations; I put it in some tiny boxes to check off each item each time I pack up, maybe overkill, but when electronics are at different plug ins, etc.

I have been in Paris in October and the temperature was quite variable. I had to buy some light knit gloves, so I suggest bringing them. I will bring a beret that I bought in Paris. I pack a raincoat with a hood and bring a travel umbrella. You might choose to buy a cheap umbrella on arrival.

To find the temperature during your stay, use the wunderground site and the trip planner allows you to put in dates and location. It will give the temperature, rain, wind data for the last 10 years.

I will be in Paris this November too! I am planning to wear my Scottevest Chloe hoodie with my raincoat over it. And lots of layers.

Have a great trip.

Posted by
502 posts

Carol, 4 pairs of jeans? I found that the two pairs I had were more than enough. In fact, I only worse one most of the 3 weeks and my hiking pants.

Posted by
14175 posts

I don't see that anyone added a link to which is another good capsule wardrobe site. Look on the right side of her page and click on the Packing label. She is way dressier than I am, but I like her suggestions and can usually translate that to a much more casual wardrobe that will suit me.

Posted by
507 posts

Speaking for the jacket w/hood . . . Would a water resistant jacket w/a zip-out liner be helpful for Stacey?

Thank you for the links to packing light some have furnished. I will cross reference them w/RS list.

Posted by
503 posts

We prefer to travel in the late fall/winter season and we always do carry on so I've learned a few things about how to pack for variable weather conditions! So, for whatever it's worth, here are my suggestions:
Start with shoes. You will need 2 pairs of comfortable walking shoes - try and pick one pair that is "dressier". For me this means a pair of born walking shoes (black) and black low heeled ankle boots -wear one on the plane and pack one. If you are doing carry on only, any more than 2 pairs will be a true challenge and from my experience, not necessary. We dined in some very nice restaurants, and never felt underdressed.
Next up - bottoms. At this time of year, pants/jeans will probably be your best bet, but if you only wear skirts, you can make that work as well. Choose bottoms in 1 or 2 neutrals - I"ve found 3 - 4 pairs works well over a 3 week trip. My standard pack list includes 2 pairs of jeans and 1 - 2 pair of "dressier" jeans/pants.
From there, you'll need tops/sweaters. I generally pack 3 long sleeved t's, 1 v neck merino pullover and if it's really chilly, a merino turtleneck and 1 cardigan (I wear the second one on the plane). The t's are always white, dark grey and black, and the sweaters are teal, burgundy and dark grey. Rounding things out, I add 1 pair of moisture wicking long underwear, 3 prs. sock and underwear, and two of Uniqlo's heat tech long sleeved t shirts (like long underwear shirts). With this selection I can go from low 60's (t shirt and cardigan) to low 30's - uniqlo shirt and long underwear, turtleneck, v neck and either cardigan and coat or just coat on top. 1 bra and pj's complete the list along with 2 scarves for color and warmth - 1 thicker and one thinner so I have a choice depending on the weather. Gloves are stashed in the zippered pockets of my lined raincoat. Using packing cubes, this fits in my 19 inch carry on. Bottom line, I bring a variety of clothing items - t shirts, pullover, turtleneck and cardigans that can be layered if needed to accommodate various weather conditions.

Posted by
2081 posts

Stacey ,

look at packing as an iterative process, not a one time thing.

Lay out what you "think" you want to bring and then pack it into the bag.

Pack starting several weeks before you go and see how it works out for you. Then stew about it and what you packed. Examine what you have and what you can do without. Then remove that stuff you think you can do without and go from there.

i try not to bring a jacket/coat/vest for every occasion. Mind you im a male, so fashion isnt in my library of style. But i will bring one jacket that will do it all. Waterproof, windproof, breathable, w/hood and pack-able. I will also wear that jacket on board the flights so i DONT have to put it in my bag. Same with my bulkiest pair of shoes. I wear them on board.

ive been also trying "travel" clothes to see how well they work as advertised. I find that the synthetics do "breath" and dry faster and are lighter weight (less bulk) than wearing jeans or cotton stuff. Ive also switched to marino wool socks and t-shirts (so far). I find that they dry fast and if i miss a wash, they dont smell either. Also, if my wool sox get wet, they dont feel cold.

i also plan my washing days so that i can minimize how much clothes i need to bring.

happy trails.

Posted by
2145 posts

Hi Stacey, I overpacked for my first trip to Europe (I took a 28 inch suitcase and several pairs of jeans!) and it wasn't fun dragging all that stuff on planes, trains, and through 4 countries... Over the years I've worked to get it down to a 21" rolling carry on (I check it) and it's much improved my travels. I make a packing list, review it on the way home, and always find things that I could have left out. The Vivienne Files site mentioned above was very helpful as it showed how to mix and match things. This year I did 3 weeks in France and was a little worried about packing so light. I laid out the various pants and tops and took photos of the "outfits" with my I-pad. That helped me realize that I really did have enough stuff. You will need warmer clothing for November but you can wear your coat on the plane and take a few layers to warm up if necessary. Having access to a washer and dryer is a luxury and should enable you to really cut down on what you're carrying. Good luck!

Posted by
5 posts

As a confirmed over-packer, I firmly believe that I exist to keep bellmen in business! Having said that, I traveled for two weeks without access to washer & dryer, in a 20" rollaboard and a small shoulder duffle. I'm a shopper, so I packed the rollaboard into a larger (empty) suitcase and checked it. That empty bag was my souvenir bag. It was cheaper to pay the money to ship back an extra bag than it was to mail items back to the States. For the plane, I had the shoulder duffle and a small tote/purse. Those contained a change of clothes, my toiletries and my electronics.

I bought Rick's packing cubes, and all my clothes fit into the large one and a smaller one. A pair of black pants, a pair of black jeans, a pair of blue jeans and maybe a pair of long knit yoga pants for sleeping and to hang out around the flat in should be plenty. Choose the lightest knits you can find - use 3/4 sleeve shirts or long-sleeve shirts under a light sweater - under your coat. Don't try to bring bulky clothes. You can always buy something heavier there if you're freezing!

There are cute TINY umbrellas, and I brought one of those. I would recommend a waterproof jacket with a hood. Bring a thin scarf - like a pashmina-type. You can use it as a muffler, a shawl over another jacket, a light wrap, even as a headscarf. It will roll up into a sandwich-size baggie. Also bring a giant thin pareo-like scarf. Again - it goes in a sandwich baggie. It's your blanket on the plane, your throw in your room, even an extra light blanket on your bed.

I found you can easily pick up more shampoo, etc. But things like Tylenol, Immodium, etc, were harder to come by. Bring your own little baggie of OTC meds. One pair of sturdy walking shoes, one pair of walking shoes that can also go out to dinner and a pair of flip-flops for the shower and for use as bedroom slippers is enough. Don't take a lot of jewelry! I'd leave the "good stuff" at home and take only costume stuff you don't mind losing - and not much of that. Download your books to your iPhone/iPad with the Kindle app. Upload any documents that you might need to a Dropbox account that you can access from your i-devices. Your photos can also be set up to upload to Dropbox when you sync your device.

Bottom line, pack it all and then take half of it out. I did that over and over and still didn't use half of what I took. Good luck!!

Posted by
2764 posts

For packing light my hint is "start at the bottom" Limit yourself to no more then two pair of shoes. Everything has to go with BOTH paris. You will be a amazed at what that starts to cut out. That "cute skirt" that requires the special red shoes... gone LOL! For an upcoming 7 day trip to Spain I am planning to take three bottoms and wear one. And that's more then I would take if it was cold. (I am adding a "skort" simply because it looks VERY hot. If things cool down then it won't hit the suitcase.