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Paris, middle aged woman, bags and shoes

Yup, it's another clothing question, but I've read numerous posts and don't yet have a satisfactory answer. So, I'm 46, traveling with hopelessly unfashionable husband, teenage daughter and 12 year old son. Husband and son insist on shiny silver sneakers. This can't be helped. I bought a nice pair of Naot sandals for walking, plan to bring some dress shoes for dining out, and want to bring one more pair of closed-toe walking shoes. Are Privos okay for me? Also, what do teenage girls wear when walking for miles in Paris? My daughter has numerous little unsupportive ballet flats, flip flops and one pair of hideous gym shoes. Finally, what sort of purse do women my age carry? I have some very nice leather bags but they are too heavy for traveling. Would a nylon bag be okay? Finally finally, really, this is it--do we have to have a money belt? I did spend 8 months in Paris as a college student, backpack and all, and was never ripped off once. Have things changed that much in 25 years?

Posted by
10344 posts

I'm not brave enough to give opinions on what you should wear, so I'll just answer your moneybelt question, or rather I'll let Rick Steves answer it, Here's why Rick thinks you should use a money-belt

Posted by
22611 posts

Do you have to have a money belt? No, of course not but many seasoned travelers do. You just need to make sure that you valuables are well secured. It isn't that times have changed but you have changed. Before you were a college student who probably conveyed an image of nothing worth stealing and you probably blended in a little. Today it is family, clearly tourists, and potentially a better target than 25 years ago.

Who says you have to have a purse? ( I know Pat will) My 63 year old wife does not. You might concern a very light small bag or small day bag with essentials that you share with your husband. I am sure you will not win any argument with your daughter about shoes. Let her wear what she wants. It will be a good learning experience. And let them wear their sneakers. It is not what I would recommend but they will look like a lot of other American tourists. There is some safety in numbers.

Posted by
73 posts

Okay, I get what Rick is saying, but how exactly does one use a money belt? "Excuse me, Mme Cashier, while I strip a little and hold up the line so I can access my credit card, which is stored right here in my sweaty money belt?" So I frantically untuck my shirt, revealing the belt as well as a little white (but pretty darn flat) belly with it. Isn't that kind of nasty? I'm not entirely opposed to the idea of using one, I just want to understand how it can be done discreetly by a reserved, non-exhibitionist sort of person.

Posted by
10344 posts

Oh darn, you're onto us. We (half of us, anyway) were hoping you'd show a little skin. Why else would we suggest a money-belt?


Posted by
1806 posts

For your daughter, let her wear her sneakers (no matter how ugly you think they are) during the day while she is sightseeing. For dinner, she can wear the ballet flats. Flip flops are horrible on cobblestone streets and look sloppy in a restaurant.

Middle aged (and young) women in Paris carry all different types of purses made from many types of materials (leather, cotton, nylon, silk, etc.) and in lots of styles (clutches, handbags, shoulder bags, messenger bags). Not everyone is carrying Chanel or Louis Vuitton. Frankly, I think the most useful style of purse that you can carry when you are a tourist is something that has a zipper and a flap covering the zipper that you can place against your body with a strap long enough to go over your shoulder and across your torso. Especially useful if you aren't diligently going to wear a money belt.

Do you have to wear a money belt? No. But if you don't want to wear it, take extra precautions. Don't carry lots of cash - take enough for the day, leave the rest in the hotel safe. Split up your cash and credit cards between yourself and your husband. Carry some cash in your wallet inside your purse and put some in a front pants pocket. Be very aware of your surroundings and your purse/wallet. This applies whether you are in a crowd or just otherwise occupied looking at the sights, talking to your family, shopping or at a restaurant. Don't hang your purse on the back of a chair, leave it on the ground at your feet, or place it next to you on a bench when you stop to rest or eat. Scan copies of your credit cards and email them to yourself before you leave (or leave a copy with a relative back home). If the cards are lost or stolen, you can cancel them quickly.

Posted by
5675 posts

I have tried a variety of purses, healthy back bags, small purses, and money belt. Rick Steves has convinced me that I should do the money belt, but its deep storage. You carry your day's cash with you. You should take two credit cards and you only have one out. Whatever bag you use make sure it's one that comes in front of you.

Shoes, do get a good pair of walking shoes. Paris was very rough on my feet! I loved it, but was glad to have a long train ride to Provence to allow them to recover. ; ) I like Finn Comfort sandals. I found that in the summer I didn't need a closed toe shoe, but I do recommend two pair. What about a sandal with some better support for your daughter? Pam

Posted by
800 posts

Ashley - my take on your questions - fyi I'm 50 and your family sounds EXACTLY like mine down to hopelessly unfashionable husband.

1) Shoes for you - assuming you are traveling in summer, you should be fine with your Naots. I have one pair that I have taken with me to Europe and I can wear them with skirts and pants. Not sure which Privos you mean.

2) Shoes for teenage daughter - Is she asking for shoe advice? Does she regularly have problem walking with whatever she is wearing? My daughter and friends DO seem to be able to walk forever in unsupportive ballet flats & flip flops. If she is a fashion conscious teen I'd advise her to leave the hideous gym shoes at home but otherwise I'd just make it clear that she can bring what she wants, but no complaining. My own daughter usually wears nice (i.e. sturdy) flip flops for all summer walking - including in Europe.

3) I carry a purse for my Europe trips. I like Le Sportsac brand because I don't want my purse to be heavy before I even add the guidebook! The style I like is in lightweight nylon, zipper at the top, wide cloth straps - very comfortable.

4) I don't use a money belt, but I did recommend that daughter use one when she was traveling with friends. She didn't. I do understand that a money belt would be the safest way to carry my money, etc. but I regularly walk around strange US cities without worry, so I don't feel uncomfortable with my purse. Many of the men on this board are of the "why do you need to carry all that stuff" type, but I've carried a purse since I was a teen and am used to it. I think if I were a man I would definitely wear a moneybelt in order to carry my passport and I think a wallet in the pocket is a bigger risk than a closed women's purse.

Have a great trip with your family!

Posted by
11495 posts

Ashely,, we are close in age and family make up.. so this is how I am going to answer your quieries..

1)Let hubby and son wear whatever, it is not worth nagging them, as long as sneaker are comfy,, no whining about sore feet would be my only rule.

2)The type of shoes that are OK for you depend on your feet, I do not like the bumps in Privos,, but many people love them,, go with your comfort.(Ps I have and love Naots too!)

3)Teenage girl,, do not even attempt to get in the fashion discussion with her,, you are old and no doubt dress badly,,, ( I AM JOKING.. but your dd may not be! LOL) . The only thing you INSIST on is that she NOT whine about sore feet. In other words,, make sure she gets that the roads are bumpy and she will walk LOTS and stand IN LINES for hours,, .. so bring at least 2 or 3 choices of shoes she SWEARS are comfy.. ballet flats are great for dinner out,, but not very supportive for long walking days.. . Thing is ,, young people seem not to care about that as much as we do.. This will be a lesson in natural consequences and choice making.. LOL

4)I carry a Derek Alexander nylon canvas shoulder bag, it has a wide adjustable strap so I can wear it messenger bag style( across the chest below hip) ,, very comfy. Bag has a zip and flap top that clips closed.. very safe, and light. You do not need to carry kitche sink with you each day..
I bring a small clutch purse for fancy dinners out( it is about 6 by 10 inches,, tiny and easy to pack.If you do not plan on fancy dinners out ,, you do not need another purse.

5)I am a seasoned traveller, and I do not wear a moneybelt (unless travelling). I also do NOT carry all my eggs in one basket. One days cash, and one CC ,, and my DL. I leave other stuff( cash, other CC , debit card and Passport) in hotel room safes,,I have done this for years. I do wear a moneybelt when travelling though.. as it just makes sense .. keep in mind as a young college student you may not have looked as

Posted by
11495 posts

cont, tempting to a pickpocket 25 yrs ago.. Now, as an obvious tourist middle aged woman herding around hubby and son in silver sneakers and sulking daughter( feet hurt, LOL ) you and yours look alot more tempting.. they will be in hubbys pants too,, so tell him to be dead careful in metro and crowds.. no wallet in pocket..

Have fun,, don't sweat the small stuff. Don't carry all your eggs in one basket, and make sure everyone has at least one guaranteed comfy pair of shoes.. even if they are Crocs( just kidding) LOL

Posted by
9578 posts

Hi Ashley, We are fairly close in age and for travel I use a waterproof nylon purse made by Kipling called the Lancelot Flap Shoulder Bag. It has various sections and a flap over the zipper. It is large enough for a metro map,guidebook, bottle of water and whatever else you might need, but it is not too large. The strap is adjustable so you can wear it over your shoulder or across your body. Mine is black but it comes in quite a few colors. I actually bought mine on sale at my local airport, but I know they sell that brand at Macy's too. I have seen locals carry that brand in Europe and I know I saw then for sale there. Don't worry about your husband and son and what they are wearing. If they look too goofy just walk ahead of them and pretend you don't know them! As for your daughter just let her take what is most comfortable for her. If she thinks she can walk in ballet flats and flip flops, let her try. Paris is full of stairs, cobblestones, etc. Worse comes to worse, she can get some new shoes there. Then at home she can tell everyone she got them in Paris... :)

Posted by
273 posts

I wore a pair of clarks unloop shoes for walking and with a pair of black tights they were nice enough for dining out as well. Even your naot sandals with black tights (if the shoes are black) would be fine. I am never without my purse but the first time I went to Europe I sent it home, too much trouble to worry about. I wore a money belt but hated it! I now have 2 paid of Magellans pants with security pockets big enough to hold one of their flat wallets for my my cash, credit cards & passport. I put my tiny camera, glasses, guide book and whatever i.e.rain pancho, umbrella or tshirt in a rick steves day pack and carry it in front with twist ties on the zippers (less obvious than a padlock) when in crowds. Less shoes are less weight to drag around. 3 pairs seem like too many. My husband lives in his sneakers but actually bought a paid of Keens Venice for our trip and now he loves them because you can wear with or without socks. On the moneybelt question - Rick does make one that you wear around your neck under your shirt or dress.

Posted by
9363 posts

Ashley, you are completely missing the point of a moneybelt. It isn't SUPPOSED to be accessed in public. You don't put your daily money/CC in there, only what you want to keep in "deep storage". If it is necessary to access it during the day, you should do so in a restroom or other private location. Yes, it would be nasty to dig it out in front of a cashier (or anyone) -- it's supposed to be concealed.

Posted by
73 posts

Nancy, thanks so much--I assumed I wasn't getting something regarding the purpose of a money belt--that's why I was wondering how on earth they were to be used. I've been all over Europe, Mexico, Venezuela (in the days before kids), and never saw one being used. Now I know why. Thanks for clearing that up!

Posted by
360 posts

My favorite purses to carry are very small with a strap that crosses my chest. They hold cell phone, small notebook & pen, coin purse & a few other small items. They're both made of leather. When I'm in Paris, I don't carry much. But speaking of purses, they make a great souvenier. I've bought one during my last two trips. One in Amsterdam from a Dutch designer & one in Paris bought at the Bon Marche. I think of my trips when I use them.

Posted by
768 posts

The actual name of the type of purse that many have mentioned is called a "cross body". Worn over shoulder, they are fairly flat so they lay comfortably in front of your body where you can easily rest your hand on it in a crowd. I found a great one at Eddie Bauer for my upcoming trip. I also reall like the ones made by Fossil and Kipling. P.S. I've seen both brands being sold at Marshalls. I will also have a moneybelt AND a bra pouch (I found that at an AAA travel store). Don't know if I'll use them all at once, I'll just have to see what works when I get there!

Posted by
1776 posts

Buy a jacket with low front pockets that either zip or close with a button. The pockets should be large enough to hold a small credit-card wallet and possibly your passport if you aren't leaving it in a safe. This is what I use and I have never been pick-pocketed, although years ago my son had his hat stolen by a little gypsy girl outside Notre Dame.

Posted by
2020 posts

Your teenaged daughter might like to get some Converse high tops in a bright color, or black -- these were popular with young women all over Paris when I was there last year -- I think this style is still happening all over.

Posted by
842 posts

We just got back from Paris a couple of weeks ago.

Your husband and son will blend right in with everyone else if they are wearing jeans and matter what style. They will look out of place in a fasionable restaurant, but I would not worry about it. Tell them NO bill fold...period. I like a neck purse....and can't stand a money belt.

Everyone walks around town with a backpak. My wife refuses to use a money belt, and wears a backpak (a messsanger bag would be the same), so I follow behind her when we are in crowds. She is 52, and wore her jeans and Asic tennis shoes exploring during the day, and changed to fasionable sandals etc. at night. This is her standard outfit in Europe.

Your daughter.........let her wear whatever she wants. When her feet fall off, take her shopping. But she might surprise you, and handle everything in stride.

The most importnat thing to remember is to have fun, and be comfortable. Paris is like any other city in the world. You can dress as casual as you like, or wear formal attire, and fit right in.

Posted by
1300 posts

I have a nylon purse from LL Bean that I carry when I travel as it is lightweight. I would only take two pairs of shoes - you probably don't need the dress shoes. I don't use a money belt either but have microfiber slacks, also from LL Bean, that have a zippered pocket that works great for travel days or other days where I'm in crowds. I put my passport, credit card, and larger bills in the zip section and it works great. The slacks look great and do not wrinkle, even after a long flight.

Posted by
964 posts

Take no shoes, buy some in Paris!
Only kidding;) But I did see some wonderful shoes of all kinds while I was there 3 weeks ago!

Posted by
1589 posts

Ashley, I believe that you are a born story teller with a great sense of humor. Don't forget to jot down a few notes each day, so that you can write a book once you return! Another Erma Bombeck? Have a great trip (but wear the money belt)!

Posted by
262 posts

I always wear a money belt and do not carry a purse.
For me less is best. Just be discreet when getting into it. I like to walk around carrying as little as possible. I don't carry heavy guide books either. I copy any pages that I think I will need as well as a laminated map of the city that I am visiting. I have learned over the many years of traveling, that you will have a much better time with a small suitcase and no purse. I mostly wear my Mephistos all the time. They can be dressed up for evening. I may bring another pair of shoes but that's it.
I learned a long time ago, after getting my arm caught in a train door in Milan trying to get my 30 inch suitcase and other bags on the train, that I would never travel like that again. I bring clothes that can be washed and hung up to dry. I have never regretted my decision to carry a 22 inch bag. I get on and off a train without hurting myself.
Comfort is the most important factor for me. I don't wear tons of make-up or do anything fancy with my hair on vacation either. Let your family wear whatever is comfortable to each of them, but no complaining allowed! Life long lessons will be learned through travel. Flip flops will kill your feet on the cobblestone streets.

Happy Travels!

Posted by
26 posts

Hi Ashley,

We are going to France in the Fall and I finally found the perfect pair of shoes. I ordered a pair of Privos from Zappos and although they were super-cute the heel gave me immediate blisters so I sent them back. I just received my pair of Keens in a Mary-Jane style and not only are they very supportive and comfy they go with dresses, capris and everything in-between. Incidentally if you have not shopped at I highly recommend them. They have free shipping delivery AND return. The shoes will literally arrive 24 hours after you order them too. Freakishly fast!! They have about 160,000 shoes so they are perfect for hard-to-find quality travel shoes. There are also customer reviews for each pair of shoes which seem to be right-on-the-money. Have a fantastic trip and don't sweat the small stuff! :)

Posted by
35 posts

Hi Ashley,

We leave Sunday for Paris and than to Italy for 2 weeks. I have much the same problems/concerns as you but with 2 teenage boys. My advice is regarding the money belt. We do plan to take 2 but time will tell how much we use them. I also have a new pair of ballett style Privos but my main shoes are a great pear of supportive eChos.

I have bought a great bag called Pac Safe. My sister in law swears by them (has several) and they can be bought at most travel stores. They come in a variety of sizes and types and while the look like a nylon bag they has wire cable and mesh woven in so they are slash proof and cannot be cut off your shoulder. Lots of easily accessible compartments with zippers. Good luck!

Posted by
3 posts

My family and I just spent last weekend in Paris. Metro, tons of walking, museums, etc...and were quite safe. You will notice a lot of begging going on though. My 12 year old daughter wore her Chucks and fit right in. You'll be suprised at the variety of clothing style and lack there of! We saw everything from ladies on bicycles with skirts and heels to flip flops and shorts. It was harder for me to tell the locals from some of the tourists this time around!(dress wise). I agree with the above posts, comfort in the shoe department over rules all else. No money belts. My husband kept his 'thinned-down' wallet in his front pocket and I have a smaller purse which has a long strap so I can wear it across my chest and hold onto the strap when in crowds.
Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
59 posts

Hi Ashley I am a police officer and have been an attempted victim twice in Paris for pick pockets. One guy had a sore face I am sure for a few days and the other was quick in getting out of my grasp after I grabbed his hand and he took off before I could encourage him to not do such bad things. They didnt get anything but tried,so yes it does happen. I wear a moneybelt under my jeans or pants with my passport, debit card and credit card and also large bills. I keep 50-60 Euro in a front pocket but do not carry a wallet. My daughter is very fashionable as it sounds like you are and she wears the Rick Steves neck wallet carried across her shoulder under her armpit under her blouse or top and it cant be seen at all (has a nice long strap). She keeps her passport and large bills in it and since it is silk she says it is very comfortable. Have a great time

Posted by
1951 posts

You may consider a neck pouch rather than a moneybelt...for yourself a/or husband. We found them convenient and comfortable. I think mine is Lewis N Clark. At some point I suppose it does require one to delve into one's anatomy, but such are the rigors of travel. They saved us a lot of worry. We have traveled a lot recently and I can assure you there are stories out, cameras, the works...all gone in the blink of an eye. And don't sweat the guys''ll see as many sneakers there as here at home. True.

Posted by
61 posts

I'm traveling to Paris and the south of France later in the year and finally found a bag that meets all my requirements – a Hobo Par Tour black nylon bag. Although a little larger, it is nice enough to pass for a normal handbag. It is 14.5x14.5x4" but expands to accommodate my rather large digital camera. It has a top zipper, an outside map pouch with a velcro flat, 2 outside zippered pockets, and one without. I like these, so I can locate my cell phone and other small items quickly. It has both a removable hand strap and a removable adjustable shoulder strap (I like to wear bags over my shoulder, especially when not with my spouse). Either strap can be placed on a choice of two sets of metal side rings, allowing the top of the bag to fold down when on the lower rings. Also the top zipper is close enough to one of the metal rings so you can connect them with a small lock or a removable hook. This keeps out curious hands. The bag is light and lies flat in my suitcase. I sometimes pack a very small, flat handbag to carry at night.

Posted by
9 posts

Don't worry about the guys, comfort is important. They sound a bit of an eyesore, but...

As for your daughter, I would let her be too and wear shoes she wants, BUT perhaps pack her gym shoes (if she won't) yourself if you can, would you rather hear her whine the whole trip from sore feet or be "hero mom" for thinking of plan B. You generally don't want to break in new shoes on a trip either.

I'm not far off from you! I'm turning 42 this year and wear mostly pants/jeans, I've never worn a money belt, too uncomfortable and bulky (sorry Steve!), I had a neck pouch once as a young backpacker..UGH! Instead I carry my credit card, cash, etc, in my front pants pocket. For a travel purse, I like the heavy nylon styles from Eddie Bauer. My travel and everyday purses ALWAYS have a strap long enough to wear across my body, I don't like shoulder bags, plus it leaves my hands/arms free. TravelSmith sells some that have hidden cut-proof wires in the straps. Just like anywhere you travel, be conscious of your surroundings and try not to stand out like a sore thumb, don't flash around wads of money or big bills. Tell your husband to put his wallet in front pants pocket too. You can always stash some money in your shoes, most have removable insoles, a good "in case of emergency" spot.

As for shoes, I really like Merrells, I love the Jungle Mocs, they also make great sandals/flip flops too. I've never heard of Naot to give an opinion.

Posted by
515 posts

Wouldn't keep anything of value in front or back pants pockets. Only money belts for us. I wear a lightweight cross-body bag for toting the things women like to tote, with a small compartment for my small digital camera, so that I am hands free, but can clutch bag closely if necessary, but passport, credit and debit cards stay in money belt...just a daily amt of Euros handy in my bag. I've read too many posts on the helpline and graffiti wall of folks who just lost everything, with awful scenarios of time and money lost trying to replace everything. I am one of those better be safe than sorry kind of folks. The only adventure I want is the good kind.

Posted by
59 posts

Finally someone with common sense! Nice to hear from you Terry, the police officer. Even a rough and tough cop, someone who deals with bad guys all the time, uses his brain and wears a money belt.

My husband and I always wear our money belts overseas and mine is so comfortable, I hardly know that I am wearing it. Now what I mean by money belts are neck pouches, belts with zippers, waist pouches, all of these I consider money belts.

We never leave our room without it and our original passport. Not all the accomodations we use have an inroom safe or an office safe, so it's always with us. Many times we have been asked for our originals and were happy to have it and not a copy.

Posted by
80 posts

we just got back from Paris. My 15 year old daughter wore flipflops the whole time. My 14 year old daughter wore sneakers.

Parisians don't care about the tourists in general, let alone what they are wearing. I looked around and saw mostly black or dark clothing. My kakhi pants stuck out. We had no problems with pickpockets, i kept my money in a zippered pants pocket, and used ATMS. You will look like tourists whatever you wear so don't sweat about it. Be prepared for crowds of tourists.

We found the French in the coutryside and smaller towns very nice to us, but the Parisians were too busy getting to work at 10 then sitting in a cafe for two hours at lunch and then sitting around again at 5:30 to care about the tourists. And there are lots of tourists.

Sacre Coure church is a long wait. you have to go thru metal detectors, make sure you are in the right line because one line is for the courthouse or something.

THe hop on hop off bus is unreliable, we waited way too long for busses and wasted a lot of time at the bus stops and they stop running at 5:30. way too early for tourists.