So you want to know what to pack for France? France is one place that you can easily overthink when it comes to packing. From stylish cities to picture perfect villages to beautiful beach towns, where you go in France will help you choose what to pack. There are a few things to keep in mind to pack perfectly. So here’s what to pack for France, and as we love packing light, here’s our carry-on only version (with printable packing list at the end of the post).
Things To Consider When Packing For France
The main things to consider when packing for France is where you’re going in France, when you’re going, what things you will be doing in France and the culture. Oh, and of course, not to overpack 😉
If you’re only going to Paris then you’ll probably pack things that are a little more dressy then say if you’re also going to the French Riviera, where stylish beach clothes are completely acceptable. But really, this is pretty straight forward.
The time of year you visit France is a big factor on what you decide to pack. Summers can be fairly hot, whilst winters fairly cold. Autumn and Spring can be mixed so it’s best to think layers.
What you choose to do in France will also help you decide what to pack for France. Of course this all may not be planned before you go but some things are a given, the rest you can figure out based on your own preferences. For example, if you’re visiting the French Riviera then you will most likely be going to the beach, thus slightly more casual but stylish beach clothes are fine. At the same time, if you’re a person who loves to go for long walks or hikes, then packing your joggers if you know an opportunity may come up makes sense.
You also need to consider the culture. In France, I think the main cultural aspect is how they choose to dress. I feel like it’s easy to overthink what to pack for France as they’re known as such a well-dressed nation. But don’t let it put you off. If you think simple, classic styles then you will be fine.
Something that changed the way I travel is packing light. It seriously makes things so much easier. From getting around on trains in France, from negotiating the streets with luggage, not to mention stairs, particularly if you stay in a Parisian apartment with Airbnb, travelling light makes all these things easier.
What To Pack For France
When packing light, I always try to pack no more than 4 pairs of shoes, but 2 – 3 is best. This will depend on time of year, places you’re visiting and activities. For walking around cities like Paris, Lyon and Strasbourg, I would recommend ballet flats or flat boots for colder months. For coastal areas like the French Riviera, I would recommend thongs (flip-flops) for the beach and sandals for the evening. I’ve heard people say not to pack joggers for France, in particular Paris, but these are my thoughts. If walking around the city for the day, invest in some comfortable ballet flats or similar. But if you want to get up early and go for a morning walk in the park, absolutely pack joggers. If you feel like you will go for a hike somewhere in France, then definitely put them in.
Although France is known to be fashionable, there’s no need to overthink what to wear. Think simple and classic and you will be fine. Less is more. Think things that flatter you and fit well rather than brand names and trends. Pack something a little dressier for dinner. Think layers in autumn and spring, coats and long pants in winter, and dresses and skirts more than shorts in summer. But basically, you don’t need to change how you dress, just be mindful of what items of clothing you have that you decide to put in your suitcase. Sticking to a colour scheme can also help.
What to pack for France in the warmer months…
What to pack for France in the colder months…
Swimwear is something I always like to pack, of course with the exception being in colder months, unless you’re staying in a hotel with a heated pool. But basically, even if you don’t visit the coast, you may have a pool in your hotel. Or you may plan an impromptu day trip to the coast and wish you had your swimmers. If you’re not spending much time on the coast then one pair of swimmers is fine, but if you know you have some beach time ahead, then two will be better.
For the colder months/areas I would add in a scarf, beanie, gloves and compact umbrella.
If you pack carry-on only, you need to keep toiletries to below 100ml, or you can buy certain toiletries once you get to France. Things like toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner can be easily bought in France at a supermarket or pharmacy, or you can pack travel size or decant your own from home. Other things to pack include toothbrush, deodorant, shaving items, hairbrush, hair ties, cleanser, moisturiser and makeup. For makeup I keep it simple and pack CC cream, mascara and eyeliner.
For France in particular, there is so much you can buy when you get there. I usually use it as an opportunity to visit the French Pharmacy and stock up on moisturisers, cleansers, and other skincare and toiletries.
I usually always pack the basics like paracetamol, Ibuprofen, cold and flu tablets, Imodium, simple first aid (bandaids, tweezers, Betadine/antiseptic). I also pack probiotics and vitamin C and take them regularly.
If you take prescription medication, make sure to pack enough for your entire trip, plus a little more, just in case. Always pack this in your carry-on so it’s with you at all times. If you need to refrigerate medications make sure to have an appropriate case to pack them in, you can also ask for ice on the plane and make sure to book accommodation with a fridge. If your room does not have a fridge, the hotel may be able to store it for you.
Before I travelled full-time working as I go, I would try to avoid packing as many electronics as possible. But now, I need to pack a phone, laptop, camera, and chargers. If you’re not working, then a laptop is probably not necessary.
But I have found a phone to be quite useful, particularly for maps. If you bring an unlocked phone to France you can pick up a local sim card. We have used Lycamobile, but Orange is also a popular one.
Obviously this is ‘what to pack for Italy carry-on only’, so we would say bring a carry-on bag only ? We both have a carry-on bag, then I have a handbag and Chris has a small backpack.
A small backpack is essential for day trips and long days out exploring.
The essentials for every trip, Passport, Visa, flight tickets, accommodation booking details, travel insurance documents, credit and debit cards, drivers license (photo ID). I also have soft copy of travel documents.
It’s always handy to have a small amount of local currency when you arrive. Otherwise, there will be ATMS at the airport and in the cities where you can access money using a debit card.
How To Pack For France Carry-On Only
If packing light is new to you, the simplest guide that helps me pack light is to stick to 20 clothing items (including shoes), not including underwear. Usually, as long as you mix and match, 20 items gives you both lots of different outfits as well as keeping it light. Find all my absolute favourite tips about packing light and how to get in the packing light mindset here.
Another item which helps me to pack light is using packing cells/cubes. This way everything is organised and it helps me to make sure I’m not packing too much of one thing. I try to keep them in categories, so I know if all my tops don’t fit in one cell for example, I’ve packed way too much and need to remove some tops.
If you’re new to packing light, I know you’re wondering if it’s even possible, and trust me, it is! We have been travelling full-time carry-on only for over a year, travelling to multiple different countries in different seasons. There’s not been a time when I’ve felt like I didn’t have what I need, it’s both amazing what you can fit in a carry-on, and how little you actually need. You will even have room to buy some amazing clothes or other items and bring them back. It’s so possible.
Printable France Packing List
Get your free printable France Packing List here to help you choose what to pack for France.