The savvy traveller’s guide to… Packing for France: carry-on luggage

The savvy traveller's guide to packing for France - carry-on luggage - travel - MyFrenchLife.orgWhen most people travel, they tend to overestimate the amount of clothes, shoes, reading material and gadgets that they’ll need.

The trick is to get creative, mixing and matching your outfits – take only what you need!

Not convinced packing light is best? Here’s a few reasons for travelling with only carry-on luggage.

4 reasons carry-on is best

1. Flexibility

Imagine your flight’s delayed, or worse cancelled, and you’re stuck in an airport lounge while your luggage sits on the runway?

With only carry-on luggage you’ve got the flexibility of changing flights, and whoosh, you’re away.

2. Style

For a more stylish entrance into the French capital we suggest choosing a lightweight, preferably fabric, bag that’s big enough to fit your attire but small enough to carry conveniently on the Metro.

Remember, there’s nothing glamorous about dragging your luggage across cobblestones and heaving it up six flights of stairs when you arrive.

Packing light is far more appealing than carting around something the size of a fridge on wheels. Large bags also announce to the world that you are a tourist and you run the risk of being identified as such by con artists and thieves.

3. Brevity

Avoid the queue. Wouldn’t you rather spend time at the carousel at Jardin du Luxembourg than the one at the airport?

4. Freedom

“Paging all passengers recently arrived on flight [insert #] from [insert country of origin]…” Avoid being told your bags are now holidaying in Hawaii.

Moynat - The savvy traveller's guide to packing for France - carry-on luggage - travel -

How to choose the perfect carry-on luggage

It’s worth investing in a good travel bag. The few extra units of currency you’ll spend might save you in the long run.

With limited room to stash your purchases you’re far less likely to indulge in frivolous spending whilst on holiday.

Three golden rules

When choosing your bag, look for the following:

  • Light weight
  • Made from quality materials, and
  • One that goes with your outfit (laugh all you want, but remember where you’re travelling)


moynat - The savvy traveller's guide to packing for France - carry-on luggage - travel - MyFrenchLife.orgSome of the bright coloured numbers with oversized name tags on the market scream tourist. Look for a bag you’d feel proud of taking out in your home town.

Some travel guides will tell you to purchase a bright purple leopard print design to make it easy to spot on the baggage carrousel. For one, you are not going to need to wait for your luggage as it will be with you at all times, and two, do I need to say any more?

Wheels or no wheels?

Moynat - moynat - The savvy traveller's guide to packing for France - carry-on luggage - travel - MyFrenchLife.orgIf you’re going to get carry-on luggage with wheels make sure they are the heavy duty sort that can cope with the French terrain, cheep plastic wheels are a definite no-no as you’ll soon end up carrying your wheel-along or leaving a trail or scratch marks behind you.

Wheels can be handy when you’re walking through airports, but once you get to street level they are of limited use given the number of stairs, curbs and cobblestones you’ll have to navigate. Bags with built in wheels are also heavier than their non-rollable counterparts, and tend not to have as much space for your items. My preference, however is to have wheels no matter how light you can pack.

The layout

Before purchasing, also consider how many pockets are inbuilt and how you’ll get easy access to things like your passport, tickets, wallet etc.

One last thing, prior to purchasing, remember to check with your airline what sized bag you’re allowed to take on board and what weight restrictions apply.

What is your ‘must have’ feature on a travel bag? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Image credits:
1. Parmiter Antiques Southsea Luggage, by Thor via Flickr.
2-4. Norma Thiessen for

About the Contributor

Judy MacMahon

Experience FRANCE beyond the CLICHÉ with MyFrenchLife is for Curious Savvy Francophiles wherever you are. Meet Francophiles in France, online, and/or wherever you live. You’re very welcome to join us - Judy MacMahon -

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  1. Bethany Keats May 14, 2014 at 9:24 PM - Reply

    If flying through Heathrow, skip the toiletries in the carry-on. I learned the hard way that there aren’t any showers so all the toiletries I had packed were a waste of space/weight.

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