How to Pack for France: A Packing List for Paris & Beyond

Stacey Ebert

Known for liberty, equality, and fraternity, France invites visitors into a world of sophistication, snowy and sun-filled retreats, an incredible history of art, architecture and governance, and of course, wine and cheese. Situated in western Europe, this country  boasts a culture all its own.

“I’m going to France,” means something different to each and every traveler. Perhaps it’s your first experience abroad after university. Maybe you’re headed to the City of Love to eat your weight in macaroons, crepes, and croissants. Or, perhaps you’re taking on the slopes at Chamonix, tasting sparkling goodness in Champagne, studying history at Normandy, or having a picnic on the grounds of the Eiffel Tower. Whatever you fancy – France can provide.

Paris was one of my first stops in Europe. I remember the feeling of landing at Charles de Gaulle Airport, and heading out into the cultured mecca of Paris. I can still see the baguette and cheese in my hand, the entertaining buskers in the city square, and the glittering strip of lights along the Champs-Elysees. We sunned ourselves on the sandy beaches of Cannes, ate more crepes than we knew what to do with and spent one sunny afternoon strolling the rocky shores of Nice’s Cote d’Azur. Regardless of the reasons you’re headed to France, your voyage begins before you get that passport stamped. Dream up your favorite sort of experience, research city and countryside excursions, figure out what to pack, and get ready for adventure.

What to Pack for France: The Essentials

Whenever you set off on the trip of a lifetime, there are a few things you can’t forget. These are the all important items to shove in the bag that never leaves your side. Documentation, identity paperwork, medications, and tech; these are the things that are often hardest to replace.

  • Wallet: With ID, passport, & an extra copy of front page of your passport
  • Travel documents: Including travel insurance and visa documents if you need them
  • Medications: Daily, necessary, and allergy – carry extras & copies of prescriptions 
  • Necessary tech: Chargers & converters – double check compatibility & converters

Personal Item: Don’t Let it Out of Your Sight

If you’re flying to France, you’ll want to think carefully about packing that personal item. This is the bag you’ll have with you on the plane, and the daypack you’ll carry on your urban adventures once you arrive.

Keep in mind the necessities you might want on hand for the flight, as well as immediately upon arrival, and don’t forget to check the weather at your destination. If choosing to check a bag, be even more intentional when packing that personal item. We’ve all dealt with a situation where the airline loses luggage, or we know someone who has; be prepared to live out of that precious personal item for a day or two! Of course, you can avoid that altogether, save time, money, and hassle by packing lighter in a carry on sized travel backpack.

What to Pack in a Personal Item or Daypack

  • Mini first aid kit (including sea/car sickness tablets)
  • Liquids bag (follow 3:1:1 guidelines)
  • Change of clothes
  • Headphones
  • Sunscreen
  • Gum or mints
  • Sunglasses
  • Lip balm
  • Unscented lotion, essential oils
  • Antibacterial or baby wipes (a must for Paris ventures – limited public toilet options available)
  • Fuzzy socks or flip-flops (for the flight)
  • Scarf (lightweight and medium weight), pashmina, or travel blanket
  • Makeup
  • Mini flash light
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Contact lenses & travel size solution, or glasses
  • Tissues
  • Lacrosse or tennis ball (eases back pain and tight muscles)

Toiletries: Less is More

When traveling via air, always keep in mind the TSA 3-1-1 rule as you pack your toiletries. Less is always more, you can purchase everything you need once you’re in France.  Buying local is always a good idea. Keep an eye on all the new products on the market and perhaps consider experimenting with dry toiletries to make more room available in your quart sized ziploc bag.

The basics include:

  • Deodorant
  • Makeup
  • Toothpaste & toothbrush
  • Travel size shampoo, conditioner, body soap
  • Razor & grooming kit
  • Travel towel

Traveling Tech

If you’re coming from outside of Europe you will most likely need an adapter to plug into outlets and maybe a power convertor, too. Double check to be certain you have all of your cords and other assorted goodies you need to connect. Plan for phone connectivity, unless you already have T-mobile.

  • Power adapter
  • Necessary converters
  • Tablet, phone, computer, & necessary chargers
  • Portable charger & cords
  • Load your phone with travel apps 
  • Perhaps a camera (and camera bag), lens, batteries(2), memory cards(2), & chargers
  • External hard drive to back up your memories
  • GPS/personal wifi hotspot

Choosing Luggage

Like most of Europe, France doesn’t lend itself to wheeled luggage. Expect narrow and uneven sidewalks, quaint medieval cobble stone, and lots of steps up and down. All of these equal frustration and a sore back if your constantly fighting a rolling suitcase.

Instead, opt for a carry on travel backpack with a sleek, low profile design that fits the vibe of French culture.

The Outbreaker

At 45L, this maximum sized carry on bag is perfect for your trip to France. Pack everything you need and still have room to tuck in a few souvenirs on the way home by adding the packable duffle tucked into the outer pocket.

Waterproof fabric means that, no matter the weather, the contents of your bag are safe. Efficient internal organization means that packing and unpacking are a joy, even on a longer trip. A robust harness system means that you’ll take the stairs of Paris in stride.

Clothes: One Bag Packing List

France has a casual but classy vibe most places while the cities feel a bit more upscale. Unless you’re planning for a very special occasion, there’s no need to pack your fanciest clothing. Most locals dress well and you’ll rarely see someone who looks as if they’ve just come from their workout when they’re headed out for the day. Remember layers are your friends, sandals or solid walking shoes are always a good choice, and sunglasses, a light blazer and scarf pull any outfit together.

  • Light sweater or blazer
  • Layers (wool base layers are the best)
  • 4-7 pair of socks (if you’re headed to the mountains, consider extra warmth)
  • 4-7 pair underwear
  • 2-3 jeans or pants for classy outfits
  • 3-5 t-shirts (lightweight and great for layering)
  • 2 long sleeve outer layer tops (sweaters or sweatshirts are great)
  • 1-2 skirts or dresses (limit those loud patterns)
  • Slightly more upscale than casual (think casual work attire on a regular basis)

Weather: Pack for France in All Seasons

Packing for France can get tricky. Are you headed during winter, spring, summer or fall? Do you need layers, sunscreen, a raincoat, a hat, closed-toed shoes, or all of the above? Are you skiing, sunbathing, sightseeing, wine tasting, or a mixture of it all? Although weather is unpredictable, it’s always a good idea to pack for three seasons, no matter when you are going. That means something warm, a solid pair of shoes, a waterproof outer layer, and if you’re going to Paris – bring that extra scarf for all seasons.

Check the specific regions to which you’re traveling; temperatures will differ from cities to mountains to shoreline, but averages are as follows: 

Spring – late March – June: 40-70 degrees Fahrenheit

Summer – late June – September: 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit

Autumn – late September – December: 45-70 degrees Fahrenheit

Winter – late December – March: 35-45 degrees Fahrenheit

Depending on when you’re traveling to France include:

  • Rain jacket or water-repellant outer layer
  • Sturdy, closed-toed shoes (consider hiking shoes over sneakers)
  • One extra pair of shoes
  • Umbrella
  • Scarf (this pulls all outfits together and can be used for warmth)
  • Extra layers
  • Warm jacket with a hood (if traveling in winter and especially if staying on the mountains)
  • Bathing suit and beach cover up

Extras

Those things you think you ‘might’ need – this is where those fit. No, you can’t take everything in the back of that closet, but a few things that might make your journey more eco-friendly, enjoyable, or entertaining are totally allowed.

  • Reusable shopping bags or totes (makes it easy to grab treats at a local market)
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Bug spray (depending on the season)
  • Noise canceling headphones
  • Ski attire (consider renting the actual gear)
  • Daypack
  • Jewelry
  • Journal & pens
  • Luggage locks (especially if you’re taking trains or ferries throughout France/Europe)
  • Work out gear
  • Wine bottle opener (for all those picnics in the parks)

France Bucket List: What to See

They don’t call it the City of Light for nothing. Paris is an urban environment unlike any other. There’s sophisticated fashion, artwork as far as the eyes can see, delectable cuisine of all levels, and a way of life that’s unique to Paris.

Urban Excursions

If you fly in, it’s likely that Paris is your first stop. Although your entire journey might not be set in the French capital, while you’re here, take in the sights, sounds, and sweets of the city.

Out & About in France

France is full of neighborhoods, cities, and regions each with a unique flair. To get to know the region, do your research ahead of time, chat with locals upon arrival, and leave room for spontaneity. Whether you’re in search of the bubbly, action on the mountain, bargains at the market, or a beach excursion after your city ventures – France is ready for you.

TL; DR

France draws millions of visitors annually. Pulling from all parts of the globe, people come for the ambiance and stay for the crepes. Whether it’s the green of the countryside, the peaks of the mountains, the brilliance of the sparkly lights of Paris or the endless array of wines and cheeses – France doesn’t disappoint.

Pack for all seasons, keep your hands and feet warm and dry, and plan to split your journey between Parisian adventures, small town cafes, mountain retreats, famous shorelines, and the beautiful French countryside.