Before I went on my first trip abroad my mother warned me against wearing tight jeans and white sneakers. “You’ll be spotted as an American immediately.” Therefore, my first trip to central France I took nothing but skirts and these clunky sandals that I thought were cute. They weren’t, but no one thought we were Americans.
And at the time, my fourteen year old self really thought that my skirts and sandals might indeed have contributed to the fact that we were mistaken as Parisians or Brits, but mostly it was my cousin’s flawless French accent…not my skirts (and certainly not my French.)
Since, I’ve been on several trips abroad and have given up all hope of any ambiguity over my nationality. What the heck, I love my country and it’s a great place to be from. I love being who I am: an American.
Part of being who I am, sadly, includes the fact that I am a notoriously bad packer.
When I moved into my third floor apartment in College, I moved the five blocks using a rolling suitcase my parents gave me. No boxes, no cars (except for the mattress...that's another story entirely.)
In the two weeks before our wedding I packed my life up in Greenwich, pushed it into a room in our apartment in Philadelphia and sped down 95 hoping I had enough time to get everything done before I was expected at the church in my wedding gown. Needless to say, my honeymoon bag was quite the sight. The night before my wedding my bridesmaids repacked my luggage and told me to take out several unnecessary items. While I cringed and said farewell to several dresses and a few pairs of shoes, I knew they were probably right.
Ever since I was young (until I was about fifteen years old) I thought that honeymoons were a surprise to the bride. While planning the wedding, my husband and I thought this would be fun. We decided on a general location, and I left the details to him. I did know we were traveling to Croatia, and simply thought all the stops within the country would be the surprises. I had NO idea that he was surprising me in Paris for two days!!
Luckily for me, I tend to pack more appropriately for a surprise visit to Paris than a hiking trip anywhere. I had indeed packed six pairs of shoes which included a new pair of blue scalloped heels and three cocktail dresses.
However, as usual on this trip, like every trip I take away from my closet, I wind up arriving, and wearing one quarter to half of the things I lugged along with me. I really made an effort this go round, but I still didn’t use several pieces. Two cocktail dresses and three pairs of shoes went unused.
If you are packing for any kind of an excursion- whether it be a trip down the coast or weekend trip to Paris, I have decided to share with you the items I found most worthy of space in my suit case for my honeymoon.
10. J. CREW's Reese Pant in Graphic Peony:
If my mother wanted me to fit in, these were the (surprising) ticket, if you can believe it! The cool crowd were all walking around in silky printed pants. I would say these were a bit bolder of a pattern than most ("There goes the American!"), but they were super comfortable and made me feel stylish the whole time. I paired them with a textured white tank top and a crop top sweater while we were there.
9. Ogx Shampoo and Conditioner:
This one time at yearbook camp I accidentally washed my hair with body lotion.
It was horrible.
I have carried my own shampoo and conditioner ever since. I am rarely satisfied by the containers of shampoo or “conditioning shampoo” they provide. The last thing you want while on vacation is a bad hair day, just carry your own!
8. Ella Moss Maxi:
While I didn’t use all my cocktail dresses, I did use my Ella maxi several times. It was great for a casual elegant evening and was terribly comfortable (as we all know Maxis are.) I did get a few glances while I was wearing this piece, but we chalked it up to the fact that the Croatians still seemed to think the weather was chilly. All the Americans had seemed to have striped down to their summer skirts and sandals. (This dress also might have one heck of a slit, which sets off the long sleeves perfectly, but draws a little more attention than I had anticipated in a foreign country.)
7. Airplane outfits for Him and Her :
In the 1950s people dressed up for flights. But, today, in the day of 15 hours and plus kind of travel- all we want is to be comfortable. Comfort is not something the airline industry really excels at, “try” as they may, so we have to do our best on our own. When my dad worked in Korea my mother gave him a travel outfit. He said it was the best thing ever. My mother also gifted us with airplane outfits on the eve of our departure. Mine had a pink ruffle on it from one of our favorite department stores and she bought my husband one from American Giant.
While they made the flight so much better, a word of caution: Our only faux pas about these outfits is that once we arrived in Paris, our hotel room still wasn’t ready, so we decided to sit along the Champs Elysee by the fountains until it was. No matter how tired we were, we should have changed. Europe is pretty casual, but Paris is certainly not that casual. Suck it up for another hour or two and change into the outfit you packed in your carry on. You will probably feel better too!
6. AAA Passport Covers:
If there is one thing I take seriously about not being pegged as an American, it is taking care to not flash my passport around. They can guess my nationality all they want, but American passports are extremely valuable, and without mine, I’d be in big trouble. While there are a lot of super cute ones out there, I do recommend AAA’s collection since they have a RFID (radio frequency identification) scan-proof lining.
5. Jack Roger’s Alana Sandal in Bone/gold:
The moment I saw these, I fell madly in love with them. The tassels! The colors! The class! Oh my! While I loved these and literally wore them everywhere and with everything, they were one of the items that made me stand out like an American. Shocking to everyone in my family, white converse were the most popular shoe we saw in Europe. Yes, that is correct, white sneakers. If you saw sandals, the perpetrator was always an American. But I highly recommend these for this upcoming summer bliss. They were my first Jack Rogers purchase, and I'm sold hook line and sinker.
Jack Rogers also supposedly featured this photo on their website... but I haven't seen it yet.
4. Jo Malone Wild Bluebell Perfume:
I don’t always pack perfume on trips, but since this was a special occasion I decided to bring my wedding perfume and use it every day. It was amazing. I felt like such a lady everywhere we went! If you aren’t on the Jo Malone bandwagon yet, hop on. It’s worth it. The scents are very unique and the bottles are well designed to easily fit in your purse. For evenings, I had a few sample bottles that I carried with me for a quick freshen up.
3. Parlez-vous anglais? (The language):
It depends where you travel, but knowing just a few basics is a plus mostly anywhere. Had I known we were headed to Paris I would have brushed up on more phrases, but luckily my three and a half years of French gave us a leg up on finding our hotel. They make lots of apps these days, but for a quick trip I’d recommend the Speak Easy app.
2. My Quilted Barbour Jacket (A little everything jacket):
My mother gifted my with a cute quilted jacket when I moved to Greenwich, and it’s been a must have every spring and fall since. On this trip it was great because it’s light weight and easy to carry if you don’t want to wear it, but perfect for when it’s a little chilly. I recommend J.crew's Downtown Field Jacket: or any of the Barbour's collection: if you’re in the market for a coat splurge that will be entirely useful.
Some of you may have witnessed the carnage of my old iphone4. Well, my darling husband kindly upgraded us to the 6 before the wedding (along with a case, a screen protector, and monthly insurance against me and my clumsy ways.) The man who signed us up for our car rental in Croatia told us that Croatia was plenty small and easy to navigate and we didn’t need a GPS.
We found this to be somewhat untrue, and used our phones to navigate to our hotels and some lesser known destinations. We also took most of our photos on our phones. We switched to airplane mode while we were outside of wifi, and we were able to carry them easily everywhere we went snapping photos of the lovely meals we had and the beautiful waterfalls we saw.
And lastly, the one thing I desperately wanted to use the whole trip and only wore once:
My big floppy hat. I simply adore big floppy hats, and I think had we done any beach time, I would have used it more. While my very practical husband told me I looked ridiculous several times en route, I happily toted around my big hat outside my luggage. After returning I read Town and Country’s “How to Travel in Style” article and was happy that I hit the mark.
What are some of your travel must haves? Or travel mistakes? Perhaps you can give me some tips on packing.