bon voyage, part I


I'm off to Europe soon for a couple of weeks with friends, and I'm quite excited about the prospect of dressing for cool weather - us tropical folks find it extremely novel and some of us even try to travel when it's spring or fall in our destination countries that we can wind scarves around our neck and sight-see without melting into a greasy-faced, sticky mess.

I love to pack. I've always been on the budget end of travelling and I backpack regularly, so space is precious and maximising it became quite the obsession. In the past, I packed things I would never want to be seen in back home, because I didn't want to bring things I'd worry about ruining, but I've realised it's possible to pack my "regular" clothes and still navigate the challenges of budget travel well.

These days, I sometimes still travel out of a backpack for long trips even though I'm not always slumming out in dorms in hostels. It just feels much easier going around on the subway from airports or crossing train platforms, etc, or when you rent an apartment on the sixth floor of some gorgeous old building with no lift.

I've learnt that:
  • Black, grey and navy pack really well and they look fresh even after a few wears.
  • Anything you pack should match at least three other things
  • Minimise outerwear
  • Do laundry on the go to save space; bring detergent. I like the type for delicate items because they're usually concentrated so a little goes a long way, and they smell awesome.
  • Washed silk and linen knits pack really well
  • I still don't know how to travel without jeans - unless it's a beach holiday
  • Understand your shopping habits: I notice I almost never fail to buy scarves and shoes, so I pack as little of those as possible.
  • Always ask for free samples when you buy skincare and toiletries - they are convenient for short trips and the packet ones are great for long transits to freshen up. Sephora, Aesop,and Kiehl's are generous
  • Keep your suitcase only three-quarters full for shopping and gifts. There was the time I had to bring home two bottles of wine and a beautiful Murano glass dish as a wedding gift...
So I'm packing:

Outerwear -
  • One beige trenchcoat (may skip this, a bitch to pack)
  • One grey blazer
Tops/sweaters -
  • One grey chunky knit sweater
  • One navy sweater with red and white striped cuffs
  • One black cardigan (buttons up into a sweater)
  • One blue and red striped pullover
  • One navy washed silk shirt
  • One blue and white cotton checked shirt
  • One celadon and white print cotton shirt
  • Two t-shirts for layering
Bottoms -
  • One pair of dark blue skinny jeans
  • One pair of black skinny cropped trousers
Footwear -
  • Off-white Converses
  • Beige suede desert boots
  • Flip flops - I don't like walking in rented flats barefoot, but neither do I like keeping my shoes on the whole time
  • One grey jersey scarf/wrap
  • One navy messenger bag
Underwear + pajamas + socks

If I have extra room, maybe I'll bring a fascinating cashmere infinity scarf I got for my birthday that I've never used, and maybe another sweater.

By the way, anyone been to Brussels? I have a couple of nights there, and would love some restaurant recommendations.


I think I get more excited about the packing than the trip itself! lol! I try to schedule my vacations in the fall for the same reasons. Enjoy your trip! :)
Ammu said…
Ooh, have a lovely time! I can't remember the name of the restaurant, but I would definitely try eel in green sauce, steak frites, and tomato and shrimp salad in brussels. The food in Belgium was delicious.
Also I have a feeling you will enjoy a visit to the home of the architect victor horta, it's a museum now and has wonderful art nouveau details. I was mesmerised.
Kate said…
Have a wonderful trip! I love packing, especially for cold weather - I don't fare well at all in hot climes. Probably my favourite destination to pack for is my yearly family holiday to Cornwall in the south of England - if you brush your hair for dinner you're overdressed there, so I get to mooch around in faded denim and tattered bretons for a week.

I don't know Europe well enough; when I qualify and get my first job I'm going to spend the summer interrailing around Europe. What are your planned destinations?
leen hilde said…
Bruxelles is my town, i live in Milano currently, but if you let me know what you want to eat i can give you some good recommendations :-)
(mail me at leenhilde-at-gmail-dot-com)
Anonymous said…
I can help you if you coming to Spain. The weather is quite nice here in Madrid but chillier in norther Europe so bring something warm and an umbrella ; )
Cato said…
I was just also going to give you my email address, since I used to live in Brussels for an internship. Well, Leen probably knows more since she's from there, but here's my email anyways: solocato[at]

One of my favourites (and all people I've taken there) is fin du siecle in rue des chartreux near bourse for belgian food. but it's usually packed and without reservation one has to wait a bit.

where else are you going? frankly speaking when I read your packing list I thought that a trench as warmest outerwear might not be enough, we've already had minus degrees in the morning here in munich.

have a great trip and tell us more! :)
Fleurette said…
Ahh, I love this kind of posts! Great tips, and have a wonderful trip. Let me know if you want any Paris tips. + I might go to Paris next week, or in two weeks... for work. So, if you're around, it would be cool to have a coffee with you!

And Leen Hilde has always great tips on lovely spots.
son said…
i love reading about packing lists. totally agree with point 2 and 8. have to agree with cato though, this is the first week in london ive had to trot out my winter coat. oh and dont forget the micro umbrella! enjoy your trip.
Joy said…
All such super tips. I hope you have a great time. It would also be awesome to hear about Europe's fashion scene thru you :P
lin said…
Pret a Porter P: Thanks, I will! When's your own trip happening?

Ammu: Victor Horta's home is on my list! I love Art Nouveau.

Kate: Cornwall looks lovely...actually I've always wanted to make a proper full tour around England, but been waiting to go with someone who drives, because I don't.

I'm headed to London, Paris, and Brussels.

leen-hilde: Thanks! I will email you soon!

lunaday: I went to Spain in 2009, loved it. Wish I had known you then!

Cato: Thanks for offering, I will definitely drop you an email. Yes, I've been monitoring weather reports and hoping I don't have to bring an overcoat, but that looks like a waning hope.

I could buy one when I'm there...there aren't many options here in Singapore and whatever is sold here can be found in Europe, at a cheaper price too. I'm definitely including some thermal t-shirts in my packing and pray my tried and tested layering techniques work for me.

fleurette: oh, thanks for offering. I don't know why I only said I wanted Brussels tips, probably because I happened to be sorting out my Brussels accommodation at the same time. I'm headed to Paris, London and Brussels. Perhaps I can email you and we can sort out a date!

son: Yes, I always bring an umbrella to London, haha. I shall diligently monitor weather reports and adjust my packing accordingly.

joy: Thanks! It's been 4 years since my last trip to Paris, and back then, I was too busy enjoying myself to look at what people were wearing, and too poor to shop! Would interesting to see it through fresh eyes.
Ammu said…
In London, you MUST go to Les Senteurs - the fragrance mecca. It's one of the few things I really miss, living in India. A total jewel of a shop. Sending you a list of recommendations now. xx
lin said…
Ammu: I just saw your email! Thanks so much. I'm quite excited about Les Senteurs now, sounds like the perfect place to pick up gifts for Christmas.

I was also very interested in the Photographers Gallery but they are closed for 2011 to renovate their space! What a shame.
Ammu said…
You are welcome - have a wonderful time!
Alexandra said…
Have a wonderful time! If you need any Paris/London recommendations let me know!
Also, take the scarf! I never travel without one, even if i just use it for a nice blanket on the plane!
lin said…
alexandra: Thanks! If you have any suggestions for me, I gladly welcome them! you can email me at
Lindsay K said…
Love your packing list. I try to pack items in 1-2 color schemes when I travel and use scarves and jewelry to brighten things up.

Have a wonderful time. I always like combining a trip to Brussels with Paris. Brussels provides all the exposure to the old masters and Art Nouveau that I love.

I also second Ammu's suggestion about Les Senteurs. It's one of those shops I could stay in all day.
Anonymous said…
I know nuts about packing.. Wishing you Happy Trails!!!! :)
I'm back already. :) so much ado over a very very short trip.
aah these tips are pretty awesome. I happen to have a lot of navy grey and black so this should be easy lol. and i never knew laundry detergent was concentrated for delicates.

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