Today by popular request I’ve compiled a list of what I brought with me on my Europe trip in carry-on form. It’s been over a month since I’ve been back home from our three week trip – sorry it’s taken me so long to publish this post – it took me a while to figure out how to photograph and edit everything. I’m still missing Europe very much and it took me a while to get adjusted back to reality. I hope to go back again very soon.
To recap, my husband and I spent three weeks traveling through Europe. We traveled to 9 cities via 7 flights and one 7 day cruise. It was my husband’s decision that we travel with carry-ons only. His logic behind this decision was based on a number of things: we would avoid long lines at airport check-in, we’d save time from having to wait at baggage claim, we wouldn’t have to worry about lugging heavy suitcases around Europe, and we could try to look less touristy. I had no intention in participating and had plans to pack regular suitcases like normal people do. However after doing a lot of research on airline reviews (there are so many horror stories about bad experiences) I decided to make it work with carry-on bags.
I’ve traveled with carry-on suitcases that fit US Airline standards but European Airlines have different dimension restrictions on luggage. All the options in the US are larger than what European Airlines list as acceptable. I didn’t want to risk it so we decided to go the backpack route. My husband helped research travel backpacks and day packs. He picked out this Pacsafe Venturesafe 45L GII Backpack. It worked to fit all of his clothes, flip flops, and laptop. He’s over 6 feet tall and it worked for him, but I’m 5’3″ so this one didn’t work for me. We looked for one a bit smaller and I opted for the Ultimatesafe 22L version. This combined with my Tumi Voyageur Tote (mine is an old model, current ones here) is what I brought with me on our trip.
These two bags fit all my clothes and makeup. For reference, my two other packing posts for this three-week trip below (note my husband carried his own products in his own bag):
Left backpack fit clothes, flipflops and one makeup pouch
Right tote fit my laptop, electronics cables/cords and earphones + liquids
Inside each of my bags shown above, I used several things to organize and compact my items. If you order items directly from J.Brand they will send denim and tees packed in these nifty black pouches (shown on the far left). I’ve kept them from previous orders and brought 2 of them with me to keep tops in one and jeans in another. I know people usually say roll your clothes. I think it works with regular rectangular shaped suitcases. I found flat packing to be better for me, but there’s really no right or wrong. We also used a number of the Eagle Creek Packing Cubes. I brought three: one small one for electronics, one for clothes, one for small items such as socks, underwear and swimsuits. (My husband brought and packed the Translucent Specter Pack-It Cubes).
Many have asked for a very specific list of everything I brought with me. I’ve split it up into categories to help make things easy to view. First up include electronic devices. I brought multiples of some items since both my husband and I had our phones, laptops and one iPad. For our flight I splurged on the Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones. They were well worth the high price. These make a world of difference and are really great for long flights. I brought one Tumi USB Travel Adapter and several Apple plugs, cords and the World Travel Adapter. For charging I had one for my camera. These Mophie Powerstation Chargers are lifesavers. I brought two and it was definitely worth bringing both of them on our trip. I use them in everyday life too. Having an extra one charged up in my purse is great for times I have super low battery. I kept most of our electronic plugs and cords stored in the smallest size of the Eagle Creek Black Pack Cubes.
Onto the clothes I packed. We spent our first week in Paris and second week in Rome, but my mind was set on our cruise through Greece. Here are the clothes I packed. Most items were thin in material and I’m petite so it was relatively easy to keep everything compact to fit into my backpack. Keep in mind I had one outfit on at all times, so everything pictured below minus one outfit was what was packed in my carry-on.
The tanks and tees worked really well for warm hot weather. The ones I brought were lightweight in material so they folded up easily and didn’t take up a lot of space. I brought two casual dresses with me. In hindsight we both should have brought at least one nice outfit but we kept thinking our vacation would be a relaxing trip. Also if we needed something more formal, we could just buy something in Paris or Rome. Due to the limited luggage space we didn’t buy any clothes. We had to pass on several restaurants we wanted to go to because we didn’t have anything formal enough. In the end though we had a really good time and had lots of fun so it didn’t matter. Next time we know to pack differently.
I brought two sweaters with me and two long-sleeved tees. One tee I threw away on the trip as well because I ripped it and it was beyond saving. J.Crew makes the best long-sleeve tees I’ve tried, they have lots of colors and I like the stripe ones. One soft cardigan was packed on day trips for places I needed to have shoulders covered. In the hot summer heat there were days I would have died if I wore long-sleeves the entire day so having a light weight sweater rolled up in my purse was a lifesaver. I packed one jacket which worked well throughout the trip.
Banana Republic White Woven Moto Jacket (in-store only)
For bottoms, I could have skipped one pair of jeans (probably would have left the white ones at home). Having four pairs of shorts was definitely good for me. I packed one skirt to wear out at night with any of the tops shown above and one pair of yoga shorts to sleep in.
Miscellaneous items include three swimsuits (I could have been fine with two), 1 pair of flip flops and 1 pair of sneakers. Many asked if I thought bringing the Pumas over Nikes was a good idea. Let me first say that I usually hate sneakers. I’m a flats or sandals kind of person, but I needed a good pair of walking shoes for our trip. The Pumas worked really well – they did take 2-3 days to break in. After wearing them for 3 weeks walking hundreds of miles, I have to say that I do like them and give them a thumbs up. If I were to do it over again though, I would have brought Nike sneakers instead. In my experience they just feel a lot better.
For an everyday tote, having something with fully closed zipper at the top was essential. I didn’t have to worry about pick pockets. A simple canvas material is also non-flashy and doesn’t draw unnecessary attention. I opted for the shoulder version which worked just fine. It’s small enough to fit my petite 5’3″ frame but large enough to hold my camera, wallet, water bottle, sweater and then some. Cross-body bags might be a good option if you have a very compact camera. I found it difficult to find one suitable for all my needs so the tote was the next best thing for me.
I didn’t photograph my socks or underwear but I did bring enough for 10 days worth of wear. In our three weeks away, we did our laundry four times. Twice we hand washed items in our hotel sink. The other two times we had laundry service on our cruise ship. Ideally we could have done laundry once or twice but it was so hot there were
days we went back to our hotel to change mid-day so we went through
We made the carry-ons work. I brought one backpack and one tote. My husband brought one backpack. After our first week in Paris we decided to buy one Longchamp Expandable Tote to carry souvenirs and disperse some clothes so they weren’t all squished. It was the largest carry-on tote we could find at a relatively affordable price. The sales rep who helped us said he knew for a fact all European airlines would consider this acceptable so we bought it. I like it because you can unzip it around the middle to expand it. It comes with a large over the detatchable shoulder strap. My husband on the other hand hates it. He prefers bags that have some support, structure or decent pockets. This one is just an open nylon tote. It’s very sturdy and durable but it has no shape so you can fold it and put it away easily.
If we could go back in time and do it all over again there is not much we would change given our itinerary. We had a lot of stops and quite a few flights. I can’t tell you how relieved we were at the airport when we were able to skip lines to check and weigh bags. Most airlines have weight restrictions but as long as your bag doesn’t look heavy we found most didn’t weigh our carry ons. My backpack at the heaviest was 17.3 pounds (most weight limits were around 19-20 pounds). It was a bit challenging but it’s definitely do-able. We would have definitely packed 1-2 nicer outfits. I would have brought one nice pair of shoes. To make room for those I could have skipped a lot of the beauty or skincare items I packed. Paris has so much to offer, I could have relied on pharmacy minis for the entire trip.
Our next trip to Europe will consist of fewer destinations so we will definitely be taking regular suitcases. It was all our flights and stops that made us decide to do carry-ons only. Had we planned to stop in 2-3 places, suitcases would have been the way to go.
I hope you found this post helpful! I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to travel. I know many who travel with carry-ons only all the time and they make it work.
As promised I have a post today on the items I bought while traveling in Europe. Out of the ten cities we visited across France, Italy, Greece and Turkey, I did most of my shopping in Paris. At the top of my list was the Diptyque store on 34 Boulevard St. Germain. The store is so beautiful inside – I wish I could transport the entire store to my home. At the store I picked up two items including the Feuille de Lavande Room Spray and the Mousses Candle. I’ve burned through one Moss candle before as it’s available at the boutiques in the US but it suffered really bad tunneling because I didn’t burn it properly the first time (my candle care tips here). For the room sprays there were a number of unique scents. Cypress was really interesting and Mimosa was so pretty. I wish I had bought a few more – we only have three in the US (Figuier, Baies and 34).
First up for splurges are two picks from Fauré Le Page. I’ve been researching this brand via the Fauré Le Page Purse Forum. There are a number of helpful pictures, descriptions and other bits of information on everything Fauré Le Page. The pretty patterns of their bags caught my eye. It has a similar vibe to Goyard which I adore. In Paris I visited two locations: there is a stand alone boutique on Rue Cambon and also a store at Galeries Lafayette Haussmann. I went in for just the Pochette 20 (currently 190 euros). They were very limited on stock for most of the colors, I was hoping for the blue and grey, but were out. The green one is pretty though so I left with one. A shoulder tote called Daily Battle caught my eye (small size I bought was 650 euros). There were two grey versions, one with a light beige-grey trim and one with the navy. It’s very sturdy and made of a thick canvas. The material is slightly textured and looks like it will hold up really well.
Below I’ve posted a comparison of the Daily Battle to a Goyard St. Louis Tote. In Paris the Daily Battle for the small size was priced at 650 euros which converts to a little over $700 making it much more affordable than the Goyard St. Louis totes (last I checked they were priced at $1,200-$1,600ish depending on color). The style is similar – open inside without any pockets and lined with canvas. The finish and textures are different though. The Goyard is thinner in material but still very sturdy. It also comes with a detatchable pouch. Fauré Le Page is thicker with an adjustable strap. There is a ring inside to attach items to but it does not come with a separate pouch inside. Measurements of the ones I have to compare:
Fauré Le Page Daily Battle (small)
17.5 inches wide
11.25 inches tall
base is about 6.25 inches x 12.25 inches
Goyard St. Louis PM
18 inches wide
11 inches tall
base is about 5.25 inches x 13 inches
For the Pochettes the smallest Fauré le Page makes is the Pochette 20 which measures about 6 inches tall by 8 inches wide. Goyard makes a smaller size (shown in black below). The comparable one in Goyard is the same width at 8 inches wide but is slightly shorter at 5.5 inches tall. I don’t remember what the prices were for Goyard, I bought mine a long time ago – I want to say the small one was around $300ish and the medium was at least double. The Fauré Le Page Pouch comes with a detachable wristlet strap and was priced at 190 euros.
At Hermes I picked up two Micro Rivale leather bracelets with the rose gold hardware. I have small wrists and it’s hard to find the leather bracelets in the XS size. Rose Gold is relatively new so I splurged on the ivory and teal leather. A sneaky photo from inside the store.
In Rome, I bought some small L’Occitane Bonne Mere cubes. I thought they were mini soaps but they’re actually bath cubes (oops). I still really like them and wish they were available in the US but the shower gels are just as good and I’ve repurchased the Rosemary and Oilive Oil ones several times over. At the French Pharmacies I was like a deer in headlights. I didn’t pick up a lot because we were traveling with carry on only. I picked up a small Bioderma Cleansing Water, Avene Cleanance Micellar Water for oily skin and a small Nuxe Hand Cream + Lip Balm duo. In the US you can find the travel size Bioderma Sensibio (same as the French Crealine) from Beautylish. The Nuxe Hand Cream + Lip Balm Duo is available online at Nuxe. I haven’t been able to find the Avene Cleanance Micellar Water in the US.
In Athens we picked up a Korres Sunscreen set with SPF 50. The Body Spray is very gentle but lasts a long time on the skin. The Face Cream Sunscreen is amazing as well. I haven’t been able to find the SPF versions in the US.
From Printemps, I picked up their exclusive Primavera Diptyque Candle (launched to celebrate their 150th anniversary) which smells like really sweet roses. I haven’t burned it yet but I’m in love with the white and pink packaging. From Chanel I picked up a few things exclusive to Europe. The Vitalumiere Loose Powder comes with a brush. I picked up three shades, 20, 30 and 40 (right now I’m a match to 40). It’s quite messy but gives enough coverage that you can use it alone instead of foundation or powder foundation. Also new in Paris is the Sublimage SPF 50 which is wonderful. It’s thicker than the UV Essential and acts more like a cream. It has the Sublimage skincare ingredients in it so it’s not just a sunscreen. I wish I had stocked up on a few more tubes while I was in Paris (it was 98 euros). For fragrances almost all the scents had multiple versions and sizes. They have the small concentrated parfum bottles – I was torn between three of them, they were on the pricey side because they are concentrates. I picked up Allure. From L’Artisan I bought a few items as gifts including a fragrance sampler set and the La Chasse Aux Papillons Rollerball (which you can find now at Sephora).
Sephora France was probably one of my favorite places to shop. I left with a few things, I’m surprised it was this limited. I picked up a Dior Nail Polish in Sundown and Addict Fluid Stick in Beige Passion (both of which don’t appear to be available in the US). I also picked up the Addict Fluid Stick in Ciel Rose which is a US color you can find at Sephora. In Paris they had these tiny empty clear containers in the travel section. I picked up several which I think will come in handy for future trips. Also at the check out line were these cute Craig and Karl hand creams. There were two other scents in Peony and Lagoon. I wish I had picked up a few as they had fun designs and prints on the cases. Two other items I picked up: the By Terry Hyaluronic Sheer Lipstick in #3 Nude Pulp (you can find it in the US at Beautylish) and a Chanel Sublime Waterproof Mascara (not available in the US).
Last but not least, I brought home some chocolates, tea and jellies from Angelina and Laduree. A lot of the chocolates are already gone. I’m surprised there is still anything left after a couple of weeks but I’ve been rationing the hazelnut spreads. I may or may not have been hiding them from my husband.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my Europe haul! Next time I go, I will plan the shopping better and make sure I bring a proper suitcase so I can bring home more of the chocolates, teas and one of each of the Diptyque Room Sprays.
First up makeup breakdown. I limited myself to 1 eyeshadow palette. I usually almost always bring one of the Urban Decay Naked Eyeshadow Palettes with me on travel because they are versatile and can be used to create a number of looks. I decided to try something new for this trip and brought the MAC Nordstrom Naturals Palette with me instead. It worked just as well to create a number of different looks – I like that there’s a good mix of matte and shimmer. If you’re limited on space – there are some good browns that can double as brow powder.
Several of you have asked about the Anya Hindmarch case that I’ve previewed on a few posts and on Instagram. I bought mine from Net-A-Porter although several have told me they’ve found it discounted at Duty Free locations while they were traveling. Based on online photos and reviews I couldn’t tell if it was one open case with two openings or if it had two compartments. It has two compartments – one is slightly deeper than the other. It’s fairly pricey for a makeup pouch but the material is very sturdy and it’s very well made.
The MustaeV Bloom Pouch comes in two sizes, small and large. I discovered the line at The Makeup Show LA earlier this year and love them. I brought the large one with me on this trip. The small one was featured in this travel post back in April. I’ve added a repost shot of the large one below to show how it stands up.
For three weeks I brought plenty to last me the entire trip. I did miss my eyeshadow palettes and lip glosses but given the heat and warm weather a good portion of the trip was makeup-free for me so it didn’t really matter. I worried that skipping concealer would be a mistake but my skin has cleared up pretty nicely in the past few months so for face coverage, tinted moisturizers and powder was enough.
In case you missed it, how I packed all my liquids in this post here (Muji containers, clear pouches, his and hers travel skincare, fragrance and body care):
What do you like to bring with you on extended trips? Do you have any packing tips or favorite carrying cases?
The MustaeV bloom pouch and easy go brush was gifted during The Makeup Show. The Afterglow highlighter was also a gift courtesy of Edward Bess.
Here are snapshots from my week in Paris. In the time I visited in June I tried make an effort to put my camera down to make sure I was able to just enjoy the sights, walks, food, people watching and soak in all the beauty that is in France. There are so many places I wish I had taken more pictures of but there are beautiful images in my mind that I will never forget. I’ve split these into different categories and some overview thoughts on Paris at the end.
We started and ended our trip in Paris. The first round we stayed in the Latin Quarter at Select Hotel. We picked hotels based on location, price and reviews. There were a few friends recommended but they were booked for the dates we planned on being in Paris. The hotel rooms were very small but it is something we expected and we thought it was actually really cute. Service was good and the rooms were very clean with good lighting. My husband requested a room that looked into the courtyard, we were on the third floor and right above several cafés but it wasn’t too noisy and we were able to sleep easily at night. Our room had a small tub with a shower handle. We liked that it seemed like it was updated and modern inside. You might find the reviews and photos on Trip Advisor helpful. We had a pleasant stay and liked that it was within walking distance to the Notre Dame Cathedral and several restaurants on our list. However most of the items on my Paris list were far – we walked a lot and this one was sometimes a 35 minute walk back to the hotel. It was nice to explore Paris by foot, but the first couple of days we had really sore feet.
Select Hotel at 1 Place de la Sorbonne
View from our room at the Select Hotel
On our trip back to the US we spent one night at Hotel Brighton on Rue de Rivoli right across from the Tuileries Garden. It’s also within close walking distance to a number of shops, minutes away from Angelina and the Louvre. I browsed through the Louis Vuitton Paris City Guide (which I really liked but my husband did not because it doesn’t have any pictures) and found this one. It seemed reasonable in price and also mentioned they stocked Nuxe toiletries and I was sold. Our room itself and the bathroom were both very spacious for Paris standards. The concierge and staff were all extremely friendly, helpful and polite. Location and service is excellent. We didn’t try the breakfast since Angelina was down the street. I would definitely consider going back to this one because of the location.
We stopped at a number of touristy places including the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Tuileries Garden, Jardin du Luxembourg, Sacré-Cœur. In our two trips we took two different hop-on-hop-off buses. We took them mainly as a means of getting around the city easily, at our own pace without having to worry about finding the metro stops or getting lost on different lines. For the tours, both have pre-recorded narration which isn’t great, but it’s a nice way to relax and see Paris from the second level of the bus. We used Big Bus Paris and Open Tour Paris. We preferred the routes of the Open Tour Bus because it seemed to have more variety. We also wanted to try the night tour but there was a musical festival so all the night routes were cancelled.
Arc de Triomphe
Louvre at night
Louvre during the day – I recommend buying tickets ahead of time, also note there is more than one entrance to the Louvre, this blog post has them mapped out. We didn’t buy our tickets ahead of time but used the Carousel Entrance and wait time was only about 20 minutes.
Somewhere around the corner from Jardin du Luxembourg
Our favorite place to sit and relax in Paris, Tuileries Garden
A rare sight to see any empty chairs the days we were in Paris, it was sunny and hot the first week of June and the gardens were packed with people in the chairs, on some lawns, in the park cafes and along all the fountains.
We really liked the mini Paul kiosk in the middle of the Tuileries Garden/Louvre, the chocolate croissants were soooo good. I just about died after seeing the tiny cups. So cute!
Fashion and Accessories
The larger department stores Printemps and Galeries Lafayette both have a large selection of luxury clothing and accessories. I saw several Zara stores scattered around the city. Le Bon Marche shopping bags also seemed to be carried all around the city. I stopped by a few stores. Chanel on Rue Cambon and Hermes on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré were both extremely busy. I have never seen a Chanel store so packed. I quickly stopped inside the Goyard store on Rue Saint Honoré but it was very small and only one person appeared to be on the floor with the several customers waiting so I decided to skip it entirely since items can be purchased in the US.
Tom Ford on Rue Saint Honoré
Hermes Paris was so amazing, it’s like heaven inside, but there was a very long line for the purses. Still other areas had associates that were very helpful, patient and friendly.
Trying new food, desserts and the coffee in Paris was probably the highlight of our vacation. We were surprised we didn’t gain weight while in Paris – it was probably a mix of lots of walking, healthier food and smaller portions compared to the US. Here are some of our favorite eats, macarons and cafes.
I’ve been dreaming about Angelina for years ever since I first saw pictures. I tried the hot chocolate based on recommendations – it’s truly out of this world. The tea is quite good too. We ate breakfast here twice. I think their butter croissants are the best I’ve ever had. I bought some of the hazelnut spread and jellies. After reading reviews of long lines we decided to try these early. On both occasions we did not have any wait time (as in maybe 5 minutes max from the time we walked in, looked around, were greeted and then seated) and we were really happy since we read about 45 minute lines.
Below is Pierre Hermé. Macaron lovers each have their favorite. I only tried two brands while in Paris. Pierre Hermé are truly very special. They have unique flavors and pretty patterns. They are super soft and moist. I bought a box of seven to take home to the US with me – they lasted only 1 hour on the airplane before I ate them all without realizing it. I can’t say whether or not they are better than Laduree, they are simply different.
Bread and Roses was a cute little breakfast café within walking distance from our first hotel (Select Hotel). My husband picked this based on reviews from Trip Advisor. Everything was fresh and delicious. I had the quiche and it was to die for. They made him a mix of juice which had grapefruit, lemon and orange juice, I’m not sure if there is a specific name for it, but it was really really good. It’s located on 7 Rue de Fleurus (by the Luxembourg Garden).
Café Madeleine is a restaurant we stopped by because it was just around the corner from one of the bus stops. This one is on 1 Rue Tronchet. Our lunch here was phenomenal. They had the best lasagne I’ve ever had (it was on special). The potatoes were also really interesting – they were cut in a curved way so they were perfectly crisp on the outside but thick and fluffy in the middle. I joked with my husband once we finished lunch that we should come back in 30 minutes for dinner because it was so good. In the interest of exploring and trying as much as we could we didn’t go back.
Les Deux Magots (6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés) came highly recommended by a long-time friend. We both enjoyed dinner here.
Right across from Les Deux Magots is Brasserie Lipp (151 Boulevard Saint-Germain), another phenomenal restaurant. We sat in the front on the covered patio. Reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp have all been mixed, we had a really good experience here. My favorite part was dessert. Also close by is Cafe de Flore which I was hoping to try but we never made it back to the area.
Ladurée on the Champs-Élysées was really fun. Trying the macarons was at the top of my list. We had breakfast there which was delicious. I fell in love with the Ladurée tea and bought two boxes to bring home with me and a couple of the chocolate bars (wish I had bought more than just tea!). Service was excellent and the ambiance was amazing. We sat in the front area inside the restaurant and had so much fun people watching. The macarons are very good. I was in heaven here.
On the nails, Dior Sunkissed (reviewed + swatched here)
Some more random pictures of Paris. I was completely head over heels in love with all the balconies.
We had a lovely time in Paris. In the 7 days we spent in total we felt like we saw a lot but paced ourselves well after the first day. You can get lost in the beauty of Paris – on the first day we lost track of time and walked everywhere and didn’t realize until 12 hours later we had walked too much. Our favorite place in Paris was the Tuileries Garden – it’s such a beautiful place to walk through. We liked the chairs scattered around and the trees offered shade on the really hot days.
On my wish list of places to see and visit, I didn’t get to all on my shopping list but it was something I expected. Paris was our first stop (out of a dozen) and I planned on window shopping or seeing things in person. As you can see from my overview post, we had a lot of flights and cities on our itinerary so I didn’t want to have to carry things all over Europe, plus our carry-on only situation limited what I decided to purchase. For the touristy spots, we skipped going up the Eiffel Tower – the lines were just too long and we opted for the Arc de Triomphe, Trocadero Square and Sacre Coeur all have really good views of Paris (some will argue better views compared to the Eiffel Tower). If your time in Paris is limited, I would say skip the Louvre and opt for one of the other museums if you want to do a 1/4-1/2 day in a museum. We walked through a few small ones that were beautiful. I do think the Louvre is must at least once, but it can get very crowded and busy.
For planning your trip to Paris, I do recommend mapping out all the sights, museums, shops and restaurants first before picking a hotel. We really enjoyed walking so it’s nice to have a hotel within close walking distance. I’ve been told the metro is easy to navigate once you figure it out. Both my husband and I are familiar with underground subways in a number of cities (both in the US and internationally) but we preferred to walk above ground. Subways can get very crowded and we wanted to avoid any possible pickpocket situations.
In terms of planning in general this trip was kind of last minute. We did a couple months of research about hotels and flights about 2 months before we left, but didn’t finalize our plans until 2 weeks before we left and didn’t book our flight or hotel until 8 days before we left. We had a long list of places to visit and kept trying to figure out how to make everything work in a month’s time. We cut out a stay in London, New York and Venice which is why we waited so long to pull the trigger to book our tickets. For planning I think every one is different. Even with our last minute planning everything worked out just fine. Of all the cities Paris is the one where I think you can go without any plans and enjoy the city everyday just simply by picking a place on the map and going there whether it’s by foot, taxi or metro.
If there is one thing I regret not doing, it’s not waiting to buy a few pairs of Repetto flats in one of the stores. It was very busy and associates were helping multiple customers. After waiting about 15 minutes I realized it would probably be at least another 15 minutes before someone was free to assist. It was one of those moments where I thought to myself, “I’ll just come back later.” But there is always next time.
Hope you enjoyed these snapshots of Paris. I’ve received a number of questions about my carry-on, what specific items I brought with me for the trip, what I brought back to the US from Europe and hauls. All will be covered in upcoming posts. I’m organizing topics into different posts to make the reading easier to follow by category. Up next – Rome, stay tuned!
Shopping in Paris was quite an experience. I was thoroughly impressed by the excellent customer service. We observed tourists shopping from a number of different countries – I was impressed by the fact that many associates were fluent in multiple languages including English, German, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese and more. Beauty shopping in Paris is unlike anything else – almost all the stores we stopped by had associates that were knowledgeable, friendly, helpful and very patient.
Before I left the US for Europe, I made a list of stores I wanted to visit and mapped them out. The city of Paris is divided into twenty districts called arrondissements. Mapping out all the monuments, shops, restaurants and hotels of interest helped us plan our days in Paris. In the time we were in Paris – we spent most of our time sight-seeing and enjoying the parks and cafes. I didn’t get to see all the shopping places on my list – I could have spent an entire week just window shopping or browsing and still not have made a dent in seeing what the city has to offer.
The beauty places I shopped, browsed and stopped by, sorted by arrondissment:
Location: all over the city
I was thrilled to visit several French Pharmacies around Paris. Quite a few of my friends here in the US who have been to France and studied French in college said the pharmacies are like CVS and Rite Aid in the US – they are on almost every corner and stock items locals aren’t really excited about. I didn’t know what to expect but was really impressed by the selection. Stores were stocked with Bioderma, La Roche-Posay, Phyto, Caudalie, Nuxe and more. Some had an entire wall of Nuxe or Phyto. I only made a few small purchases since most of what I was interested in were liquids – I wouldn’t have been able to fit them in my quart-sized carry on. I went inside about a dozen – most stock similar items. Some have more variety compared to others. I was really impressed with the reps in each store. The vast majority seemed to wear white lab coats, they were very knowledgeable in all the lines and options. They were really helpful too. I was able to snap few quick photos inside a couple with my iPhone. I was really impressed by the selection of sunscreens available – had I planned our itinerary better, I would have shifted our Paris week to the end of the trip and filled a suitcase with liquids (skincare, body care, jams, jellies, tea and all the things you can’t carry on). Bioderma minis were plentiful and cheap – usually around 2-3 € or sometimes in packs.
There is a small Printemps store underneath the Louvre in the Carrousel Shops. The upside of shopping here is there are a lot of stores in one place and most are opened on Sunday. The beauty section in Printemps Louvre was the only store in Paris I wasn’t thrilled with. The store was extremely packed and busy the first time I visited (although it was on a weekend). Associates weren’t as friendly as other stores I had visited. There was a beautiful Louboutin display of all the nail colors along with shoes, clutches and wallets. I stopped by a second time on our trip back to the US to buy one of the new Scarabée colors – however all the associates were visibly upset with all the shoppers touching and moving the Louboutin nail polishes. They stood guard and kept moving them back into place – understandable if they wanted to keep the display pristine, however if there was a look but don’t touch rule, they should have sectioned it off or put up a sigh. I made sure not to touch any since I didn’t want to make them upset. I wanted to purchase a few but they were so rude I left without buying anything. (I ordered the three new ones from Nordstrom and they were waiting for me at my house when I returned to the US, I hope to swatch soon – they are gorgeous!)
Location: 34 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 5th Arrondissment
Being the die-hard Diptyque fan that I am, visiting the store on 34 Boulevard Saint-Germain was at the top of my list. The store is exquisite in a quaint and inviting kind of way. I wish I could have transported the store and put it inside my home – the decorations and displays were beautiful. The store associate was very friendly – we chatted about the boutiques that had opened up in California (San Francisco, Beverly Hills, South Coast Plaza and Larchmont). The store offerings were almost identical to those in the US with the exception of the room sprays. When I go back to Paris I hope to buy more of the room sprays. I left buying one, Feuille de Lavande which is incredible (similar but stronger than the candle version). For me this was heaven.
Location: 78 Rue de Seine, 6th Arrondissment
I wasn’t able to make it into the Cire Trudon store. We stopped by it on the way to dinner but they had already closed and I never made it back. I hope to visit on my next trip to Paris. The displays in the store looked beautiful – the photos I took were too dark but I did get one snapshot of the outside.
The Sephora store on the Champs-Élysées was unreal. It was the ultimate beauty shopping store. I’ve never seen such a large store and it was amazing. The entrance had a large red carpet with kiosks along the side with beautiful Dior displays. The entire wall was covered with Dior. Also inside included brands you don’t see in Sephora stores in the US: MAC, Serge Lutens, a beauty bar for makeup application, a nail bar where women were getting nail touch ups, By Terry, Chanel and so much more. I could have spent an entire day inside – but I limited myself to the Dior and travel section so I wouldn’t do too much damage.
I only briefly walked through this beautiful boutique. It was filled with so many different perfumes I think it would take me weeks to learn about all the options. I only use a couple items from Guerlain so I didn’t purchase anything from the store. If I could describe it in one word though it would be “magical.” There is at least one more Guerlain store in Paris, but this one was recommended as the best to me.
Chanel is easy to find in Paris. The Rue Cambon Boutique has a beauty section in the store but it was very busy. Around the corner there is a little beauty store on Rue Saint Honoré which is dedicated to beauty, skincare and fragrance. The store itself is extremely small. There were 5 other customers inside, myself and 3-4 associates roaming around helping people and we barely had room to navigate. It’s very cute inside and minimalist. The associate who helped me was very nice – I asked to test a few powders and she showed me some of the new Sublimage skincare that had just launched. They have the Exclusifs line – the bottles lined up on the wall looked so beautiful.
This was my favorite store out of all the shops I visited. So many brands within one store, beauty floors on multiple levels. They have a special Diptyque candle called Primavera to celebrate the 150th anniversary. I think pictures are worth a thousand words – so I’ll let the pictures do the talking here even though they don’t do the store justice. Here are some snapshots I took with my iPhone. It’s a beauty addict’s makeup heaven.
Galeries Lafayette is one of the most famous department stores in Paris. The inside of the store is beautiful from every angle. The ceiling is exquisite. They carry a diverse range of luxury beauty and fashion items – Hermes, Goyard, Chanel, Dior, Guerlain and so much more. Since this store carries a lot of brands under one house, it is extremely packed and very busy. I made a few fashion purchases here but wasn’t able to go to any of the counters. There were simply too many people although I did venture in on a Saturday – probably not the best time to shop.
A few thoughts on beauty shopping in Paris:
Take note, most stores and shops are closed on Sunday,
although some in major tourist areas are open on Sundays (i.e. those on
the Champs-Elysees). Visiting individual brand boutiques can be really fun to see each line in their independent settings – how each brand displays the products and the presentation of collections is a sight to behold and really quite stunning. This however can be a bit time consuming so if your shopping time is limited, you can find most items at the larger department stores. My personal favorite was Printemps Haussmann (many readers commented this was the best department store to shop in Paris and I agree!) – the associates at Diptyque, Chanel and L’Artisan were so helpful and threw in so many samples my jaw dropped.
Many international travelers already know this, but if you reside outside of the European Union, are 16 years +, have a passport and spend €175+ in the same store on the same day in Paris, you can be eligible for a 12% tax refund. There are several ways to claim it – by mailed check, ACH back to your credit card, or cash back upfront at certain department stores. Some have automatic kiosks to process your receipts that are easy to use but often have lines. I used a kiosk at one of the stores and accidentally pushed the button for cash refund – in total we waited about 35 minutes in the line. Each store may have a slightly different policy for what you can or can’t combine if it’s a department store – any associate can help explain how it works. To process your refund, you need to have it validated by customs within 3 months of purchase date at the airport, train station or border. Galeries Lafayette has a comprehensive overview of the tax refund process here.
When in doubt, ask for assistance – I was impressed by the French men and women who worked at the beauty shops and counters. Many of my readers and other bloggers have mentioned they learn something new every time they venture into Paris for shopping. This was my first time to Paris and I was really impressed by the level of customer service, professionalism and friendliness. The French take shopping to a new level. A few personal observations:
The stores in Paris are well stocked with inventory where in the US often times stores like J.Crew or even Nordstrom (these days) don’t carry as much inventory compared to online. In the US I am fed the phrase “we can order it for you online” more and more in physical stores these days. It’s a nice service to have – but time is precious and the more I find things sold out in stores (and not even limited-edition items) the more I feel like just shopping online to save time. Shopping in person is better to see things in person whether it’s clothes, makeup, items for the house or really anything. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I find in-store inventory decreases more and more even though the number of physical stores sometimes increases.
Department stores and retailers like Sephora France carry a wide range of brands making one-stop-shopping truly possible. Printemps for example has multiple beauty floors – I found this a bit confusing as we moved from one floor to the next seeing multiple Dior or Chanel booths. But it did make it nice to navigate and see different setups. In the US, if I want to see all the beauty brands I have on a list, I often have to visit 3-4 distinct stores to purchase to Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs Beauty, Diptyque, Caudalie, Fresh and Hourglass (as an example).
Parisian beauty counters and shops seem very generous with samples and not just any flimsy sample packets, actual good ones! The Chanel Beauty boutique on Rue Saint Honore gifted a deluxe mini of the exclusifs bottle of Gardenia along with skincare and foundation packets (although I did spend a substantial amount there). Printemps Chanel threw in minis and a deluxe-sized mini of Bleu de Chanel for my husband. For Diptyque 34 Boulevard Saint-Germain threw in so many skincare packets and some fragrance minis although I have to say the Diptyque store at South Coast Plaza in the US is also very generous to loyal customers.
Have you shopped for beauty in Paris before? What was your experience? Did you have any favorite stores or amazing beauty finds? I hope to go back in the near future. There is so much to explore!
Hello again! I’m back in the US from my trip to Europe. My husband and I had such an amazing trip and visited so many incredible cities – part of me wishes we could have stayed in Europe to explore more, but I am glad to be back home. I’ve missed blogging! Before I left I had several posts and articles prepped and I had hoped to write while I traveled. Both my husband and I had difficulties with Wi-Fi everywhere we visited, getting connected to the internet for extended periods of time was almost impossible – we were at sea for a good portion of the trip as well where internet connection was slow as well.
A quick overview of our stops:
Our trip was planned more for adventure and exploration versus leisure and relaxation. This was our first trip to back to Europe together since we met in Oxford on a study abroad trip when we were in college (many many years ago). We each had a wishlist of places to see on our first Europe vacation. In three weeks we traveled to four countries, in total we spent 6 days in Paris, 4 days in Rome (including a day trip to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius), 1 day in Athens, 8 days on a cruise through the Greek Islands covering Rhodes, Mykonos and Santorini, ended in Istanbul, then flew back to Paris for 1 more day on the way back home.
I’ll have highlights on each of our stops in upcoming posts, but for now an overview and some thoughts on our trip. In planning our itinerary I was worried it would be too much but it turned out to be just right if you want to spend a few weeks in Europe and get a sampler of as many places as possible. Our trip was split into 10 days in Paris/Rome, then 8 days on a cruise. I prefer trips where you book a hotel in one city for a few days before moving onto the next city, but the cruise was a nice way to not have to worry about much of anything – you have your room, excellent room service, food available 24/7, clean bathrooms.
Planning Our Trip
To plan our trip we reached out to friends for recommendations and also relied heavily on sites like Expedia, Kayak and Tripadvisor for hotel, restaurant and tour recommendations in each city. Sometimes that “amazing place” your friend recommends in Rome turns out to be on the opposite side of town from your hotel or where most of your actives are planned. I downloaded the Tripadvisor mobile app which helped narrow down recommendations by your location.
In terms of planning our daily activities, my husband and I are complete opposites in how we plan for travel. I like to have a list of places to visit and map them all out in advance knowing I probably can’t make it to all the points of interest, but at least it helps me prioritize what I want to see, where to eat, and tours scheduled. My husband on the other hand prefers to figure things out when one arrives at the destination. He will mark a few points of interest as anchor points for the trip and then prefers to explore everything else just as it comes to allow for more freedom in choosing what to do. We did a mix of both and it worked pretty well.
Packing For Our Trip and Travel to Europe
As many of you have seen from my initial packing post, we decided to do carry-ons only (yes, insane!). As you can see from our itinerary, we had quite a few stops. In total we took 7 flights (in addition 2 layovers in the US). It was because of the number of stops we had planned that we decided to do our best to limit our luggage to carry-on only. After going through all the different airports in Europe, I have to say that I think this was the best decision we could have made. We were able to skip insane lines you had to wait in to check luggage. We didn’t have to worry about waiting for luggage (or losing it) at baggage claim. Once we landed, we found it easy to get from the airports to our hotels, some required a bit of walking. We saw so many others fumble with suitcases that wouldn’t fit through doors or escalators, many that fell over constantly and some that looked really heavy to roll up cobblestone roads. Had we planned 2-3 stops, I would have definitely preferred to check luggage in a proper suitcase. With our itinerary, we would have wasted a lot of time waiting in lines if we checked ours. I’ll have a more detailed post on what I packed, what worked, what didn’t work and what I plan to do next time.
My husband used a mix of the travel sites and direct booking for flights and hotels. Here’s a list of what we flew on our trip. For US to Europe, we booked two separate airlines because we weren’t 100% set on our return date back to the US. For the cruise, my husband decided on Celebrity Cruises for our trip through the Greek Islands:
US East Coast to West Coast – Delta Celebrity Cruises – Equinox Ship, Greek Isles to Istanbul
The number of options available for travel are overwhelming so picking flights took a lot of planning. Thankfully I didn’t have to worry about this as my husband did most of the legwork in picking out flights. He’s a loyal Delta customer – in the past he used to travel a lot for work and he’s always been pleased with Delta. I haven’t traveled as much but have nothing but good things to say about Delta’s service in general. For Europe, our original plan was to fly to London for a few days and then the Eurostar to Paris. Flying through Europe is significantly cheaper than taking any of the trains so we decided to skip London this time and save it for another trip.
To fly from US to France, we picked one of the smaller boutique airlines called La Compagnie which recently launched all business-class flights from New York/Newark to Paris/London. Our tickets for a round trip were about 1/2 of what it would cost for other major airlines for a business class ticket. Once we boarded the plane, we found the trip quite pleasant. It’s a no-fuss, basic and streamlined airline with friendly and attentive flight attendants. My husband researched reviews before booking, as usual with travel reviews, thoughts are mixed. You may want to check the blog called One Mile at a Time for helpful reviews and good photos of the airline.
We found our flight pleasant and without any issues. There was plenty of legroom and the seats were relatively comfortable. The boarding process we experienced in both Newark and our return from Paris on the other hand was less than stellar. They did not have their process flow figured out for smooth boarding. The attendants and staff seemed uncoordinated and the process of checking IDs and seat tickets was excessive. Even after going through security at the gates, there was an additional check of carry-on contents and pat-down of some people at the boarding gate. While waiting in line, a man in front of me lost it when he was asked to show his seat ticket after getting on the plane because he said it was “the 10th time” he had been asked. For our next trip to Paris or London, I am not sure we will rebook with them – if you’re looking for a good basic airline with business-class seats, I would highly recommend checking out the tickets with La Compagnie.
All business class seats (usually around 74 seats)
No long lines at check-in as with some other large airlines
Large roomy seats that recline fully so you can sleep lying down
Food is decent, better than average
Service on the plane from attendants is very good, all were friendly, attentive and very professional
Huge thumbs down for the boarding process
No Wi-Fi once on plane (our flights were around 8 hours, they should have the option to upgrade for such a long flight)
Finding the gates is can be a bit challenging since they are a smaller airline, we had to ask around 5 people where the gates were before we found it
Samsung tablets don’t always work well, the attendants could easily swap out the tablets for ones that work, but I noticed several people on both flights that had issues with theirs
They handed out little flight bags with very tiny Caudalie creams, socks and sleeping eye masks, all very cute and good in concept, but quality and usability not very good or functional
For flying within Europe, I had little to no expectations of any of the carriers. Reviews seem very negative across the board on all of them, especially the low-cost airlines. I expected the worst but have to say I was relieved to find all flights from Vueling, Ryanair, and Pegasus were no-fuss without any issues. Perhaps our experience was rare compared to the norm, but we had no trouble or issues getting through security, wait times weren’t too bad either although some airports were very busy. We allowed ourselves ample time to check in so we weren’t rushed. We also had only carry-on bags that didn’t look big so nobody bothered us when we boarded. I was particularly worried about these airlines – there are so many “I hate x airline” posts and reviews I expected the worst. Luckily our experiences were ok.
Trip Overview, Highlights and Summary Thoughts
There were so many amazing places we visited. I was worried it would be too much but we paced ourselves well.
The time we spent in each city of course was not enough time to
explore, but it was a very good trip to get a sampling of multiple
cities. We found it really interesting to see the differences in culture
with each city we visited. My personal favorites were Paris and Mykonos. My husband loved Paris and Mount Vesuvius. Some quick thoughts on each city we visited (more posts on each to follow soon):
Paris is amazing. I was a bit sad to leave. A part of me wishes that I could move there for the incredible food, beautiful parks, culture, and amazing shopping. The buildings and architecture are stunning and classic. We did a lot of touristy things here visiting the major monuments and museums. Parisian women are incredibly chic with amazing taste and style – the way they dress and carry themselves is simple but beautiful. We visited in the middle of summer and it was very hot, I was in awe of all the pretty summer dresses and gorgeous ballet flats that were everywhere. Food is absolutely incredible and the croissants were to die for. Everything we ate was fresh and delicious. One of our favorite things to do was just sit in the Tuileries Garden, drink coffee and people watch. Shopping of course was incredible – the stores and associates put American retail to shame. All the stores we went to had associates fluent in English and other languages in addition to French. Each one I encountered was incredibly knowledgeable about their brands. They were all friendly, patient and very helpful. I never asked for any samples but each beauty counter or store I visited was incredibly generous with samples without me asking. They even threw in men’s skincare and fragrance for my husband as he patiently waited by my side in a number of the stores.
Diptyque Paris, Boulevard 34 Saint Germain
Eiffel Tower view from Arc de Triomphe
Louboutin Beaute at the Louvre Carousel Shops
In Rome we did more sight-seeing and adventure tours. For touristy things in Rome, we visited Vatican City, Saint Peter’s Basilica, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain (under construction). We took a day trip to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. We climbed up Mount Vesuvius and made it to the third gift shop (it’s the farthest they will let you go without a special guide). The best part of our trip was biking along the Appian Way with Top Bike Rentals. We biked from center city Rome to the the Appian Way (about 20-30 minutes). It is something I highly recommend. If we go back to Rome, we will definitely be checking out the other Rome tours. It’s something we will never forget. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate my biking skills at a sad 2.5 but I was still able to do it and had a lot of fun. There were about 10 people in the group, ranging from one 18 year old to several in the 50+ range. I would say that I bike like a granny, but there were several grandmothers in our bike group who were hauling ***. I was the only one that fell once – I missed a ramp and thought I could bike up a curb. It didn’t work out and I fell over. I got some minor scrapes on my knee and palms, but no injuries – I think the others were more concerned about me tipping over than I was. They have E-bikes which were amazing, especially for the uphill areas. Our guide’s name was Emmanuel, he was an excellent guide. There are a few Appian Way options, we booked this one.
Saint Peter’s Basilica
Biking along the Appian Way
For the cruise, we went on the Celebrity Equinox. We started in Athens and spent a day at sea until we reached Rhodes. Each of the stops was 1 day which wasn’t nearly enough time to really explore or enjoy each city. Still it was a great way to get a sampling in a week’s time. After Rhodes, we sailed to Mykonos, Santorini, Ephesus and Istanbul. More on each stop and the cruise in an upcoming post. A few snapshots.
Mykonos – Elia Beach
Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
Hope you liked this overview of my three weeks in Europe. Many thanks to each and every one of you who gave me recommendations for each city! I was really touched by all your kind comments and although I wasn’t able to meet any readers on my trip, I was beyond grateful to see welcome comments on my Instagram feed as I stopped in some of your cities. I feel so blessed to have such amazing readers – I had no idea I had readers from Greece or Turkey! I’m sending you hugs and kisses 🙂
I also feel incredibly blessed to have been able to spend almost a month in Europe and that I was able to do it with my best friend and love of my life. I have to say the thought of spending 21 days with someone 24/7 had me a bit worried before we left – I’m of the mindset that all relationships need a little space to work. With our hotel and cruise accommodations there was absolutely no space at all. Whatever we did though, it worked. We had the best time together and I couldn’t have asked for a better travel partner. We did a mix of everything. I planned what we would see in Paris, he planned what we would see in Rome and Naples. For Greece and Turkey we planned everything together. We liked trying new things. I was more adventurous and went outside of my comfort zone to bike 20+ miles through Rome, I climbed up and down Mount Vesuvius to see the volcano my husband was so excited about. My husband on the other hand isn’t a fan of beauty shopping, but he tagged along on a few of the beauty stores, helped me take pictures and was really patient with me for wanting to stop in a French Pharmacy every 5 blocks (lol).
Have you been to any of the cities in France, Rome, Greece or Turkey? Have you visited any multiple times? I am already trying to plan a trip back to Paris and also the South of France although I don’t know that we will be able to go back this year. I would go back to Mykonos in a heartbeat anytime I am able to. Actually any of the Greek Islands I think would require at least 2-3 days to really explore. Our 1-day stops wasn’t enough!
I spent the last week in Paris and can’t wait to share more about our trip there. We stayed in the cutest little hotel in the Latin District located in 5th arrondissement. The weather was beautiful and sunny all week long. I hope to share more about Paris in the next few days but for now here’s a quick recap of some highlights. I was thrilled to try Ladurée and Pierre Hermé macarons for the first time. I will say both are very very good, but Pierre Hermé is very special with the mixed flavors and beautiful designs. It was difficult to restrain myself from trying every flavor but they are extremely rich so I limited myself to a few during our four days in Paris.
Food highlights include breakfast at Ladurée and Angelina (the hot chocolate was out of this world). I’ve been beyond obsessed with the chocolate croissants here. If I could eat one from Paris each and every day I would be happiest person in the world.
I stopped by several French Pharmacies that have been raved about by a number of beauty lovers in the US. Bioderma is plentiful here and I am so happy that Beautylish has brought it to the US for us. It was interesting to see all the different formulas, sizes even body/hair care. Travel sizes were available for purchase in two of the formulas. I hope Beautylish will carry more of the line soon! I did a little haul at one and will share more about beauty shopping in Paris soon. Printemps was the most amazing store I’ve ever seen – everyone was super friendly and extremely generous with samples. I could have spent an entire day there. Hermes in Paris was out of this world, it’s nothing like I’ve seen before. Chanel boutiques were packed so I didn’t spend much time inside them, although I did discover a tiny beauty boutique on Rue Saint-Honoré which was very cute.
Sephora on the Champs-Élysées was like every beauty lover’s dream come true – they had almost every brand imaginable, By Terry, MAC, Chanel, Serge Lutens, Dior … and a cute beauty bar where women were getting manicures.
More on Paris soon – there is so much to see, we didn’t get to everything on our list in four and a half days. We have lots to look forward to in the future on our next trip back to France. We did a lot of sightseeing and visited the Arc de Triomphe, Tuileries Garden, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Jardin du Luxembourg and a few other places as well.
Today my husband and I landed in Rome you can follow me along on instagram @beautylookbook for snippets of our trip. If you have any recommendations for Rome I’m all ears! Comment publishing may be slow but I am getting to them as quickly as I can while I soak in all the beauty that is here in Europe.