Packing for Paris

Photo of a person holding a container of dry laundry soap, next to a fold-up washer and clothes line
Full knapsack and totebag on a bed
All packed for Paris!

This winter I will be going to the city of lovers… with my significant other! After two trips together to the States (New York City for New Years Eve and California for the CSUN Conference), my partner Matt and I will be embarking on our first trip abroad together – and what could be more romantic than France?! With his cap and my beret, we could name the trip The Adventures of the the Black Beret and Grey Cap Abroad, but that would be a mouthful.

We are each bringing one carry-on bag and a ‘purse’ (ie: large tote bag that passes as a purse). My packing list is very similar to that of my trip last summer packing for Germany, Prague, and Iceland, 

Here are some new additions and amendments to previous trips:


We have promised to bring home French butter, and will likely be bringing back some cheese too. So, we will be packing a cooler bag, small ice packs (note ‘small’ – we are traveling with carry-on baggage only), and a ziplock bags. This will also be handy if we have any leftover food we need to take between Paris and Bordeaux on the 3 hour train ride. Picnic-en-transit!

Airline clothes

I’ve decided to set aside a specific set of clothes to wear on the plane to avoid the anxiety of “Does this shirt smell?” when in close quarters with others for an extended period of time.

Extra shoes

I have very sensitive feet and despite having the best footwear all my life, I still end up in anguish after a lot of walking. So, I will be bringing 3 pairs of shoes to switch between to distribute the pain evenly (ie: blisters). I also have new orthopedics and baby powder packed!

Laundry soap

As there are two of us, we expect to do at least one load of laundry. Although I had bought a backpack washer, the high cost of European laundromats is more palatable when there are two individuals to split the cost (and fill the washer) between. To reduce cost of buying soap at a premium, I brought one packet of dry laundry soap.

Photo of a person holding a container of dry laundry soap, next to a fold-up washer and clothes line
Backpack laundromat
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Packing for Germany, Prague, and Iceland

Photo of a cup of tea and a backpack

Packing for a trip is always exciting! The anticipation and excitement can be drawn out and fueled by planning and the act of packing. Here is what I am packing for my trip to Germany, Prague, and Iceland:

What’s in My Bag?


photo of items laid out: smoothie powder, vingear packets, sun hat, bamboo eating utensils, water bottle, poncho, uumbrella, towel, first aid kit, soap, sewing kit, backpack cover, and lock
Emergency items and essentials at the ready!
  • First Aid Kit: bandaids, Polysporin, tweezers.
  • Stainless steel water bottle; bamboo eating utencils
  • Compact umbrella; poncho; rain cover for backpack
  • Sun hat
  • Greens Powder & snack bars
  • Combination lock
  • Sewing kit
  • Laundry soap; hand soap
  • Travel towel
  • Vinegar packets (for cleaning my water bottle)
photo of ziplock bags with cothes inside
Labeled ziplock bags – compact, water resistant, and organized!
  • Nightgown
  • Underwear & socks (plus one extra just in case)
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • T-shirts (x2)
  • Extra pair of jeans & a pair of shorts
  • Evening top (x2)
  • Bating suit; flip flops
  • Slippers
  • Jacket
Photo of cards, envelopes, maple syrup, and maple sugar.
Hostess gifts and cards for AirBnB.
  • Hiking shoes; shoes for the wedding
  • Cards, maple syrup, maple sugar (hostess gifts)
  • Foundation, mascara, eye shadow, lipstick, sunscreen
  • Gorilla tripod
  • Washcloth
  • Sleeping bag sheet

Carry-on Tote Bag:

Photo of travel pillows, iPad and accessories, sleeping mask, book, maps, magazines, and toiletres.
Essentials, entertainment, and comfort for the voyage.
  • Camera, second lens, extra battery, charger, iPad adapter for SD card.
  • Noise cancelling headphones, extra battery
  • Tablet, Bluetooth keyboard, charging cables
  • Universal outlet adapter (CEE)
  • Travel pillow (neck and head); pillow case; sleeping mask
  • Toiletries & ear plugs
  • Medication with pharmacy labels
  • Maid-of-honour dress (can’t risk that getting lost!)
  • Paperback books (x2); maps
  • Kleenix; wet naps
Camera and photography gear, passport, wallet
Purse contents


  • Passport, tickets, directions
  • Cell phone; wallet
  • Camera; extra SD card, battery, and charger; cleaning pen, wireless remote.
  • Sunglasses
Photo of a cup of tea and a backpack
Enjoying a cup of tea whilst packing.

My Thoughts on What to Pack:

Ziplock Bags

I acknowledge it makes me look a little crazy to have all my clothes in ziplock bags, but there is reason to my madness. Usually, I put essentials in plastic grocery bags to save me searching around my luggage for socks or underwear; or my special outfits to protect them and for organization.

When I visited my cousin Kate in Ottawa recently, she raved about vacuum compression bags that help you save space when packing. Then when I was hanging out with Dunter during my last trip to Montreal, he gave me a giant ziplock bag for my laundry saying that is how they packed dirty clothes when he was in the army.

Putting these two thoughts together, I went to the dollar store and bought a box of large ziplock freezer bags (thicker plastic). They work much better than grocery bags! I can get all the air out to ‘vacuum pack’ my clothes. The labels maybe a bit of a nuisance, but it may help make sure I have everything when I pack-up (have been known to loose things). I think they’ll work great!


Comfortable, noise-cancelling headphones are vital to an enjoyable voyage. I find that ear-buds hurt after wearing them for awhile, so bought over-the-ear headphones with a cushioned headband (headbands can also be uncomfortable) with an airline adapter. The Bose QuietComfort headphones I bought for the trip also come in a hard case to protect them during travel.

Budget tip: There are cheaper options out there for sure. However, if you’re set on Bose’s quality like I was, you can buy them second-hand on eBay or Kijiji, or if you have access to a broken pair, you can upgrade to the newest model at 50% off the retail price.


I found it a challenge to blog on my iPhone when in China, and the limited access to computers meant that I had no idea what my photographs really looked like most of the trip. For this trip, I purchased a second-hand iPad with retina screen, an SD card adapter to transfer photos, and a bluetooth keyboard to ease writing on-the-go.

Budget tip: I bought my iPad and accessories on eBay for a song. At least in Canada, eBay tends to be cheaper for Mac products than Kijiji or buying in-store. Another tip is to go for more memory if you can afford to spend an extra $50-$100 on a tablet (I went for 64 GB). As far as I can tell, there is no way to simply view photos off an SD card on an iPad – you have to download them onto your iPad first, which can take up a lot of memory (if you have found a better way, please message me).

Greens Powder & Snack Bars:

Food and beverages in Europe are extremely expensive – especially anything healthy. Iceland is particularly bad for this. So, I packed green supplements to help make sure I had a portion of my necessary greens and vitamins while on vacation. I also am considering purchasing some snack bars to satisfy my hunger when out-and-about to avoid making desperate purchases at over-priced corner shops.

Budget tip for a future trip: I was considering bringing some Greens powder in a ziplock bag to see how it goes over at Customs, but I’ve decided not to try this trip. However, it would be a cheaper alternative to buying individual powder packs, which run around $3 each at the health food store. I’ll try that another time…

Photo of tote back, backpack, and camera bag
Packed and ready to go: black tote bag, 40lb Aria MEC backpack, and Acme Made camera bag/purse


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Reading for Iceland

Prior to my trip to China in the autumn of 2013, my immediate aspirations were to focus on getting a stable 9-5  job, paying off my Canada, Ontario, and Quebec student loans, moving into my own bachelor apartment, getting a dog named Giles, and saving up for a down payment on a small house. China changed all that.*

I now have the travel bug.

It dawned on me while I was munching away on minced tarts with Nicole one snowy day this past January. She was home for the holidays and her family was having party. She looked at me across the table at me, saying with a smile, “You’ve got the travel bug now, don’t you?” Looking down at my minced tart I blushed with the realization. Nicole asked where I wanted to go next to which I answered with a long list from Prague to India. It was then Nicole perked up and asked, “What about Iceland?” and immediately my head was filled with all the beautiful pictures of glaciers I’d seen online. “Yes! I’d love to go to Iceland!” I declared with enthusiasm, although it had never actually entered my mind before… and now I am totally obsessed.

Ever since that discussion, I have been spending my spare hours at the library looking at books about Iceland, reading travel blogs, collecting images on Flickr and Pinterest, and interviewing peers who have traveled there recently. One of the greatest joys has been reading the many wonderful books on the history and culture of Iceland. I can’t remember the last time I read this much outside of school. Iceland has rekindled my love of reading!

Nell’s Reading List for Iceland


Cup of green tea on a copy of Wasteland of Words

Wasteland with Words: A Social History of Iceland

This is a very approachable book on the social history of Iceland equipped with many photographs and anecdotes sourced from diaries and letters written by working-class and middle-class Icelanders and visitors to the country. The book deals mostly with the 1700’s onwards and left me wondering “Why?” at many times as there were blanks in some places as to theories on why cultural shifts occurred or why certain practices were in place. However, all in all it is a very interesting book that was a pleasure to read.

Link to Wasteland with Words on Amazon

Inside pages of Iceland Imagined

Iceland Imagined: Nature, Culture, and Storytelling

This book had me feeling very impressed by the writing style, the wealth of history it covers, and the graphical layout of the book. It has very detailed notes which makes the academic in me very happy (1/3 of the book are Notes). The only downside is that the ending felt abrupt. I would have appreciated a bit of a conclusion to the whole book rather than to the topic being discussed within the final chapter. However, all in all, I loved this book!

Link to Iceland Imagined on Amazon

Cover of Meltdown Iceland

Meltdown Iceland: Lessons on the World Financial Crisis from a Small Bankrupt Island

Meltdown Iceland is an easy read, slipping between real-time accounts of the author’s visit to Iceland and important historical events that contributed to the growth and demise of Iceland’s economy. All are written in a very approachable story-telling technique, and are seamlessly woven together with vivid pictures painted in the reader’s mind. It cover the areas of Iceland’s history and culture that other books fell short or stopped at.

Link to Meltdown Iceland on Amazon

two books on the history of iceland

Insight Guide: Iceland & The History of Iceland

I’ve grown to quite enjoy the Insight Guides as they are like the Coles Notes of a country, just with a lot more pictures. This is a great little book to pick up now and again.

Insight Guide: Iceland on Amazon

The History of Iceland is a very approachable academic read, full of quotes and sources on the history of Iceland. I suggest this book, especially if you are looking to delve into early writings on Iceland. I am currently reading this book and find its short chapters ideal for commuting to work.

The History of Iceland on Amazon


Print volume of The Sagas of Icelanders

The Icelandic Sagas

This is one hefty book. Its may look very sexy on one’s bookshelf, but if you actually plan to read it outside of the home, I suggest the $3.99 e-book version on Amazon. It is well worth the read, especially when one considers the cultural significance of the sagas. The bible and the sagas were both instructional and a form of entertainment to Icelanders, having a lasting affect on their culture and identity. It is well the read.

Link to the Sagas on Amazon.

Travel Guides:

allpaper Guide to Reykjavik sitting on a cushion with red text.

Wallpaper Guide to Reykjavik

This travel guide was a huge disappointment. For a city known to be a cultural hub, Wallpaper makes it look and sound like a rather boring place. On the bright side, it looks quite nice next to my Wallpaper Guide to Shanghai (a place I didn’t make it to during my trip to China – hopefully Iceland wont fall to the same fate).

Link to the Wallpaper Guide on Amazon.

The Lonely Planet Guide to Iceland next to a plate of toast in the sun.

Lonely Planet Guide to Iceland

I usually find travel guides impossible reads, but this one is clear, not overwhelming, and holds information that I feel will be useful in planning my trip. It gives one an idea of prices, the climate and daylight at certain times of the year, and is full of maps and short descriptions of places to visit. I’m definitely planning on buying this book to take on my trip!

Link to the Lonely Planet Guide on Amazon.

Learning Icelandic

Handout from Icelandic lessonsIts always wise to know a bit of the native language of a place you are visiting, even if most people speak English. I enrolled in Icelandic language lessons at the Icelandic Canadian Club of Toronto, where they use a great course book with audio accompaniment that you can download for free online from Tungumalatorg.

I am also a huge fan of Memrise, which I used in preparation to my trip to China in 2013. Memrise offers free educational games for a multitude of languages, including Icelandic.


Any other resources to recommend? Feel free to share them below! Thanks.

*I’m still driven to acquire all these things, but now putting money towards a trip to Iceland this year is far more appealing than the student loans that will take me 25 years to pay off. Iceland is much more awesome than debt.

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Packing for China

Blue paper lanterns alit in the darkness

Like Girl Scouts and Scar from the Lion King, I like to “Be Prepared!”

I try to fit every imaginable thing I could possibly need in my handbag everyday, and my suitcase is usually a similar story. However, packing for China has required me to think differently. Air Canada has a 50lb max on luggage (unless you want a hefty fee) and I plan to get some career wear tailor made for me when I’m in China. So, I tried to pack as light as possible to make room for goodies on the way back.

Items in carry-on tote bag: books, magazines, towel, pillow, chargers, journal, pens, and toiletres


The flight to China is long and includes a stop-over in Vancouver. So, I wanted to make sure I was well stocked with books, writing materials, music, and movies. Thankfully, I can fit a few hours of film, television, music, and reading on my iPhone… in addition to packing my Kindle, two paperback books, and a magazine. I also brought a pen, my virgin travel journal, and stationary to write if the mood strikes me.

Contents of backpack: necessities, clothing, camera gear, shoes


I miraculously fit everything I needed into my Aria 40L bag from MEC. Along side the usual, I packed an emergency first aid kit, sewing kit, laundry soap, sleeping bag sheet, and my utility knife just in case (you never know when you might want to open a bottle of wine – Mount Danxia perhaps?). I think I’m pretty well prepared, although I did decide to leave my Tide stick at home. Although I’ve packed far less than I do for a weekend trip to Montreal, I am still concerned I maybe over the 50lb max for the plane. My backpack is so heavy already- and I plan to go shopping in Dongguan!

We will discover the true weight of my bag come Wednesday morning…

Book covers of Delete, Granta, and the Sexual Spectrum

Choosing Reading Material:

Choosing reading material to bring is proving a challenge. I remember on recent flights to Boston and Montreal you weren’t aloud Kindles or iPhones active, so paperbacks and magazines were a must. However, international flights maybe different as they are much, much longer. Last time I flew abroad, I went to England, and that was back in high school, before I had an e-reader, cellphone, or iPod.

Now, I always find magazines useful for transport, whether it be on the bus or in flight. They don’t require much focus if you’re feeling restless and there are lots of pretty pictures to look at. I decided to bring an old issue of Surface magazine that I hadn’t read read, and the latest Toastmaster magazine which came with my membership. Both, I’d be perfectly happy leaving on a bench for someone else to read or in the airport recycling bin. Books on the other hand, are a different story.

I love books. I love to read them, I love to write them, and I love to design them. One of my favourite coffee time excursions is just to wander the floors of a book shop studying book jacket design or scroll through Amazon reading synopsizes and reviews. Needless to say, I own a lot of books. However, ever since getting my Kindle, I am reluctant to drag a physical book around with me, and thus, many of my retail purchases have gone unread. This leaves me with an awful lot of books to choose from.

My dilemma is this: What if I love it and want to bring it home to keep? What if I want to keep it as a design reference? What if I hate it doesn’t hold my interest? What if it adds too much weight to my bag?

I have tried to select books that appear to be gripping, easy reads. I am thinking about bringing Granata 124: Travel which is a collection of short stories about travel. I am in love with the jacket design, but two stories in, find it rather depressing and uninspiring. I’m hoping deeper in, it may bring some inspiration for my own travel writing. However, even if the writing isn’t up my ally, I still want to bring it home as a design artifact.

People are always putting boxes of books out on the curb where I live. One book I picked up was called the Princes of Ireland. I have been brought up to love a good historical novel and this one looks intriguing, even if one were just to read he title. Similarly down the historical-inspired route, I brought a battered copy of the Courtesan, a fantasy novel I enjoyed many years ago. I have been attempting to write my own fantasy book this past year and thought it might be good to revisit some old favourites to bring about inspiration.

Then there is Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. Not only is the jacket design lovely, but the topic is one that has fascinated me for years. I have often wondered how the delete button on a keyboard could impact a society now so heavily dependent on technology for both work and leisure. I myself have many times wished there was a delete button for moments in life too- and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

I also have The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood is a history of communication and information. It combines my two loves of history and communication technology! Only problem is, it is a rather hefty book… and I think I’d want to bring this one home with me.

Then finally, there’s the gender and sexuality studies books I have collected so many of. Two I’ve been debating to bring are The Other Side of Desire and The Sexual Spectrum: Exploring Human Diversity. The first one is a short book with narrative while the other one is longer and a bit more on the usual side. So far, I’ve chosen the longer of the two as I figure I’ll need as much reading material as possible, but now I’m beginning to wonder if the shorter book maybe a wiser choice.

So many books to choose from!

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