And now we are back from our glorious two month sojourn. What happy days they were! And - I have come back with a lot of packing lessons learnt which I hope will help me in the future... and you too.
1) I took too many pairs of trousers/the wrong kind of trousers. As you may recall, I packed skinny jeans, culottes and some navy slouchy pants. Basically, I only wore jeans, busting out the culottes when the weather got a bit warmer. It may sound like the bleeding obvious, but take what you usually would wear. Unless, of course, your holiday is lounging on a beach, for example.
2) I took too much make-up. I didn't use the primer, the liquid eyeliner and hardly used the eyeshadow. I guess I need to accept the fact that when travelling with Little Miss O, I don't get out much and then only to pubs and family type restaurants, so I don't need much make-up. Be realistic about where you are going and what make-up it will require.
3) I took too much jewellery. I hardly wore any of it - only the rings and sometimes the bottle necklace. The evening jewellery and all the earrings didn't get a look in. Keep it simple, maybe just one necklace or pair of earrings to make an outfit more "evening-ish."
4) I took too many pairs of shoes. I basically lived in my Converse and wore a pair of sandals I bought in Paris when it got warmer. One pair of shoes might just be enough, especially if you are only doing one kind of activity such as city sightseeing.
5) I didn't do any exercise - well, actual "exercise" - I walked all over Europe, but no actual work outs. Next time, I either need to just admit that I am not going to do it, or make a plan and perhaps take running shoes and an iPod. Or a yoga mat. Either factor exercise into your day - such as long walks, totally commit to a plan and take the swimming costume etc. or just accept it's not going to happen.
6) Using my Moom to "wax" when I was away was a pain in the bottom and it was heavy to carry as well as oozing everywhere. Use the simplest method possible when travelling - a razor may not be a long term situation, but may be a good idea when travelling.
7) I took too many potions and lotions. Instead of lugging stuff with you, stock up at a health food store after arrival.
8) I am glad I didn't pack any books as I didn't have to carry them. Read books that are left at hostels, holiday lets or pick up some cheap ones secondhand and then pass them on.
9) My backpack handbag situation was practical but a bit dorky. Being hands free was great and my shoulders were never sore, so a day pack is really ideal, but look for one that has a bit of style. Also - be careful of a backpack in crowded situations.
10) I didn't keep a travel journal, so there was no need to carry one. Keep a digital journal or let your photos tell the story.
11) Travelling with Little Miss O, I didn't use my iPod or headphones once. Think about when and where you will use gadgets before you pack them.
12) My water bottle leaked, and I didn't use my keep cup. In future, I need to find a better quality bottle and be more insistent about using my keep cup. It's important to try to be eco-friendly even when on the move, but take ones that work well!
13) I took too many snacks on the plane. What was useful were the tupperware containers I took as they enable me to carry snacks around easily for Little Miss O and saved a lot of tense situations - and probably quite a bit of money too.
14) I took too much stuff for Little Miss O to do. We got given so many colouring books and pencils and stickers on the way that it was ridiculous to have brought so much. Kids are often given things on the plane and in restaurants, so keep the amount taken to a minimum.
15) I wish I had taken a swiss army knife and one of those bags that roll up really small and then become a cabin-sized bag for all the souvenirs/purchases/gifts that come along the way.
16) Make a shopping list of things to look for overseas and try to stick to it. I had quite a few impulse buys which ate into my budget and took up room in my case.
17) I am glad I took my roll up shopping bag - it saved on a lot of plastic bags and also came in handy for things such as packing dirty washing.
18) Two of the best things I brought were my London mini A-Z and my Paris L'indispensable books. I used them a lot and they helped me to save money and time and to take some great walks through two of my favourite cities. So much easier to handle than a big paper map. Of course, those are for Luddites like me who don't have clever gadgets to tell me things.