Pre-and-Post-Travel Routine


I've received a few questions about French vacation time. France's minimum vacation allowance per year is five weeks, plus réduction du temps de travail- additional leave for employees working more than 35 hours a week, capped at 39 hours weekly. There are 12 bank holidays sprinkled throughout the year, several in the month of May. Some get a month or more RTT, which is why I have friends with a solid three months of holidays.

Despite the sustainability concerns, I won't stop flying- family visits are non-negotiable. I also think people need to leave Paris sometimes, or they'll burn out. Instead, I reduce my footprint by avoiding domestic or shorter flights; buying secondhand, walking or biking everywhere, taking the stairs, and eating vegan. Our carbon footprint was an estimated 4.93 metric tons last year- huge, but I'm trying to improve (the global average is 4. The US average is 20.40).

Here's what I do before traveling:

  1. Clean the apartment and refrigerator. I like coming back to a fresh bed and tidy home, and I LOVE unplugging the refrigerator. What this says about me, I don't know.
  2. Do the laundry. I hate the idea of clothes festering while we're gone.
  3. Make sure passports are updated with plenty of pages. French customs frequently forget entry and exit stamps, so I pack copies of our marriage certificate, tickets, and each passport.
  4. Stock up on plastic-free, package-free snacks at Causses- almonds, chips, apples, goji berries. It's rewarding, eating without having to throw something away afterward, and a lifesaver when I can't find gluten-free food. I carry everything in small drawstring linen or cotton tote bags.
  5. Call bank / credit card / utility companies to give travel dates. I don't bother telling the gardienne because she told me she doesn't care.
  6. Take the cats to the cat hotel, or my brother-in-law's. If staying with family, I pre-measure their food into a glass jar and clean and empty their litter box, scoop, and bowls for the ride. I also carry a bucket of litter and line their carrier with a towel for easy clean-up on arrival.
  7. Pack reading material, and a pen for customs forms.
  8. Turn off modem and lights and unplug TV, phone, chargers, etc.
During the trip, I check online to make sure nobody's stealing from our bank account. I don't have a "travel essentials" list, except baking soda, a toothbrush, socks for the plane, my hairbrush, and an empty canteen to refill at a water fountain post-security. I've had two Klean Kanteens stolen though :( In all the long haul flights I've been on, I never used a neck pillow. A bunched-up sweater does the same job.

I pack only clean clothes (click here, here, and here for carry-on travel wardrobe examples), and do laundry in the sink before leaving a destination, ensuring nothing dirties the suitcase. In case laundry is impossible, cloth bags separate soiled items from other stuff.

Post-Travel Routine

  1. Before doing anything else, I empty the suitcase, stick everything in the laundry, and wipe the suitcase with white vinegar. Then I shake it out on the balcony, leaving in the sun for awhile (you can also vacuum the inside).
  2. Air out the apartment. Paris is so polluted, though, I'm probably doing myself a disservice by flinging every window and door open.
  3. Try not to nap. I adjust better to the time change if I sleep at a normal hour.
  4. Get the cats. They love my brother-in-law, but they're always happy to come home and often unzip the carrier in the hallway to walk into the apartment autonomously. We have a strange dynamic.
  5. Change money. Unless visiting a country with closed currency, I prefer doing this at the bank instead of airports. It takes longer, but is typically cheaper.
A couple of times (well, seven), I've heard French people make fun of Americans for wearing giant hats- not the cute, flat-brimmed panamas but those fashion blogger floppy ones, you know the type-and not taking their sunglasses off in the airport. To get through TSA quickly, I don't wear scarves, zippered clothing, or difficult-to-remove shoes. No need to take my watch or ring off for security, but it's better to not wear accessories that could easily be damaged or lost.

As for getting money in France, when I lived in the US, I changed money at my bank and used a debit card to withdraw from ATMs. Travelex exchange rates are a ripoff, in my opinion, and banks here won't change money without an account. I read you can exchange money at post offices, but every La Poste employee I've ever spoken to says that isn't true. There are often signs on the doors saying just that!

Another question I get about traveling to Paris is how to leave the airports. Depending on the hour, the train is fastest, but the bus is cheaper. If you must take a taxi, do NOT go downstairs, where scam artists park. Here are the only authorized transport areas from CDG and here are Orly instructions. Uber is preferable to taxi- if you're traveling with two or more people, it's more economical than the train. Lastly, the shuttle is the best way to get to and from Beauvais. Bienvenue à Paris!

Paris to Go


  1. Ariana, I confess I'm so curious which airline has such luxurious accommodations? Lucky girl flying first class :) Love it!

    1. Hi Darcy! That's the Lufthansa Business Class. My husband took it on a business trip. They even had a honeycomb in the lounge. If that's the business class, I wonder what the first class looks like!

  2. Good Lord, seriously. I have flown 1st exactly once (thank you Continental for losing my reservation and being forced to upgrade me.) And while at the time it felt like the creme de la creme (an international flight, therefore awoke in Dublin bright-eyed and bushy-tailed), I must confess it looked like southwest airlines compared to this. Which I guess speaks to the whole "comparison is the thief of joy" concept. :)

  3. I find US airlines are never as nice as European ones, especially in terms of food, space, service, etc. I actually like Southwest and wish they flew more places because I can't stand American, United, and US Airways. Last time we went to Paris, Air France seemed like heaven because we had so much food. But then they lost our luggage and refused to do anything about it (we got the bags back eventually, but by that time the trip was basically over). Long story short, I think I prefer Lufthansa next time!

    1. Hi Holly! I couldn't agree more. I like Southwest too, for the price and the service. American, United, US Airways, and Air France have always been horrible for me. No gluten-free food, terrible customer service, and one male Air France flight attendant ripped my purse off my shoulder and literally ran away with it! I got it back, but he was never reprimanded and never gave me an apology or an explanation. In the end, they gave me a piddling $60 credit for the whole experience. Never flying with them again!

      And US Airways is just terrible. Once I flew for free with them because they completely screwed up a bunch of trips, and I had a $800 credit. I ordered a gluten-free meal in advance, then called 24 hours before to confirm. I get on the plane, and they had no gluten-free meal for me! I called them six times, sent emails, filled out the customer service response on the website- no response. Finally I get through to someone and ask for a gluten free meal on the flight back. Again, nothing! That time, they also forgot two diabetic meals too! The great thing about zero-waste is that it was the end of airplane meals for me (most of the "gluten-free" ones have wheat in them anyway, go figure).

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks for being patient with me, right now I'm trying for an easier to use, faster-loading redesign. It'll be ugly for awhile but hopefully we can come up with something simple soon!

  5. May I offer some unsolicited feedback? I, personally, would love to see one of the header options (FAQ, Apartment etc.) be "skincare" or "Grooming" may be a more accurate descriptor :) Feel absolutely free to ignore me, but I find that is one topic I'm continually reviewing on your site. I find it inspirational and informative.

    1. Of course you may! The header will actually change soon anyway, and I'm trying to make everything easier to find. I wasn't sure I had enough posts to make a beauty tab, so I stuck them under zero-waste. Seeing as how I get the most questions on that and cleaning (also under zero-waste, it would be nice to make the posts more visible. Thanks!

  6. Love the new site design! I'd love to see a post on not eating meat and dairy if you haven't done one already.

    1. Hi, thank you so much! Are you vegan as well? Did you see this one yet:

      I'll update after I try this longer... the only news since I wrote this is that my meat allergy test results came back, and I'm actually allergic! I didn't even know that was possible.

  7. I am back from a trip and am drowning in post-trip-to-do rituals. Piles of laundry and clean up to do.

    I have another question for you. We went camping for 10 days and it forced us to eat lots of packaged food/ready to eat meals. Boil water from the nearby lake, add some carbs and spices, eat - became the mantra. Every time I ate a meal in the most beautiful natural environment, something felt very wrong. I dont eat gluten but resorted to eating a lot of noodles and cookies for instant energy. I tried making rice, but it took forever ! Polenta was a favorite. Canned beans, packaged dehydrated food became a norm. How could I be so close to nature and eat this crap, I wondered. I saw mushrooms everywhere, but didnt know which ones were edible. When at home, I eat all natural and healthy. How can this be ? Sort of disappointed in myself. Have you been in these situations ?

    - Archana.

    1. Archana, that sounds wonderful! I haven't been camping since I got married, but before, I used to go quite a lot. I don't forage very much. Flowers, berries, pine needles and mulberry leaves for tea, and cattails (which taste like potato chips!), sure, but not mushrooms :(

      I'd bring potatoes (because of my upbringing, I'm sick of rice), sweet potatoes, carrots, radish, apples, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, etc. in cloth bags. I still do this, in Marrakech for much of the week when we were with friends I could not eat anything, so I relied on what I carried around in a tote bag on my shoulder.

      In college, my friend hiked the Appalachian trails and she ate things like milkweed and impatiens, plus lots of dried foods in cloth bags, because she could not carry the weight of cans, and could only carry so much with her every day. Polenta is a great idea though! All she had was a knife with her. I used to take some tiffins or jars of prepared beans too.

      On our first anniversary we got lost around nightfall near the Mekong River, and some village people rescued us and took us to a hill tribe school to spend the night. We slept on the floor and I had no food with me, so they prepared me some rice and gave me a can of tomatoes to put on top, since I couldn't eat the noodles my husband was eating. In that situation, I was so grateful to have the canned food- it was the best meal of the trip!

  8. Ha ha, I love unplugging the refrigerator too- it makes me feel on holidays straight away:)!