the book tour – or how to live out of a suitcase and remain sane

by Sharon Santoni

ideas for a weekend away

As you may know, I have just completed a whirlwind 11 day tour in the US which took me through six States, and to nine wonderful venues.

Who says ‘tour’ says ‘living out of a suitcase’, or ‘survival on the go’ and I thought you may enjoy the few snippets of wisdom that I gained over the past two weeks … mostly a process of trial and error!

Be Prepared!

Make sure that you have all you may need before you travel, because once you are on the road and in the swing of things the last thing you want to do is spend time hunting down a pen, or a tube of toothpaste.

Get yourself a mani-pedi and  a good hair cut just before you leave.    Treat yourself to a few wardrobe additions that will boost your confidence, and make getting ready each day an enjoyable experience.

I built my wardrobe around a few staple pieces from the French designer Gérard Darel.   Its fun to mix and match some quality pieces with other brands, providing you always feel elegant and comfortable

Be Organised!

Fine words from me, a girl generally acknowledged to be more accustomed to winging it than being super organised.

I discovered that the only way to be zen about living out of a suitcase was to have my bags extremely rationalised and easy to comprehend.   Colour coordination is vital, pretty much everything can be coordinated to everything else

Shoes are in canvas bags, toiletries in easy to access vanity cases, or long-zippered pouches and jewelry in small pouches with separate sections.   Underwear is kept together in a linen draw-bag, and the inevitable selection of phone and laptop chargers are tidied into a compact pouch.

shoes in shoe bags for travelling

Make Friends!

When you are away from home you don’t have access to your regular group of family and friends for support and practical back up.  Chances are that if you are nice and friendly to your new ‘friends’, then they’ll be happy to help you out.

One of my most surprising ‘helpers’ during my tour was a cab driver called Bruce in Kansas City.   Not only was he ready to pick me up and deliver me anywhere at any time, he also took care of my dry cleaning and my hairdresser appointment …. in case you’re reading this Bruce:  “Hi! and thank you so much!”

Keep it light!

Few things are worse than heavy baggage when you are on the go.   With a little careful planning it is surprising how far a limited wardrobe can go.

Before I left, I lay everything out in my bedroom and checked that I had an outfit for each signing event, and a few more casual pieces to wear as I travelled

You may be surprised to know that despite being told that the weather would be hot and humid, the most useful piece in my bags was my cachemire button down shawl – perfect for all those air-conditioned cars and planes.


For my handbags, I took one generous tote that was big enough for my laptop as well as other stuff while on the move, and one small clutch bag, that could be worn cross body or held in my hand,  just big enough to hold my phone, lipstick, a few cards and a pen for
each event.

Shoes were a mix of heels and ballerina flats, with a pair of stacked sandals just for fun.   No matter how dressy, they all had to be comfortable, I had no time for blisters. french country home packing tips

I’d love to hear what your suitcase rules are, and how you best fare when you are on the move …. in the meantime HERE is a little sample of moments from the tour.


Vicky from Athens July 6, 2016 - 12:21 am

Sharon . . . in Marietta, you looked mahvelous!!

Sharon Santoni July 6, 2016 - 12:55 pm

Thank you, Vicky. It was so lovely to meet you in person.

Deedee simoneaux July 19, 2016 - 3:48 am

Please tell me that your family is safe

Barbara Novello July 6, 2016 - 12:40 am

I live in LA and purchased your book last week – thoroughly enjoyed each page…thanks so much!!

Sharon Santoni July 6, 2016 - 12:56 pm

Thank you, Barbara. I’m glad you enjoyed!



Kathy July 6, 2016 - 12:46 am

I always take a couple of special outfits and a couple to leave behind. That way I have room to bring home the treasures I purchase as I travel. P.S. Gerard Darel is my FAVORITE clothing store in France!

Yvonne Boyer July 6, 2016 - 1:15 am

Love your blogs that a friend forwards to me!

Brenda Chambers July 6, 2016 - 1:16 am

Sounds like you have mastered it. Hope you have enjoyed the US so fat.

Our French Oasis July 6, 2016 - 1:24 am

I am supremely impressed with our organised packing, you don’t look like you had to wing anything. Loved the video, it looks as if it was a hugely successful trip and highly enjoyable. Congratulations, you deserve it. Susan x

Sharon Santoni July 6, 2016 - 12:59 pm

Thank you, Susan ! There are always those behind-the-scenes moments 😉



Susan Carter July 6, 2016 - 1:52 am

I always pack light and found the EMME bag for cosmetics which is indespensible. It is the most convenient and easy to use cosmetic travel bag ever invented. I had planned to see you, Sharon, on the 1st in Fullerton but had an emergency & couldn’t make it & am so disappointed.

Sharon Santoni July 6, 2016 - 1:03 pm

Good tip! I am sorry for your emergency and do not worry re: Fullerton. I hope to see you in the future on this side or that one 🙂



Sheila July 6, 2016 - 1:57 am

Hi, met you in Sonoma. Enjoying your book-reading a section each day…hope you had a great return trip.

Sheila in SF

Susan July 6, 2016 - 2:03 am

Hello Sharon! I’m so happy you enjoyed your time in the States! What is the brand/designer of the ballet flats pictured here? They are adorable and look very comfortable.

JaneEllen July 6, 2016 - 2:13 am

Can be hard to know how to pack. I kept it very simple, casual but nice outfits no matter where we’d go. Was quite hot in San Diego, CA as well as Tucson, AZ so knew what would need. Did laundry on Sunday at son’s house, left early Monday a.m. for Tucson, got there mid-afternoon.
Had only Tuesday in Tucson then had to head home on Wed. early as had to turn rental car in Thursday afternoon. One week just not enuf time but had to get home to relieve pet sitters – dog, cat, 5 chickens. Would love to have had time to stay til end of week to visit more places, people in Tucson. Have brother & niece in Tucson also. Stayed at best friends, went to see another friend we had in common, have known for many years.
From what I saw of items you took, looked very appropriate for book signing and traveling to and from. Good idea to take some kind of jacket. At last minute on our way out to start trip I grabbed a sweat shirt type cardigan was very happy to have in air conditioned car.
You are seasoned traveler by now. Sounds like book tour was quite successful, very glad for you. You got to meet several people who subscribe to your blog, how fun for you all. Wish had been one of them. Have wonderful rest of week

Marilyn July 6, 2016 - 3:40 am

I always pack a light weight wide scarf that can also work as a wrap or shawl. Loved your video summary.

Emm July 6, 2016 - 3:41 am

You’ve mastered the road-warrior suitcase beautifully. Lovely pictures, and it must have been a grand tour.
I, too, use things like canvas bags for shoes and so on. And my Kindle goes traveling in a vintage lingerie case from the ’30s, a padded envelope just the right size.

Roslyn short July 6, 2016 - 3:51 am

Sounds like a very successful tour Sharon . Spied the Contessa with you in that lovely video Now you know what Aussies have to manage when travelling for 6 weeks or more .Europe as a destination is so far .Your hints for packing were tres useful ! I’ll definitely take note .Hope you have your feet up & back into swing of normality Best Ros

Mary July 6, 2016 - 3:52 am

Hi Sharon,
Great photos of your trip. Curious to know, what is your perception of the various parts of United States you visited & the differences in people?
Sorry I missed you in Fullerton, just a bit too far of a drive in SoCal traffic!
When travelling I like to bring a pashmina type shawl. Very versatile!
Bet you are happy to be home!
Sincerely, Mary

Jacqueline July 6, 2016 - 5:50 am

My problem is we don”t go to France for 11 days. When we go abroad, it’s easily a month and we rent apartments in different places. This year we are here for 5 weeks. The weather in St. Malo, Belle Isle, Ile de Re, Provence and the Riviera is all different. So is the dress. Add to that a wedding and you can see traveling light is not easy.Not all the places we rented have washing machines. In one place that did, I had almost 2 weeks of laundry for the two of us; no dryer so we were hanging clothes all over the apartment to dry! (The clothes rack was small). Bathing suit, beach cover up etc. adds to the mix of clothes for both climates. Hard as I try, I never seem to manage a light suitcase.

Sharon Santoni July 6, 2016 - 2:34 pm

Hi Jacqueline,

I understand that problem well 🙂 Perhaps in the future I’ll make a traveling in France post and give some packing tips for our different climates. My brief overview would be 1 pair of denim, walking shoes, a pair of espadrilles, a pair of slingbacks, swimsuit, sundress, white button-up shirt, cashmere sweater, comfortable mid-length skirt in linen or cotton, wide brimmed hat, sunglasses and a raincoat/wind-breaker. Hope that helps 🙂



Darina July 6, 2016 - 8:49 am

Very inspiring post! I will travel to France and Spain in September and I always carry too much with me!

Taste of France July 6, 2016 - 10:41 am

Air-conditioning is such a big difference between the U.S. and France. So much of the U.S. gets not only very hot but also humid, and while A/C can be welcome, at times it’s too much. I always have an A/C sweater on my U.S. trips. I did a lot of wheelchair pushing so a cardigan was more convenient–my shawl would slip down or fall. I ended up leaving it behind.

Victoria Savu July 6, 2016 - 12:55 pm

I drove to Cashiers, NC to see you from near Cleveland, Ohio . You looked beautiful. I did love your hair. I am ready for a change and may try the style of yours. As far as packing, I always over pack. When I was packing to see you, my husband asked you are packing to see her in North Carolina no Pairs right? ☺ I think that buying something new and a mani-pedi sounds like good advice. You know what a confidence builder it is to be at your best. And you were. Bought your book when it first came out. Loved it and it ways a pleasure to meet you. Can’t wait for next book. Love. Victoria

Sharon Santoni July 6, 2016 - 2:35 pm

Thank you for coming out Victoria! Was lovely to meet you.



Victoria Savu July 6, 2016 - 4:46 pm

I just remembered something you said on a blog about traveling awhile ago. Lay out all your clothes and the money you are taking. Put half the clothes back and take twice the money.

Jennifer July 6, 2016 - 6:21 pm

Sharon-May I ask the name of the brand of the pretty tunic top you included in your post? Thank you!

Marla in the OC July 6, 2016 - 7:12 pm

What a charming video! It was wonderful to meet you. I’m re-reading my freshly autographed book and loving it even more than the first time. All the girlfriends are so inspirational but it’s Claire Basler that takes my breath away. What a talent!

Colleen Taylor July 7, 2016 - 1:14 am

I’m so happy to see your delightful video Sharon. It looks like it was a lovely tour & a grand success. Not surprised about the cab driver from Kansas at all. That’s where I’m originally from & people from Kansas are just that way. I bet you are happy to be home once again. There is no other place like it! X

Nancy July 7, 2016 - 6:11 pm

All good suggestions as I tend to overpack….
So very good to meet you!
I covered the Fullerton visit in my blog the very next day….

Mumbai July 7, 2016 - 9:17 pm

Very proud to say that I packed only one luggage for a 3 month journey.
B/w works always and you can combine with everything even dress it up. The few things I needed for walking in NZ I have sent back to my home and continued travel with a light pack. And as you said ..a shawl
is absolutely essential to keep you warm or just for style.

Deborah Lindsay July 9, 2016 - 2:41 am

HI Sharon, I am not surprised you got a lot of wear out of your cashmere shawl. In the US we love our air conditioning! Can’t wait for the fall brocante tour!

Sharon July 12, 2016 - 4:26 am

I want to be as elegant as you when I grow up. Such beautiful pieces and the picture of shoes in baggies- gorgeous. Please keep indulging and inspiring. It’s a delight indeed.

FrenchGardenHouse July 24, 2016 - 1:10 am

Sharon, I love your packing advice. Preparing for a trip to my home country, Holland, is always a puzzle which I solve by packing mostly clothing that all goes together, and layers well, in basic colors, black, white, cream and grey. A few well chosen scarves, cashmere shawl, and accessories are all that’s needed to make it all work, as the weather can range from hot to cold and rainy, all in the same week!

The last thing I always need to remember is to try to choose shoes with wider heels, those little Dutch cobblestones have killed more than one designer shoe’s heels!

Deborah Lindsay September 29, 2016 - 5:09 pm

I recognize those pretty taupe slingbacks!
Our tour was wonderful- merci beaucoup!

Alice May 3, 2020 - 11:28 am

Very elegant beige handbag, I love this style. A year ago, I bought a similar one here I take it with me on all trips, it has already experienced so many events, but it still looks like new. Their products are of very good quality and a choice for every taste.

Elisabeth May 13, 2020 - 9:22 am

Very elegant selection of things, I love these pastel colors. I am now collecting a selection of things for myself, I try to combine them and not buy too much. I want to update my wardrobe for the summer, and at the same time use a promo code for a discount, and I share it with you. It’s great that you can buy everything you need in one place without leaving your home. Nordstrom is a high-end clothing, home goods, accessories and beauty products store.


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