Packing for study abroad proved to be a very difficult and overwhelming task. I was plagued by questions such as will I need a pink AND gray v-neck and how many pairs of shoes should I bring. I was able to find some information online, but now that I have been abroad I have realized that it’s hard to find a blog host that offers advice that is really necessary to know. So I’m here to share with you the top ten things I learned from packing for abroad myself. I hope these tips will help make your packing experience a lot less stressful than mine was. (To make it even less stressful, make sure you have these 16 things done before you leave).
1. My Study Abroad Packing Golden Rule: Less is More
Before I started packing I asked one of my friends who went abroad the previous semester what her best advice was and she said to pack as little as possible. I kept this in mind while I was packing, but didn’t take it to heart and definitely regretted it. If there’s only one thing you get out of this post let it be this. The less you bring, the happier you will be. My bags ended up weighing a ton and had so much stuff I didn’t need in them and I was miserable lugging them around Germany to where I was staying. You’re goal should be to fit everything in one large suit case and one carry-on bag. You won’t need more than that. For example, one of my friends brought three pairs of shoes abroad and that’s honestly all you need. I brought 7 pairs and only wore a few of them once or twice.
2. Rain gear is essential
While you should try to limit the amount of things you bring, an umbrella and rain jacket should not be something you cut out. You end up being outside a lot while abroad whether it’s exploring cities or walking to class and it rains more than you think it will. In Germany it rained at least every week and I got so much use out of my umbrella and rain jacket.
3. Bring an american plug power strip
What most people do while abroad is buy plug converters for each outlet they plan on using. If you have a phone, camera, and laptop that all need charging though, that’s a lot of converters. One easy way around this is to just have one converter and then plug a power strip into the converter and you’re ready to go. And if you bring the power strip while traveling around your friends will be very thankful and you all won’t be fighting over the outlets.
4. Pack a duffel bag
A big concern while abroad is you want to buy a bunch of things, but you have to somehow get the things you buy home. A great way to be able to do that is pack a carry-on sized duffel bag in your suitcase when you go. Then when you get there you have an extra bag to fill with all of your new goodies. If your original carry-bag was only a backpack you also won’t have to pay for your duffel bag as an extra suitcase because you can bring it on the plane as a carry on.
5. Don’t bring things that are cheap and you can easily buy
While you may want to bring your favorite kind of notebook, you can live without them for the few months you are abroad. Things like notebooks, shampoo and conditioner, pens, tubberware, etc. is just as easy to buy abroad as it is at home. I had no issue getting all of those things and I was in a small town with only 10,000 people.
6. Refillable (but filled) travel sized bottles are super helpful
For the first night or two, until you are able to go to a grocery store or convenience store, you are going to want to shower and brush your teeth and so I recommend bringing travel sized versions of shampoo, tooth paste, etc. The best way to do this is to bring them in refillable bottles that way you can reuse them as you travel around while abroad.
7. You can never have enough underwear and socks
Your mom probably tells you this all the time and you should really listen to her this time.
8.Pack heavy things in your carry-on bag
50 pounds sounds like a lot, but your suitcase gets really heavy really quickly. One way to cut down on the weight of your suitcase is to grab heavy things like shoes and jeans and put them in your carry-on. Your back might end up hating you a bit, but your wallet and the desk clerk at the airport will thank you. It ends up being really expensive to pay for an overweight bag (I ended up having to do this on my way home from Germany).
9. Bring things that are easy to wash
I don’t think I ever really figured out the washing machines in my apartment building and so I was really glad I didn’t bring any of my really nice things or things that needed to be washed delicately because I would probably have ruined them. You also don’t want to be spending the time to wash and dry delicate things and don’t want to risk losing your nice things, so it just is a lot easier to leave them at home.
10. Start packing at least 1 week before you leave
Last, but not least, start packing at least one week before you leave. I suggest doing a little bit each day and constantly checking to see how much room in your suitcase you have left to see if you need to take things out. I kept procrastinating my packing and ended up staying up late the night before I left to finish packing.