How do you pack for weeks, months, a whole year abroad?
It’s actually a lot easier than it seems. There are many resources out there to work with, but we’ve compiled some of our most helpful tips to keep your packing efficient and effective for your time abroad!
#CISabroadTip: Make sure that you can comfortably carry your baggage up a flight of stairs and around one block!
“When you start packing don’t STRESS. I know this is hard considering some of us were gone for a semester or even a year, but it is very simple and if you don’t bring enough clothes there are always cheap thrift stores or places local students can show you to pick up necessities.” – Elaina, Semester in South Africa.
Familiarize yourself with your airline’s baggage allowance and fees.
Lay everything out BEFORE you start to put it in your luggage.
Also, keep in mind that the less you bring with you, the more you can bring back…
Unless you are going to a very remote location, you can replace just about all of your toiletries when you arrive to your destination. Save space (and weight) by just taking enough shampoo/conditioner/soap, etc. for the first few days. You can buy the larger quantities when you get there!
Here’s the thing, if the current is different where you’re going than where you are coming from, it might be in your favor to get new appliances when you get there. Take a look at the voltage and electricity guides at Voltage Valet to get a better idea of what you will need while you’re abroad.
You should probably leave behind high voltage things like hair dryers and straighteners – even with a heavy duty voltage converter, these are likely more harm than they’re worth.
THIS IS IMPORTANT! If you take any prescription medications, take it with you and take enough to last you for the duration of your program. Please carry any prescription medications in the prescription bottle with the original label and not mixed into one bag or container! Make sure to bring the prescription with you as well.
Over-the-counter drugs you can probably get when you arrive, but if there’s anything you can’t live without, take it with you!
Ready for the biggest secret of all time? This is the big one, the tip that all students yearn for: You need A LOT LESS than you think! Whether you are traveling for one month or three, you don’t need more than ONE bag! It’s called a laundromat, folks!
Think about it, do you really wear EVERY item in your closet ALL the time? It’s more likely that you wear only a small portion of your closet, and rotate items about every 2-3 weeks. You only need to pack for 2-3 weeks, even if you’re going to be abroad a whole year!
Your typical Irish resident dresses a bit more formally and fashion-consciously than your typical American. If you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb, avoid wearing your most “comfortable” and casual clothes (think sweatpants and sweatshirts) around town. Also, showing too much skin may make you stand out.
Emergency contacts and passwords – that’s right, passwords…
- In your checked luggage, carry-on luggage AND wallet put a list of emergency contact names, phone numbers and email addresses. Put more than one on this list and more than one phone number – include a work number, home number, friend number, etc.. Make sure it is written down not just on a laptop, cellphone, tablet, etc. Although it is good to have an emergency contact on your cellphone, remember what happens when the battery dies…
- Include with the above a copy of your travel insurance contact phone numbers, policy and assistance details. Keep copies with your passport, hand luggage, and checked luggage and with family back home.
- ALSO, this is more important than ever now. Before traveling abroad everyone should be sure to provide a list of their laptop, tablet, cellphone, or any other “technology” passwords in case of a serious life emergency. Additionally be sure to provide the same for Facebook, twitter, email, credit cards, etc., so that these can be appropriately accessed by family should some life emergency occur. Keep such listings secure but at the same time remember the need for 24-7 access. You can and should change these after you return home safely if you are worried about sharing your access.
Sample Packing List:
- Comfortable walking shoes. Plan to be on your feet a lot each day!
- Layers are great for long days when the weather can change from morning to afternoon, or with the rain/sun Think lightweight shirts, jackets, etc.
- 1-2 “dress up outfits” for special events/dinners.
- Sunscreen and sun hat. Sunscreen is expensive in Europe, so bring as much as you reasonably can.
- Bug spray.
- Rain jacket – less clunky than an umbrella and you can keep your hands free!
- Scarf (lightweight). To be used when visiting churches, museums, etc. where your shoulders must be covered.
- Small bag to pack in for overnight trips if you have an opportunity to travel independently during your program this may be a backpack you carry on the plane with you as your carry-on luggage
- Shower shoes for shared showers at hostels whether staying in a hostel is part of your program or travel plans or not, it’s always good to have a pair of rubber flip-flops just in case!
- Travel size toiletries you never know where your checked bag may choose to take a side trip and meet you in-country later, so be sure you have some basics to get you through 1-2 days in case your checked luggage gets delayed
- Plug adapters take a look at what kind of outlets you should expect here…
- A cross body bag or backpack with a lock – because of pickpocketing.
Essential Items – don’t forget these!
- Copy of your passport to carry with you at all time
- Student/University Identification Card
- Pepto-Bismol/Imodium, Advil, or other over-the-counter drugs, you know your body and what you may need!
- Prescription medications: Carry any prescription medications in the prescription bottle with the original label and not mixed into one bag or container!
- Personal journal
- Laptops/tablets, if necessary
If you bring any of these items with you, put them in your carry-on, NOT your checked bag:
- Laptop/tablet, if you bring one – do not put these in your checked luggage!
- iPod or other music device, charger, and headphones
- We do not suggest bringing any valuable jewelry or items, but if you must, it is safer to carry them on rather than put them in your checked luggage.
- Keep in mind the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule for liquids in your carry on: 3.4 ounce (100ml) containers in 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 zip-top, plastic bag per passenger placed in screening bin.