If you’re one of the thousands of students who will be studying abroad this semester, it’s about time to start packing. While the thought of such a long stretch away from home (and your closet) is overwhelming, there’s no need to fear the cavern of your huge suitcase or the mountain of clothes you’ve prematurely plucked from your closet. Instead, use these 10 key packing tips to pack swiftly and smartly for all your upcoming adventures abroad:
1. Make a List First
Just like outlining a paper before writing it, the idea of making a packing list might feel like it would be slowing you down. However, writing down 7 pairs of blue jeans is more likely to prevent you from putting such a ridiculous number of the same kind of clothing in your suitcase than individually analyzing each of your favorite items. Jot down some numbers of the basic categories and then use them as a guide to limit yourself as you start opening drawers.
2. Do Your Research
Taking the time to research about your destination is the key to appropriate packing. From what climate of clothing to the right converters and voltages for your electronic items, so many crisis moments can be avoided ahead of time with a little due diligence. Travel fashion tip: If you are traveling to colder cities remember mostly your jacket will be photographed, so for those wanting to switch up the looks without packing two large jackets, invest in hats, scarves and earmuffs. Also, don’t leave your student ID at home! Check out what discounts your destination provides for students at museums and tourist attractions. Another option is to get an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) to surpass any doubts about your student status.
3.Balance Solids and Patterns
It’s understandably tempting to pack all your statement pieces to standout in all your future Instagram-worthy photos. While the boulevards of Paris or beaches of Thailand will appreciate your high fashion, balancing your solid-colored and patterned clothing is the best way to maximize outfit combinations with a limited wardrobe. Mix in some your favorites with a majority of basic items to ensure that you keep your style fresh for the next few months.
4. Hold Back on your Heels
Being a smart traveler is all about preparing for any situation. Whether setting out for long days to explore your study abroad city or taking weekend trips to exciting destinations, you’ll appreciate your comfortable shoes versus some sexy heels or brand new footwear that will send you in search of band-aids. Fitness travel tip: on that note if you're accustomed to driving all the time, your new found love of walking will significantly increase while studying abroad. It's worth investing in a step tracker and syncing up with your friends. It will allow you to feel less guilty on that second glass of wine or delicious treat.
5. Pack for Safety
Staying safe is a huge priority when abroad and your packing choices should reflect your mindful mentality. Choose jackets, backpacks, and purses that have zippered and internal pockets so that you can store your valuables in pickpocket proof locations as you walk around. Cross-body bags are also recommended to deter thieves. A final safety tip is to invest in a combination lock that you can use on your backpack around town or for lockers when staying in different hostels. Tech travel tip: for smart phones you may want to look into insurance policies through your provider, in case your phone falls victim to sticky fingers
A great way to maximize both space and style in your suitcase is by selecting key accessories that you can mix and match with your clothing. Jewelry, belts, hats, and scarves are all lightweight and space-saving items that you can be squeezed in amongst your bulkier items. When abroad, throwing on one of these can revive that shirt you’ve already worn 10 times that month and might even prevent you from spending up a storm because of being “bored with your clothes.” With that said it's highly recommended that you purchase sunglasses with proper UV protection. You don't have to spend money on name brands, but you want to keep those eyes young and retaining all of your new city’s glory.
7. Think About the Everyday
Your life as a student abroad will be amazingly different than any other trip you have gone one with your family or friends, in that you will be truly living in a foreign destination. While your weeks will be packed with adventure, some days will grow to be normal with doing homework, or spending a night in with your new friends. Pack for these moments too by throwing in your favorite sweatshirt, a few DVDs, a good book, or just something you like to do as a hobby. For grocery shopping, your wallet and the environment will also appreciate if you bring a reusable tote bag, as many foreign countries now charge for using plastic bags.
8. Buy Toiletries (Not Medications) When You Arrive
Even though it might seem unimaginable to travel without your favorite shampoo or scent of body wash, these bottles are a big weight in your luggage. Instead, save the pounds and make your first excursion in your study abroad destination to a nearby drugstore. However, your medications should definitely have a space in your toiletry bag that goes in your carry-on bag. Talk to your doctor before you go abroad to discuss the duration of your trip and how much prescription medication you will need to last you even a bit longer than your entire travel time. Also, stock up on all your tried and true over-the-counter medications, so you’re not risking your health and comfort during an allergy attack or painful migraine.
9. Plan for Weekend Excursions
Even though you won’t bring your bath products, bring some small airplane-sized bottles of toiletries for any future weekend travels during your time abroad. Also, choose the perfect weekend bag to pack appropriately and efficiently as you zoom to each exciting destination. Whether a backpack or a duffel bag, you’ll need something that will both provide enough room your short-term wardrobe and fit the baggage limits of whatever low-budget airline, bus, train, or van transportation that’s popular in your study abroad region.
10. Pack Your Bags
Your first step should be to check the airline of your flight and their baggage policies. A typical combination is to bring one big suitcase, the maximum size carry-on and then a personal carry-on backpack or purse. Now that it’s time to put your items in the bags, the favored way to pack is by rolling your clothes. This method both limits wrinkles and saves space, especially if you compress your clothes to eliminate airspace. Then, there’s nothing like getting to the airport after taking all this care to pack and having an unsympathetic airport employee tell you that your bag is overweight. If possible, find a scale to weigh your bags before you get to the airport to make for an easy check-in process.
The months, weeks, and days before boarding the plane to study abroad can be pretty stressful. However, with these 10 tips, packing doesn’t have to be a contributing factor to any anxieties you might have before your flight. When in doubt, less is more and just think about all the room you’ll need for souvenirs on your return trip!
PINC International curates personal and professional adventures for college women to study and intern in Madrid and Barcelona, Spain. Through activities that focus on language, culture, and career, PINC aims to empower young women to become future leaders. Learn more about upcoming 2017 PINC summer programs and get more packing tips from the PINC packing list!