When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money. ~Susan Heller
What and how to pack isn’t as easy as it looks. Just like the research and time it takes to secure cheap airline tickets, packing can also take a lot of planning. So hat to bring for Study Abroad? The best way to tackle it is to prepare a checklist of items you think you’ll need and then narrow it down to no more than you can carry (usually not more than one or two pieces of checked luggage, 50 lbs combined or less, and a small carry-on bag). Pack light! Remember, you’ll probably be bringing home more than you take. It’s always a good idea to bring an extra nylon bag or backpack that you can shape into a ball, pack in one of your other bags when you leave, and fill up with souvenirs, and other items when you return.
One small suitcase (with wheels), a large travel backpack, and a daypack should be sufficient for everything you need. Unless you have a really nice significant other who is going also, then you will most likely be carrying your luggage. In general, people do a lot more walking in other countries than they do in the US, and there aren’t as many elevators either. After you’ve packed, carry your luggage around the block to see if it’s too heavy. If you can’t endure long, then repack. Don’t bring more than you can carry. Mark items off your checklist so you don’t forget anything.
Pack your carry-on bag as if you were living out of it for at least two or three nights. If your luggage is lost or flights are delayed, you should be able to brush your teeth and change your socks and underwear. Many airlines have become quite strict on baggage limits, permitting you to carry on a small bag or briefcase. Be sure to carry on anything that you can’t live without, as well as valuable items such as plane tickets, your passport, plastic cards, birth certificates, health records, host letters and certifications, etc. Don’t carry the copies of your passport in the same bag as your original passport.
In order to avoid problems with your luggage, don’t pack valuables in your checked bags. Since you cannot use locks any longer, safety-pin your zippers shut. Use ugly, weird, or worn (but durable) bags that can be easily distinguished from the luggage of others. Put identification tags on your luggage inside and out. Keep in mind that most fruits, vegetables and animal products are not transportable across international borders. Consider mailing some items so you will not have to carry as much, especially if you will be staying in the same location for an extended period of time.
Ultimately, you have to decide what you need and what you don’t need. In terms of your clothing, plan for all possible weather conditions and various activities. I tend to bring what I can wear in layers. I also bring dark-colored clothing that doesn’t show dirt or require any ironing. Sometimes, I bring old clothes (to sleep in) and old shoes (to walk around in) and then I give them to the homeless or leave them in my hotel room upon departure. This frees up space in my luggage for souvenirs and gifts on the return trip. Usually, I don’t bring things that I can easily purchase abroad, such as toiletries.
If you insist on bringing electrical appliances, determine the voltage and outlets, and purchase an adapter or converter if needed. An adapter is just a small device that fits over your plug and into the different outlet. It doesn’t change voltage, so if you use it without a converter, it can fry things such as radios, alarm clocks, hairdryers, and other voltage-dependent devices. A converter actually changes the voltage, but don’t forget to flip the switch on your appliance (see instructions before doing anything). In the US, most equipment operates with 110 volts, but in Europe, it typically operates with 220 volts.
For what it’s worth, check out the Smart List for traveling in Study Abroad 101 or simply check out the Dont Forget your Toothbrush, to create your personal checklist of things to pack and do before you leave. If you’re having trouble with too much stuff, then learn the art and science of traveling light at One Bag. Travel Sense is another site you might want to see for packing tips, advice, and news (such as the most recent scams and how to avoid them). Sometimes you can buy items that help you preserve space.