The most important (and difficult) thing to think about when packing is what do I really need. If theres something you think you really need or you can’t live without for the duration of your stay but you can’t make space, there is always something you can remove because realistically you can, and will, buy things abroad. When I was traveling, I never wished I had brought something that I chose to leave behind but so many times I have wondered why I chose to bring certain things with me. Generally speaking if you forget something you really need the odds are you will be able to find it wherever you’re going so don’t stress too much. Focus on the essentials.
Things to pack:
- A weekend bag
This was by far the best thing I brought with me for my trip! Just hours before I left for my flight to Montevideo I bought a convertible duffle bag that has a small pocket that the entire bag can fold into so when I’m not using it, it takes up no space in my closet. It’s bigger than a bookbag but significantly smaller than a suitcase which makes it perfect for short trips as well as for carry on luggage during flights. I wasn’t expecting to take too many trips while on study abroad because I didn’t think I would have that much time in between classes but I’ve used this bag at least twice a month since I’ve arrived and I highly recommend purchasing something similar for your trip!
- Voltage converter and or plug adapter
So so important to look into what voltage your country uses and what the plug looks like so you can plan ahead and get a converter or an adapter. I have traveled to Europe before and I already had a plug adapter that worked for a lot of countries but the voltage they use here in Uruguay is different, so I actually had to buy a different voltage converter. It was honestly really confusing but I found one online that converts a range of voltages and it comes with plug adapters from a collection of different countries so hopefully this will be the last time I need to buy one! In places with larger tourism industries you might be able to find this when you arrive but I think it’s still safer to be prepared and buy it ahead of time just in case.
For all my people who love fashion, ditch the extra clothing and pack small accessories to switch up your looks. I personally hate wearing the same things over and over again but its definitely something you have to get used to while traveling. I packed little hair scarves, ribbons and jeweltry to change up how I’m able to style my clothes. This not only saves room for me to purchase new clothes or souvenirs when I’m abroad but it also gives me more freedom to express myself which personally really helps ground me when I’m in new environments.
- Versatile clothing
The urge to bring super cute clothes when you’re traveling is STRONG. Of course we want to look good but its so important to choose practicality over fashion. These are clothes that you will be stuck wearing for months so you should ask yourself some questions about the things you’re bringing.
- What do you feel comfortable in?
- Can I wear this piece often and with most of the other pieces I’m bringing?
- What will the weather be like?
- What activities am I hoping to do while there?
To an extent you should be prepared for any occasion but saying that to an over packer isn’t helpful. You want basics that you feel good in first and foremost and then you can sprinkle in the statement pieces. The less you bring the more you are able to bring home! I love to thrift and I think thrifting clothing abroad is such a beautiful way to diversify my wardrobe and get really meaningful and beautiful souvenirs, so make space for the inevitable amount of purchases you might end up making! If you don’t you will end up being forced to leave stuff behind or pay for the extra luggage weight on the way back.
- A scanned copy of your passport
If you lose your passport its super hard to get a new one while abroad and makes it impossible to do so much stuff. For every single trip I have taken since I’ve been here I have had to submit my passport number or in some cases show my passport even if I was just taking a 2 hour bus ride. If I didn’t have my passport I would be screwed! Having scanned copies of your passport makes the process of getting a replacement a lot easier so I definitely recommend doing that before you leave.
Things to leave:
- Bulky clothing
“But where I’m going its super cold! Its winter there now!” I promise you wherever you’re going has warm clothing you can buy if you do end up being really cold. When I arrived to Montevideo it was winter and I didn’t expect for it to be as cold as it was. I found a thrift store near my homestay and I bought a couple of sweaters and a vintage leather jacket. Not only was the jacket significantly cheaper than it would have been if I bought it in the United States I now have this beautiful piece of versatile clothing I can wear for the rest of my life! If I had brought more sweaters or a bigger jacket I wouldn’t have had the space in my suitcase to even be shopping at all!
- Hair dryer
If you are going abroad the voltage is likely different from the United States and hair dryers use a ton of electricity. Most voltage converters cannot handle it and you risk starting a fire or blowing a fuse. It’s also super bulky and awkwardly shaped therefore hard to pack. You can definitely live without this for a few months of your life and even if you can’t, odds are the place you are staying has one you can use.
- Items you “might” use
This one can be kind of difficult to identify for over packers but be realistic with yourself. When I was packing my suitcase I had around 7 long sleeve shirts layed out to bring at first and then as I kept packing I remember thinking “Why would I need that many long sleeve shirts?” I ended up only bringing 2 and somehow I survived without the other 5 I thought I would need. If you are going back and forth on packing something, YOU DON’T NEED IT!
If you have to bring books keep the number as low as possible. I brought 2 books with me, one was pretty small and the other is a larger book. The only reason you should bring books at all is because in some places it might be harder to find books in english which has been the case for me. If you really love to read pack accordingly. Maybe prepare to leave the books you bring behind, switch to online books or consider a kindle.
- Anything you can get in the country you are going to
I’ve basically said this for every bullet but seriously! People live in the countries that we are traveling to, meaning they will likely have whatever it is you so desperately “need” there. This whole list I kept going back and forth on things you should bring because nearly everything I was going to write can be found wherever you will go. If there is really something that is important and niche, that you truly think improves your quality of life, and you don’t want to worry about going without it for any period of time, definitely bring that but be realistic and don’t throw random things in your bag thinking you won’t be able to find it in other places.