Cultural Experience | Packing Lists

How To Be A Smart Packer

5 Things To Know Before You Go 

One of the greatest challenges of moving to a different country for a semester is figuring out how to pack. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

Dont Overpack:

One common regret many students have is over-packing. Everyone I knew who was traveling abroad, including myself, brought two suitcases. Not only did I have to pay $100 dollars for the extra bag, but I also had to move both 50 pound bags, my hefty carry on, and purse by myself once I arrived.

Whether you believe it or not, you will shop on your travels. I did not expect to be buying much of anything. However, some new clothes, purses, souvenirs, and gifts can add up quickly and take up quite a bit of space, adding weight to your luggage. Over-packing made me feel limited to what I could buy which left me with a few small regrets.

Do get family to bring a second bag:

Towards the end of the semester, my parents came to visit me. As they only had one large suitcase between them, they were able to take one of mine home.  This would avoid having to pay for a second suitcase again. If your family is planning on visiting you, I highly recommend doing this if at all possible. It can save you money and the stress of handling two (or more) suitcases by yourself on your way home. Another option would be bringing only one piece of luggage from home and buying a second during your stay to fill with your new purchases.

Do Buy a portable luggage scale:

This is a lifesaver! You are left vulnerable to overweight baggage fees without one. Even though all of my bags were under the limit, I still ran into trouble at the airport. It is important to leave yourself a few available pounds in each bag. On my return flight, the airline worker asked me to put my heavy purse containing my laptop on the scale with my carry on, doubling the allowed weight limit. I have never been asked to weigh my carry on let alone my purse, but regardless I had to sit on the floor and move some items around. As my suitcases were already filled to capacity, it took me about an hour and three tries to balance out the weight evenly. Even though the airline should not have done that, it is still best to be prepared for unexpected problems with luggage ahead of time.

Do buy a carry on back pack:

Before my trip, I decided to invest in a large travel backpack from REI, which I used as my carry on. It was well worth it. Rolling carry ons can pose problems especially when you already have two large checked suitcases.  You can imagine the struggle of wheeling three heavy bags at once.   My backpack left me hands free to manage my two suitcases. It was also a lifesaver throughout my travels within Europe. Most people brought their rolling carry ons on weekend trips, but this always proved to be an issue on the bumpy cobble stone streets. I was able to move around faster and more easily. The bag was also big enough that I could fit everything I needed. Some friends I traveled with found that their school back packs were not large enough to conveniently hold all of their belongings and are not recommended.

Do pack layers:

As far as actual packing goes, it is important to have a variety of clothes for different types of weather. Layering is key. In order to make the most of what you bring, it can be very helpful to choose a general color pallet for your wardrobe. Mine was tan, black, and white. If most of your clothes fit your theme, it is much easier to layer and mix and match to make new outfits. Besides bringing too much, I did pack appropriately for all situations with this method.

Packing can be the most fun, yet the most stressful process leading up to your semester abroad. With some of these tips in mind, you can avoid airport struggles and feel free to give your closet a little makeover.

Julia Capano backpacking through Europe

Julia Capano

Boston College | 9 stories

I am a rising senior at Boston College and just finished a wonderful semester abroad in the beautiful city of Florence, Italy. I am a Communications major with a minor in Italian which made my study abroad experience even more enriching. I have a huge passion for travel and I am very excited to share it!

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