Cultural Experience | Packing Lists

15 Things You Should Bring Along on your Semester at Sea

The SASsy Packing List

Unlike most study abroad programs, Semester at Seas campus floats. But actually. We have the largest floating library in the world and the most limited Wifi. So, before you start packing for your summer or semester-long voyage, check out my SASsy list for everything you’ll need on The MV. Okay, not everything, but those things you haven’t thought of yet.

Packing for Semester At Sea IMAGE

1. Magnets. So random, and something I actually didn’t bring along (and so wished I did). The walls in the cabins onboard are magnetic, and SAS will not let you use tape to hang things up. When you’re living in such close quarters for a minimum of two months, visual inspiration is a must! Plus, not to mention all of the postcards and artwork you’ll buy along the way. I ended up buying a magnet in each port and using those to decorate my space, but found myself increasingly jealous of those who had purchased packs of magnets before embarkation.

2. Snacks. It’s not that SAS’s food is terrible (hope you’re a potatoes and pasta fan), and they actually provide a snack time each night around 10PM (a very crucial part of SAS culture) – BUT snacks can seriously add to your experience. Have an 8AM and rather snooze than make it to breakfast? Grab a granola bar. Studying and there’s no food service? Eat a spoonful of peanut butter. Taking a five hour bus ride from Dubrovnik to Split? Take snacks. My suggestions: peanut butter (an absolute must! This runs out so quickly during voyages and becomes a hot commodity), Nature Valley bars,  fruit strips (LOVE the Archer Farms ones from Target), and snack-size Chex Mix.

3. Crossbody: More so for the ladies, but extremely necessary! Get a bag that is harder to open (not just with a flap or visible opening) and something small enough to keep in front of you at all times. Also, always be more cautious than you think you need to, and don’t leave them on the backs of chairs. At cafes and bars it might seem silly to keep it on your shoulder, but in some places (looking at you, Barca), you’ll thank me later.

Magnets for Semester At Sea study abroad IMAGE

4. Fanny Pack: Not one of those clunky Disney World ones; I’m thinking sleek money belt. This one is easy to wear under your clothes without adding an extra bulge. I didn’t find myself using it in every port, but for ones that we received more warnings about (again, sup Barca), this puppy was on at all times.

5. A good camera: I pulled a real amateur move during my SAS voyage: left the camera in my mom’s hotel room, and thus began my trip camera-less. Classic. After leaving behind a really nice camera (at least my mom was able to take it home), I couldn’t justify giving up that quality of photographs during what became the most beautiful two months of my life. I bought a Nikon 1 in our first port and haven’t regretted the decision yet.

6. Linen pants: While not super fun to keep (Are they dry clean only? Someone help me.), a pair of creme linen pants became a nice option for Italian/Turkish/Moroccan heat and monument visits. Not only did they provide much-needed air flow, I wasn’t that ridiculous American in thick, blue jeans.

7. Scarves: Pair with above. A lot of religious sites (mosques, churches, etc.) ask visitors to have their heads and shoulders covered. Light, cotton scarves are the perfect way to cover up.

A light scarf was necessary for my visit to the Blue Mosque image

A light scarf was necessary for my visit to the Blue Mosque.

8. Water bottle: Obviously, you should always stay hydrated, and the easiest and cheapest way to do that on the MV is to fill your water bottle up in the dining room. The water/ice machine is available at all times, while the water and juices served at meals are not. Forgot yours? The bookstore onboard (yes, there’s a bookstore) sells plenty of SAS vessels (and nalgenes!). Some ports even had public water fountains, if you’re daring.

9. Luggage locks: Never really used these before my voyage, but again, so happy I took these along. They didn’t really become necessary until I found myself traveling in port, leaving bags behind in hostels and falling asleep on cross-country trains. The added security is totally worth it.

10. 12 billion copies of your passport: You really can’t make enough. I had one in nearly every bag I brought, a few in my bedside table, another in my safe. SAS will hold onto your passport between ports (and you shouldn’t really need it when traveling; they actually won’t issue it unless you need it), but having copies with you while you travel is crucial. You never know.

11. A weekender: It takes two of the largest duffles to get all of your stuff on the MV, but once you’re in port, you’re going to need a smaller bag for the constant travel. I went with one of your standard “I’m backpacking through Europe” bags, but I didn’t need one to carry more than a few days’ worth of clothes. I found these backpacks evenly distribute the weight, which made travel by foot that much more easier.

12. Quick-dry travel towel: This, along with #13, became one of my most cherished items. These towels dry ridiculously fast and save room in your #11. Especially in the Mediterranean heat, I wanted to take showers at least twice a day. Get. this.

13. Packing organizers (LITERALLY GOD-SENT):  These wonderful, little packing organizers that have seriously changed my life. I used these in my #11 while traveling in port. When you’re walking miles a day and searching/switching hostels, the last thing you want to do is dig through a tall backpack searching for your toothpaste or a clean pair of undies. I knew exactly where all of my belongings lived, which sounds a little OCD… but hey, anything to make the process smoother.

14. A notebook: A friend gifted me the most adorable travel notebook from Anthropologie. While I didn’t journal every day (that’s what blogs are for), it was very useful while in port. I tried not to take my laptop in country (although free Wifi was hard to pass up), so having pen and paper to write down the little things was perfect. I wrote down the names of people we met along the way, restaurant recommendations from the locals, small details I didn’t want to pass up.

15. Clothespins and laundry detergent: Can’t believe I almost forgot this one, but clothes pins are another essential for the SAS experience. As you’ll learn, laundry isn’t the cheapest thing, and your hall’s turn for laundry doesn’t come very frequently. For the spills and stains in between, I used a travel-sized laundry detergent to wash my clothes in the bathroom sink. Look in your shower, and you’ll see a clothesline that will extend across the length of your shower. Clothespins will help your clothes dry, even when it’s one of those rockier days.

If you’re already thinking about packing for a Semester at Sea: 1. I’m extremely jealous and 2. I wish you the best of luck. Packing for two to three months is a challenging task, especially when you’re diving into an entirely different environment. Remember, Google is your friend, and there are tons of SAS blogs across the Internet. And less is always more.

Jessica Smith

College of William & Mary | 7 stories

Jessica is a rising senior at the College of William & Mary (Williamsburg, VA), studying English and Film Studies. In addition to writing for The College Tourist, she is interning in NYC for Rent The Runway. In 2012, she studied abroad with Semester at Sea, traveling to eight, different countries along the Mediterranean on the MV Explorer. Her favorites include iced coffee, live music, all forms of social media, and Mexican food.

3 responses to “15 Things You Should Bring Along on your Semester at Sea”

  1. Harrison says:

    Very helpful! I’m getting ready for my SAS fall voyage and this was very informative, thanks!

    • Hi Harrison,
      Have a fabulous time on your trip. SAS is such a unique way to see the world and get college credits while you’re at it! 🙂 We would love to hear more about your experiences. If you would like to post an article or two of your own you can click the ‘Contribute a story’ button on the top left of the page.
      Happy travels!
      Team College Tourist

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