Study Abroad Packing Tips
October 28, 2014

Chiara has traveled extensively around the world (see below) and even spent 9 years living in Italy as a child. To say that she is a master traveler would be an understatement. Below she has rounded up her best packing tips from her years of experience.

But first…just for fun, let’s check out all the places Chiara has visited: Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, St. Lucia, Bahamas, Iceland, Ireland, England, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Israel, Palestine, UAE, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Swaziland, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia.


First things first: pack small and pack smart! The key to being able to fit everything you need without lugging around two monstrous bags is versatility. Pack things that can be used in various ways—ladies, think black jeans to double as everyday-wear and dressy night out, or men, loafers/boat shoes that are comfortable for everyday use, but can also be worn with a nice outfit.

Start packing a few days in advance. Begin by laying out everything you want to bring. Then slowly but surely start taking away from the pile. Strive to cut the pile in half—even if you don’t make it to half, you’ll feel pretty accomplished by cutting even just a few things.

Make it your goal to get to the airport with one carryon and one checked bag. Any more than that will make your first moments in your new country more stressful than they need to be. Trying to juggle a few huge bags in a foreign airport can be very daunting. Plus, there is something so liberating and almost therapeutic about shedding belongings and baggage as you set off on your new adventure.

Alright, let’s get down to the details of what to pack. Below is a list of some things you won’t want to forget!


  • Weekend bag/backpack. Use this as your carryon for your flight, and bring a change of clothes and all your important items in case your checked bag gets delayed a few days. This will be your go-to for your weekend trips around Europe!
  • Cross-shoulder bag. Whether a book bag or purse, make sure you have a bag that closes (preferably with a zipper) for everyday use.

Travel Accessories

  • Passport and document holder. It might seem a little strange, but having all your important documents in one place will make your life easier. Print your important documents (housing assignment, arrival instructions, travel itinerary) and keep them in your holder with your passport for easy access throughout your travel. When you arrive in your host country, you can store this in a special place so you know that your important documents are always safe.
  • Deck of cards. You will inevitably find yourself on a long train ride or waiting a few hours for a flight. A deck of cards will make the difference between hours of looking out a window and making spontaneous friends over a good game of Rummy.
  • A few books or an e-reader. Books can help you get away from it all. Whether you read at a small café over a delicious pastry, or on your way to sleep in bed at night, you’ll love having a few books to be carried away by.
  • Travel alarm clock and/or watch. You may not always have your cell phone with you, as you do at home. This will ensure that you never miss a class or train ride.
  • Extra adapters/converters. You’ll probably have more than one thing to plug in, so make sure you pack a few plug adapters/converters so you won’t have to choose which item is more important.
  • Camera. While your camera phone is useful, you’ll never regret having high quality shots of some of the most photographed sights in the world.


  • Lightweight rain jacket
  • A nice outfit. Always be prepared for an important event (think interview instead of club gear).
  • Workout clothes. Whether it is for a hike, a jog or a yoga class, make sure you’re ready to keep active abroad.
  • House shoes/slippers. European apartment floors can be noisy and cold, keep comfy with some slippers.
  • Rubber flip-flops. If you plan to stay in hostels, flip-flops will be very helpful in the communal showers.
  • Bathing suit. Swimming always calls!


  • Reusable water bottle. You won’t regret it.
  • A few small gifts from home (especially if living with a host family). Small gifts go a long way, and you never know when you’ll be faced with an invitation to visit a local’s country home, or to dinner. Bring a few chocolates from your hometown, some candles, or a few small journals.
  • If you are one of those people who is particular about your pillow, you may want to consider bringing your own. One thing you’ll quickly learn abroad is that Americans are used to some very plush sleeping situations!
  • Sleep sack. This one depends on whether you plan to do a lot of travel, and stay in hostels. A sleep sack is a simple sheet that is folded over, to be used in beds that either do not have sheets, or whose sheets appear a little unsavory.
  • Sleep aid. You should only have to use them for the first few nights in your new home, but some melatonin will be the difference between complete and utter frustration for not being able to sleep at night, and some much-needed rest to help you adjust and feel comfortable as quickly as possible.

 Buy it there

  • Most toiletries can be purchased in Europe—just bring small containers of shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, lotion, etc., and do your shopping when you arrive.
  • Beach towel. You can buy these anywhere, and they take up too much space for luggage.
  • It won’t be hard to find umbrellas in Europe.
  • Hair dryer/straightener. More often than not, travelers fry their dryer/straightener within one use from the higher European voltage. While you can buy a converter, you’ll be much happier if you just purchase a new one in Europe.

And finally, before you leave make photocopies of all your important documents (passport, visa, credit cards, insurance card, etc.). Leave a copy with your family at home, and pack a copy. If anything gets lost while you’re abroad you will be infinitely happy you have this!

Know Someone Who Would Be Interested?


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

About SAI

SAI is dedicated to providing academic and cultural learning experiences abroad that enhance global awareness, professional development and social responsibility. We concentrate our programs in Europe, with a focus on in-depth learning of individual European countries and their unique global role in the geopolitical economy, humanities, and in the arts.