“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money.
Then take half the clothes and twice the money.”
We’ve all been there. Packing hell. Angry at your mom for offering to help. Upset with your selection of sweaters. Confused by how many shoes you’ve accumulated. So do us a favor – take a deep breath, start over, and answer a few questions.
1. Do I need to check a bag?
If you’re going away for a semester, the answer is probably yes. Even the best of packers will check a bag for anything more than one month. Get familiar with your airline regulations – most airlines offer a 50 lbs or 23 kg limit for one bag. SOME airlines will let the first bag fly for free, OTHER airlines will charge. So, double check!
2. Can I carry the bag on my own without assistance?
You don’t want to be that person in the middle of the airport struggling with your bag. Are you more comfortable with a backpack? A rolling suitcase? It may sound silly, but pack it up and walk around with the bag of your choice. Think of the worse case scenario: if the wheel breaks or the zipper bursts .. can you get it together? This is a key consideration when you think of how much your bag will weigh. 50 lbs is no joke.
3. Do I have access to laundry facilities at my destination?
And do they cost money to operate? This will differ depending on your program, so this is a question worth answering. Packing quick dry items made of breathable fabrics will be your best bet. Cold water wash is easy to come by, and can save you a few layers of packing, if you can wash a few shirts in the sink.
4. Can I find this product at my destination?
The answer is 99% probably. First time travelers are amazed when they pack value sized bottles of Pantene, only to find the same shampoo in a supermarket at their destination. Don’t weigh down your suitcase with brand name products in gigantic sizes. Bring small travel-sized items to tide you over, and then shop at your destination: an adventure in itself!
5. Is there anything I shouldn’t bring?
One thing we caution students about is electronics. Remember that not all outlets and voltages are created equal. An American hair dryer will blow a fuse in a U.K. outlet, so don’t even try it! As with many hygiene products, you can find most electronic abroad. Consider purchasing an adapter to plug in items like your camera or laptop, and search for that straightener abroad.
6. What’s the weather like where I’m going?
Good question. Google it! Remember that even as we’re celebrating winter in the Northern Hemisphere, our friends below the equator are turning toward summer. This will inform your packing choices, so please take a look at the local weather before you leave.
7. Do I have room for souvenirs?
We hope so! You can stash a bag and plan on carrying it on when you return, or even checking an additional bag. Don’t pack your suitcase within an inch of it’s life (we know it’s tempting). Be sure to leave some room for goodies on the way back. Bring us something nice!
8. What happens if I go over the weight limit?
Airlines vary in their regulations on extra bags, but fees can be as little as $25USD to $100USD. It depends on your destination, your other luggage, your airline, the alignment of the stars, and your ability to pack well. If you’re prepared to return home from a semester abroad and pay up at the airport, then at least educate yourself on the exact cost. If you’re cruising back to the States on fumes, pack light.
9. Will the items in my carry-on bag make it through security?
As long as you abide by the security regulations to carry ONE quart-sized Ziploc bag filled with 3 ounce liquids and gels, then you should be ok. Any liquid larger than 3 ounces will be removed from your bag. Be advised that this now includes peanut butter (which is not common in Europe)! Kelly had a brand new container thrown out at O’Hare. Not cool.
10. Will I ever get this @#$%! bag packed?
You will. Keep breathing! If you have more questions, consult with your classmates or our office. Take a look at this video and get some packing advice from returning students, who have experienced the same thing you’re going through: