The ultimate guide to packing for study abroad: Part 1, BAGS

So I may or may not have used the superlative “ultimate” to get as many google hits as possible. I’m a sucker for high numbers of views. Something about actually wanting people to read what a post…

ANYWAYS. I’ve discovered that I’m actually a pretty decent packer over the past couple years. I used to be the girl who had a filing system, 7 kinds of lip gloss, a whole bottle of ibuprofen, lotion, hand sanitizer, and all the normal stuff like a wallet  – in her purse…. in 8th GRADE. This was a bit overkill. I wanted to be Mary Poppins, to be prepared for everything.

But then I realized that Mary Poppins had a magic carpet bag. I just had an enormous purse that made it difficult to get through crowded hallways.

I’ve also decided that packing for a study abroad trip is like no other trip. You need a backpack. You need clothing. You need to have something to pack in for spur of the moment weekend trips to Budapest/Germany/Italy/wherever is close to your university. You also need a purse and good shoes and lip balms and pictures and your laptop…

Basically, you need to know what you actually need and what is superfluous.

My name is Ashley, and I brought a backpack, a purse, and one (1!) suitcase to Europe with me for 20 weeks of living. I’m here to offer my wisdom. I googled this very thing so many times before I left that I know people are wondering: what will I need? How will I get all the stuff I need into my suitcase?

We’ll get to apparel, toiletries, and all that other stuff, but today, let’s talk about bags.

Bags I brought:

  • small, cross-body purse – why is this important? When traveling through airports, you want to be able to get to the few things that you’ll need over and over again easily: passport, wallet (containing IDs, money, credit and debit cards, insurance cards, and other things you don’t want people to be able to steal easily, thus you keep them in front), lip balm, hand sanitizer, your phone, a photocopy of your passport, small bar of chocolate, your camera, and a pen. Then, once you reach your destination, you’ll still need a small bag to take with you when you go out, so make this something you won’t tire of using and won’t wear out.
  • backpack – why is this important? If you really need to ask that, then we may have a problem. You’re going to want a backpack to take to university, because you’ll have books, and a laptop, and… are you saying “duh?!” by now? Also, when you’re walking through airports, train stations, and the like, it’s nice to have the weight of whatever wouldn’t fit in your suitcase that you’ve crammed into your backpack evenly distributed across two shoulders rather than one. Let’s face it. Your shoulders will be sore the next day, inevitably.
  • expandable suitcase – why is this important? Well, you won’t be able to fit everything into your backpack and purse… I prefer the type of suitcase with four wheels, because when I’m walking through airports, even if it’s just before I check the bag, I want to be as compact as possible, not having to pull something behind me that I’m going to make other people trip over. I also try to pack the bag in un-expanded form so that I have room to bring back souvenirs. This is optional. Pick a bag with good zippers and sturdy wheels. Also, get one of those TSA-approved locks that have a combination to open them. And don’t forget your combination.
  • Pack a bag that will be good for weekend trips in your suitcase. I have a Liz Claiborne bag that has proved itself wonderful through excursions to India, France, and Germany. It’s padded, so I don’t have to worry about the contents of the bag, and it has multiple pockets and is light, also has a cross-body strap. It has more space than my backpack and looks slightly classier.
  • SPACE BAGS. I love the travel space bags. Grab your 20% off coupon fro Bed, Bath, & Beyond, and they’ll only cost you $8 (approximately). Make sure to get the travel kind. You can fit quite a lot of stuff in there with these bags, Plus, they’ll protect your clothing against liquids and stuff. I make sure to pack a small bottle of Downy wrinkle resistant spray so that when I take my clothes out of the bags they won’t look frumpy.
  • 2 gallon Ziploc bags. But please, get the cheap store brand. Save your cash for airport snacks or something else. Pack any liquids (other than your under 3 oz carryon liquids) in here a) to keep them organized and b) to keep any spillage that happens with the pressure changes contained.
  • Also, this is an obvious tip, but make sure to keep your 3 oz carryon liquids (the specific ones to have with you we’ll talk about in another post) in the front pocket or right on top in the large compartment of your backpack so you don’t have to root around at security. International flights with connections through multiple countries means going through security multiple times. You don’t want to have to dig through your bag over and over again.

That’s all for bags. Stay tuned for guides on apparel, toiletries, and those little homey necessities!


5 thoughts on “The ultimate guide to packing for study abroad: Part 1, BAGS

  1. ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh! SO thankful for this post!
    I’m going to be a foreign exchange student, and I I’ve been really wondering about the packing business.
    Everything you’ve said is awesome!
    Can’t wait for the next one:)

  2. Pingback: The ultimate guide to packing for study abroad: Part 2, APPAREL « Journey [In Austria] to Who I Want to Be

  3. Pingback: The ultimate guide to packing for study abroad: Part 3, SHOES « Journey [In Austria] to Who I Want to Be

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