You’ve heard it again and again.
Don’t overpack. Pack light. Only bring one bag. You can get all the products you need abroad.
While these are good pieces of advice, I refuse to travel with two plain-colored v-necks, a few scarves, a pair of jeans and call that a week’s worth of different outfits. For those of you who are able to fit your life into a backpack, I’m impressed – no need to read further. For the rest of you over-packers, don’t get stressed out by all of the “Ultimate Packing Lists” out there urging you to lay out what you want to bring and then eliminate half.
Don’t get me wrong, I can survive out of a small bag, go without showering, and happily wear the same outfit a couple days in a row. Greasy hair, pony tail, yesterday’s shirt – no problemo. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t also have an appreciation for a variety of outfit options and 10 swimsuits just in case.
My point here is: I think we can meet in the middle. Life is all about balance, right? I say pack a bag [or 2], and don’t eliminate half.
Note: the following, if you haven’t figured out, is intended for the ladies because I’m assuming guys don’t struggle with over-packing like we do. It is also primarily intended for those studying/working/living abroad.
What you will need:
2 large lightweight suitcases (preferably with built-in over weight indicators), one backpack, and one cross-body bag [optional: one weekender bag]
- 2 blue (one lighter & one darker wash)
- 1 black
- 1 white (maybe not practical, but we’re not exactly going for practical in this list)
- 1 other of your choosing – I may or may not have thrown in a red, patterned pair.
- 2 black (good for day or night or PJs)
- Throw in a pair of leather leggings if you wish.
- 1 jean
- 2 lightweight, more formal pairs. Lace shorts? Basically, whatever your other fav pairs of shorts are.
- 2 maxi
- 1 almost knee-length
- 2 maxis
- 2 knee-length
- 5-6 (cream, black, and your other favorites as well)
- 4-6 tank tops (including 2 of those everyday basics)
- 2-3 long sleeves
- 3 “going out” shirts
- 3 casual shirts good for day & night (and yes, I do enjoy a good, simple v-neck)
- 2 chambrays – go with everything, and great for layering. You should throw in a flannel or two, too 🙂
- 1 Jean or Leather – whichever you prefer – it’s the perfect layer to add to any outfit and keep you warm. I like this one.
- 1 Amazing Coat. Find a coat you can’t live without because you will probably live in it. I would recommend going with black so it goes with everything, hides dirt, and you’ll be less likely to get sick of it. Ideally it should be warm and big enough for you to fit a couple of layers underneath. It should be waterproof, too! This coat is one of the most important items you will pack. Don’t screw it up.
- If you want to bring another coat, make sure it’s different enough, like a NorthFace fleece or a lightweight raincoat. If you have room for more, go ahead – you will probably wear one coat on the plane anyways! Leaves more room in the bag.
- 5 bras (bandeau, black/neutral, and one other favorite + 2 sports bras)
- 14 undies. I personally pack like 20 because they hardly take up any room or weigh anything, so why not?
- 7-10 pairs of socks, including a couple wool pairs
- 2-3, but I have a swimsuit obsession so throw in a couple more if you’re feeling ever so inclined. It’s not like they take up that much room.
- Anything else?
- I’d also throw in a big, comfy sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants for lounging or PJs. You never know when you might get cold, and it’s nice to be able to get cozy.
- 2 work out outfits
- 2 scarves because I had to include it, and a good pair of mittens and a hat
- Converse. They are expensive abroad so don’t plan on buying them there. They are comfortable and go with everything. Pack them right now.
- Athletic shoes. Good for hiking, exercising, ya know, just a staple item.
- 1-2 flats – preferably nude.
- Ankle booties – brown/black, go with everything and better suited for cobblestone than high heels.
- Boots (short/tall, brown/black) Wear these on the plane.
- Flip flops. A lightweight pair you can throw in anywhere.
I know you can get most of this abroad, but I like not having to worry about getting all the stuff as soon as I land, and we’re talking about overpacking remember?
- Prescriptions (make sure you have enough for how ever long you will be gone – pack these in your carry on)
- Face wash, if you have your routine/product you really like – bring it without a doubt.
- Contacts & Solution – make sure you have enough contacts to last you. (1 big bottle + 1 travel size lasts a good few months) Don’t forget your contact case or glasses either.
- Shampoo/conditioner – 1 bottle of each. This is certainly something you can buy abroad, but this is a list for the over-packers out there, and I like my own products [Moroccan Oil].
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Pack of razors & shaving cream
- Body lotion
- Body wash
- Travel size containers to be used for weekend trips once you’ve arrived
- Tampons. Take them out of the box and they hardly weigh anything.
- 2 Deodorant
- Travel size sunscreen (I like the Aveeno face stuff)
- Hair ties & bobby pins
- Curling iron/blow dryer – Yes it is possible the voltage will mess these up, but I bought dual voltage ones and personally never had a problem. [If you’re running out of room, get rid of these and buy them abroad.]
- Nail clippers
- Make up
- Jewelry & Watch(es)
- Advil, Tums, Imodium, Benadryl, Nyquil, and whatever else you need…
- Vitamins & Airborne
- Hand sanitizer
Most likely all of these items will go in your carry on.
- Camera & charger (GoPros are great)
- Phone & charger – iPhones come in handy as long as you turn off data and stick to Wi-Fi
- Computer & charger
- iPad or Kindle & charger
- 2 adapters – don’t forget these!
The Obvious Things
All must be carry on items – hint: use your cross-body bag.
- Credit cards (1 debit and 1-2 credit; good to have one in another place in case one gets stolen; Don’t forget to notify your banks so they know you will be abroad!)
- Cash – bring a good chunk of cash with you to avoid international fees and in case places don’t accept credit.
- ID/International Student ID – I thought it was good to have an extra form of ID, plus the international one gets you discounts at certain attractions/museums/etc…
- Flight Itinerary/Boarding Passes
- Copy of passport/visa/birth certificate (Make sure to leave a copy of these items at home, too)
- Make sure to pack things that can easily by layered and clothes that go with a lot. (Most of the skirts, dresses, and sweaters I packed were white, cream, or black.)
- Be sure to check the weather of where you’re going, and adjust accordingly. In my experience, pack more warm clothes than you’d think.
- Wear layers on the plane with your coat and heaviest pair of shoes.
- Purse = personal item
- Backpack/bag = carry on.
- Fit the rest in two big suitcases weighing about 49.5 pounds each.
When I taught abroad for a year I took two big suitcases and a backpack as my carry on. I also packed a weekender bag in one of the suitcases to use for my weekend adventures. You will have to pay about $100 for the extra suitcase each way, but if you’re going to be abroad for an extended period of time, it’s worth it.
What about shopping?
Yes, you will want to shop, and yes you will buy things. I never had any issues getting stuff home, though. On the way home, you won’t have any bathroom products, which leaves extra room for your souvenirs.
Feel free to eliminate, but with two suitcases and a carry on [or one suitcase + one large backpacker’s pack if you’re feeling ambitious], you will have plenty of room for a variety of clothes as well as your favorite toiletries. The only downside is the extra fee and the transporting of the bags if you go the two suitcase route, but it’s really only a couple of days in the whole scheme of things. Plus, most suitcases have 4 wheels these days making traveling a breeze.
***Like I said earlier, this is mainly intended for those who are planning to live abroad for an extended period of time. Once you’re abroad, it’s easy to jet set around with just a backpack and leave the rest of your stuff at your new home. If you’re going to be hopping from one country to the next every few days, then absolutely pack lighter, as it would be a pain to be constantly moving a lot of luggage and worrying about the possibility of extra fees throughout your trip.
Good luck, and happy packing!