Travel Tips: How to Pack for a Year Abroad

August 6, 2015

pack year abroad

I’ll admit it: I am an over-packer. I like to pack a little bit more just to be sure that I have every scenario that could possibly happen covered. In that case, I would need to pack a lot of suitcases to be prepared for a whole year abroad! Not a good idea.

Let’s get back a few years. There I am at the airport on my way home after ten eventful months in the United States. I have my two huge suitcases and my carry-on in hands and I just found out that I have to pay a few hundreds of dollars for excess baggage. Well, I can say that I have definitely learnt from my previous mistakes. So how do you basically fit your life in a tiny suitcase? I’m currently facing this issue. Here are my tips on what to pack and not pack for a year abroad!

1. Do not pack all of your clothes.
Pack less than you actually would. I only pack the clothes that I have also worn during the last year. Everything else will have to stay at home. Don’t forget: there are shopping opportunities abroad! Also think about the climate that you will travel to.

2. Make copies of everything.
You will need to fill out all kinds of paper work abroad. Make sure to have everything with you: copies of your birth certificate, university documents or your driving license. Basically, have copies of everything that has any importance to you. You’ll never know, when you’ll need these documents.

3. Do not overpack your suitcase.
Trust me. I made that mistake. I packed my suitcase to its limit and when it was time to head back home, I did not only have to throw away some stuff, but I also had to pay overweight baggage. Not fun! Leave some room for all the things that you will purchase during your year abroad.
Read how to save space.

4. Comfortable shoes are your friends.
You will walk a lot when exploring your new home. Take comfortable shoes for daily activities, shoes to do some sports and one pair of nice shoes. Also consider the climate of your destination: will you need sandals or winter boots?

5. Do not take books with you.
I know you think that you will read your favorite books again during that year, but believe me you probably won’t. Consider e-books or go to the library abroad. There is only one exception: a vocabulary book.

6. Leave your toiletries at home.
Don’t pack shampoo, soap or tooth paste. They take too much space of your suitcase. Buy the cosmetics at your host city and take only travel sizes in your carry-on. If you can’t live with your favorite moisturizer or conditioner, check if they sell it abroad. Good chances that they are!

7. Medication, if necessary. 
If you have medical needs, check if you will be able to purchase the medication there. If it’s prescribed medicine that you won’t be able to buy abroad, then talk to your doctor to prescribe you a big enough supply that will last while you’re abroad.

8. Are you living with a host family?
If the answer is yes, then you should think about a little present for your host. It can be really anything that represents your home country. You host family will be delighted that you have thought about a small gift from home.

9. Take foreign money with you.
Exchange some money beforehand. You will probably need some cash for additional travel expenses like a metro card or for a taxi. I would suggest you to not rely on your debit or credit card, as not all foreign vendors accept them.
Read how to manage money abroad.

10. What electronics to pack?
Of course you will need your essentials like your laptop, a charger, a camera and a plug converter (if necessary). However, leave your fancy hair dryer at home and option for a travel size one. The rule is that you don’t pack anything that is absolutely not necessarily needed!

11. Pack memories.
Don’t forget to take some pictures of your friends and family or little reminders of home with you. It will make your new home feel more like an actual home and it will minimize homesickness.

12. Send it with a package.
If everything else fails, you might still consider to send the things that you can’t possibly live without with a package abroad.

Do you have any tips on what to pack for a year abroad?

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3 Comments

  • Reply Lorena August 7, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    Great tips! I basically did all of these when I moved abroad. If you need to send a suitcase look into sendmybag they are a bit cheaper than paying for a case on Ryanair 🙂

    • Reply laura.studen@web.de August 7, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      Hey Lorena! Thank you, that’s a great tip! Will keep it in mind 🙂

  • Reply Tabitha October 15, 2015 at 12:26 am

    Agree with all of these! I always prefer to bring new things and memories home from wherever I was 🙂

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