What to pack will vary greatly depending on the student, the program, and the location abroad. Consider some of these resources that will hopefully help as you begin to pack for your international experience.
- Consider bringing a small bag for weekend trips
- Consider the type of luggage you will use: you want something that will not be too much of a burden to lug around. Also be prepared that many locations around the world have a lot of cobblestones and how this might affect wheeled luggage
- Be sure to add luggage tags to all your bags with your name, etc. If you forget, you can usually get these at your airline's check-in counter at the airport
*Check airline regulations on the limits of luggage weight and dimensions before picking out your luggage size, otherwise you risk getting charged an extra fee
Kitchen, food, & groceries
- Will you have access to a kitchen abroad?
- Are there certain sauces or spices that you enjoy in the U.S. that may not be attainable abroad?
- Will bedding be provided for you?
- Will towels be provided for you?
- Will you have a cleaning service?
- To which kind of amenities will you have access? For example, is there free, secure, and easily-accessible WiFi, are hairdryers available for rent, etc.
- Will you have access to a washer?
- Will you have access to a dryer?
- Will you need to utilize a clothesline?
- What is the climate like in the host destination?
- How many seasons will you encounter when you're abroad? Remember to consider in which hemisphere your destination is located - even if you will be abroad during summer in the U.S., that will be winter in the southern hemisphere!
- Can you easily purchase items such as rain boots, rain coats, umbrellas, or bathing suits, or should you pack those?
- For shorter programs, check the weather again just before departure and adjust your packing accordingly
*Pack layered clothing because they are versatile and help you deal with multiple climates and weather conditions
- What is considered appropriate attire in day-to-day or special situations? Are there cultural dress considerations based on gender or other situations (for example, are you expected to cover your head/shoulders when entering a religious building?)?
- Is it okay to wear sleeveless tops, skirts, flip flops, or ripped jeans in certain settings? Are any images or words prohibited?
- Are their certain clothing or shoe sizes that are not easily attained abroad?
*Do some prior research on what may or may not be offensive to certain religions and cultures. We always want to respect another's home.
Program Itinerary & Hobbies
- Will you be hiking, camping, or swimming?
- Can you obtain gear abroad (surf board, snowboard, bikes, helmets, etc.) abroad?
- PACK LIGHT! We promise you will use maybe half of what you think you will. You'll also need to leave room for the souvenirs, gifts, etc. that you will likely come back with
- Guess who will have to lug around and keep track of any and all bags around airports, up and down stairs, on cobblestones, on trains, planes, and buses? You will!
- Always follow airline and/or governmental policies on bag sizes and weight and what you can and cannot pack
- You will probably walk way more than you are used to - pack comfortable shoes!
- Limit the amount of cash and valuables you take with you
- Pack simple, solid-colored clothing that is easy to mix, match, and layer so that you can be comfortable as temperatures vary
- They have stores abroad! Chances are there are many things you can buy once abroad (even secondhand) instead of taking up valuable luggage space and weight with them
- We do not recommend that you plan to depend on having items (especially medications) shipped to you once abroad. It is expensive, will likely take a long time, and may even get held up or rejected by customs
- Faculty Led program participants should consult their Faculty Director for specific packing advice or requirements (such as whether or not you will need your computer, dress code, etc.)
It's critical that you have your travel documents (e.g. passport, visa, any other documentation you need to enter your host country, etc.) in a safe but accessible place within your carry-on luggage (be sure not to put them in your checked luggage!). We recommend that you make copies of these documents and store them somewhere safe (separate from your actual passport, visa, etc.) in the event that you lose these documents abroad; you should also leave copies at home.
- Ensure your medication is legal in the host country
- Keep all medication in its original packaging in your carry-on
- Pack a doctor's note or copy of your prescription in your carry-on baggage to accompany any prescription medications (that outlines your conditions & the purpose of the medication)
Other Items to Pack in Your Carry On Luggage/Personal Item
- Any other documentation you need to enter your destination
- Phone charger
- Access to important phone numbers (i.e., your airlines' customer service number(s), your on-site contact or Faculty Director, the OEA, other emergency contacts)
- Wallet, including enough of host country currency to get you through initial expenses
- Important toiletries, tissues, hand sanitizer (pay attention to liquid allowances)
- A change of clothes or two (so you can freshen up after hours of air travel or in case for any reason your luggage arrives late)
- Snacks for the plane ride, during layovers, and for the first day or two of arrival. These may need to be sealed when going through security; be sure to review regulations accordingly
- A book, ear plugs, headphones, eye mask, etc. to get you through the long flight
Be sure to pay attention to airline and governmental regulations regarding how to safely pack electronics, what you can and can't pack in checked vs. carry-on luggage (i.e., batteries), etc.
Electrical outlets will usually be different than outlets in the United States. This means that you won't be able to plug in your U.S. electronics into non-U.S. outlets with an adaptor. You'll need to research what kind of adaptor you will need. You can then purchase adaptors for a minimal cost in most department stores or online (e.g. Amazon).
Depending on the host country, the voltage may be higher than the voltage we use here in the U.S. For this reason, it may be imperative that you also (in addition to using an adaptor) utilize a convertor. A convertor will convert the voltage so that your electronics are not damaged. You can purchase convertors for a minimal cost in most department stores or online (e.g. Amazon).
Many students tend to bring their laptops/tablets with them in order to be able to do homework outside of class, keep in touch with friends & family, and to relax. Think about your program and whether or not it will be necessary to bring a laptop with you. Keep in mind that this is a device that utilizes a lot of power to charge; ensure you have the proper adaptor and converter (if necessary). Additionally, these items tend to be valuable and expensive to replace. If you do bring your device, we highly recommend that you keep your laptop in your carry-on luggage instead of checking it.
Hairdryer, Curling Iron, etc.
Leave them at home! Even with the use of an adaptor and convertor, these types of electronic tools will end up breaking. If you absolutely need them, we recommend that you purchase these types of electronics in your host country or see if you can rent them from your accommodations (as applicable).
- Remember to carefully pack the chargers of any devices you plan to take as needed
- Charge your devices before you go
- Install all the most recent updates available and then back up your devices before you go. Updates help ensure your device is more secure
- Make sure you have secure passcodes set to your devices (if available)
Refer to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website for guidance on travel tips, FAQs regarding security screenings, and restrictions on what you can pack in your carry-on or checked baggage.
Never assume that airline requirements, such as the amount of carry on luggage you can bring with you, is the same across all airlines. Be sure to check each airline's website that you will use to be sure you understand what you can and cannot bring with you.
Study Abroad Alumni
Below is a list of more resources you can go through to figure out what you should and shouldn't pack for abroad.
- USAC Packing List
- The Ultimate Study Abroad Packing List
- 17 Top Study Abroad Packing List Items
- What to Pack for Your Study Abroad Semester
- The Do's and Don'ts of Packing for Study Abroad
- What Not to Pack