Tips to Make Packing Easier

It’s that time in your planning process that you need to pack. How do you fit everything in a suitcase or two? What can you carry on? And what should you bring? As someone who always packs too much wherever they go, packing for such a long time away can be daunting. Here’s a few dos and don’ts, tricks and tips, and ways to make the nightmare of packing ease on by.

What do I need?

The truthful answer to this would be: ‘Not your entire closet.’

  • Find out if your housing will have laundry services (they often do) and how much they cost. From there, try and estimate how often you want to have to be doing laundry and plan from there what the minimal about of clothing items you’d need would be. I typically go at least three items over what my minimal would be just in case.
  • Check the local weather for when you’ll be going abroad. is my go to for all things weather. No need for shorts when London was 30-55°F the entire time I was abroad. If the weather calls for a winter coat, wear your heaviest onto the plane and pack any lighter jackets. Or layer and save even more space! You can always take them off in the airport after security.
  • Have at least one formal outfit. You never know if your host family will invite you to a wedding or if you will attend an evening reception of some kind.
  • Always remember comfortable walking shoes. Most study abroad destinations will have you walking, climbing, and exploring all around the country. For long days on your feet, you want to have shoes that will remain comfortable for the entire duration of your outing (I’d suggest two pairs in case something malfunctions on one of them).
  • So what about toiletries? I always pack travel-sized ones to start off with. Any additional shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc. will almost always be found wherever you are. Ladies should consider any feminine products they’ll need abroad. And, as crazy as it may seem, I packed one thin roll of toilet paper in my suitcase just in case where we were staying didn’t have one on the roll when we got there. (For the record, there was one, but there was very little left on the roll).
  • Towels, sheets, and linens are a case by case kind of thing. Many places may provide them, but some may not. You should confirm this before you leave to study abroad. You can certainly buy them when you land, or you can always pack an old set that can be thrown away before returning home if you don’t want to have to lug them back with you.
  • Don’t forget adapters. Foreign outlet adapters will be your best friend. There’s different ones for different regions that you should check to see which one you’ll need.

Carry-On Luggage

One of the biggest things to have to figure out is: can this be carried onto the plane with me? The best thing to do would be to check your airline’s rules and regulations regarding carry-on items. Don’t forget to check size limitations on bags!

There’s a few general rules that almost always apply though:

  • Any travel documents you need should ALWAYS stay on your person (Passport, Boarding Pass, Visa(s), Insurance Card, etc.).
  • No weapons or anything flammable of any kind (this one will always apply).
  • Any kind of liquid (lotions, shampoos, makeup etc.) usually have to be 3.4 ounce (100ml) OR smaller.
  • Electronics are safest when they’re traveling with you and not getting thrown around in your checked luggage.

Here are a few extra tips to make packing your carry-on easier:

  • Do you have any medications that you must take?  Pack them in your carry-on in the original containers (Border Officials don’t take kindly to little bags of pills!) in case of your luggage gets lost. Bring copies of your prescriptions with you. Be sure to have the name of the generic drugs .
  • Putting your shoes in your carry on can help make your checked luggage lighter.
  • I was required to bring and keep a journal during my program, but having a place to write down things you want to remember and your experiences will help you tell all your friends and family the things you got to do.
  • For a Minimester program I took about $200-$300 in cash with me as an emergency supply that I kept hidden in my room.

We suggest you take a look at this site in addition to you airline’s site!

Checked Luggage

So anything that can’t go in my carry-on can go in my checked luggage? Not quite. We suggest you check with and your airline’s website once again for anything that can go into your checked luggage. But fear not. This bag’s a little easier when it comes to what’s allowed in it:

  • Underwear. Socks. Makeup.
  • Liquids in this bag can be any size, but I’d still suggest travel-sized items as they weigh significantly less.

Don’t forget to check the weight limits!

Anything Else?

A few more miscellaneous tips:

  • Always be culturally aware of what clothing could be considered appropriate and inappropriate where you’re going.
  • School supplies are easy enough to purchase after you’ve landed, however, if there’s a certain item you must have, they don’t take up too much space if you want to bring it with you.
  • Hairdryers, straighteners, and curling irons often blow fuses (this happened where I was staying multiple times in our apartment). It would be cheaper and easier to buy one for your dorm room/apartment/etc. If you have roommates, buy one for all of you and split the costs! Or go without!

Know what kind of tourist you are.

  • Will you be relying on your phone? Phones are great for navigating around an unknown city. Don’t forget a portable charger!
  • Do you like taking pictures? Will a phone suffice or do you want to bring a professional camera with you? Don’t forget an extra battery, memory card, and chargers!

A Few Pre-Made Packing Lists

When in doubt, make a list of everything that you’ll be needing to pack with you and cross the items off as you pack them. Don’t stress and start packing enough time in advanced so you’re not rushing at the end.

If you have any questions, you can contact our office at (410) 704-2451, or email and We are located in the Psychology Building, Room 408, open Monday-Friday, 8:30 am-5 pm.