Study Abroad Travel Travel Tips

Packing for Study Abroad: How to Pack Your Life in a Suitcase

January 7, 2019

packing tips

It comes down to this: Do you really need it? Probably not. Stick to the basics.

If you second doubt yourself while packing for a week long vacation ā€“ try packing for multiple months abroad.

First of all, the specific clothes you pack will definitely vary and depend on where you’re going. Someone going to Spain wouldn’t pack the same things I packed for England, so I’ve compiled some tips that can be applied regardless of your destination!

1. Pack for the weather

Hopefully you’ve done some research about the weather where you’re going… if not, do this! What you wear is going to be based largely around the climate.

2. Stick to the basics

Pack things that can be styled multiple ways. Don’t pack a shirt that only goes with that one skirt you have. Try to pick articles that can be mixed and matched so you don’t get super tired of wearing the same outfits.


packing tips

3. Have a good variety of comfort and formal wear

Pack things that you can wear on a night out, but also outfits that are good for day traveling.

4. Research the styles

It is 100% an American thing to leave the house in sweatpants. No one on campus at my British university ever had anything more casual than jeans on for class. Whereas, if you drop into an 8AM at an American university, 90% of the class is in sweatpants or leggings. People from other cultures generally seem to prioritize dressing nicely whenever they leave the house, even if it’s just to stop at the grocery store.

These are the types of things you should look into and research so you don’t waste suitcase space on things you’ll barely wear. Don’t change your whole wardrobe to fit in, but be aware of cultural nuances!

packing tips abroad


5. Pack less shoes

I really wish someone had told me this. Look at the shoes you want to pack and split that in half. Pack one pair of each “type” (boot, sneaker, dress shoe, etc). Pack two if you really, genuinely thing you’ll need both.

I bought a pair of chelsea boots in England and literally wore them almost every day until I wore the soles out.

6. Remember that you’ll probably buy things abroad

Learn from my anecdote above… you will definitely buy things abroad. And you’ll probably end up wearing those things more than the stuff you packed.

If you forget to pack something, you can always buy it there!

packing tips

7. Wear bulkier attire on the plane

If you’re bringing a coat, wear it on the plane even if it isn’t cold enough to need one! You can always take it off and use it as a blanket or stow it away.

8. Packing disposables v Buying there

Pros of packing disposables:

  • You have everything you need when you get there
  • Probably cheaper in your home country
  • You’ll have an empty suitcase for things you buy abroad

Cons of packing disposables:

  • You may have to bring an extra suitcase/it takes up space

Pros for buying when you get there:

  • Packing a lot less
  • Get to immediately try new products that you may not have in your home country

Cons of buying when you get there:

  • You don’t have that extra empty suitcase/extra space
  • It may be pricier

I brought a suitcase full of disposables like toiletries and food. This worked out well for me because my parents came over with me to visit family before the school year started. So I didn’t have to pay for an extra bag going over, but I did coming back. Personally, I think it’s worth it to have an empty bag for the things you buy abroad. For me, the ideal amount of luggage for a term/year abroad is two full suitcases (with disposables) and a carry-on.

If you can get it down to one full suitcase, that’s even better. However, you might find it very difficult when packing to come home.

Coming Up Next:

How To Travel Abroad Using Only a Carry-On Bag


  • Reply
    Claire @ Coffee with Claire
    January 9, 2019 at 1:54 am

    Great tips! Packing to move overseas is always difficult. I can’t recall how many times I’ve second guessed myself or empty out my suitcases when I was packing for Australia. I ultimately had to think long term and pick things that are suitable for both work and casual outings

    I also packed a lot of toiletries as well and super happy I did because it was so much cheaper to buy soap, toothpaste and razors in Canada than Australia! I’d recommend everyone to look up local prices before moving since a lot of people tend to overlook the cost of everyday goods.

    • Reply
      January 9, 2019 at 2:29 am

      Yes, so much second guessing! And Iā€™m glad you ended up packing toiletries as well. Some people like to save room to pack more, but then you run into problems when packing to go back! And it definitely saves money like you said šŸ™‚

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