Get the most out of your trip by knowing where you're going.
Unfortunately, scrunching, squeezing, smashing and screaming won't make the suitcase-packing process for a year abroad any easier. While the daunting task of adding one last charger to an already full bag is quickly approaching, there are several ways to pack and prepare for a more mobile year abroad. These tips will help guarantee globetrotting with ease, while avoiding additional baggage fees and back pains.
Know where you're going
The first step to packing for a mobile year is to know about your destination. Although researching your trip abroad can be tiring at times, it is the only way to guarantee an active year. Keep in mind that even though your country of destination may be located near the beach, it may also be rainy seven months out of the year. This shocking discovery can be avoided by doing a little reading, followed by appropriate packing.
When researching, remember to look for activities of interest during the months of your stay. A potential ski trip to the Pyrenees may make a heavy waterproof jacket worth the space in your suitcase. Also consider whether you may be working while abroad. Having appropriate professional clothing may be more important to pack than an extra pair of jeans.
Less is Mobile
When packing, remember that less is more, and less means mobility! Over-packing adds stress and fatigue to the travel process starting with the baggage-drop at the airport and ending with the pain-staking search for a hostel. While that extra pair of shoes or T-shirt may seem indispensable while packing, they will not enhance the travel experience, and could end up being problematic when trying to re-pack to return home.
In order to avoid over-packing, begin by packing a completely full suitcase. Although it may sound contradictory, it will help with the next step. After the suitcase is full, attempt to eliminate half of the suitcases contents. Consider the following to help remove unnecessary items: when was the last time the item was used or worn, how often has the item been used or worn since purchased, when and how could it be used while abroad, how many times would it be necessary and could it be worn several times without washing.
If the item hasn't been used frequently since purchased or hasn't left the closet in months, leave it behind. On the other hand, some items in your closet at home are worn much more frequently. Bring these staple items and leave the new clothes at home. Items that are worn often while at home will continue to have their appeal abroad. However, bringing new clothes can be risky. Their usage is still unknown and can end up being a waste of luggage space.
Sharing is caring (and more luggage space!)
When it comes time to pack, take advantage of traveling with friends. Sharing can be another way to increase your mobility. Try splitting up items that you and your travel partner both need. Whether it's an iPhone charger, hair-dryer or bottle of shampoo, bringing one rather than two can save room and make for a lighter travel load. Depending on how comfortable you are with your travel partner, sharing clothes can also be a way to double your wardrobe while traveling.
If you are studying abroad, consider a more sustainable approach. Students from the previous program may have left behind useful items in your country of destination. Consider contacting the program director or coordinator to see what items may already be available to use. This tip will not only save space in your suitcase, but it will also save money and be more sustainable.
Cut the cord
If sharing isn't possible, consider leaving some electronics behind. On one hand, technology is integrated into many daily tasks and can serve as a tool to answer questions. On the other hand, it proves to be a challenge while traveling. Its limited battery life leaves the user anchored to an electrical outlet whenever it runs low.
The last thing a traveler wants is to be tethered down by low batteries. This can be avoided by leaving heavy laptops and chargers behind. While a cell phone or laptop can be useful, oftentimes a map or a local from the area will be more helpful in answering questions or leading you to somewhere new. In addition to maps and local help, many hostels also provide computers for guests to use, making it even easier to leave behind those chargers and stay on the move.
Curb those hunger pangs and pack your lunch!
Lunches to go
Packing for an active year abroad doesn't end with your suitcase. Weekend trips make packing meals a part of staying mobile too. Stop at a local grocery store to pick up breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack items.
Packing lunches to-go makes it possible for travelers to continue enjoying the Colosseum or the Eiffel Tower, while curbing their hunger-pangs. Bringing along healthy snacks like fruits and granola bars during the day will also cut back spending and will keep energy levels high throughout the day. Also, make sure to note whether the country's meal schedule is different than what is typical back home. In Spain, lunch and dinner are served later than in the US. This makes packing snacks or meals even more beneficial.
Packed and ready
Even after researching your destination and packing, unpacking, and repacking your suitcase, there will inevitably be things that were forgotten back home; however, trying to reduce your luggage's size initially will make for a more mobile year. Forgotten items should be viewed in a positive light - they will give you the opportunity to try new products that are specific to that particular country.
Packing lunches, leaving behind some of your electronics and sharing with a travel partner will help, but to fully avoid a frustrating suitcase struggle, remember that less is more. Traveling with less will always mean more luggage space, more ease and more mobility during your year abroad.
#1. What you ALMOST forgot to pack for your semester studying abroad.
#2. Still unsure if you're fully prepared? Check out our study abroad checklist.