5 Amateur Packing Faux Pas

From API staff member, Kim K.

At the time, figuring out what to pack for my semester study abroad felt like a borderline impossible task. Although I managed to fit everything I (thought I) needed into 1 suitcase, I’d certainly do a thing or two differently knowing what I now know as a study abroad returnee.

So, with this said, I’ve put together the following list of 5 amateur packing faux pas I made while packing for study abroad. (: For students in the midst of preparing for their upcoming study abroad programs, perhaps this list will be helpful when it comes time to pack!

1. TOO MANY GADGETS. Here I am abroad with far too many cameras. Granted, the cameras were not all mine, but the underlying idea remains…

Takeaway: iPod chargers, batteries, camera cords, portable DVD players, book lights, electric language translators, etc., trust me – you won’t use them all! Consolidate, consolidate, consolidate!

–> Bringing a laptop? Leave your portable DVD player home!

–> Have an iPhone or iPod? Leave your book light and download a “booklight” app      instead.

2. CLOTHES. This is a luggage cart full of bags belonging to me and 3 study abroad friends. Yikes. At the end of the program, we all agreed that in retrospect, we all wish we would have packed less!

Takeaway: Compile all the items you wish to bring, then choose 1/2 of this pile to actually pack. It might be challenging, but I guarantee you will be thankful. Chances are, you’ll purchase an item or two abroad and you’ll want to save room to bring these home!

When packing, just remember, everything in moderation – clothing, shoes, electronics, etc.

3. DON’T PACK WHAT CAN BE PURCHASED. Most ‘everyday’ items can be purchased on-site. For items such as toiletries, pack a travel set for the first few days (and for excursions), purchase the rest upon arrival.

Do bring a smaller bag / backpack (preferably that zips shut and goes across your body) for school, day trips & weekend excursions.

Takeaway: Toiletries can be bulky, heavy, and highly prone to leaking in checked luggage. Notebooks, pencils, etc., these can also be purchased abroad!

4. PACK FOR YOUR HOST CITY, NOT YOUR OWN. We visited a handful of tourist sites with strict dress codes (no bare shoulders, shorts, sandals, etc.). I saw many turned away for not meeting dress code rules – don’t let this be you! We found that using these shalls were the perfect fix and also did not weigh down our bags!

Takeway: St. Peter’s tour? Tango dance class? Volunteering at a turtle refuge? Chances are that whatever activity you’re partaking in while abroad will be a bit different than your daily routine, so pack accordingly! Also, don’t forget to keep climate differences in mind when packing.

5. YOU BRING IT, YOU CARRY IT. This is very similar to the “you break it, you buy it” rule. (=

In the photo below, you will see my group hiking up a giant hill during one of our weekend excursions. When packing, we didn’t consider A. the giant hill we’d need to hike in order to reach our lodging or B. the cobblestone on the hill, which was anything but friendly to rolling suitcases!

It certainly was a humorous situation, but I will say that after this experience, we were far more cognisant of details when packing for our next trip!

Takeway: You are responsible for carrying your own luggage! (and yes, this could include lifting luggage above your head for overhead storage, carrying suitcases up a few flights of stairs in buildings without elevators, or even walking up a giant cobblestone hill with bags & backpacks!) (=

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  1. This is an awesome article, Kim! Really great advice.

    Another mistake that I often see on the way home is forgetting how strict TSA is with the liquid rule. Most people generally remember this when it comes to toiletries, but I’ve seen many people try to pack a bottle of wine, cooking sauce, dulce de leche or other liquid food souvenirs in their carry-ons only to lose them at security. My heart breaks for those who have to surrender their dulce de leche!

    Remember–liquid souvenirs (unless they’re tiny bottles that meet the requirement) need to go in your checked bag. And wrap them well lest they break!

    • Ah, yes! The liquid rule is an excellent one to be remembered – I too would be pretty distraught about having my dulce de leche confiscated! (;

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