Tips for Packing “Light” for a Summer Abroad

Written by Kayla May 18, 2015

            I’ll admit it: I, Kayla Pisoni, am a chronic over-packer. My suitcase may be well over the 50lb limit but I have shoe options for every possible scenario. At least that’s how most trips end up for me. Unfortunately, studying abroad isn’t really going to work that way. Paying the fee to fly an overweight bag overseas just is not in the budget. This sad fact prompted me to seek packing advice from close friends, family, and really anyone willing to share.

            Many of the tips I received were not very insightful; things like packing light, bringing comfortable shoes, and following TSA restrictions for carry-on items. I am by no means a seasoned traveler and these were even common knowledge to me. However, after weeding through all the advice I acquired there were some gems that I decided to incorporate into my packing to-do list.

  1. When you travel domestically there isn’t typically a need to have a travel backpack. When you reach your destination and you’re out and about you can simply leave your belongings back in your hotel room. To my surprise, this works a little differently when you are a college student traveling abroad. Often times you stay in hostels, and it is not usually recommend for you to leave stuff in your room. For this reason many of my friends who have had the privilege of studying abroad either brought a travel backpack or wished that they had. Sadly travel backpacks are not an inexpensive item, and purchasing one is not always an option. Do not cross getting one of your list yet! Ask your friends, post on Facebook, and check websites like Craigslist and e-Bay I found many great deals and many people willing to lend theirs. I opted to purchase my own and found a great deal on an Osprey Kyte 46L pack from REI outlet!
  2. Another useful tip I received was to convert some money into Euros prior to your departure. Having no prior international travel experience I was just planning on converting my money once I arrived in Italy. A friend who recently returned from Europe informed me that exchange rates are insane at the airport and it’s nice to have foreign currency in case you need something as soon as you land. Even if I don’t need to use it right away it gives me peace of mind that if something would arise I would be prepared.
  3. Something that never even crossed my mind to purchase was an RFID wallet (I didn’t even know what RFID meant). These wallets block RFID signals, which ensures that people cannot unlawfully obtain data from your credit cards or passport. Finding this wallet was extremely easy, they had several different types on Amazon and REI and they were all very inexpensive. I opted to get a pouch instead of a traditional wallet so that I can fit my coins, bills, cards, and passport all in the same place. I do not know how necessary this item is, but much like obtaining euros prior to departure, it is comforting to know that during my trip I will not have to worry about someone stealing important information from me. This is an easy purchase that can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
  4. My last, and probably favorite, travel advice I received was to bring a travel journal and something sentimental from home. Having the opportunity to travel abroad is an incredible opportunity and you are going to want to remember every second of it. Where you ate, where you stayed, that funny thing that happened, something that made you stop and think, or maybe just a new word that you wanted to remember. My friend who recently studied abroad in Paris said that having a travel journal made her occasionally take the time to slow down and reflect on her time abroad, she said this really enriched her experience. In addition to this I was frequently told to bring something sentimental from home. You are away from home for quite a bit of time and getting homesick is normal, having a little piece of home with you is very comforting. Some suggestions I received were bringing a picture of your family, a favorite snack, letters, or a small stuffed animal. I opted to bring a bracelet that my mom gave to me a few days before I left. The bracelet has a picture of Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers on it, and says, “Guide my path”. This is very special to me because it shows how supportive my family has been of my dream of studying abroad. I know that all of them would love to have this opportunity, which it makes it that much more special to carry this little reminder of home with me.

            The nerves and excitement are setting in as I prepare to leave tomorrow morning. You can’t take everything with you, so I hope you find this advice helpful (and I hope it helps me fit everything into just my travel backpack and a small rolling suitcase). I will have more updates in the coming weeks about my experiences abroad and how well (I’m being optimistic) my travel advice is working. Until next time.