The Ultimate Packing Guide for the Student Abroad


First off, let’s talk packing. It’s important that you are prepared for your time abroad in case some of your personal necessities can’t be found in a foreign country.

First Aid Kit:

You know yourself best, so make sure you come prepared with the medicines that you know work for you. Your body is more susceptible to becoming sick while you’re traveling, so it’s best to be over-prepared.

Some things to be prepared for:

Common Cold (Runny nose, sore throat, cough)


 -Digestion Issues

 -Pain Relief (Headaches, sore muscles, other aches)

Suitcase Organizers

I ordered these cute cubicle organizers from Amazon, and they really made a difference with my packing. Also, it’s much easier to unpack to see what you brought! Packing Cubes

Packing Cubes

*Tip: If you’re very careful to organize what you put into each cube, you can just pull them out of your suitcase whenever you arrive to your final destination and stack them wherever you please. They serve as portable drawers!


 -Shirts for warmer weather

 -Shirts for cooler weather

 -Work-out clothes: It’s important to still maintain your physical goals while you are traveling! Even if it’s just ten minutes every day, you’ll thank yourself for prioritizing your health.

 *Tip: It’s best to fold your clothing articles in half first, then roll them up. This will lessen the likeliness of wrinkles during travel, allow you to pack much more, and in the end – save you lots of room for more things to pack!

How to Roll Your Clothes


 Depending on the time of year you study abroad or your location specifically, be sure to pack undergarments accordingly (thin socks, thick socks, long-johns, etc.).

*Tip: I recommend packing at least 12 pairs of socks with you. This will help you in the long run in terms of laundry and travel, because with this many pairs with you, you won’t have to do laundry often and you’ll always have a few pairs to spare.


 If you are going for an entire semester or longer, then it’s okay to go ahead and pack full-size toiletries instead of the travel-size ones. However, I do recommend packing a travel-size kit for your small get-a-ways.

 *Tip: Instead of packing a large bottle of body wash, I recommend packing a couple of body wash soap bars. It’ll save you lots of room and weight!

*Tip: Buy a plastic soap box from Walgreens, Wal-Mart, CVS or Target before your departure. This way, you’ll have something to store your wet soap bar in (they are available in the dollar and travel section).

*Tip: In your travel kit, pack a shampoo bottle, a conditioner bottle, your soap box with a soap bar, face wash, mini deodorant, and a small toothbrush (with a cover for hygiene reasons) and toothpaste. Once again, at Walgreens, Wal-Mart, CVS or Target, you can find a zip-up bag with empty travel-size bottles that you can fill with your own preferences. These are TSA approved (under 3 ounces) and will go through any airport security at that size.


 *Tip: I recommend packing a scarf to wear on the plane. It’ll help you feel more comfortable, provide more of a pillow for you to sleep on, and more warmth.


 *Tip: Pack a pair of flip flops that you can wear in the shower – it’s better to be safe than sorry! If you take weekend trips to stay in a hostel, Airbnb or hotel, make sure to take them with you too, then!


 -Main suitcase: I ordered my main suitcase from Amazon, linked here: IT Luggage. It’s super lightweight (until you pack it, of course). IT Luggage brand is known for providing one of the lightest suitcase lines (this helps to save you a few pounds for other things).

*Tip: I wish I had ordered a suitcase with four wheels on the bottom instead of just two, that way I would be able to stand it up and push it while it is positioned upright.


 On the way from the U.S. to Italy, I originally brought a duffel bag to carry on my shoulder (big mistake, I knew better!) and a backpack!

Since I’ve been here, I ended up needing to buy a carry-on bag that I could roll for my weekend trips. This time, I bought one with four wheels and it has saved me a lot of pain! I just bought it from a small, city market here in Rome. If you decide to order one before your trip, I highly recommend ordering an IT from Amazon once again.

*Side note: Here’s why I don’t suggest taking a duffel bag that you carry on your shoulder as your primary carry-on. Picture this: You’re in a crowded airport, specifically Terminal 1. This is your connecting flight. Your next flight leaves out of Terminal 3. This is me: I’m trying to keep my calm amidst pushing through crowds to switch terminals. I have a HEAVY carry-on DIGGING into my shoulder. As I walk through the crowd, my body misses bumping into strangers, but my bag does not. Therefore, I am not only in pain, but I am receiving rude looks from strangers who I’ll never see again that think I am rude for bumping into them (but it’s impossible to miss bumping into people with a large duffel bag). No, I’m not rude, just unprepared by bringing a shoulder bag for a carry-on. Another picture: Me, gracefully navigating through a crowded airport with a small carry-on that rolls. Better yet, I can push it in front of me and float through the crowds. Now you see why I don’t suggest a shoulder bag?

*Tip: Because most international flights are overnight, I would pack a change of clothes! Being on a plane for 10+ hours already makes you feel gross enough, so being able to change into something fresh will make you feel a little better once you arrive to your destination.

 -Backpack: I brought one that has a protective sleeve for your laptop, which I highly recommend. I got this backpack from Dillard’s, which has RFID protectors in it as well. In Europe, people are known to scan your information off of you. Make sure to buy a purse or wallet with RFID slots or at least have your ID, passport and credit cards well-covered, that way no one can scan your personal information from you.

-Wallet: I found this well-priced wallet on Amazon. It comes in a variety of colors and helps you to stay organized. It has a spot for your ID card, 3 credit card slots, a place for a pen and a checkbook, a zippered-pocket and an optional loop to use as a key-chain. Travel Wallet

-Passport Cover: I recommend that everyone have a passport cover. In case your passport becomes buried in your bag, it will be much easier to spot with a colored cover on it. In addition, passport covers have small slots inside of them too, which are great for holding your plane tickets or other various things you may want to store in there. I bought this passport cover because I loved the water color within it! Not only that, but it’s also a global map. Anthropologie Water Color Passport Cover

Anthropologie Water Color Passport Cover

*Tip: Protect your passport with your LIFE! If it is stolen abroad, it is a huge mess to fix. Passports are sold for up to $10,000 in the black market. Make a copy of your passport to keep in your wallet or your purse, then keep your passport secure at your home in your final destination.

Purse (for the ladies): I recommend taking a small purse, specifically a cross-body. It’s important to have a purse that zips to prevent the possibility of stealing. On the way to my destination, I kept my purse tucked inside of my backpack since you are typically only allowed one carry-on and one personal item for your flight.

*Tip: If you decide to carry a tote-styled purse that zips, when you carry it, make sure the actual zipper is closest to you (right under your armpit). If the zipper is to the back, pick-pocketers are skilled enough to unzip it while it is on you!

*Tip #2: If you carry a cross-body purse, always carry it to where it lays in front of you. If you let it hang to the back of you, you’re giving thieves another chance to pick-pocket you!

-Journal: There are a lot of useful things a journal will provide you, I’ll touch on this more later!

*Back-up Cell Phone: Even if it’s just a little flip phone that you can make calls on, it’s best to come prepared with a back-up in case something happens to your primary phone.

*Portable Charger: In case you are out and about using your phone to navigate a new place, make sure you have a portable charger handy, so you can make it back home safely!

Linked below is my portable charger by Mophie. I like it because it is super thin and barely takes up any room!

Mophie Portable Charger

*Camera: This one is more optional, but you are travelling so I say you MUST have one! It doesn’t need to be a fancy DSLR, but make sure it’s one you are comfortable working.

*Tip: Take a backup memory card.


 -Currency: Wherever you are going, I suggest always keeping that currency on you in cash-form. Each time you use your debit card to make a withdrawal, there will be the exchange rate, the withdrawal fee, and depending on your bank, an international fee. Because of these fees, I suggest taking out a larger amount at least 2x a month, then keeping it in a safe spot at home and keeping a small amount on you for daily things such as metro tickets or the urge to get a coffee or gelato. In the end, taking out larger amounts will save you from losing money to the withdrawal and international fees.

*Tip: Have a debit card and a credit card with you. I suggest leaving the credit card at home just in case you lose your wallet, or it was stolen, that way you would have a back-up. This will help you dodge the stress of having to order a new card!

*Tip #2: Check with your bank before you begin your international travel to see if there are international fees each time you make a charge. If that’s the case, I suggest applying for a Capital One card! There are no hidden international fees.

*Tip #3: Because you’re living abroad, I suggest making a budget plan before you leave. Make a goal not to spend over X amount for food, basic house necessities, etc. each week.

*Tip #4: Before you leave, make sure to tell your bank the dates of your travels and which countries you will be in. It would be awful to have your card locked while you are traveling just because you forgot to alert your bank you will be in a different place!


 -Everyday Purpose: It would be smart of you to leave your journal next to your bed or somewhere that will remind you to write in it every day. While you’re traveling, it’s important to document what each day consists of. Don’t forget to include detail about the exhibit you saw, what your favorite part was, and how you felt when you saw it!

-Budget Journal: Each week, I categorize my budget journal into three main sections:

Food: Before you leave, you should think about how many times you normally eat out a week, and how many times you cook a meal and stay in. Whenever you’re in a new city, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and only want to eat out. Also, think about how much you typically spend on groceries per week. Now, try to sensibly translate your usual habits to what your habits will become abroad. Set aside a number of times you’ll allow yourself to eat out a week (including coffee and ice cream), and how much you’ll spend on groceries. At the end of the first week, add your numbers up and see how that compares to what you had in mind. From there, you may need to make some minor changes.

Travel: This includes anything from taxi rides, metro tickets or plane/train tickets for weekend travels.

Anonymous: You can write down fees you don’t expect here (cover charges, coat checks, souvenirs, post card fees, etc.).

I hope these tips will help you to enjoy your time abroad with ease! Please let me know what you think.

 Thank you for reading,