Packing Tips for Study Abroad: What NOT to Bring

Most people are so busy worrying about what to pack, and how to not overpack, that they forget to consider what they should leave behind.

I’ve already posted my own packing list here, with a few notes on what I wish I hadn’t brought. Before you start packing, here are some other general guidelines about what you should consider leaving at home:

Anything you CAN’T afford to lose: If it’s something really special to you or irreplaceable, leave  it at home. Luggage can be lost, things stolen, etc. If you can’t bear the thought of losing a certain item that has sentimental value, don’t risk bringing it.

Items you won’t realistically wear, or would only wear once: If traveling extensively, every item you fit in your suitcase should be versatile and practical so that you can pack efficiently and lightly. If you haven’t worn something in the last 3 months, you probably won’t wear it abroad. If you don’t like to go out clubbing, leave the 5-inch heels at home because you probably won’t ever wear them (especially after you try walking on cobblestone streets in Europe). If it doesn’t rain a lot where you’re going, ditch the rain boots. It’s easier to rent or buy a cheap version of something you need when (if) you do need it, instead of packing a lot of unnecessary items because you worry about the “what-ifs.”

Clothes requiring special care: The first thing to remember is that washing machines differ from those in the US, and may treat your clothes more “harshly.” The next thing to consider: Would you wear a shirt that requires ironing if you didn’t have access to an iron? What about something that is dry-clean only? Even if you have access to these services, the quality may not be the same and could still damage your clothes. It’s easier and more convenient to stick with low-maintenance clothes, ideally the kind that can be washed in a sink and air-dried on a line quickly.

Season-specific clothes. What will you do with your winter clothes when it’s too hot to wear them? Layering is better especially if you’re going to experience multiple seasons.

Anything that makes you stand out: It’s always best to blend in with the locals, so leave behind the flashy jewelry and anything that advertises where you are from, ie: a t-shirt with your country’s flag on it. Furthermore, depending on the political relations between your country and the one you are visiting, it is best not to stir up any tensions or controversy because of your citizenship.

uo_flag tank

Full-sizes. By this, I mean your shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, soap/body wash, lotion, whatever. Pack travel-size products instead, enough to last you until you can get to the store to buy the larger sizes. Some people disagree with this because by packing something expendable, you’re guaranteed to have some extra luggage space for souvenirs, but keep in mind that these bottles can add a lot of weight. There are some other exceptions to this guideline, such as if you need a specific product because you have sensitive skin and you don’t think you’ll find it abroad (of course, you should research this beforehand).

Your hair appliances. Appliances that require a lot of power, like blow dryers and hair straighteners, usually don’t convert properly when you go abroad. While I’ve heard some success stories from people who bought really expensive converters, most people advise to leave these at home and I agree. You risk melting your converter or otherwise frying your appliance. I bought a cheap straightener in Barcelona for something like 12 euros, and ended up using it once before giving it to Maica. If you insist on bringing your favorite hair appliances, read the safety range to see if it’s dual voltage and get the best converter that can handle converting the high power correctly.


Games and DVDs. Having a few DVDs is fine for when you’re on a long journey, but don’t feel the need to bring a lot of them with you. There’s so much do to that you won’t want to spend your time indoors watching movies! The same goes for bringing games. By this, I don’t mean something simple like a deck of cards, but actual consoles like your Xbox. I don’t know why people wonder if they should even bring this… again, study abroad is the time to get out there and see the world.

What else would you suggest leaving at home when you study abroad?



One response to “Packing Tips for Study Abroad: What NOT to Bring

  1. Pingback: Packing List for a Semester Abroad | I who wander·

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