What to bring: A study abroad packing list

If you’re preparing to fly across an ocean to study abroad, trying to figure out what to put into your limited luggage can be daunting, so we’ve put together a packing list to help think through some of the important things.

For more information on carry-on sizes, visit this link.

1. Know your limits

First of all, make sure to check the website of the airline you’re traveling with so you know what your baggage restrictions are. Generally speaking, 50 pounds for a checked bag is a good rule of thumb, but some international airlines may have different regulations. Be sure to check if a personal item and a carry-on are included.

2. Think carefully about location

Make sure to do a little Googling about the time of year and typical weather of the city in which you’ll be studying, and focus on bringing clothing you can layer if the weather will change while you’re there. A light, waterproof jacket is a good staple for most places. Also, be sure to consider if the city to which you’re headed has any cultural norms about modesty that might make your typical American clothing stand out. You don’t have to give up your personal style, but you also should consider how to be culturally respectful and careful about avoiding unwanted attention.

3. Don’t fry your devices

Many places in the world use electrical outlets that operate on a different plug and/or voltage system, and that means that if your device isn’t equipped for dual-voltage, trying to plug it in might cause it to stop working. Most phone chargers and laptop charges today are equipped for this, but items like hair dryers may not be. Make sure to bring voltage converters if necessary and physical adapters so that your plugs will fit into the country’s standard outlets, or be prepared to buy a new dryer in-country.

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4. Travel documents

This seems like a no brainer, but it’s surprisingly easy to leave them out at the last minute in the chaos of packing. Depending on your program location and length, you’ll definitely need your passport, but you may also need a visa (the Study Abroad office can help figure out if this is the case for you). Once you arrive, I don’t recommend keeping your passport on you daily because of the odds that you might lose it, but it’s a good idea to keep a scanned copy of it saved on your phone or printed in the event of an emergency.

5. Plan ahead on prescriptions

Depending on the length of your experience abroad, you might need to talk to your doctor about getting any important prescriptions in advance. It’s important to remember that shipping medication abroad is generally illegal, but you can take prescriptions with you when you fly over. Make sure to figure this out well in advance so that you can maintain your health in a new environment.

Regulations for carry-on bags (exceptions apply for prescriptions and medical necessities). Larger bottles can be packed in checked luggage. For more information on traveling light, click here.

6. Comfortable shoes

Shoes take up way more luggage weight and space than we often realize, and if you’re anything like me, there’s a tendency to pack way more than necessary. Most students find that they do much more walking abroad than they typically would in the United States where they have cars, so it’s probably best to stick to a couple basic, comfortable pairs that match most things.

7. Basic clothing you won’t get sick of

Obviously, you can’t bring your entire wardrobe, so it’s important to think about bringing clothing items that are versatile. Think about neutral items that you can mix and match to make multiple outfits or that can be easily layered as weather changes. A light jacket or cardigan depending on the location climate might help extend the life of your clothing too! Most students also report that they end up purchasing items during their time abroad, so be sure to factor that into your luggage space assessment. Ultimately, it’s super tempting to try to bring as much as you can, but you’re just going to make it harder on yourself when you try to pack-up at the end of your program.


To Broadway and Beyond is a student-managed blog from the Transylvania Study Abroad program. This article was written by Savannah Lambert, a senior majoring in German and international affairs and minoring in French.