Study Abroad

Study Abroad Packing: 10 Things to Leave Behind

In my travel experience, one of the most difficult aspects of packing is figuring out what to leave at home. I always feel like everything I’m bringing is important, yet when I get home and unpack, there are usually items that I didn’t end up needing or could have done without—and I’m typically a light packer to begin with!study-abroad

In the article “Ten Packing Essentials for Study Abroad,” I provided some study abroad packing suggestions in terms of what to bring with you overseas to make your life easier. Be sure to take a look at that list, if you haven’t done so already!

Predicting what you’re going to need abroad can be challenging, which is why many student travelers end up bringing more than they actually need. Luggage space can be extremely valuable, and cutting down on what you pack can also help leave room for souvenirs or newly-acquired items for the trip back home. To help you better plan, here are some study abroad packing suggestions of things you may want to leave behind.

  1. Excessive amounts of bags/suitcases – If you can, try to limit your bags to one suitcase and a day trip-sized backpack. Even if you are moving into an apartment or dorm, you may decide at the end of your time abroad to do some traveling before you fly back home. Having less luggage will give you greater flexibility in how and where you can travel, and less belongings to keep track of in general.
  2. Large bottles of toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, tooth paste, etc.) – These are things you can easily purchase in your host country, so consider packing small travel-sized bottles instead. If there are certain brands of items you are particular to and are afraid these won’t be available in your host country, do some quick searching online. You’ll likely come across travel forums where other travelers have confirmed these are available or can offer a comparable alternative.
  3. Hair appliances (hair dryer, straightening iron, etc.) – Because of their high voltage, you will likely need to purchase a voltage converter as well as electrical socket adapters for the local country. As an easy alternative, consider purchasing these items in your host country once you get there.
  4. Flashy jewelry – One great way to prevent personal theft is to leave any flashy or expensive jewelry at home. While abroad, you’ll likely enjoy the peace of mind of knowing these valuables are safe and secure at home.
  5. Irreplaceable items – If one of your bags happens to get misplaced during travel, you’ll be much more at ease knowing that everything you packed is replaceable. For this reason, it’s best to try to leave irreplaceable items (i.e. ones with very high personal sentimental value) at home.
  6. Clothing that make you stand out – In my experience, it’s always a good idea to try to blend in with the locals and to prevent bringing unnecessary attention to yourself as a tourist. Blending in can help prevent making yourself a target for theft or being scammed. For instance, try to bring clothing with neutral colors and without English slogans.
  7. Unnecessary/unseasonal clothing – As mentioned in the previous article, easily layered clothing is very efficient for travel. Additionally, be sure to research the climate of your host country and what the weather is typically like during the season(s) you will be there. Having this knowledge will give you a good idea as to what clothing items you can leave at home.
  8. Too many reminders of home – Bringing small reminders of your family and friends from home such as small photographs is a great idea, but if possible try to keep these items to a minimum. Studying abroad is a great chance to explore new and unfamiliar territories and for personal growth and change. By bringing too many reminders of home, you may find yourself becoming home sick more frequently and miss out on chances to enjoy the experience of living abroad to the fullest.
  9. Too many books – Books are heavy and can easily take up a lot of space. As an alternative, consider loading up your phone or tablet with eBooks, or purchasing an eReader if reading on bright screens bothers your eyes.
  10. Set expectations – This one won’t necessarily save you space in your bag, but it’s a good idea to try to leave set expectations behind. From personal experience, I can relate to getting easily caught up in expectations about what a trip will be like. I’ve found, however, that with more expectations come more chances to be disappointed with the way things turn out. On the other hand, by having an open-mind you can be open to more experiences that you wouldn’t ordinarily seek out had you expected things a certain way.

Do what you can

It’s possible that while reading this list there were things you came across that you don’t think are possible to leave behind based on your own personal circumstances or preferences—and that’s okay! Try to cut back where you can, but don’t feel bad about bringing things along that you feel will make your trip more comfortable or enjoyable.

Do you have study abroad packing suggestions for fellow student travelers? Feel free to post in the comments below!

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The Author

Dave Harriman

Dave Harriman

Dave Harriman, SHRM-CP, has a background in human resources, anthropology, and international education. His experience teaching English abroad during a gap year as an undergraduate student in Spain ignited his passion and advocacy for student travel. As a human resources professional, Dave is interested in helping students prepare for future career growth, and for helping facilitate social & cultural inclusion in the workplace.