How To: Pack Your Entire Life Into a Suitcase for Four Months

When I first decided to study abroad for a full semester, my first thought was excitement: I was going to get to live WHERE? But then my second thought was panic: I’m going to have to pack WHAT? My international airline allows me to bring one checked bag weighing under 50 lbs, one carry on and one personal item. For living in the Czech Republic thousands of miles away. For four months. As a former Girl Scout and life-long Type A, my motto is always be prepared. So for me, being prepared means overpacking for every possible scenario imaginable. Like bringing 6 pairs of shoes for a 3 day trip. Just in case.

However, the first tip any experienced traveler will give you is do NOT overpack. *sweat trickles down my forehead* I made an excel sheet listing everything I wanted to bring, (if you don’t make an excel list for everything, you do not understand me) and then cut it in half. Then cut that by a quarter. And thus, had a manageable amount of items to pack into a suitcase for four full months for a girl who truly believes variety is the spice of life.


THE PACKING LIST

 

HATS

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Hats are important because they add a little something to an outfit when you’ve basically been wearing the exact same thing for three days. They are more important because I hate washing my hair. Two birds, one stone.

BAGS

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For bags, I brought a small black Rebecca Minkoff crossbody for nights out and a larger forest green circle bag from Zara for more daytime adventures. Zipper closures are important, as well as preferably a crossbody style to prevent pickpocketing in touristy areas.

SHOES

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The hardest part; the shoes. Like any self-respecting hoarder, I love shoes. So only bringing one pair of black boots instead of the four I originally wanted, took a lot of self control. I brought only flat shoes because apparently cobblestones are a thing in Europe and I am hoping to only wipe out a minimum of three times on this particular trip. I also brought my comfiest of shoes because I will be doing a lot of walking and I am not in the mood for blisters. Black is a go-to for footwear and you can’t go wrong with classic white sneaks. I’ll be there until late May so I slipped in a pair of sandals for those balmier days. I brought rain boots for their versatility in both snow in the cold winter months and slush/rain in the springtime. Athletic shoes are essential in case I work up the nerve to *gasp* exercise, as well as comfy for travel days. And I love mules to dress up or down, and slip off whenever I feel the need.

MEDICINE

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You’ve probably been warned of this but European medicine is not quite the same as in the States. I was told to bring a healthy dosage of Advil, Tylenol, the works– just in case. I also packed allergy medicine, vitamins and supplements. My immune system never does well with a change in environments so prevention is key in this situation. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

ELECTRONICS

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In classic millennial fashion I will be packing my MacBook, iPhone and DSLR camera along for the ride. (I have a Canon Rebel if you were wondering!) Don’t forget chargers as well as outlet adaptors for these bad boys. Pro Tip: The UK uses different adaptors than most of Europe so you may need to buy two different sets, I found both of mine on Amazon.

SWEATERS

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For the average person, this may not need to be an entire category. But I am a huuuuuge sweater guy. I packed sweaters for all the different occasions; thick ones, thin ones, turtleneck, v-necks, bell sleeved, fitted, you name it. This may seem excessive, and honestly it probably is, but I’m wearing a sweater almost always in the winter. They’re my favorite and my chunky cardigans transition into the spring too. Sweaters are nice to pack because they are a one-layer outfit that pairs well with the exact same pair of jeans every day. I have an irrational love, so maybe just ignore this entire section, I will never know.

SHIRTS

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So for the days you’re not wearing a sweater; here are other things that also cover your upper body. I brought a few different basic tees because when all else fails, a t-shirt and jeans never does. I also threw in a few statement tops because I couldn’t resist and many of these tops transition well from day to night. There’s a lot of variety in this category to keep life interesting.

JACKETS

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Jackets are essential for transitioning weather months. You should probably never go anywhere without a classic black leather moto jacket, least of all Europe. I also threw in a denim jacket, a plaid blazer in case I ever need to look professional and a camel suede jacket for kicks. Because “my perfect date is April 25th, because it’s not too hot, not too cold. All you need is a light jacket.”

PANTS

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Pantaloons. I packed a variety of denim ranging for white to black plus my favorite classic jeans. I’m also a big fan of striped pants so I brought along 4 pairs of loose fitting ones. In most European countries, the athleisure (leggings, sweatshirts, nikes) that we live in in America is not so socially acceptable in public. Loose fitting striped pants are a perfect substitute for leggings on days when the thought of restrictive jeans makes you want to vomit.

SOCKS/UNDERWEAR

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If college has taught me anything it is that you can only go so long without doing laundry before you run out of socks. That’s why I prioritize bringing as much socks and underwear as possible, even when traveling. I also brought a pair of black tights, a sports bra and 2 pairs of wool socks– crucial in any colder climate.

SWIMSUITS

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I’ve learned from past adventures: when in doubt, pack a swimsuit. You never know when a pool, hot tub, natural spring, waterfall, lake, pond, ocean is gonna pop up so I like to be prepared just in case.

 

COATS

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I’m headed to Europe in January soooooo coats are a must. I’m wearing a black pack-able down coat and packed my waterproof trench and a thicker plaid winter coat. Scarves are also amazing for travel to cover up with if you get cold, for more culturally conservative environments, to dress up a casual look or to cover your snoring face on a plane ride. Snazzy.


TIPS

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Packing Cubes Saved My Life: a memoir. You can find these little guys on Amazon and honestly they change the whole packing game. You’re able to cram way more things into one little space while also staying organized. Win, win, win people. I separate based on the my categories above but you could also pair outfits for a weekend or clean/dirty clothes coming home. Also ALWAYS, ALWAYS, stop, drop and roll those clothes.

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I’m bringing my Patagonia backpack for the actual studying aspect of studying abroad as well as most weekend trips. In my backpack, I threw an umbrella, sunglasses, my passport (+copy), planner, headphones, Swell water bottle, chapstick and a journal. Pro tip: my favorite brand of journal is the Leuschtturm 1917 pictured above– thick, line-less pages, bookmark, solid cover, 10/10.

Don’t forget your toiletries, hair products, makeup, etc. that aren’t included in this post for concision’s sake. This is Europe people, brush your hair.


So there we have it. A true testimony of the earthly belongings I’m bringing with me for the next four months of my life. (I also threw a various few odds and ends into my suitcase at the end for good measure) What a time.  I may be nervous, terrified, thrilled, ecstatic and/or nauseas but at least I’m packed. Let me know any other packing tips and tricks you may have in the comments below! Let’s get ready to ruuuuumbleeeeeee, kids.

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