(image credit: Rebecca LeBoeuf)

Packing for an entire semester abroad is a daunting task. Knowing what items will be needed in the four months thousands of miles away from home can be difficult, and trying to stuff everything in one suitcase may feel impossible. Most airlines allow people to bring one carry on, one personal item and one suitcase that weighs less than 50 pounds. If this weight is exceeded, an additional fee must be paid.

From someone who lived through this situation, here are 10 packing tips to keep you on track:

  1. Check the airline’s maximum luggage dimensions and weight prior to packing to be sure your suitcase is right for the job. This information is readily available on the airline’s website.
  2. Weigh the suitcase before getting to the airport. This can be done with either a luggage scale or a regular bathroom scale.
  3. Pack a change of clothes and valuables in a carry-on bag in the unfortunate case that your luggage is misplaced. It happens from time to time.
  4. Roll clothing or use an airtight bag (found at stores such as Bed, Bath & Beyond) to conserve space. While this does allow for more packing room, keep in mind that it could also put the bag at a greater risk of exceeding weight requirements.
  5. Bring a couple personal items such as a stuffed animal, a blanket and photos of friends and family to make your new room feel more like home and to help battle bouts of homesickness.
  6. As difficult as it might be, leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs and gifts to bring home. One easy way to do this is to pack toiletries that will be used up or can be disposed of at the end of the semester. Another idea is to bring old clothes and shoes that can be thrown out or donated before coming home.
  7. Even if you have a power adapter, do not pack a straighter, curler or hairdryer. Their voltages vary by country, and attempting to use one from home while abroad could fry it. Instead, purchase an inexpensive one abroad for the semester.
  8. Purchase a good pair of walking shoes because walking will be your main method of transportation while abroad. There’s nothing worse than getting blisters or having sore feet in the middle (or even worse, at the beginning) of an adventure.
  9. For any overnight or weekend trips, a backpack is essential. Since many hostels and hotels have certain check-in and check-out times, it’s likely that you will be carrying it around at some point. Backpacks are less of a hassle and take up less space than rolling suitcases. In these situations, rolling clothing or utilizing airtight bags to conserve space comes in handy.
  10. Purchase a small lock or two for belongings when traveling in places where pickpocketing is common. Also, some hostels do not provide locks for their footlockers, so bringing your own is safe and smart.

Checking an extra bag is always an option, but it comes at a cost and can be difficult to manage alone. Instead, really think about what you will actually use in the next few months. Trust me, you won’t need as much as you think.

Rebecca LeBoeuf
Thank you guys for letting me rewrite my bio! Here it is: Rebecca LeBoeuf graduated summa cum laude in 2018 with a B.A. in communication and a minor in professional writing. She is a former editor in chief and held other positions on the Press including Penmen Abroad editor and copy editor. Her favorite part of journalism is listening to and sharing people's stories.