Today's Featured Contributor is Abby Ringiewicz, a student at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth who spent over a year studying and living in the UK. In her post, Abby shares her advice on practical packing.
It’s 3 a.m. local time, and you’re functioning with the help of a questionable on-flight meal and two hours of sporadic sleep.
Welcome to international traveling.
Your stress level will inevitably rise upon exiting customs and grabbing your luggage, so why not save yourself the worries of extra baggage? I will teach you how to pack for your trip in an easy and realistic fashion. Don’t believe the suave-suited businessmen with their compact carry-ons — they know nothing of international travel!
When packing, the most important factor is practicality. Remember: You’re still you, and you know yourself best. If a carry-on with a weeks’ worth of clothes will not work for you, don’t push it. Packing too light can lead to excessive purchases, additional luggage and strained shoulders. Although it is easier to skip the anxieties of lost luggage and conveyer-belt hell, a mere carry-on is not for everyone. Know thyself and be honest — two pieces of luggage does not make you any less of a traveler.
Know the Weather
Whether you’re traveling to one location or across the globe, it’s important to know the weather prior to packing. If it’s a warm-weather location that you’re traveling to, skip the heavy jacket. Similarly, if you know that there will be an arctic-like chill where you’re headed, there’s no need for shorts! Footwear is also an important part of packing. Think of situations that you may encounter and the preferable, comfortable shoes that you will need. Comfort is key — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Effective packing is another aspect of what to pack. If possible, wear your heaviest, bulkiest jacket and shoes on the airplane, that way you’ll save room in your luggage. The trick is to layer your clothing to keep warm, packing several long-sleeve shirts rather than two bulky sweaters. Know what you need and know how to do laundry — it’s as simple as that.
What to Bring
When you’re laying out your life, preparing to pack it all up, separate into two categories: necessary and luxury. By categorizing your belongings, priorities become obvious. Medication and necessary toiletries take top priority. Although most of these items can be found wherever you’re headed, medications and similar products are often different, and there’s nothing worse than touring a major city with one contact lens because the local pharmacies don’t carry disposables. You also never know where you will end up. A three-hour layover may turn into a two-day stay in a foreign airport, and fresh-smelling underarms and breath is appreciable in such instances.
Limit yourself to one or two superfluous luxuries: something comforting and reminding of home. For some people it’s a Pillow Pet, for others it’s their favorite novel — if it’ll help with the culture shock, it’s worth it. Try to avoid bringing your most expensive, precious items. Pickpockets are aware of tourists, and your $200+ sunglasses will be theirs if they see an opportunity. If the fear of losing an item is weightier than the need to bring it, I suggest you leave it at home.
What to Carry
The most strenuous aspect of traveling is luggage. You’re responsible for whatever you bring, and if that means trekking four bags through train stations, busy city streets and up several flights of stairs, it won’t be easy. Anything with wheels is helpful, but keep in mind the weight of rolling luggage and the lack of escalators and elevators in other countries. A backpack is the best way to go, leaving your hands available for another bag, your tickets and the inevitable city map. Also remember to keep an eye on your things. Within seconds, all of your globe-trotting possessions can be snatched, leaving you with panic and no clean underwear.
If you plan on buying souvenirs (and you probably will), I suggest packing a foldable, lightweight duffel bag for the flight home. You will inevitably go home with more than you brought, and an extra bag to check is worth the extra cash if it means returning with worldly gifts and keepsakes.
Last but not least, always keep your documents, tickets and cash on your person or in a manageable bag. It’s easier to present them that way, and it's much safer. Remember that if you are a tourist, you most likely look like a tourist, and pickpockets and scammers tend to aim for the ignorant camera-crazy type.
By the end of your trip you will not only be a savvy world traveler, but you will have the rare talent of a skilled packer. And, in the case that you fail to heed my warning, you will, at the very least, return home with impressive upper-arm strength. Enjoy your travels!
Abby Ringiewicz is a student at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, where she studies English and works as a Study Abroad Student Advisor. She spent her junior year living and studying in London, and after falling in love with the city, returned to the UK to finish her undergraduate degree in 2012. Abby is currently writing and traveling, hoping to combine her passions into a professional future.
Are you an expert when it comes to knowing the ins and outs of a specific destination, how to pack for an extensive stay abroad, or other travel related content? Do you have a passion for meaningful travel and the experience to prove it? Then GoAbroad would love to feature you as a Featured Contributor! Please see the required guidelines here.