How to Pack like a Study Abroad Pro

by Heidi Specht on February 20th

How to Pack like a Study Abroad Pro

by Heidi Specht on February 20th

Anyone who has spent a semester abroad can relate when I say that the most stressful part of studying abroad happens before your semester begins, when you have to pack your suitcases for an entire semester. I used to stress over it for weeks—what to bring, what to leave at home, what to put in my carry on, etc.

Blogger Heidi Specht on a plane to Spain.

Flying to Barcelona this semester.

Arcadia is really good about sending “packing lists,” where they let you know what essentials you should bring and what is better left at home. But even with those emails, I’ve ended up forgetting things.

So after three semesters abroad and countless flights, I decided to share my own “Ultimate Study Abroad Packing List.” No matter what country you travel to, packing these seven essentials in your carry-on will make your flights as relaxing as possible.

1. Portable charger.

I can’t stress enough how essential a portable charger is, which is why it’s first on my list. It saves you from frantically searching for a charging station at the airport or from your phone dying mid-flight with hours to go. I don’t know what’s worse: Having to spend a 10-hour flight without music or arriving in another country with a dead cell phone and no way to charge it. Save yourself the crisis and bring a portable charger.

2. Headphones.

These are a must not just for the plane, but for your whole semester. My favorites are wireless bluetooth headphones, because they are less of a hassle going through security at the airport.

3. Moisturizers.

That dried-out, run-down feeling always comes with flying. Bring things to keep you moisturized: chapstick, face wipes, deodorant, lotion, and face sprays all work, and are available in travel sizes, too.

4. Travel adapters.

You will definitely need adapters to charge your devices abroad! Make sure to get these before you leave. They are easy enough to find abroad, but bringing them with you is one less thing to worry about when you arrive in your host country—and cheaper, too.

5. Eye mask.

This was a game-changer for me. It will make your flight 100 times more enjoyable, especially when the flight attendants keep flipping the lights on and off. And if you’re feeling bougie, you can get a silk eye mask, which is basically the equivalent of sleeping on a cloud.

I don’t know what’s worse: Having to spend a 10-hour flight without music or arriving in another country with a dead cell phone and no way to charge it. Save yourself the crisis and bring a portable charger.

- Heidi Specht

6. Water bottle.

Most countries don’t offer free water like they do in the U.S., so having a nice water bottle will save you a lot of money throughout the semester. And if you bring an empty water bottle in your carry-on, you can fill it up for free inside the airport, after going through security, and avoid the $6 duty-free water bottles.

7. Valuables.

While bringing valuable jewelry abroad isn’t the best idea, keep in mind that if you do bring some, they go in your carry-on. An airline lost my suitcase coming home from Chile, and ever since I’ve been sure to put my most valuable items in my carry-on. This doesn’t just mean expensive items, either. For me, it’s my journal, laptop, l’occitane moisturizer, and my favorite outfits.

How did I do? Share your must-have items to pack for study abroad. And while I’m at it, what do you wish you hadn’t packed?