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Santa Clara University

Packing Tips

Packing is an art, but getting it right for the summer or an entire semester abroad is genius. As you consider the climates you’ll experience, places you’ll visit, and occasions you’ll dress for, it’s easy to over-pack and pay excess baggage fees. With a little strategy, you can fit every necessity for life abroad into a single suitcase. Below is a guide on some basic things that will be handy as you pack! 

Please note this list is just a starting point, so be sure to modify your list to meet your unique needs**


Basic Packing List for Study Abroad



  • Important documents (passport, visa, itinerary, plane tickets, etc.)
  • $100 in local currency (make sure you have enough cash for a few days until you can find an ATM)
  • Extra eyeglasses/contacts
  • Enough prescription drugs for the length of your stay (You will need to check to make sure you can bring them into the country and that you have proper documentation, i.e. a doctor's note)
  • Backpack (for day trips and daily use) - You should use this as your carry-on so you'll have less luggage.
  • Gifts for your host family and others (try to get ones that are specific to the region where you live)
  • Computer w/charger
  • Camera w/cords and charger
  • Adapters (changes the shape of the electrical plug) /converter (reduces or increases the current's voltage)
  • Clothing/Shoes  (In general, pack a week's worth of clothing)
  • Jeans (2-3 pairs) [can substitute a pair or two with skirts or khakis if going to warmer climates]
  • Sweaters/Hoodies (2-3)
  • T-shirts
  • Long sleeve shirts (Make sure they are good for layering)
  • Underwear (one week’s worth)
  • Pajamas (2 pair)
  • Socks (a week’s worth) (you should include a few pairs of wool socks if you’re going to colder climates)
  • Swimsuit
  • One set of workout clothes (if you plan to)
  • Thermal underwear (silk preferably for colder climates or the adventurous sort)
  • Coat/Jacket (water-resistant with zip pockets)
  • One nice outfit (dress pants/skirt/dress) for special/formal occasions
  • Decent walking shoes
  • Flip flops (especially for showering at hostels)
  • A warm hat, gloves, and scarf (for colder climates)


If you aren’t picky, a lot of these items can be found in your host country

  • Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Disposable razors (and other shaving supplies)
  • Brush/Comb (and hair ties if you have long hair)
  • Tissues (highly recommended as many countries don’t keep toilet paper in stock in the bathrooms!)
  • Feminine Products (one month’s worth)  [nothing beats arriving in a country where tampons are not readily available!]
  • Contraceptives
  • Contact lenses and solution
  • Over-the-counter medicines (aspirin, anti-diarrhea, anti-nausea, etc.)
  • Nail clippers and nail file
  • Suntan lotion (if going somewhere sunny) [This can be really expensive or hard to find in other countries. I recommend packing at least a small bottle.]
  • Makeup


  • Alarm clock (though a cell phone works well too)
  • Small plastic bottles for toiletries for use in your carry-on or while traveling
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Purse
  • Warm Slippers
  • Travel books for the region(s) you will visit (these can be found at the places you plan to visit too if you don’t want to haul them around)
  • Umbrella or raincoat
  • Watch
  • Sunglasses
  • Playing Cards (good for long train rides and lighter than a pile of books)
  • Journal (to write your memories in – journaling really helps students deal with culture shock – some people suggest writing online, but generally you won’t be able to do that/might not have internet access daily while you’re traveling so having something you can physically write in every day or night is a good idea)
  • Thin lightweight towel (preferably microfiber so that it will dry fast when you’re traveling)
  • Linens, bed sheets, and towels (Check with your program to see if these are provided, otherwise you may probably want to buy them abroad because they tend to be heavy and take up a lot of room)
  • Sleepsack/sleeping bag (if you’re planning to do a lot of traveling you may want one, but most hostels either have sheets or let you rent a sleepsack for the night which is better than carrying one around constantly)
How to Pack


  • DO NOT bring more than 2 normal-size suitcases and a carry-on.
  • If you’re only going for one semester, take 1 normal-size suitcase.
  • Most students pack more than they need. 
  • Make sure to pack what you can carry! There will not always be an elevator or someone to help you.
  • Bring clothes you can layer for various climate conditions, are comfortable and durable, do not need ironing, can be drip-dried (you may not always have access to a clothes dryer).
  • Tip: dark clothing does not show stains and dirt as much as light-colored clothing.
  • Make sure all of your clothes are interchangeable, i.e. any of your shirts can go with any of your skirts/pants, etc.  This will give you many more “outfits” on a daily basis even with limited clothing items.
  • You will be able to buy many toiletries, etc. in your host country, so just pack enough to get you through until you can go shopping. (They might not have the same brands if you’re picky. So keep this in mind.)
  • Also, some things just don’t work the same (deodorant in Japan, toothpaste in Korea) or aren’t used as prevalently (Tampons in Egypt). Make sure to do a little research based on where you are going!
  • Put tape over the tops of containers with liquids to prevent them from opening and place them in plastic storage bags to prevent leaking onto other items in your luggage.
  • Remember most electrical appliances will not work because of the different electrical current.  This is why you need to buy an adapter, according to the outlets in your host country. For small electrical appliances (like hairdryers, curling irons, etc.) it might be easier to buy in the host country.