Packing a Semester into Two Suitcases

By Isabella Verga – Ohio State University | ISI Florence Spring 2023

You took all the many necessary steps to study abroad: you have your classes figured out, you received your visa, you booked your flights, and it’s finally time to tackle the daunting task of packing. It can be stressful packing for trips and activities for the next four months but I have some tips and tricks to help make the process easier and make sure you have what you need for a great semester abroad!

First and in my opinion, the most important tip is to pack early. Leaving your packing until the last minute might work for a weekend trip but is not a good idea when packing for your semester abroad. I started packing about two weeks before I left for the semester because this allowed me to narrow things down and take out pieces that I decided were not necessary. It also gave me time to pack and repack… and pack and repack again to make sure I had everything I needed and be as organized as possible.

This leads to my next tip to pack lightly, something I could have done better. I know you’ve probably heard this tip hundreds of times but you’ll be grateful when you’re not that person lugging around several huge, heavy suitcases from the airport to your apartment. Being a girl who loves fashion and has a hard time narrowing things down, I decided to bring two large checked suitcases and a backpack as my carry-on. I made sure to leave myself plenty of room in my bags for new clothes and souvenirs. Having a luggage scale is another important tip to make sure you don’t have to pay extra for your luggage. I also recommend bringing a scale with you abroad so you can weigh your bags on the way home (trust me when I say you’ll purchase more new things than you think you will).

As for organizational tips, packing cubes will be your best friend. I had never used packing cubes before coming abroad and didn’t really see their point. However, I quickly became a fan as they allow you to fit more and keep everything in order. They are also great for packing for weekend trips as smaller-sized cubes can fit in your travel backpack. I ordered two sets from amazon and will never pack again without them!

Another vital tip is to pack 2-3 days of clothes in your carry-on, as well as any other items you can’t live without for a few days. Often times luggage gets stuck in layovers and it can take several days before the airport gets your luggage to you. This is very common and happened to many of my friends but will be less stressful if you’re prepared. I packed one pair of pajamas, a pair of versatile jeans, a few tops, and a comfortable lounging outfit in my carry-on to be prepared for delayed luggage. If your luggage doesn’t get to you immediately, you’ll be very grateful when you don’t have to wear your plane outfit over and over.

As for essentials that you should have in your carry-on, I recommend making a list so you don’t forget anything. Some of these include your passport (as well as photocopies to carry while you travel), your visa documents, prescription medications, power adaptors, some money in the local currency of the country you are traveling to, travel-size toiletries, and anything else you consider to be essential. Remember that the country you’re traveling to will most likely have alternatives to the items you use at home but if there are specific products such as hair care items or makeup that you can’t live without, make sure those items make it in your bags.

Lastly, make sure to check the weather of the country you’re going to as well as the weather for the trips you’re thinking about planning. For example, if you’re interested in going to Switzerland you might want to bring a warmer jacket or thermal pants and layers. If you’re planning on going to Greece when it gets warmer pack a bathing suit and some flip-flops. Although packing all of your belongings for a semester into two suitcases seems impossible, remember that all you really need is yourself and a passport to have an unforgettable study abroad adventure!