Determining what you need from what you want. Fitting everything into the right-size bag. Making sure you can lift said bag on your own….Packing correctly can be an art form.
Athena Study Abroad has dozens of ideas about what to pack, what not to pack, and how to pack in its pre-departure resources on its website. These are meant to be used as handy online resources for you both before, during, and after your time abroad!
For this How-to Expertly Pack for Study Abroad, we decided to focus specifically on the parts of packing that often are either unknown or easily forgotten—the ones that if you incorporate them into your packing, you will be happy that you did, and look like (and be) an expert on packing for international study.
– Prohibited items. Almost every person in the US who has ever flown anywhere is at least vaguely or knowledgeably aware of what items cannot be in carry-on luggage, and what items cannot be in checked luggage. But you also need to know national laws about what cannot be taken into the country where you are studying abroad. For instance, it is relatively common for a country to bar some or most kinds of food from being brought in. But if, for example, you will be studying abroad in Saudi Arabia, note restrictions such as: no alcohol (including in you; do not arrive in Saudi Arabia under the influence), no pork products, and limitations on certain medications. Perhaps no surprises, right? Also always be sure to research items that may be culturally accepted in one area, and may be illegal in others, including issues of sexuality, appearance and dress-codes, as well as acceptable behavior in public.
– Strict, limited luggage restrictions. Cathay Pacific, based in Hong Kong, flies to a long list of cities in China, plus major cities around the world, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. It’s a great airline, except for your carry-on item is severely limited by both size and weight (7 kg—about 15.4 pounds), and the limits are strictly enforced. Gate agents will weigh your backpack, purse or briefcase when you check in. Air Canada has a 22-pound limit, which also can be strictly enforced. Know these things before you get to the airport.
– Don’t pack items that are heavy, large or otherwise awkward to transport if the item is easily available and low cost where you are going. For example, maybe the last bit of space in your suitcase could be used for general medications, such as vitamins, pain relievers, cough medicine, antihistamine, motion sickness meds, etc., a pair of shoes that gives you more options, or your umbrella. Trust us: take the meds and/or the shoes, and buy an umbrella when you arrive where you are going. Not only are we glad that we once waited until we arrived in Budapest to buy an umbrella, but we even left it there when we left—because everything else in our luggage was more important and/or valuable.