Since my trip to Prague is quite a ways off (125 days according to my countdown) I don’t have anyhting related to the CR to post, so I want to cover a topic I’ve wanted to write about for a long time: packing. In the meeting today, semester-long students and short trip students got the same lecture: only check one bag. One bag? For the short-trip students, their adventures would be less than four weeks. This brought me back to my trip to Japan (also available on this blog) where I was the only one (of a group of 25 or so) who didn’t check a bag. Everything I needed fit in my carry-on luggage. To be honest, a couple souvenirs I got traveled back to the US in a friend’s bag, but if I didn’t have that available I would have shipped them or not bought them.
My traveling to a foreign country for three weeks without checking a bag has become the stuff of legends for my friends and family…. which I frankly don’t understand! You don’t need to bring everything and the kitchen sink when traveling, and having less/ smaller bags makes airplane connections, subway rides, transfers between hotels, and walking down the street easier! You can wash clothes in laundromats or in the sink in your hotel, a lot of clothes can be worn more than once, and you can find shoes that work for multiple outfits (that seems to be the main thing that women don’t get, no offense ladies. Speaking of ladies, my packing list is mostly gender-neutral, but some comments are for women, because that’s the packing experience I’ve had.)
So, without further ado, packing for a three-week trip in one standard sized roll-aboard suitcase and one backpack.Let’s divide necessities into three categories: clothes, entertainment, and personal care.
–Two pairs of jeans. For everyday wear. Jeans can be worn for 3-4 days without washing. If you’re really not a jeans person, substitute accordingly, just make sure it can be worn with EVERY top you bring.
–One pair of sweatpants/athletic shorts. Sleep in them, wear them when you do laundry, whatever.
–One pair of ‘nice’ slacks or skirt, if you need them. For church, nice dinners, etc.
-Tops: three or four t-shirts, cotton takes longer to dry than synthetics. Remember that if you’re visiting temples/cathedrals you want to be modest, so watch necklines, and probably bring a long-sleeved shirt too. If you’re going out, remember a fancy top with dark jeans or slacks can look just as nice as a dress. Boys might need a button-up shirt and (maybe?) tie. I don’t know these things.
-Socks and underwear: enough to last a week, and then another day.Plan on doing laundry once a week, or even every 6 days, but the extra is because laundry day always comes a little later than you think. Socks and underwear are especially easy to wash in a sink and dry on the shower curtain or towel rack.
-Warmth: this does NOT depend on the season, you WILL need a hoodie/sweatshirt/cardigan. Maybe bring two if you’re picky. I think I layered mine in Japan. Airplanes, for some reason, are always freezing, and sometimes you can’t control the temperature in your hotel. I highly highly recommend a large cotton scarf too. This is actually a tip I got from my mom (thanks, mom!) and it’s super useful. You can use it to cover your shoulders for modesty, use it as a blanket when you’re cold, cover your head when it’s raining or cold and you didn’t bring a hat. I brought 2 to Japan and bought 2 more there, which may have been an overload, but they don’t take up much space. You might need a jacket/coat depending on the weather, but you’ll wear that on the plane and use it as a blanket there, so it won’t take much space in your bag. (If it’s really that cold you probably want long socks and various other layers but I don’t need to spell it out for you.)
-Shoes: Wear your most comfortable walking shoes for the plane, but you’ll probably still take them off. Make sure to keep them on for takeoff and landing, in case there’s an emergency you’ll want them on. Pack one other pair of shoes in your bag. You do not need hiking boots or heels. I promise. The idea is lightweight and comfortable. You always walk more abroad than you do at home. If you need to be formal, flats will do, if you need to work out, sneakers are good. Even if you’re going hiking, those heavy hiking boots will just hold you down (literally, especially if it rains.) Most people who hike the Appalachian Trail wear sneakers.
Basically, the idea is to pack layers, things that all go with each other, and can be used for multiple occasions.
-Laptop/netbook/tablet. Load it with books, tv shows, movies, games that can be played offline.
-Adapter, depending on the power and socket type where you’re going.
-One form of non-electronic entertainment… this means a book or knitting. You have to turn off your gadgets for part of a plane ride, and unfortunately batteries die sometimes.
-Journal/pen, you’ll want to remember stuff, write down the train schedule, your room number, etc.
-Pocket phrase book. If you finish your book or knitting, brush up on the language of the country you’re visiting.
-I think this is how I get away without checking a bag… my #1 personal care item is cash. Don’t bring full-size shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, etc. Bring the little 3-oz bottles you’re allowed to take in a carry-on, they’ll hold you through the first couple of days, and stop at a pharmacy or grocery store for the large size ones. Throw them away when you’re ready to go home. Bam. Problem solved. If you’re staying at a hotel you could use the ones they provide, too. Bring your own toothbrush and face cloth, hairbrush, etc.
-First-aid kit: you need band-aids. Even if you followed my comfortable walking shoes rule, you could still get a blister. You could fall and scrape something, you could cut something, etc. You want band-aids. You probably also want ibuprofin or asprin, headaches, etc. Pretty much anything else you can get at a pharmacy (“chemist”).
-Do a little research about personal care products that you may need that might not be available in your destination country. I’m sorry if it’s Too Much Information, but some countries don’t believe in tampons. I’ve also heard disposable razors might be hard to find some places, so do your homework and pack accordingly.
-A little food. Trail mix, granola bars, those little boxes of cereal, goldfish crackers, whatever. The one useful/memorable thing I remember from the Study Abroad orientation today was “You don’t want to be paying $30 for five peanuts at the airport.” You might wake up at weird hours from jetlag and find that no restaurants or room service are open. If you don’t drink plain water, you can get those little packets of kool-aid, gatoraid, lemonaid, whatever, that you empty into your…
-Empty water bottle. You can’t carry liquids through security, but you can fill it up at a water fountain on the other side. A lot cheaper than buying bottled water everywhere. Do research about the water quality in your destination, though.
That’s about it. Obviously everyone has different necessities, little things like jewelry to go with your outfits, etc, but this is my packing list for a few weeks abroad, and it should all fit in a regular rolly suitcase and backpack.
New entry coming soon- probably about packing for weekend trips, considering I’m going to be taking a LOT of those this summer, and then I’ll cover packing for three months in Prague and then it’s OFF TO PRAGUE!