Don’t know how to pack for a study abroad trip? You’re not alone! One of the most stressful parts can be figuring out how to pack your suitcase, and what you need to bring.

One one hand you want to pack for a study abroad trip light, on the other you want to be prepared for any eventuality.

Worry no more! We’re going to remove all the guesswork in this article with our 19 top packing tips, so that you can remove the stress and start getting excited.

Read on to discover how to pack for a study abroad trip.

#1 Pack your Suitcase Based on your Destination and your Itinerary

how to pack for a study abroad trip

When you pack for a study abroad trip, there’s no point packing a puffy winter coat if you are heading to New York City in the sweltering summer months!

Check the weather and annual climate summary ahead of time, and pack based on this.

Always bring items you can layer, such as t shirts and a sweater, so that you can either add more layers or remove them depending on the temperature.

Sometimes summer weather can be unpredictable, so be sure to bring something light to keep yourself dry if it ever rains on your trip!

#2 Roll your Clothes

how to pack for a study abroad trip by rolling clothes

Rolling clothes is a good method to embrace when you pack for a study abroad trip for its space-saving and organisational advantages. As opposed to traditional folding, rolling garments allows for a more efficient use of space within your luggage.

This technique minimises the air trapped between layers of clothing, enabling you to pack more items in a compact manner.

Beyond its spatial benefits, rolling also helps in preventing wrinkles. By rolling each garment, you reduce the likelihood of creases and folds that can occur with traditional folding methods.

It also makes it easier to spot and retrieve specific items without disrupting the entire contents of your luggage.

Whether you’re a frequent traveler or preparing for a short trip, incorporating the rolling method into your packing routine can contribute to a more organised and space-efficient travel experience.

If you’re not sure how to pack and roll, the video below will explain how to do this:

#3 Check your Luggage Allowance Before you Start Packing

pack for a study abroad trip check airline luggage restrictions

When you pack for a study abroad trip, you need to check how many suitcases you can bring, the dimensions for the suitcase, and how heavy the suitcase can be. Do not forget that each airline has different rules, so make sure you check with your airline what you can bring.

This is crucial, because if you take more than your allowance to the airport you could be lumped with large baggage fees – which will eat into your travel budget.

You can purchase weighing scales specifically for suitcases so you can keep your packing within your allowance.

The different types of luggage for flying are Personal Item (Hand bag/backpack), Carry on/ Hand Luggage, and Checked Luggage. Each of these bags will have different allowances for dimensions and weight, so be sure to check for each.

#4 Create a Packing List

pack for a study abroad trip with a packing list

A packing list will help you to remember to bring everything you need when you pack for a study abroad trip! Here are some packing list ideas to get you started:

  • Travel documents (passport, visa, identity documents, health insurance cards).
  • Tickets or boarding passes (on your phone or printed)
  • Power bank for charging your phone on the go (particularly important if your plane tickets are on your phone)
  • Money (bank cards, local currency).
  • Toiletries bag (toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap) – remember to keep these below 100ml if you are travelling with just your carry on luggage.
  • Medicines bag (if necessary, with a doctor’s prescription).
  • Travel power adapter and chargers.
  • Appropriate clothes for your destination/the weather.

#5 Be an Overpacker

how to pack for a study abroad trip - don't overpack

This is quite an obvious tip, but this is something even the travel experts struggle with! Remember, when you pack for a study abroad trip – less is more. The key is to avoid overpacking, and here is how!

This might sound silly, but sometimes the best way to avoid packing too much, is to bring a smaller suitcase.

If your suitcase is huge, you are going to fill it! A small suitcase helps you bring only what you actually need, which will help you stay more organised on your travels.

If you’re someone who is an over packer, you can create some space by rolling clothes and using packing cubes to keep your bag organised.

You also want to make sure to save some room for any souvenirs to buy!

#6 Don’t Pack Your Heavy Items in your Carry On Luggage

how to pack for a study abroad trip - heavy items in suitcase

Take some weight off your shoulders – literally! You want to keep your carry on luggage simple, full of only essentials and your lighter items. When you pack for a study abroad trip, reserve your heavier items for your checked baggage.

The exception is valuables such as your laptop, the airline losing your luggage is rare, but it can happen! Make sure you protect yourself from this by always keeping your valuables with you when you are on the plane.

When you are packing heavier items, put them at the bottom of your bag. This will allow your bag to stay steady when you have it upright.

#7 Don’t Pack Prohibited Items

how to pack for a study abroad trip - don't pack banned items

Familiarise yourself with airline regulations regarding prohibited items. Don’t pack for a study abroad trip with items that are not allowed in your carry on or checked luggage.

Sometimes, it can depend on your airline or destination what kind of items are prohibited and which are not, so be sure to check both so you can fly without stress and won’t have any nasty surprises at the airport!

#8 Don’t Bring Too Many Shoes

how to pack for a study abroad trip - don't bring too many shoes

Shoes can take up a lot of space when you pack for a study abroad trip.

Limit the number of pairs you put in your bag and choose versatile options that can be worn with multiple outfits.

Also make sure your they are appropriate for the kind of trip you are going on. Most people pack a pair of trainers and some nicer shoes for evenings and leisure time.

#9 Pack Travel Friendly Fabrics

pack for a study abroad trip with good fabrics

Even when you pack for a study abroad trip by rolling your clothes or using packing cubes in your bag or you’re one of the top packing experts, you can still end up with pesky creases that leave your clothing looking like a hot mess. Here are some of the best fabrics for travelling:


Cotton is a breathable and comfortable fabric, making it a good choice for warm destinations. Look for lightweight cotton clothes that are easy to roll and pack.

However, keep in mind that cotton tends to wrinkle, so choose blended fabrics or clothes labeled as “wrinkle-resistant” for a neater appearance.

Jersey Knit:

Jersey knit fabrics are known for their stretch and wrinkle resistance. They are comfortable to wear and can be rolled without creasing easily.

Jersey knit is commonly used in casual clothes like T-shirts and dresses, making it a versatile choice for travel.

Merino Wool:

Merino wool is a fantastic travel-friendly fabric. It is lightweight, breathable, and has natural moisture-wicking properties, helping you stay comfortable in various climates.

Merino wool is also known for its wrinkle resistance and odor-resistant qualities.

Synthetic Fabrics:

Fabrics like polyester, nylon, and spandex are often used in travel-friendly clothing. They are lightweight, quick-drying, and resistant to wrinkles.

These fabrics are ideal for activewear and travel clothes that needs to endure different conditions.

#10 Buying Souvenirs

pack for a study abroad trip save room for souvenirs

Leave Space for Unplanned Purchases:

When you pack for a study abroad trip, leave a designated area in your suitcase for souvenirs.

This reserved space will prevent you from over-packing initially and give you room to bring back items without exceeding your luggage capacity.

Choose Lightweight Souvenirs:

Opt for souvenirs that are lightweight and easy to pack. Items like postcards, keychains, and small trinkets can be meaningful without taking up much space.

If you have your eye on larger items, consider shipping them home or buying them at the end of your holiday.

Consider Foldable Souvenirs:

Look for souvenirs that can be folded or flattened.

For example, a decorative scarf, a collapsible water bottle, or a lightweight tote bag can be packed easily without adding much bulk to your bag.

Buy Practical Souvenirs:

Choose souvenirs that serve a practical purpose.

Items like local spices, tea, or unique snacks not only make great gifts but are also consumable, reducing the need for long-term storage.

#11 Make Your Clothes Multi-Purpose

pack for a study abroad trip with multi purpose outfits

Neutral Colours and Classic Styles:

When you pack for a study abroad trip, choose clothing in neutral colours (such as black, white, gray, or navy) and classic styles that can be easily paired with different items. This creates a cohesive wardrobe that works well together.

Layering Pieces:

Invest in layering pieces like cardigans, vests, and scarves. These items can transform a basic outfit and provide extra warmth when needed. A simple dress can become a skirt when paired with a sweater or cardigan.

Mix and Match:

When you pack for a study abroad trip, plan your outfits in advance to ensure that each piece can be mixed and matched with others. This way, you can create several outfits from a limited number of clothing items.

Day-to-Night Transition:

Select items that can transition seamlessly from day to night. For example, a casual dress paired with sneakers during the day can be dressed up with pumps and accessories for the evening.

#12 Pack a Spare Outfit in your Carry On Bag

pack for a study abroad trip with a spare outfit in your bag

This is one of our top tips for when you pack for a study abroad trip, and something many people might not think to do.

If you’re taking checked luggage, packing a spare outfit in your carry on bag is a smart and practical approach, especially in case of unexpected events like lost luggage, flight delays, or spills during the journey.

It’s unlikely to happen, but with traveling anything goes!

Prepare yourself for any eventuality when you pack for a study abroad trip by bringing a spare outfit in your bag, so that you have clean fresh clothes to change into at the hotel while you wait for the airline to locate your suitcase.

#13 Wrap your Shoes in Carrier Bags

how to pack for a study abroad trip by saving your shoes

Wrapping your shoes in carrier bags can be a practical and effective way to protect clothes and other belongings from the dirt and potential scuff marks when you pack for a study abroad trip.

Use plastic carrier bags, preferably those made of a durable material. You can use the ones you get from grocery stores, or if you have sturdier plastic bags, those would be even better.

Here’s a guide on how to do this:

Clean Your Shoes:

When you pack for a study abroad trip, make sure your shoes are clean to avoid transferring dirt or debris to your other belongings.

Place Each Shoe in a Separate Bag:

Insert one shoe into each carrier bag. This individual wrapping helps prevent them from rubbing against each other, minimising the risk of scuffs.

Seal the Bags:

Tie a knot or secure the handles of the carrier bags to enclose them completely. This not only keeps them contained but also prevents any dirt or marks from escaping.

Pack Shoes at the Bottom:

When placing your shoes in your bag, consider packing them at the bottom.

This helps distribute the weight evenly and prevents them from pressing down on more delicate items.

#14 Take a Photo of Your Bag and The Important Contents Inside It

pack for a study abroad trip and take a picture of your bag

When you pack for a study abroad trip, taking a picture of your bag and its important contents can serve several practical purposes and offer valuable benefits during your travels.

In case your bag is lost, stolen, or damaged during your travels, having photos can serve as documentation for insurance claims. This visual record can assist in proving the value of the items of anything you had in your possession.

If you misplace an item during your trip, having a photo of the contents can help you recall what you packed and identify missing items more easily.

Before heading home, reviewing photos of your bag’s contents can serve as a reference for repacking. This ensures you don’t leave anything behind and helps maintain an organized suitcase.

If your luggage arrives in a damaged condition, having a photo before the trip can be useful when filing a complaint with the airline or handling the issue with the baggage claim department.

If you need to report a lost or stolen bag to someone at the airport or law enforcement authorities, having a photo can be a quick and efficient way to provide a detailed description of the bags and their contents.

When taking photos, it’s a good idea to capture not only the exterior of the bag but also open it to document the specific items inside.

Store these photos securely, either in a cloud-based service or email them to yourself, so you can access them even if your physical devices are lost or stolen during your travels.

#15 The Pillowcase Hack

pack for a study abroad trip with the pillowcase travel hack

This involves stuffing clothes into a pillowcase to create a makeshift travel pillow.

This is a practical and space-saving solution for long journeys. Here’s how you can use the pillowcase as a dual-purpose item:

1. Create a Travel Pillow:

  • Fill the pillowcase with soft items of clothing. Adjust the amount of clothing to achieve your desired level of comfort and thickness for the pillow.

2. Zipper or Tie the Pillowcase:

  • If your pillowcase has a zipper, close it to secure everything inside. If it doesn’t have a zipper, you can tie the open end with a knot to keep the clothes in place.

3. Use as a Pillow:

  • Your filled pillowcase can now be used as a makeshift travel pillow. It provides support for your neck and head during the journey, making long flights or road trips more comfortable.

5. Space-Saving Technique:

  • This hack allows you to carry extra clothes without taking up additional space in your baggage. It’s particularly useful for maximising packing efficiency, especially when you want more items but have limited suitcase space.

6. Adjustable Thickness:

  • The great thing about this method is that you can customise the thickness of your travel pillow by adding or removing clothes.

This pillowcase hack is not only practical but also a creative way to repurpose items you already have with you.

It provides a comfortable solution for rest during your journey while allowing you to pack extra clothing without sacrificing suitcase space.

#16 Pack a Reusable Water Bottle

pack for a study abroad trip reusable water bottle

Bringing a reusable water bottle when traveling is a highly advantageous choice for various reasons.

Not only does it save you money by eliminating the need to purchase bottled water, but it also contributes to a positive environmental impact.

Having a reusable water bottle on hand is a convenience during your travels, ensuring that you stay hydrated without constantly searching for water sources or spending extra on beverages.

From a health and safety standpoint, carrying a reusable bottle allows you to fill up with potable water before heading out, especially in areas where safe drinking water might be a concern.

Looking for a study abroad holiday?

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