There is a nearly endless list of things to do before traveling abroad, especially to Europe. I could spend paragraphs talking about all that, but that’s what your study abroad advisors are for! So, today I want to talk about the less logistical part of preparing for international travel.
My study abroad program director poked fun at those who grossly overpack for these international endeavors during one of our orientation meetings before departure; I took this as a personal challenge. I decided that for my purposes, I wanted to try to pack all of my belongings in a carryon. There were multiple reasons for this decision outside of just my competitive nature. The first and main reason was that I plan to travel around Europe after finishing my study abroad term, so I needed to have a bag with me that was ideal for that. Second, I know myself to be a bit of a “shop-aholic”, and wouldn’t doubt the idea that I may end up buying a few new outfits once I get to Spain.
To pack for a six week trip in a carry on took some strategy. I first planned what clothes I would be bringing with me, making some tough decisions on what to leave behind. In Europe, it is known that the citizens are generally well dressed and that athleisure will immediately make you out to be an American tourist. I focused on simple yet nice pieces of clothing, focusing on the ability to mix and match items between outfits throughout my trip. What I roughly ended up bringing clothes-wise was:
- One pair of jeans
- One pair of dress pants
- Two pairs of jean shorts
- Two dresses
- Three blouses
- 4-5 small/lightweight tops
- One sweater
- One windbreaker
- One swimsuit
- One athletic/active-wear outfit
- One pair of pajamas
- One pair of comfy sandals
- One pair of good gym shoes
Now, even with this relatively small list, this is still a decent heap of clothes. I recommend investing in some travel vacuum seal bags; the kind you can roll and don’t actually need a vacuum to use. I got mine from TjMaxx for like six dollars, and I fit everything in them and it compressed them to be able to fit in my bag.
The bag I ended up going with was a 45L Target brand travel bag that was convertible as both a suitcase and a backpack; it has pockets for clothes and toiletries as well as a front pocket similar to a backpack fit with a laptop sleeve, etc. All of the stuff I mentioned before fit in the suitcase portion of the bag, plus my toiletries and stuff of that nature.
However, when I say toiletries, that does not include shampoo, conditioner, body wash, or anything that is in a big bottle for the most part. If you’re going to be abroad for any amount of time that requires more than a travel sized bottle of a product, just buy it at your destination; walking around the store and looking around at all of the different foreign products can be fun, anyway.
A few other miscellaneous things that I got for the trip were a small bag for day trips and a cross-body purse with lots of pockets to bring for day to day use. You want to make sure you have the cross body bag or some sort of fanny-pack situation because it is a lot more secure from theft or pickpocketing while walking around the city at a location abroad. I also brought a water bottle that I could clip onto the side of my bag. Some other more logistical items I bought in preparation for my trip were a passport cover, a Europe plug adapter, and some portable chargers.
Outside of just packing, I did a lot of precautionary preparation. It’s a good idea to make copies of all your important documents and to laminate your covid vaccination card if you’re going somewhere that requires that. Make sure you know the emergency numbers for where you’re going, and check with your mobile provider to see what your international phone terms and conditions are; you can consider adding an international plan as well. You may also need to call your bank and ask about foreign transactions and to notify them about your plans to be out of the country.
The last thing I wanted to highlight was a bit of the planning process for my backpacking trip after my study abroad program is over. I will be going from Madrid to Barcelona, then Paris, London, and Frankfurt.
After some research I decided on train travel through Eurail; I’ll be using a four day global pass which is $200. For the trips I am taking, however, I’ll also need to pay a bit of an additional fee for the seat reservations on each train. For lodging, I reserved hostels that have great ratings and that have safe, all female dorm options. All of the places I booked were less than 50 dollars a night, so it’s a very affordable option. One tip for staying in hostels is to bring a lock with you; they provide storage lockers for your belongings so you don’t have to carry everything around when you’re out for the day. I used Hostelworld for all of my reservations, as I found it very informative and easy to use. Lastly, I booked some fun outings on Tripadvisor; it's a great way to find some affordable things outside of the basic stuff that everyone does. A couple fun and more unique things I found were a kayaking/snorkeling expedition in Barcelona and a gourmet food and wine tour in Paris!
That’s pretty much everything I did to prepare for my trip to Europe, I hope that some of these tips were helpful for any adventure you may be planning.
Vacuum travel bags:
Convertible 45L travel bag:
Europe plug adapter:
Eurail train pass website:
My Tripadvisor picks for my destinations: