Hey Travelers! If you are studying abroad soon, here are 11 of the top study abroad packing list essentials you will need to make your time abroad a breeze.
This study abroad packing list is different from the other packing lists found on the internet. I dare to say that this study abroad packing list is the best because we are going to go deeper than the basics like a passport, school supplies, and some clothes. No, for this study abroad packing list, we are leaving no stone un-turned. In this comprehensive packing list found below, we will look at what you should pack in your carry on and checked luggage. Additionally, we will discuss what types of electronics and miscellaneous items you should take. We we talk about clothing, we will talk about what you should pack from your studying abroad packing list if you are going for a semester or year abroad….or if you are going to a destination with multiple seasons.
You are going to be learning about what exactly you need to bring on for your study abroad experience. I studied in India for a semester and absolutely had a ball. It was one of the best times of my life. Because of my study abroad experience in India, I know exactly what is a must have essential to pack and what you can leave at home.
After reading this post, you are going to be a study abroad packing pro! You will know exactly what to pack for your study abroad adventure. Below are the 68 top study abroad packing list essentials you will need for your study abroad experience.
For every study abroad experience you’re going to need the following items:
If you are leaving the country, a passport is a must. It is important to make sure your passport is valid for at least six months before you leave for your study abroad program. For U.S. citizens, you do not need a passport if you are traveling between the United States and the following territories:
According to Usa.gov, U.S. citizens also do not need a passport to travel to the following Freely Associated States:
Source: USA.gov, Do you need a passport to travel to or from U.S. territories or Freely Associated States?, January 2024)
A student visa is a government-issued document from an embassy or consulate that allows you to study legally in another country for a specific period of time. Your visa will usually be an endorsed sticker or stamp placed on one of the pages of your passport. It is important to know if you need a visa to study abroad because you can’t study abroad legally without it if your host country and program requires one.
Whether or not you need a student visa depends on your legal citizenship and study abroad program. It’s important to note that each country has its own rules and regulations when it comes to getting a visa. To know more about the visa process, contact your school and study abroad program for more information. Also, you can go to travel.state.gov to learn more about entry and exit requirements of your host country.
Source: IESabroad, Passport and Visa Requirements,
It is a good idea to make photocopies of your passport and visa before you travel. You will want to make copies for emergency situations, identification, security, etc. I also personally story a copy in my phone and email (sometimes you don’t have access to your email because lack of WiFi/internet).
TSA PreCheck is a trusted traveler program from the U.S. Department of Transportation. This program allows selected travelers to get expedited screening for domestic and some international screenings.
Global Entry is a program by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, designed to expedite the entry process for pre-approved, low-risk travelers arriving in the United States from international destinations. It’s like having a VIP pass for clearing customs and immigration quickly and efficiently.
CLEAR is another airport security program. This airport security program uses biometric identity verification. At a CLEAR pod, travelers scan their eyes or fingerprints to verify who they are. Once successful verification is completed, a CLEAR ambassador whisks travelers to the front of the regular airport security line or TSA PreCheck.
I cannot personally tell you which program to get. However, if you travel internationally a lot, you may want to consider signing up for one or multiple programs. They will save you time while traveling.
Consider bringing your driver’s license if you have one. A driver’s license are useful for several reasons. You can use your drivers license as another form of identification and can help verify your age. It’s super useful if you go to places like a bar or nightclub and they need to see proof of identification. Your drivers license can also come in handy if you need to drive in your host country or if you need to complete transactions that requires more than one form of ID.
Besides a copy of your passport and visa, you will want to make sure you pack other documents. These documents are important and should go in your carry on. Some documents may include
Pack any medicine you are taking in your carry-on. Do not pack it in your checked luggage. Be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor before studying abroad. You want to make sure you have enough medicine to last you for your study abroad experience. However, it is important to note that some insurance companies will only allow you to carry a specific amount of medicine at a time. For example, if you are studying abroad for the year, you may not be able to pack a year supply of medicine.
Before you study abroad, make a plan about how you are going to get additional medicine, if necessary. Some countries do not allow you to bring in specific medicine. Some medicine may be prohibitted. Similarly, you may not be able to mail some medicine. To read more about medication abroad, click the link below.
You may be going on an adventure of a lifetime, but don’t forget to check off school supplies on your study abroad packing list. You don’t need to overload your suitcase with books. But consider bringing a few notebooks to take notes or a binder with loose leaf paper. Whichever you prefer. Also, toss in a couple pens and whatever you normally use on your home campus. If it’s possible, see what the professor requires in your host country. Textbooks may be a lot cheaper overseas. Some professors might not even require textbooks and everything is online. It depends on the professor and host institution. If you can get hold of your syllabus beforehand, or talk to a peer who has already taken that class, you may get some idea. Remember, you most likely can buy your school supplies when you reach your destination.
Less is more when you are deciding what to take with you from your study abroad packing list. It may be tempting to overpack, but you may regret it. If you overpack, it might be more difficult to carry and drag around your suitcase when you are arriving. You may have to take public transportation when you first get to your study abroad destination. It’s not fun hauling a heavy suitcase down a flight of stairs. Trust me, I know because I’ve done it. Also, consider the fact that you will be accumulating more stuff during your time abroad. If you think at any point you are going to want to go shopping, or at the very least, buy souvenirs, you’ll want to leave space in your luggage to accommodate those things.
Even if you have to buy an extra suitcase, it can add up. Usually, checking an additional bag can result in hefty airline fees.
They key is you want to pack less than you need. Ideally, it’s best to bring a little over a week of clothes. I say just over a week of clothes just in case you don’t have time to wash your clothes. You want to pack clothes that can be mixed and matched with other pieces seamlessly. Colors like black, white, grey and beige go well with almost anything. Just remember to pack enough underwear.
For me, when I studied abroad in India for a semester and worked abroad for three months in Vietnam, I brought one large suitcase. In India, I used compression vacuum bags. When I worked in Vietnam, I used packing cubes. I found that a large suitcase was the best luggage for study abroad and more than enough for a semester overseas. For both India and Vietnam, I packed light. I packed about a week’s worth of clothes.
The next piece of luggage you should check off your study abroad packing list, is a carry on. Carry ons should not get checked, when you’re at the airport. They should hold all your essential documents, medications, valuable items, toiletries, an outfit, and pajamas. For carry ons, I like the ones that are light weight and can roll in any direction.
In your study abroad packing list, you should think about the best study abroad backpack. This study abroad backpack can also count as personal item at the airport. You should consider packing a backpack because not only can you pack your laptop and school supplies in it, but it also can be helpful for weekend trips. When you go away for the weekend, you can pack all your things in your study abroad backpack. Generally, they are lightweight and easy to travel with.
Purses are great to throw those few lightweight essential items from your study abroad packing list. Purses are great for moving around everyday in your study abroad destination.
On your study abroad packing list, consider packing a bag for dirty laundry. This item is often overlooked, but it is super useful when you want to separate your clean and dirty clothes. This bag doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You can also look into getting a lightweight, collapsable hamper.
Adding packing cubes to your study abroad packing list is a must. I love packing cubes for study abroad because it keeps all my items organized. Packing cubes study abroad are an essential!
Live it up at your new destination! Have a great time. While you are exploring a new culture and seeing the top tourist destinations, remember the main reason you’re there: to study. Having a laptop or tablet may make it easier to study and write your papers. Also, if you get board, you can pop on your favorite show.
VPNs can be beneficial to you while studying abroad. VPNs allow you to securely access a remote computer over the internet (source: Oxford Languages). Virtual Private Networks encrypts your personal data, overcome website blockers, and conceals your IP address (Source: azure.microsoft.com). If you’re still wondering whether or not to check a VPN off of your study abroad packing list, here are a few benefits in laymen’s terms:
If you do decide to get a VPN, it’s important to remember to read the reviews and go with a trusted service. All VPNs are not made equally.
Everyone’s got a cell phone nowadays. But what do you do with yours while overseas? You will need to decide if you want to keep your phone plan from home or not. Depending on how long you’re going to be in your new destination, you might cancel you plan. Or you can look into getting the international plan. Some phones cover certain regions.
Newer phones have an E-SIM in which you can keep your sim card from your home country and get an electronic sim card that will give you data in your host country. If you use an E-SIM that is different from your phone carrier, you have to get your phone unlocked.
If you decide to just replace the sim card from your home country when you reach your destination, you will also need your phone unlocked. With an unlocked phone, it’s possible to use a sim card with a local carrier.
There are other phone programs you can look into like Google Fi. With Google Fi, it charges a certain amount per month and you can talk and make calls back to the United States. It’s important to note, that depending on how long you’re overseas, Google Fi might turn off. It is only allowed for a specific amount of time while you’re overseas.
A free option is Google Voice. You can port your number and make calls to the United States for free. You just have to be on WiFi.
Another option you can look into is getting a phone and just leaving it on airplane mode the whole time. When you have WiFi, you can access the internet, or use apps like What’sApp to text family and friends. The downside to this is that if you’re out and about, or there is an emergency, or you want to use a ride share or GPS, you won’t be able to use your phone unless you have a plan from back home. This uses data, which can add up and be expensive.
Another option is that you can just buy a cheap burner phone when you are your host country. Then you can just use your phone from home, in your house, apartment, or dorm room if you have internet/WIFI. Sometimes this option is preferred if you are worried about getting your phone lost or stolen.
Definitely don’t forget your charger to charge your phone and other electronics. Nothing is worse than trying to use your electronics and can’t because the battery is dead.
Wireless or with cords, consider packing some headphones in your suitcase. They come in handy if you want to listen to music, a video, podcast, or talk with family and friends without an audience.
If you plan to be around water during your study abroad experience, a waterproof phone case can be effective against allowing water to ruin your phone or device. It will keep them dry and protected while you’re snorkeling, swimming, or doing any type of water sport.
You don’t have to have a portable power bank. Of course, you can use your charger and plug it into the wall. However, a portable power bank can make your life a whole lot easier. When you’re in the airport or out on the go, power banks can be incredibly useful. You don’t have to worry about finding a charger. Nor do you have to stop and charge your phone or electronics. You can keep going. They can also come in clutch when you are in an emergency and your phone is dying and you need to get home.
On your study abroad packing list, definitely consider bringing either an adapter, converter, or both. Many people use the words “adapter” and “converter” interchangeably. However, when it comes to your electronics, they have different significances.
Around the world, you will see that electrical plugs and outlets differ. Depending on what country you’re in, you will see different socket types and plug shapes. An adapter is a device that allows you to plug your electronic into a different type of electrical outlet. Adapters do not change the electrical current or voltage. Their only purpose to create a physical connection between the electrical outlet and your device’s plug.
The terms “adapter” and “converter” are often used interchangeably, but they refer to different things when it comes to electrical devices used while traveling abroad.
On the other hand, a converter, allows you to not only plug your electronic device into a different type of outlet, but it also changes the voltage of the electrical current. Countries may differ on their voltage standards. The United States, for example, operates with 110V. In other countries, they may use 220 – 240V.
Many types of modern and up to date electronics are flexible and designed to work with different types of voltages. Types of electronics include cellphones, laptops, and camera charges. If this is the case, you only need an adapter to fit into your host country’s outlet. It is important to note that some products and appliances like hair curling irons, hair dyers, are not dual-voltage. In this case, you may need a converter to make sure they work properly and nothing explodes. For items like hair dryers, I strongly recommend you to to buy these items when you get to your host country. Just get a cheap one. That way you don’t have to worry about voltage.
Before you travel, research the voltage your host country uses. A simple Google search will tell you. And when shopping for your adapter or converter, note that they may be sold separately or they may be sold as a single device. It depends on the product. Be sure to be cognizant of what you’re buying so you will have a smooth time in your host destination.
Hopefully you don’t spend too much time in your room while studying abroad. However, if you want to wind down and relax, a streaming device can be for you. If you’re a person that wants infinite entertainment options, a streaming device could keep you entertained. Consider checking this item off your study abroad packing list.
If you’re bringing a ton of electronics, you may want to check a power strip off your study abroad packing list. Power strips can be useful if you have more electronics than outlets in your room.
Another idea to consider on your study abroad packing list, is a portable hard drive. If you’re someone who takes a lot of pictures or video…or use a lot of memory, a portable hard drive can be your best friend.
For me, a professional camera is completely optional. I say this because nowadays, the quality on your cellphone for pictures and videos are just as good. If your hobby is taking picture or you’re a professional vlogger, then a professional camera can be right for you.
If you plan on getting epic pictures or investing in your selfie game, a lightweight phone tripod may be necessary. The tripod should be compact, lightweight, and durable. They help you to take better pictures and avoid blurry photos. With these tripods, you can experiment with different styles like long exposure and motion blur. Again, this is a totally optional item on your study abroad packing list.
When you are thinking about your study abroad packing list, do not overpack your toiletries. Take travel sized products and buy the full sized items when you get to your host destination. However, if you have a favorite product that you can’t live without and know you can’t buy it at your host destination, just get the full travel size. Pack the full travel sized product in your checked luggage.
For example feminine products like pads or tampons. This is up to your preference. If you don’t care which types of pads or tampons to use, get them in your host country. If you have a preference, stock up on them at home. It’s worth noting that some countries, may not carry certain items like tampons.
Also, for Black or African American female students, I would suggest packing your favorite hair products that might be difficult to find in your host country. Again, full sized products, pack in your checked luggage.
Here are some toiletries to consider packing in your carry on. All items should follow TSA guidelines. Liquid, creams, and gels should be no more than 3.4 oz and fit into 1 quart Ziplock bag. The products that go into your carry on should be travel size. Examples of toiletries to put on your study abroad packing list are:
27. Toothbrush and travel sized toothpaste
31. Contact lenses and solution
32. Feminine products (a few to get you through your trip)
33. Wipes or a facial cleaner
34. Basic makeup essentials (if you wear make up. Just make sure not to pack full makeup in carry on).
36. Hand sanitizer
37. Pack of gum
38. Face mask
39. Identification documents (as mentioned above)
40. Medication (as mentioned above)
41. An extra outfit – In case your luggage is lost or you have an accident on the plane.
42. Pajamas – In case your outfit is lost
43. Cell phone and charger
44. Electronics and headphones
45. Anything valuable
46. Reusable water bottle – It’s great to pack a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated during your journey. Also, you will save money at the airport because you don’t have to pay for high priced water bottles.
What items should you pack in your checked luggage? Generally, heavier and bulky items should be packed in your checked luggage. Items that cannot go or are not permitted in your carryon should be put in your checked baggage. Study abroad packing list items that you should consider putting in your checked luggage include:
47. AirTags – If you are worried about your checked bag getting lost, I would put an AirTag in your bag so you can track your suitcase. It’s also worth noting that some airlines will give you the option of tracking your bag via their app or text. However, in my opinion, it’s always good to be a safe as possible.
48. Full sized toiletries and products – shampoos, conditioners, lotion, sunscreen, etc.
49. Non essentials electronics and gadgets – a camera tripod, example. For me, I try not to put anything valuable in my checked luggage.
50. Clothes – clothes that you may want to put on your study abroad packing list include:
If you are traveling abroad for a semester or year…or if you are going to a place with different seasons, and not sure what to pack, check out the following post. Determining how many clothes to pack for study abroad can be confusing. In How to Pack For Long Term Travel, I break down everything you need to know when it comes to packing for long term travel, like a study abroad experience. It will make knowing how many clothes to pack for study abroad a breeze.
This post was all about building your study abroad packing list. On this study abroad packing list, we covered over 68 items. Remember whether you are building a study abroad packing list Spain, study abroad packing list Italy, or a study abroad packing list Europe, you will want to pack less than you need. These are all just suggestions. Customize this study abroad checklist so that it will fit your needs.
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