Are you going overseas for a semester of college study? Are you going to visit a friend for a month, or several weeks even?
This guide might prove helpful when packing. They’re tips that I’ve learned from my globetrotting over the years, ones which I wish someone had passed them on to me before I went off on the biggest adventures of my life.
Unless it’s really an absolute necessity, leave large bottles of soaps and styling products at home. Buy what you need when you get there. I found that trying to pack large bottles of shampoo, conditioner, styling gel, mousse and other products wasted extremely valuable space. Also, when I flew from Shanghai to Tokyo, I just bought what I needed when I got there since I wasn’t sure what size and types of personal products would be approved by customs.
Pack clothes – especially pants and shorts – that you can wear with different things, so you don’t have to pack as much. Also, pack clothes that are lighter, if possible, and that are easier to wash. When I lived in China, I sometimes found it more convenient to wash clothes that would air dry quickly by hand, and so I didn’t have to machine launder as much.
When packing your suitcase, roll your clothing pieces up instead of folding them into squares; they actually take up less space. For example, if you’re packing a cotton shirt, fold it long ways in half, then roll it up, beginning with the neck of the shirt.
Be sure to make copies of your passport, ID card, birth certificate, driver’s licence and any other government or school-issued identifying documents. When you enter some countries, they may keep some of your original documents for a short time for verification purposes, so be sure you’ve got copies at hand in case you need them for any reason.
If you’re doing a semester or year abroad, get a copy of your school records before you leave to head back to your home country, or to leave to enter another country before returning home. Believe me when I tell you that it can take more time and money to get additional records sent at a later time. Although some educational institutions will want an original from the school or university, many schools will take the school records for temporary or emergency purposes until the other documents can be verified.
Sometimes, it’s a good idea to purchase travel health insurance, or insurance that you can use abroad. Before leaving to live in China, I purchased global health insurance. I’m glad I did because I ended up getting a cold when I was there and had to go to hospital for medication. If you keep the records and receipts from your medical visits abroad, a lot of travel health insurance companies will reimburse you when you turn in the documents.
You can also mail your souvenirs and other items that you really want to keep, but aren’t sure if you have room for in your bags or not. Instead of trying to cram and over pack those keepsakes and gifts for family and friends into your suitcase, it really might be easier just to ship them. Before deciding, check the local postal or shipping centre to see how cheap you could send those gifts and souvenirs, then figure out your best option.
Carrying waterproof sandals was the best and most useful item in my suitcase! I can’t stress this point enough. They’re easy to keep clean since they’re easily washable. If waterproof sandals don’t suit the season, go for some other form of waterproof shoes such as wellies or rubber trainers.