Obviously there’s a whole pile of things to consider before you start packing. Here are some questions I think are helpful to answer before you start.
- Where are you going? What’s the climate and average temperature like?
- How long are you going for? What seasons will you be there for?
- What are you doing? Studying, working volunteering? Is there a dress code?
- What is your luggage allowance? How much space do you have? What’s the weight limit?
The way you answer these questions will obviously impact what you’re packing and I can’t cover every circumstance but I thought I’d share with you what I packed, what I’d recommend and what didn’t turn out to be necessary.
I spent three months – from mid September to mid December in northwest France, working as an English language assistant. I was flying with Ryanair and I had a 20kg check in suitcase, a 10kg hand luggage backpack and a personal item – my handbag.
So based on the information I’d found above I knew I’d definitely need some lighter weight clothes for when I arrived in September (especially since there was a heatwave going on) but also some winter weather clothes for October and November. I’d need a waterproof and a winter coat but not a too heavy one since it wasn’t going to get too cold. I’d need multiple pairs of shoes – Vans for warmer weather and boots for winter. I’d need some smarter and more conservative clothes for work as well my usual everyday clothes.
I feel like before I start, I have to say that I am a chronic overpacker. My mum watched me collecting all the clothes I wanted to take to France with an equal mix of horror and amusement. But I’ve definitely learnt a lot and will be a hundred times better when I pack to go to Spain for the next part of my year abroad. So I thought I’d share some of this wisdom with you.
What to pack:
- Plenty of pants, socks and bras. You don’t want to have to be scrabbling around for that final pair of socks because you only packed a weeks worth!
- At least 3 pairs of comfy shoes. Make sure you pack shoes you’re actually going to wear – there’s no point in taking any you don’t like or aren’t comfortable. I’d recommend a few pairs of shoes in case one get soaking one day and you need a dry pair. I’d also try and pack a more practical, trainer like pair and a pair that it’s possible to dress up slightly.
- Comfy clothes to wear to slouch around the house. Admittedly going into lockdown for a month is not going to happen on most year abroads but its always a good plan to have comfy clothes to wear at the weekend or on the evenings just to chill in the house.
- A waterproof coat and an umbrella. There are very few places in the world that you can spend a few months in and not expect any rain, so it’s always a good plan to have a coat and an umbrella. I didn’t actually take an umbrella with me but my housemate did and it was a good shout!
What not to to pack:
- Many toiletries at all! Most toiletries you can buy in most countries. I brought my makeup, my moisturiser and a tiny bottle of shampoo and bought everything else there and it worked out perfectly. You can very easily buy shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, body spray, body wash, makeup wipes, moisturiser, hairspray and anything else you can think of in your local supermarket.
- Too many pairs of jeans! I foolishly packed four pairs of jeans (against my Mum’s wise advice) and only really wore two of them. I had one super comfy pair that I wore most of the time so it was really rather pointless of me to pack all the rest of them.
- Too much stuff! You should always leave a bit of space in your suitcase so you can bring home some gifts and things you’ve bought! I ended up having to send a few parcels of gifts home as well as cramming my suitcase full on the way back!
How to pack:
- Using packing cubes. Packing cubes have absolutely revolutionised my life. I first used them on my interrailing trip and I can’t travel without them now! Even if you’re only taking a suitcase, a packing cube or two can really help you maximise the space you’ve got.
- A big hard suitcase. This will come in handy when you’re returning with any breakable items – I was really grateful for mine when I came home with multiple bottles of cider and a couple of jars of jam in my case.
- A decent sized piece of hand luggage. I’m always scared of losing my suitcase so I like having a piece of hand luggage with clothes in too. It also gives you about 10kg more of luggage, so if you pack anything like me, you’ll need it!
- A personal item. Make the most of this and take a decent sized handbag or backpack that you can fit your laptop, and any other valuables as
Obviously that’s not an extensive list but just some of my top tips for where to start in terms of packing for a year abroad.
What about you? What are your top packing tips?