So you’ve saved up for past six months, purchased a plane ticket and leave next week. You couldn’t be more excited for this exciting adventure ahead of you and can’t wait to get a break from the constant stressors of life. College, Graduate School, and your career can wait! You are young, and there is no better time than now to see the world. You’ve got your itinerary all sorted out, and can’t wait to finally hit the road. Now it’s time for the packing.
I’ve been traveling the world for over three years now. I’ve packed many a bag, and now have it down to a science of necessities…trust me this took some trial and error. In this article, I’m going to reveal the most efficient way to pack for your year abroad and help you prepare for your amazing experience ahead.
Packing Practically For A Year Abroad
Maybe you’ve decided you want a gap year; a much-needed break from school and a chance to get some fresh air before diving back into your studies. Maybe you’ve graduated school, or simply just want to see the world. Whatever the reason, a year abroad is the best chance to meet some new people, see some new countries, and get the full culturally, life changing experience.
The first step is to buy a bag, or two. I personally travel with a large 65-liter Osprey backpack, which holds the bulk of my travel gear. I then have a 30-liter Osprey, which is more suitable for day excursions, and the perfect carry on. Investing in a decent backpack, or two will be some of the best investments you will make. Head to REI, and let the professionals fit you for your perfect bag. Three years ago I paid $350 US for my larger bag and $75 for my smaller bag, and still using these bags today; they’re both in great condition!
Looking for the perfect destination? Check out Australia!
In a society that relies on electronics, it is hard, if not impossible to travel without the most important electronic devices. Here is a list of suggestions to help you begin your packing journey:
1. A Smartphone- Invest in a smartphone if you haven’t already. You’ll be wanting it when you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere, in a country that doesn’t speak English, and need to pull up Google Translator, or Maps.me to try to find your way home!
2. An Adaptor- Research the type of adaptor you’ll be needing to charge all your gadgets. Your best bet may be to simply invest in a universal adaptor- that way you’ll never be without charge.
3. A Laptop- This may seem a bit unnecessary to some travelers, but I guarantee it’ll come in handy throughout your time abroad.
4. External Hard Drive- A great device to pack along! An external hard drive comes in handy for movies, photos, documents etc. You never know when your computer may crash, break, or worse case scenario: get stolen. It’s always good to have a backup.
5. Camera and/or GoPro- You’ll be wanting to make memories, so bring along a camera, GoPro, or both. GoPros are a great travel addition because they are super light, take great quality photos and videos, and have the waterproof case. If you decide to take a camera, make sure it’s a light one.
6. Cords- Make sure you have enough cords to last you. I always pack two phone chargers, two headphones (or three), my computer charger, and battery charger.
I never realized how many copies of my documents, passport, etc I would need abroad. Not to mention all of all the ‘plastic’ I’d need. I’d recommend buying a decent plastic folder, and filling it with all the following:
1. Passport Pictures and Photos- Print out at least 5 copies of your actual passport onto paper, and then have an additional 10 passport photos taken. You can do this almost anywhere (DMV for example), and the prices are quite cheap.
2. Health Insurance- Print out a couple of copies with proof of your insurance provider; if you don’t have one I strongly suggest applying for traveler’s insurance.
3. Visa Documents- Print out any and all visa acceptance e-mails. Immigration normally will ask you for proof of your visa into their country, so it’s best to have this handy.
4. Resumes- If you know you’re going to work abroad, then go ahead and print out a few resumes before leaving the states. This will save you money, and reduce the entire hassle factor of finding a place to print once you arrive.
5. Student I.D.- Bring this along wherever you go. Even though I technically graduated three years ago, I still carry mine around. You never know when you may be eligible for a discount.
6. License- Print out a copy as well as bring along your license. If you are planning on driving, then I would recommend going to the DMV to purchase an international license.
7. Multiple Credit Cards/Debit Cards- I always travel with at least two cards: my debit card for daily use, and my credit card in case of emergency. If you decide to stay and work in a country, then open up a bank account in that country. This will save you tons of money on international transaction fees.
This may be the hardest part for a lot of first-time travelers. You never know quite what to pack, and depending on how long you’ll be gone you’ll most likely experience multiple seasons. When I’m leaving for a new adventure, I first think about where I’m going: If I know I’ll be spending the next year in tropical South East Asia, do I really need to bring along my winter jacket and boots? No probably not. Remember, you can always buy things along the way, but it’s better to start out as light as possible from the start; you’ll be sure to accumulate things along the way.
1. Underwear- 2 weeks worth of underwear. This will save you a lot of money when it comes time to do the laundry.
2. Socks- At least 10 pairs ankle socks and 2 winter socks.
3. Shirts/T-shirts- 10 lightweight, and comfortable short sleeve tops. Something that will be able to take the wear and tear of constant washing, and also you won’t get sick wearing after one month.
4. Sweatshirts- One sweater/hoodie will suffice.
5. Jacket- One heavy jacket that is easily compactable.
6. Jeans- Two pairs of comfortable jeans.
7. Shorts- 3 pairs of shorts.
8. One belt.
9. Skirts/Dresses- 2 in total.
10. Workout Clothes- At least one pair of shorts and a top.
11. One pair of pajamas.
12. One swimsuit.
13. One Raincoat.
14. One semi-formal, lightweight outfit.
15. Sandals (good for both warmer climates and hostel showers).
16. Sneakers- I went ahead and splurged on a hybrid sneaker/hiking boot. It’s extremely lightweight and perfect for both hiking and jogging.
17. One more pair of shoes of your choice- Just realize you’ll be carrying them on your back, so make sure they aren’t too heavy.
If you want to travel light, head to Bali.
You inevitably will need pack quite a few toiletries to last you on your year abroad. Even though I know I can purchase almost everything abroad, I like to stock up on as many goods as possible, just so I don’t have to buy them immediately on arriving in the next country. This is generally the heaviest part of my bag, but then again I bring along a lot of hair products, and extra toothpaste, etc. This is really up to you to how much you want to pack along, but here is a list of my top recommendations:
1. Soap- Bar soap is lighter, less mess and far cheaper.
2. Toothbrush – It’s always good to carry a spare.
3. Toothpaste- If you are in love with a certain brand, you most likely won’t be able to find it abroad so bring an extra tube.
5. Contact Lenses- I generally switch to two-week contacts or monthlies, and then carry along an entire years worth.
6. Contact Solution- One bottle.
7. Feminine products- At least one box of 30 or more.
8. Razor and Razor blades- Also bring along 3+ new razor blades.
9. Nail Clippers.
10. Makeup- Pack the bare minimum because you probably won’t be wearing much abroad anyways.
11. Sanitary Wipes.
12. Over-the-counter medicines.
- Pepto Bismol
- Dayquil/Nyquil (in pill form)
- Cough Drops
13. Prescription medicine- Talk to your doctor before leaving and tell them you need one years worth of prescription medication- it shouldn’t be a problem!
Living Abroad Extras
Now that we’ve covered the necessities, I’ll mention a few additional items that I never leave home without packing.
1. $200 US – Good for currency exchange, visa on arrivals, and when you’re running extremely low on cash.
2. Wallet- One small enough to fit into my back pocket.
3. Sunglasses/Reading Glasses.
4. Beach Towel- I find this to be better than just a bath towel, as they won’t sour as quickly as normal towels.
5. Journal/Diary- You’ll want to keep these memories forever!
6. Mini Dictionary- If you’re going to a foreign speaking country, then a mini dictionary can come in handy. Especially if you need to communicate and your Internet connection isn’t working on your phone.
7. A good book to read.
Now that you have all your items ready to pack the real fun starts: packing it all into the two backpacks. Buy some cheap, compressible bags, or packing cubes to help you compartmentalize your clothing, and really organize everything as best you can. Avoid packing in a rush, because you will most likely not optimize the space in your bag. I hope this list sets you up with all the things you need to spend a successful year abroad, and happy packing!