My name is Liz and I have successfully packed my life into a suitcase and a carry on for living in a different country for 5+ months two times. Along the way I’ve learned a lot and I’m sharing my secrets with you! So you can find the balance between being an “overpacker” and an “underpacker”. These are my ultimate packing tips for trips longer than six months.
Packing is so daunting especially if you’re going for a long haul trip so let’s break it down. These are my ultimate tips for packing for a long trip or study abroad but I think you can use them for shorter trips too!
Check your airline and see how big your checked bag and carry on are allowed to be and how much they’re allowed to weigh. I would go for about that or less, you should be able to lift your suitcase. You may have to go up and down stairs and you want your journey from when you get off the plane to be as painless as possible.
Get something sturdy and that has wheels that go all the way around. Don’t skimp on luggage like me…my suitcase I bought at Target won’t zip up anymore. I had really good luck buying a good quality suitcase at Marshall’s/TJ Maxx.
Roll your clothes!
First fold them in half and roll them as tightly as you can. Then place your rolled piece of clothes in either a space cube or a plastic bag (gallon or quart sized). I prefer quart sized plastic bags because they’re cheap and you can write in sharpie what’s in the bag. Then seal it off with tape after you squeeze the air out. It makes you so much more organized and saves a lot of room in your suitcase.
Ziploc quart bags, space cubes, travel makeup cases
There are also other tricks like putting rolled socks in your shoes, I like to put all my jewelry, makeup and hair accessories also in old makeup bags or reusable cloth bags to keep track of them.
What clothes to pack?!
It’s always overwhelming trying to decide what to pack. My golden rule is to pack clothes that you wouldn’t mind being photographed in but wouldn’t be completely heartbroken if something happened to it. Stick to neutral colors and basics so you can mix and match clothing. Keep in mind you may want to go shopping at your destination so leave your bag about half or three quarters empty. If you get to wash your clothes where you’re staying that’s an incentive to pack even less.
You do not need 10+ of shoes I promise. I stuck to the basics and would buy new shoes as I lost them or they worse out…or if there was a sale. Flipflops/sandals for around the house, warm weather and/or showers in hostels and Airbnb’s. Flats because they’re practical and go with everything. Tennis/shoes and sneakers if you’re going to be doing lots of adventuring. And finally heels if you’re going to a formal occasion that requires it.
My prefered travel shoes: chelsea boots, black ballerinas, sneakers and nude heels
Check the weather for your destination and dress accordingly! There are a million packing lists on pinterest if that also helps. Even if you’re staying abroad for more than one season dressing in layers is the way to go.
The dreaded carry on
So for both of my stays abroad I had a checked bag and a carry on. The first time I had two suitcases and it was a nightmare when you may have to navigate stairs and multiple forms of transportation.
For the carry on I got a hiking backpack which holds up to 35-50 L. I like it because it has a strap for your sternum so your back won’t be killing you. This bag is also amazing because it can squeeze into almost any overhead bin and I can also retrieve it easily. Remember that flight attendants aren’t supposed to lift bags for you so make sure that you can at least put it on your knee and then lift it up.
Both of these would make great carry ons and bags for other trips!
Don’t forget when going through security to take our your laptop and liquids.
So in your carry on you should back: makeup, valuables, electronics, copies of your important documents and an extra change or two of clothing. These are the things you want to keep on you that you do not want to lose. I like to keep these in a folder I can easily access if I have to.
Liquids and makeup
Only bring what you usually use daily! I was so nervous about my brand new naked palette getting shattered in my carry on so it’s best to not go too crazy. Liquids, creams, gels and sprays larger than 3.4 ounces even if partly empty must go in your checked bag. For your carry on it’s as many 3.4 ounce products you can put in a clear quart sized bag. See TSA guidelines here. You can use another plastic quart bag or get something a little more durable.
- A full size towel- travel towels exist for a reason.
- Blankets/pillows- they will be provided where you’re staying most likely.
- Your expensive straightener/curler/blow dryer- if you’re going to a country where the voltage is different sparks could fly and goodbye $300 hair straightener even with an adapter. You can always buy a cheap one abroad.
- Full sized shampoo/bodywash/lotion- stick to travel sized and then buy products in that country, you may discover products you like abroad.
Travel towels are one of my favorite inventions.
- If it helps make a packing list and cross things off as you go.
- You can check into your flight online usually the day before to make sure you have that prime window seat.
- Get to the airport 3 hours early for international flights.
- Don’t wear makeup on a long haul flight, you will break out! Do yourself a favor and pack a sheet mask you can use on the plane and/or when you get off. My personal favorite is a full face sephora mask and the charcoal strip for your nose.
- Call your bank and credit cards, tell them what countries you’re going to and how long so they don’t freeze your card. Sometimes you can do this online in addition to ordering foreign currency.
- The adapter for the place you’re going to! I got one at a grocery store for $5 and another at Marshall’s for $6 find the one you need here.
- A portable charger, neck pillow and medicine like advil, tylenol or pepto bismol in the case you don’t feel well.
May you have safe travels and an empty seat next to you on your next flight!
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