How to efficiently pack for a semester abroad in Europe

Starting to pack for a semester abroad can be exciting, nerve-racking, and scary. Most of all, it’s stressful. How can you possibly pack for four months in just 3-4 small bags? Here are some helpful things to think about before attempting to pack:


1. Start with What's most important: medicine (over-the-counter and prescription).

Do some research on your over-the-counter medication. Will these medicines be available abroad? Be aware that you may not recognize your medicine in foreign countries as the generic names may vary. For example, Miralax is called Movicol in Spain. The two have the exact same chemical make up, just different names. If you will not be able to buy your medicines abroad, be sure to contact your doctors and pharmacist so that you can bring enough with you to last the duration of your trip. Also, always make sure to bring medicine in clearly labeled bottles. 

If you wear contacts, don’t forget to give your ophthalmologist a heads up so he/she can order the necessary amount for you to have for your entire trip.

2. Next, move on to toiletries -- shampoo, conditioner, hair supplies, toothbrush, q-tips, hair brush, makeup, and much more.

Bring enough of each to last you a couple weeks because culture shock is a thing – having simple comforts can make becoming adjusted much easier. Don’t pack hair appliances. Most power adapters don’t have enough power to turn these on and if you try, the appliance will most likely break. Additionally, a power adapter is essential if you want to charge your phone and computer. Amazon has great deals on these - search “travel adapter” to find multiple options, or click below.



3. On to everyone’s worst nightmare: clothes

Take a deep breath, it will all be ok! Before you start, it is imperative that you check the weather of where you are going. Will it get colder or hotter as your stay progresses? Plan accordingly.

Undergarments: We suggest that you start with underwear, bras, and socks because there’s no question that you will need those. We advise that you pack enough for 1.5-2 weeks without washing. A general rule of thumb is to pack 3-4 weeks worth of clothing that you will be able to wash and re-wear.

PJs: Again, plan accordingly based on the weather. Plan to bring 3 sets of PJs. 

Lounge clothes: This includes sweatpants, yoga pants, t-shirts, and sweatshirts. Just pack a few of these outfits as they can easily be repeated. No one is going to judge you for wearing the same sweats a few times in a row. If you are planning on working out, bring about 5 work-out outfits.

Day clothes: We advise that you pack clothing that you can easily switch up. For example, bring shirts that go with multiple pants and bring simple pants that go with everything. You won’t need your whole wardrobe because you’ll probably want to do a lot of shopping. Pick the clothing you see yourself wearing most frequently.

Going-out clothes: We suggest cute, but simple. Don’t pack a bunch of “one-timers,” AKA things that are cute, but you’ll probably only wear once or twice. For all types of clothes, try to pick only the true necessities because space is limited. Bring a lot of simple clothing that is mix and match-able.

Shoes: Heels are a no-go. Europe is filled with cobblestone streets that make it nearly impossible to walk in heels. So, we suggest you leave those really cute stilettos at home. Wedges are your best bet. Don’t bring every pair you own, 2-3 will be more than enough. Sneakers are always essential because walking is the most popular mode of travel in Europe. Other shoes to consider are boots and/or booties, stylish sneakers, flats and sandals. Bring a cheap pair of flip-flops in case you will be using communal showers at any point abroad. Some hostels don’t provide towels so you may want to bring a shower and face towel.  

Accessories: What accessories you require will be dependent on where you plan to go. A rain jacket, sweaters and scarves, and a light winter coat may be necessary. Bring clothes that you can layer to conserve space. Use the carry-on bag you used on the plane to your abroad destination every weekend you travel.  Bring 2-3 small bags for nighttime and then a backpack for school.

Pro-tip: pack in vacuum seal bags so that you can fit more in your suitcase.


4. School Essentials

Don’t overdo it- a few pens and a notebook will get you through the first few days until you can find a school supplies store. Bring a notebook to journal in. You’re going to go through a lot of emotions and experience so much, and you’re going to want to remember and reflect upon those moments. 

5. The extras

Some miscellaneous things: umbrella, pillowcase for traveling (hostel pillowcases may not be your thing), little things to remind you of home (i.e. some pictures to put in your room), travel size toiletries for weekend traveling, ear plugs for snorers in hostels, and dry shampoo for when you’re in a rush.


Aside from these few tips, All Things Abroad can take the mystery and stress away from packing completely. Don’t be the one asking for toothpaste, and subscribe below (scroll down) to receive the All Things Abroad Ultimate Packing Guide.