I'll say it, packing is hard. It doesn't matter if you are traveling for three days, a week, a month, or a semester, it never gets any easier. It is stressful, there is a lot of deciding involved, and then there is the 50 lb weight limit that you have to take into account as well. For me, packing for one month in a suitcase and duffle bag required a lot of planning. It meant I had to create a plan, choose between items, and repack more than once. So to make your packing lives just a little bit easier, here are 12 semi-out-of-the-ordinary items that I didn't initially think about packing, but am glad I did.
1. A travel fan
Going to Italy during the summertime means two things: it is hot and there is probably not air conditioning where you are living. This fan was a suggested add on to my suitcase, and I figured it would be a good addition. My first night it was actually chilly. So I traded in the fan for an extra blanket and thought that this purchase would remain in my suitcase for the rest of my excursion. Well, this cold air did not last long. Living in a dorm with no AC in the heat of summer means sweating. All the time. And one of the worst feelings is waking up from sleep sweaty. This fan ended up being the perfect amount of cool air I needed to keep me sleeping through the night soundly, and while a good quality fan can be upwards of $40-$50, it was definitely worth the purchase.
2. A reusable water bottle
Your body and your wallet will thank you. Europe is full of walking and full of hills. Combining this with a piercing summer sun, and water becomes a necessity. However, I know that you would rather be spending your currency on food, souvenirs, and travel expenses than on tons of water bottles. Luckily, if you have a grocery store near you, they will most likely sell very large water bottles for a very low price, which you can then continuously poor into your reusable bottle to save the planet and save a buck or two. And if all else fails, fill it in the sink (as long as this is a healthy alternative).
3. Selective Outerwear i.e. ONE sweatshirt, ONE everyday jacket, and a raincoat
An excessive amount of outerwear takes up a great deal of space in your suitcase, therefore keeping it simple prevents overpacking and makes deciding what to wear easy! I found I didn't need more than one sweatshirt, so I brought the one I wear most frequently. Of the few times I needed to wear it, I was comfortable and content. Same scenario with the outerwear jacket. I also brought my oversized jean jacket, because I knew that this was an item that not only would go with everything but also was able to be dressed up or dressed down. Whether I wore it with a dress and sandals, or shorts and sneakers, this jacket was a cute fashion item that I could just throw on and go. And furthermore, if you don't travel with a rain jacket or at least an umbrella, you should.
4. Multiple types of adapters
Not only did I bring single outlet adapters, but I also brought a universal cube with three-prong outlet spots as well as USB ports. Both of these items together were perfect and gave me just enough options to charge all of my electronics at once. The single outlet adapter was great for charging my phone by my bed, as well as plugging the universal cube into the power strip that was in our dorm room (a power strip is also a great option so you have one place to plug everything in). The cube adapter was AMAZING. Especially since I was frequently charging my laptop, camera battery, and portable charger all at one time to prepare to go out on interviews, this item charged everything quickly and easily.
5. Portable charger
This was a must. With all of the traveling we did throughout the day, there wasn't always a lot of time to go back to the dorms to charge our devices or find an outlet to do so. And having a phone that is a little bit older, it did not take long for my battery to drain. This portable charger saved me, whether I was spending hours at an interview and needed to use my phone to record for a transcription, or I was about to take an 8-hour flight on an airplane that was not equipped with outlets. I definitely saw the perks of a portable charger on this trip and I would highly recommend purchasing one.
6. Towel wrap
This was an item that was initially in my suitcase that I removed in order to lighten the load. However, I wish I had brought it. If you don't know what a towel wrap is it is basically a towel that you can wrap around yourself that velcros to stay up. It is something I used every day in my freshman dorm when traveling from the bathroom back to my dorm room, and since we lived in dorms on this study abroad trip as well, it is definitely an item that I missed using.
7. Shower shoes
Throwing it back to dorm life again, when you share a shower with at least 12 other individuals (and who knows how many before that), bringing shower shoes provides a sense of comfort and cleanliness.
If you're a pale girl like me, then sunscreen is always a must. And with 3 spontaneous beach trips on this study abroad, I would much rather bring my own sunscreen then pay 20 euros for a tiny tube of it at the pharmacy.
9. Basic/neutral clothing, but still items that you enjoy wearing
This was a new concept for me that I attempted on this trip, and I actually really enjoyed what I brought. By bringing simple, relatively neutral items, such as plain jeans and solid or two colored items, I was able to mix and match most of my items and change up my outfits frequently, as well as transition my outfits from day-to-day wear to nightlife relatively easily.
However, make sure that this concept doesn't stop you from packing things you enjoy wearing. If this easy packing hack means you're packing all of your least favorite items, then it isn't worth it. This concept worked for me and allowed me to pack less, but I still enjoy my options. If it doesn't work for you then pack all of your patterns and your crazy colors! You want to make sure you are comfortable and confident in what you are wearing because that will make your trip even better.
10. Mosquito screen
This was an idea that was suggested to us by past study abroad students, and while my roommate and I packed one that we ended up not needing, I found it to be a good suggestion for future explorers! You can purchase these at Lowes or Home Depot for around $13, and it's just basic mosquito netting to keep those pesky skeeters out of your room. Just don't forget blue painters tape to hang it up!
11. A handheld scale to weigh your suitcase
It is inexpensive, doesn't add weight in your suitcase, and makes sure that you won't have to pay extra for a bag that is too heavy after you pack all of your souvenirs. This definitely came in handy and I know my floor-mates appreciated using it as well.
12. Space in your suitcase to bring things home
This is another must. You can try to convince yourself that you won't really come home with any souvenirs, but trust me, you absolutely will. So in order to avoid having to purchase a second item of luggage or risk having a bag over the 50 lb limit, plan accordingly. It is better to have too much space than too little, so if you have to stuff an extra duffle in your suitcase in anticipation for souvenirs, or if you selectively leave room in your suitcase itself, you will thank yourself later.
And there you have it! 12 items that you would not think to pack but hopefully will help you in the long run. I know that these items were worth the necessary purchases, and they definitely made my living abroad experience a little bit easier. Happy packing future study abroad students, and enjoy the trip of a lifetime!