4-1: Packing

by Jon SenderBack to Guide

Beginning of Part 4, tasks to complete in the days before your trip

Packing can be fairly obnoxious, but if you do it well, you’ll be able to keep your airline check-in costs to a minimum and get around easily when landing. You definitely don’t want to have to drag extra baggage around by yourself. I recommend packing light, which includes only: one large rolling duffel, one backpack, and one carry on (optional). I managed to shove six months of essentials into only a duffel and a backpack, and I am by no means a minimalist. In other words, you can do it.

Plan on bringing enough clothes for only 8-9 days in each season, leaving you items to wear when you do laundry once each week. You may allow yourself extra underwear, socks, and undershirts, but that’s it! Bring a jacket, walking shoes, flip flops, sandals, and a pair of boots if there will be lots of rain of snow. Check the weather trends, which will tell you whether or not you’ll need a winter coat, hat, and gloves. Also research how formal or casual your country is, because this means certain items may or may not be necessary. Israel is incredible informal—you can wear jeans a dress shirt to a wedding! This means there was no need to bring a suit, tie, or even dress shoes. See what I mean? But don’t forget that if you end up missing something trivial, people live where you’re going, so you can always go to a store and buy it.

Make a packing list, and ensure that the only items in your bag are found on that list. This will help you with repacking later, because it will help you tell the difference between belongings you originally came with and things you acquired afterwards. As a sample, here’s my packing list (written in both English and Hebrew).

Plan to buy toiletries, room supplies, and even bedding after arriving, because these would be a waste of weight and volume in your bag. For an example, here’s my shopping list of what I expected to buy (again in English and Hebrew). However, you may want take something like your particular brand of hair gel or sunblock. If you hung any decorations in your room like your fraternity or sorority flag, take them as they will make your new room feel more like home.

You can group related accessories by placing them in Ziplock bags, and you can try different packing techniques such as rolling your clothes. All that matters is that you strive not to exceed 50 pounds with the duffel bag, which you can test if you have a scale at home. Should you exceed that, be prepared to pay at least $100 extra at the check-in counter. Airports aren’t known for measuring bags to check size regulations, but if they do for any reason and your bag doesn’t meet them, you could be charged $500 extra or more. As for your carry-on and backpack, anticipate that they will not be weighed. What’s most important is that they are not too heavy for you to lift or drag around.

Ensure that each piece of luggage your bring has its own luggage tag. Going there, it might be a good idea to write the contact info of your abroad university. Coming back, you can flip over the piece of paper and write your home contact info.

Do something to make your checked luggage bag stand out, if the bag isn’t a bright color. Tie a piece of twine to the handle, put a sticker on it…really just do anything that will help you easily identify it on a baggage carousel.

Finally, take pictures of your suitcase fully packed, and also of its contents all laid out. Should anything happen to your luggage, you want to know how to describe the bag and properly claim the items inside of it. But even if something does happen, it’ll be okay because you bought the travel insurance we talked about, right?

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