A College Girl’s Guide: Packing for Study Abroad

It’s crazy to believe that a year ago this week, I was spending the weekend in Brussels and Amsterdam before the last week of my London study abroad program! I spent 6 weeks total in London, but I ended up traveling to 4 other countries + Scotland during our 3-day weekends. Today I’m sharing my tips + tricks for packing for study abroad, for both long-haul trips and little 3-day weekend trips!

Today I'm sharing my tips + tricks for packing for study abroad, for both long-haul trips and little 3-day weekend trips!

So of course, your suitcase will look a little different than mine depending on a few factors, including how long you’re going to be traveling. Although I only went abroad for 6 weeks, these tips will hold for any of y’all going on semester-long programs! You might elect to bring another suitcase, but the same general rules will apply.

I also went to London in the summer, which has pretty mild weather (chilly in the mornings / evenings, but definitely warm in afternoons!). If you’re traveling in the winter, don’t forget to throw a good neutral-colored coat, scarves, and boots in your bag as well! Most of the pieces that I wore could be easily layered with a sweater and boots to make it fall / winter appropriate!

Packing For Study Abroad: The Basics

Pick A Color Scheme

I know it can be hard to leave all of your fun, bright clothes at home, but it will save you so much space in your suitcase if everything matches! I find that it’s easiest to match neutral colors, with a little pop of color thrown in from different accessories. For my trip to Europe, most of my clothes were black, white, and denim, and my more “colorful” items were an army green jacket, plaid flannel, and “millennial pink” (is that what we’re calling it now) cross-body bag.

A neutral color scheme makes it super easy to mix-and-match, so you can pack less and bring back more goodies! Here’s two of my favorite travel outfits from the trip – the first photo is from Enniskerry, County Wicklow, Ireland, and the second photo is from King Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Pack for Study Abroad - Dublin Ireland

Pack For Study Abroad - Edinburgh Scotland

Versatile, Inexpensive Pieces

Before my trip, I hit up Old Navy and Forever 21 for some great basic items, like cotton dresses for hot days and graphic tees that worked well under jackets and chambray shirts! You never know what’s going to happen while traveling, so I didn’t feel bad if any of these pieces got a stain on them or I accidentally left them at a hostel. Most of the pieces made it back home for me to incorporate into my regular wardrobe!

You WILL Re-Wear Stuff

You cannot (I repeat – CANNOT) pack your entire closet into a suitcase. It just won’t work.

And even if you could, who wants to lug all of that stuff around when you travel? Airports always seem a little bit bigger than you remembered when you have 50 pounds of shoes and jeans to lug around.

While you’re packing, convince yourself that you WILL re-wear pieces during your trip. So yes, Gossip Girl will catch you wearing the same outfit twice in your vacation photos. You’ll be okay! 

When you look back on your travel photos, you won’t even think twice about what you were wearing. It’s all about the memories!

Packing For Study Abroad: The Accessories

Scarves are a Girl’s Best Friend

Scarves are the easiest way to jazz up your outfits without adding bulk to your suitcase! I love my leopard-print infinity scarf (pictured above) from Nordstrom, because it went with my black + white + olive color scheme perfectly.

Large scarves can also act as a great cover-up. A lot of churches and holy places in Europe won’t let you in unless your shoulders and thighs are covered, but sometimes it’s just too hot to wear full-length pants or a shirt with sleeves. Throw a scarf in your bag and voila! Instant cover-up with no added weight for you carry around.

Stay Away From Flashy Jewelry

Safety is obviously a huge concern when traveling, so I would stay away from brining flashy jewelry on your travels. I love statement necklaces as much as the next girl, but it screams “tourist” and can make you a target for pickpocketing + scammers. I wore a small gold bar necklace from BaubleBar, but that was about it for the whole trip. Like I said above, scarves all the way!

Buy Accessories When You Get There

If you are looking to incorporate some jewelry into your travel wardrobe, why not pick some up while you’re there? Little artisanal boutiques and markets always have great jewelry finds, and you’ll be supporting the local people while you’re at it! You can also grab some great lightweight scarves and hats at these types of places too.

Packing For Study Abroad: How Will It All Fit??

Roll Roll Roll

I didn’t believe this “packing hack” when I first read it, but IT SAVES SO MUCH SPACE! Instead of folding your clothes into a neat little square and stacking them up on each other, try rolling them instead! It creates less wrinkles and you’ll actually be able to fit way more in your suitcase than you think.

Stop Packing “Just in Case” Clothes

I’m 100% guilty of having a pile of extra “just in case clothes” that usually gets crammed into my suitcase last minute. My best advice for you? DON’T PACK THIS PILE OF CLOTHES. Sure, have an extra shirt and some extra underwear.

But I promise that you won’t wear much from your “just in case” pile of clothes, and you’ll just be hauling around extra bulk that could be used for goodies when you get there. But what if I need black jeans? What if I want to wear white and I’m all out of white shirts?

Other Places in the World Have Stores(!)

I know it’s hard to believe, but other countries in the world do have shops! They might not be your average American mega-mall, but trust me, there will be stores everywhere.

So leave that “just in case” clothes pile at home, and if you find that you really really really need something, just buy it when you get there! It’ll save you a ton of space, plus you’ll have a cool top or accessory from your trip to wear when you get back!

Same goes for packing heavy toiletries! Pack some travel-sized ones for a short trip, or for a longer trip just buy shampoo and hairspray over there!

So those are my tips & tricks for packing for study abroad! Don’t focus too much on the outfits; it’s all about your experiences and growth as a traveler! You CAN fit everything into one or two suitcases, trust me 🙂 Any more packing for study abroad tips I missed? Going somewhere abroad this year? Drop me a comment down below!