22 December 2015


Every year, there are tons of questions online about how to pack for a year. I've been copying and pasting this list for about a year now, and most people seem pretty happy with it. I don't know why I've never published it here, but here it is!

A Very General Packing List.
Not everybody will need everything on the list.

-7-10 days worth of everyday clothing
-1 kinda-fancy outfit 
-1 outfit for exercise 
-2 things to sleep in
-1-2 sweatshirts/sweaters/light jackets (2-4 if going immediately to cooler weather) 
-7-10 pairs underwear
-3-4 bras
-7-10 pairs of socks
-1-2 Belts
-1 pair athletic shoes
-1 pair dressy shoes
-1 pair flip-flops/shower shoes
-1-2 pairs everyday shoes (if not covered above already)

-Travel size shampoo/conditioner
-Travel size toothpaste
-Travel size deodorant
-Travel size tissues
-Hair brush/comb
-Several headbands, pins, ties, etc. 
-Skin, hair, or cosmetic products that you can’t live without and can't buy abroad
-Other toiletry stuff you use regularly - razor, nail clippers, tweezers, etc.
-Tampons/pads/menstrual cup

::::Other Stuff::::
-Backpack or tote for school and short trips
-Camera (and charger)
-Memory cards
-USB drive/external hard drive
-Folding umbrella or rain jacket
-Host family gifts
-Any adaptors necessary for electronics
-Small dictionary 
-OTC meds that you use very regularly
-Prescription meds 
-Extra pair of glasses/contacts
-TSA-approved suitcase lock

::::Important Stuff::::
-1-2 other forms of ID (driver’s license, city/state ID, school ID, etc.)
-Debit/Travel card
-Cash (home and host currencies)
-Any paperwork/money you need for your visa (if not received already)

::::Very Optional::::
-Things related to hobbies (small musical instrument, sketchbook and pencils, cleats, etc.)
-Few small things to decorate your new room (photos, etc.)
-Little gifts (pencils, candy, magnets, etc.) for teachers/volunteers/friends
-Jewelry, scarves, etc. that you regularly use
-Camp/Travel towel
-1-2 books for plane (host language if possible)
-mp3/iPod (w/ charger, headphones)
-Travel sized hand sanitizer
-Wet wipes (for freshening up after long plane rides before you can shower/change)
-Water bottle 
-Flag from home country
-Credit card

::::Don’t Bring::::
-Hair dryer/straightener/curler
-School supplies

-You need to be able to carry all your luggage by yourself. Not roll, carry. You should also be able to get around the block with it twice (rolling is fine) somewhat comfortably. DO NOT go above the maximums that AFS specifies even if the airline has a larger allowance- you will likely have another flight, bus, or train ride in your host country with stricter requirements than your initial flight(s) and you may be using public transportation or riding in a small car to get to your host family’s home. You'll also have a lot more stuff on the way back! 
-Pack for 2-3 days in your carry-on in case your checked bag is delayed, and so you don’t have to tear through your big suitcase during orientations. 
-If you’re going somewhere with a cold winter but arriving in summer, consider buying your jacket, boots, etc. there or having them shipped over. If that's cost-prohibitive, cut down on the summer clothes and optional items and bring winter clothes. 
-If you’re going to a much colder climate than the one you’re from, plan to budget money for essentials like a coat and boots- what’s available to you locally probably won’t be warm enough. 
-If you’ll be wearing a school uniform, bring less clothing. 
-Bring clothes that you wear regularly, and that can be mixed and matched and layered. 
-Talk to your host family about computers. In many places, it’s very common for the family to share a computer. Don’t plan to bring your own unless it’s recommended by your host family or required by your host school. An external hard drive or USB drive can be used for documents, photos, music, etc. 
-Unless there are specific products that you absolutely cannot live without, don’t bring full-sized toiletries. Bring enough travel sized ones for the first 1-2 weeks, and buy new ones there. 
-Consider the availability of certain products where you’re going- availability of things like tampons, plus size clothing, large shoes, dark/light makeup, etc. may vary. Ask recent returnees or locals if there’s something you’re concerned about.
-Check the legality of any medication (prescription and OTC) that you plan to bring. Figure out how you’ll handle prescription meds well in advance. 
-Be mindful of how much stuff (especially electronics, name brand clothes, etc.) you bring. Your host family and/or classmates may be from a different socioeconomic background, and you don’t want to be perceived as spoiled or cause your hosts to feel self-conscious.
-Buy a cheap prepaid cell phone in your host country, or make sure that your phone is unlocked and has room for a foreign SIM card. Triple check that data is turned OFF for EVERYTHING. 
-Most banks can order foreign currency for a small fee with a couple weeks’ notice. I recommend ordering about $100-200 in your host currency to bring along, in case you want/need to buy anything in your first days. You may also want to bring along some cash in your home currency to use at the airport both before and after exchange. If you’ll have a layover in a third country, you may want to get a very small amount of cash in that country’s currency for buying snacks, drinks, etc. on your way, though most airport stores and restaurants will accept cards. 

-Get a debit card with a chip, and make sure that your bank is notified in advance about when you’ll be abroad and where you’ll be. Include countries where you have layovers. Do this a few weeks before you leave, and verify it a few days before you leave. 
-You'll need half the stuff and twice the money that you expect. If there's a question about whether or not you'll want something, leave it home. 
-Remember that this isn't a vacation, and people live where you are going. You don't need to bring every little thing that you may possibly need in the next year, because chances are, you can buy or borrow it where you're going. As long as you have a few changes of clothes, necessary medications, and some spending money, you'll survive. :) 

Current students and returnees, what do you think? Is there something I missed? Did I mention something that you've found totally useless? 

Happy planning and packing!