It's crazy to think that this time last year I was getting ready for my four month adventure in Prague. How has an entire year gone by already? I miss those four months abroad looking back there's so many things I would have done differently and one of those would be packing. Packing up a suitcase to move to a new country for a semester is no easy feat, and while I was able to bring everything I needed there and back in two suitcases (and my carry ons) I wish I had been a bit more simplistic with what I brought. There's some items I wish I could have brought back from abroad (like the most beautiful cookbook that was $5 euros in Paris) but I was unsure if i'd be able to make everything fit once the semester ended. There's plenty of items that we're definitely superfluous, and in reality if there was anything I forgot or realized I wanted I could have easily popped into an H&M or Zara to fill the need. This is what I wish I would have packed instead.
I know, only three, maybe four pairs of shoes! This was an area where I definitely brought too much and considering how heavy shoes often are, it's not worth the space or weight. Bring a pair of shoes that work for gross weather conditions, a cute pair of sneakers you can wear everyday but also for more adventurous activities, and a nicer pair of shoes that you can wear out, but that are still easy to wear everyday. I brought two pairs of sneakers, a pair of flats, heeled ankle boots, and my bean boots and only really wore one pair of sneakers and the bean boots. My running sneakers were hardly worn, my flats offered no support and weren't comfortable, and my heeled ankle boots wanted to break my damn ankles as I walked on the cobblestone streets.
I'm not a person who needs a large variety of pant options. I am a skinny jean girl through and through and am not really enticed by different prints or colors. I think I brought what I have listed plus another pair of shorts. It was too cold for majority of the semester so I could have easily left that pair of shorts at home. Black ponte pants are a godsend for traveling because they look very put together but still allow you to get comfortable on an eight-hour bus or a plane ride.
Figuring out how many tops to bring is quite tricky and I would recommend packing tops last and editing ruthlessly. I have no shame in wearing my favorite items over and over again and don't necessarily need a ton of variety. Layering is your best friend in this situation to keep things feeling fresh without packing too much. A nice tank top can be worn as is with jeans for a night out or can be paired under a cropped sweater. Sweaters can be easily put over a dress, a long sleeve can go under a dress depending on the fit, it might take a bit of creativity, but mix and match is the way to go when it comes to packing lightly. I did a 10x10 challenge before I went to Prague which has some great ideas for layering!
Outerwear is another beast because you have to be practical about the weather you're dealing with to know what to pack, and it's often big and bulky. Again layers are your best friend in this situation! My thinking was a jacket for the worst of the worst weather (something with a hood, waterproof, the whole shebang), a layer that's a bit nicer, but still warm, a mid-weight layer like a denim or utility jacket, and something that you can wear on it's own or with the other layers for additional warmth like a puffer vest or light weight puffer jacket.
Accessories are the best way to diversify your outfits without taking up much space. In terms of jewelry bring whatever you wear everyday and I'm sure you'll find plenty of affordable and fun pieces as you go through the semester to spice things up. I'm not much of a jewelry person, but I loved having little bandanas to add some color. While it's very American, I loved having my baseball cap with me for sunny days and as a little reminder of home. You'll need winter essentials, like a hat, gloves, and a scarf or two. In terms of bags I used my backpack and duffle as my carry on and for travel throughout the semester. My tote bag was also great for traveling since I was never gone for more than five days and I could use it in whatever city I was in for the day.
- A beanie
- A baseball cap
- 1-2 scarfs
- A backpack
- A tote bag with a closure
- A duffle bag
- plenty of socks and underwear
- makeup basics
- skincare products
- contacts or backup glasses
- small toiltries
- prescription medicine
- preferred medicines
- laptop charger
- external hard drive
- camera charger + batteries
- SD or CF cards for camera
- portable phone charger (with cords)
I know this post is quite a doozy, but hopefully it's helpful for anyone going abroad or on a long term trip. This list is geared towards Prague/Europe in the winter going into the spring. If you're going abroad for the summer going into fall then you will want to swap out some of the heavy winter items for more transitional items. And if you find your self abroad for the summer, then you can use this post as a reference in terms of how many items to pack. I'd love to answer any questions about studying abroad, and feel free to check out some more of the posts I made about my time in Europe.