Those of you who know me, will no doubt vouch for the fact that I am probably the worst packer ever. To give you an idea of my downfall, on my first Bronze Duke of Edinburgh expedition (which I should point out was a mere two days and one night), my rucksack included (no exaggeration) five (potentially six) apples (red and green, naturally), a bag (yes, I said a bag..) of satsuma oranges, endless amounts of medical supplies, and a pack of ten batteries for my digital camera, in which I was obviously planning to take hundreds of photos with, and well, I took three. All in all my bag weighed just over three stone, so when it came to packing for my year abroad, I wasn’t quite sure where to begin!
Finding my suitcases out the cellar.. good start!
I made it clear from day one of my packing that I had to be ruthless with what I was taking abroad with me, especially because of the potential charges for going over the limit on baggage weight at the airport. (Which, I’m not going to lie, I have come scarily close to before now!)
I have made a list of a few things that I found useful when packing.
Make a list: First thing to do when packing I believe is to make a fully comprehensive list of everything you think you need to take! A good idea to make sure you don’t miss anything is to search online for a holiday packing list. This might sound like a strange thing to do, but depending on where you are going on a year abroad, you are potentially going to need some of these bits and bobs. Whether that’s sun lotion, insect repellent or thermal pajamas, I think it’s best to be prepared! This holiday checklist from travelsupermarket.com is what I used – http://www.travelsupermarket.com/shared/img/content/packinglist.pdf.
Check the weather: As I’m off to Austria, I know that I am going to (fingers crossed) going to get the last of the summer sun, however when it gets cold, it is going to get seriously cold! So in the space of a few months I could be going from sun to snow, which means I need to pack for both scenarios! Also in preparation for when you land at your year abroad destination, it might be a good idea to check out the weather for that day specifically, especially if you have to walk a while to get to your accommodation, that won’t be too fun if you don’t pack a raincoat within easy reach, if need be. Though as you can see this isn’t something I am too concerned about for arriving next week…
Roll your clothes: This (again) might sound like a bit of a strange idea, but trust me, this method saves an incredible amount of space. You can do this with your t-shirts, leggings, jeans, tops, basically anything. It’s something I had never tried before but it works really well. Of course this is something you can apply to anything really, so why not roll up your bed sheets or bath towels, and save a bit of space.
Invest in some vacuum bags: This may apply especially if you plan on taking your duvet with you abroad, but will definitely be useful for clothes, big woolly jumpers, your favorite dressing gown, bath towels, bed sheets or blankets. Trust me if you are taking any of these things then vacuum bags will be miracle workers! They are clear thick plastic bags with a seal along one side and a hole in to vacuum the air out of. They are really simple to use and they can shrink even a whole duvet down to half it’s size, just by taking the air out of it! As you can see in the picture below, what otherwise would be quite a bulky duvet set, it is reduced to a much more convenient size. I brought a new duvet that was a bit lighter than my normal one, and the set included a pillow too. It was really cheap from the Pound-stretcher shop, and it will just be ideal for me when I first get there, as when I arrive on the evening, my first priority is not going to be hunting round Graz for a duvet. I will definitely be packing all my clothes and bed sheets in these bags; they ensure that you can make the most of the space in your suitcase, just keep a check on your case weight as you go along!
Buy a luggage scale: Again I know this is something you will have to buy, but it is something that potentially could save you a lot of money and hassle if you get to the airport and your case is overweight. Luggage scales are a lot easier to use instead of conventional scales as they are a lot easier to use and will be more accurate. I had a cheap one from a pound shop, but I had to pay a bit more to get another one, as the cheap one only went up to 20kg in weight, and I need one that goes to 40kg to check my bag I am sending abroad. I got mine from Argos and it cost me £13.99, which I think is a reasonable price to pay, in order to make sure that you aren’t risking the charges. 🙂
Take a little something from home: So I know space is always going to be a bit limited with extra bits that you want to take, but there is always room for a little something to remind you of home. The same applies for when you are going to university in the first place, but even more so going abroad, it will be nice to have something familiar and homely just to help you settle in. In my case I decided to find something that would remind me of home, but something also that would be useful when I’m away. As I live in quite a touristy place there tends to be a lot of things in the shops with ‘Wales’ and such plastered on it. So just like a tourist I popped round the little gift shops at the seaside to see what I could find! I settled on a useful lanyard for my keys or camera etc, and then also a cute little calendar with pictures of my local area, which I just thought was the perfect way to remind me of home! I know a lot of people aren’t going to live in areas that you can get calendars but I am sure taking your favorite poster, photo locket, or even something like a photo printed on a mug or photo calendar, would do the job just as well.
Be realistic: At the end of the day I think that the most important thing to remember is that there will be shops wherever you go or in the near area, so if you do happen to forget something, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue! Clothes wise I guess it can be awkward as you may need to be prepared for all different weather conditions, but remember that you are likely to buy clothes or other bits and bobs whilst you are out there. So ask yourself when you are packing, ‘do I really need five handbags, three coats and seven matching tops in a variety of different colours!?’.. probably not.
I hope that these few pointers are helpful and I may have a few more tips once I am there and when I perhaps realise what was and what wasn’t a good idea to take along with me!
3 days to go! Aaaaahhhhh! 😀