What you should bring depends greatly on where you are going and what you plan to do there. For example, while the French reserve flip-flops exclusively for the beach, in Bali, they are considered appropriate business attire. You should consult your program’s materials and talk to alumni of your program for additional packing suggestions.
- Do make sure your luggage has a tag with your name and a way to contact you.
- Do keep important documents and all medications and prescriptions in your carry on baggage. Bring an extra set of clothes and essential toiletries in your carry-on in case of lost luggage.
- Do review your airlines baggage policies carefully to avoid fees for additional or overweight luggage.
- Don't take more than you can comfortably carry by yourself at one time!
Important Items and Your Carry-on
Keep your important documents and belongings in your carry-on, including the following:
- Passport (with visa, if applicable)
- Credit/Debit Cards
- Plane tickets or copy of your itinerary (or have these downloaded and accessible without wifi)
- Health Documentation
- Medications and prescriptions (review the Taking Medications Abroad webpage for more information)
You will also want to keep track of these items the entire time you are abroad. Keep them in a safe space and carefully consider whether you need to keep them on you when you're exploring your host city.
Additional tips to protect your belongings:
- Have photos of your important documents, as they may come in handy if you were to lose anything.
- Save your program, host country, and personal emergency contact information in your phone.
- Organize your funds into two separate packets, each with a credit card and currency. When in your host country, one of these packets should be left at your accommodations.
- Do not pack more than you can carry, and never let your bags out of your sight. Purchase and use a lock for your luggage. Keep your purse in your lap in public, always have a hand or foot in a loop or strap of your luggage when you set it down, and if you need to sleep on public transportation, use your pack as a pillow.
- Be aware of pickpockets and, as a general precaution, do not carry your money or passport in an easily accessible place. Pickpockets often mingle widely in tourist crowds, including but not limited to airports, train stations, travel agencies, and museums, so be extra vigilant in touristy areas.
- A concealed money belt or neck pouch is a good idea in some areas, but showing that you have one can make you a target.
- Don’t bring anything you can’t afford to lose. This includes items of sentimental value such as family jewelry or heirlooms.
ClothingBefore beginning to pack your clothing, research what clothing is culturally appropriate, what types of activities (in and out of the classroom) you'll be participating in, and what the weather is like in your host country. It is always good to pack an interchangeable wardrobe of easy washables in dark colors and neutrals. Dark colors tend not to show dirt as easily!
Prepare to layer. Even if you will be in a location with a hot climate, pack a few warm items. Think about how cold summer nights can be in Colorado! Also consider your living situation; many countries may have fewer insulated buildings than you're used to and therefore you may be colder (or warmer) than expected.
When packing, rolling, not folding, your clothing is more space efficient and prevents wrinkles.
Pack early to ensure that you can carry everything you plan on bringing.
Toiletries take up a lot of space and weight in your luggage. You will be able to purchase most essential toiletries in your host country; however, the brand or type of products may differ from what you're used to. If you have a brand or product you prefer, then you may want to consider bringing these with you. This could include specific contact lenses solution, skincare/makeup, or over-the-counter medication.
If applicable, you may also want to bring menstrual hygiene items, such as tampons or sanitary pads. In some places, these can often be harder to find, may be more expensive, and/or may be different from what you are used to in the U.S. Tampons with an applicator are more difficult to find abroad, even in many European countries.
Consider the upkeep of your hair abroad. This will vary based on your type of hair, where you will be, and how long you will be abroad. For those of you with natural hair, this article Managing Black Hair Abroad has tips and considerations you may find useful.
Packing ListThere are also a number of useful online packing lists:
- Rick Steves’ Europe offers a Packing List for Europe.
- JourneyWoman provides country-specific clothing suggestions for women.
- Refer to the CDC's Pack Smart Packing List for a list of health-related items to consider packing for your trip. Talk to your doctor about which items are most important for your specific location(s) (insect repellant, diarrhea medication, etc.)
Know the baggage policies and weight limits for your airline. All airlines have guidelines on the weight and size of baggage allowed. Generally, suitcases should not weigh more than 55 lbs. You will be charged a fee (often an expensive one) if your baggage exceeds your airline’s limit. Many international flights allow one free checked bag, but many airlines will charge for a second one.
If you plan to take your own bike, skis, or other large items, be prepared to pay an oversize luggage charge. You may want to insure these items if they are of high value.
Make sure your luggage has your name and address clearly marked. Consider bringing an extra set of clothes in your carry-on in case of lost luggage.
If you are receiving a package abroad, be aware that any item mailed to you is subject to VAT or an import tax, even if it is not new. This tax can often be 30-90% of the value on top of shipping charges paid.
The least expensive way to ship baggage is by surface mail through the U.S. Postal Service, but this can take 6-10 weeks.
Prescription medications should always be carried with you and never shipped! Review the Taking Medications Abroad webpage for further information.
Disclaimer: The following is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement by the University of Colorado Boulder or Education Abroad. CU Boulder Education Abroad is not an agent for these organizations.
Last Updated January 2023
Photo, Israel by Laura Vogel