Sunday, December 8, 2013

Study Abroad Packing List

This is the first post in my study abroad/Paris series! Feedback would be greatly appreciated. I spent two months in Europe, so this list encompasses temperatures from 40-85 degrees (Paris had a fickle Spring and Summer) and fits with European trends and standards, so it could easily work for France, England, Germany, Italy, etc. Colder places like Russia and warmer places like Spain could also easily fit with this list! If you're going somewhere like central or south America, or Australia, I would go with another plan entirely.

Since airlines are dumb and ridiculous, we're fitting everything you need for one to four months (laundry! yay!) in one checked bag and a carry-on. So, wear your heaviest boots, sweater and jeans on the plane, and carry around your thickest coat like you're going to wear it. Take your largest purse and cram items in it. I stuffed all of my jewelry and scarves in my purse. Buy the biggest suitcase and carry-on airports allow.

So, here we have less than fifty items to cram into your two bags and your purse. You might not need this much. This might sound impossible to you - a lot of it is personality based, so change what you need to change.

If you're into high fashion, follow trends and put uber-stylish items in your bag and rock them. If you've never strayed from your favorite mall store and Mary Kate and Ashley Olson's wardrobes are baffling to you, keep it simple. Dark colors and white. No big jewelry. Stick to leather, wool, cotton and other basic fabrics. The only patterns that should show up in your clothes are simple stripes, dots and tartan. Europeans can immediately spot Americans, and you'll enjoy the experience more if you can blend in.

I've organized my list into several categories, arranged in rows on the image above.

Outerwear. It's probably going to be cold where go you. If it isn't, ignore this section and bring one or two jackets. When we arrived in Paris, it was 45 degrees and raining. The last week, it was 85 degrees and I got sunburned in the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Start with one nice coat, like a trench or boyfriend coat. Bring a blazer for layering. Then, a biker jacket. Then, thick cardigan/jacket hybrids. If you're going somewhere rainy or snowy, bring a fur-lined parka and an umbrella.

Dresses/play-suits. Europe likes to dress up, but stick to dresses in plain colors that can easily transition from day to night, like shift dresses and t-shirt dresses, and don't bring more than two. Throw in a romper or play suit for a quick outfit, again, keep it monochrome.

Tops. Chose pieces that can easily layer. Two sweaters (black and cream), solid long and short sleeve tops in stripes or BWG (black, white or grey), a blouse or two, one loose black tank for going out tucked in a skirt or layering, and one plain sweatshirt that you wouldn't wear to the gym.

Bottoms. One or two pair of jeans to re-wear and wash, two or three pair of plain black leggings, one in leather look if you're feeling bold. One black skirt, a white skirt if it's summer, and a pair of black shorts. Wear tights with all your skirts and shorts unless it's really hot out. Pay attention if the locals are wearing tights or not and follow suite.

Shoes.  A pair of black booties is a must, as well as a comfy pair of flats and/or oxfords to walk in all day. If it's colder weather, bring tall black boots, and if there's lots of rain/snow, plain black rainboots like Hunters. Only one pair of high heels is really necessary, and a chic pair of sneakers is good if you're younger and know how to style them.

Accessories. Keep jewelry simple. One pair of stud earrings, one or two pendant necklaces, a good watch, and basic rings. Big jewelry is heavy and will up your bag's weight, so put jewelry in your purse.

Bring a big purse, either designer (anything from Longchamp to Mulberry to Givenchy) or without logos, and - big surprise here - black. Stuff a clutch inside of it for nighttime so you're not bringing a tote to the club.

Scarves are great all year, and beanies are a must if it'll be cold at all. A felt fedora is also really chic - wear it in the airport if you're bringing one or buy one abroad.

Don't forget other necessities, like socks, underwear, and sunglasses in your new favorite colors, black, white and grey. If you think you might need a swimsuit, pack one, but remember they're always $10 at H&M, and H&M is everywhere.

Time for toiletries. If you have ANYTHING you specifically need during an emergency, bring it. Take no chances. It's hard navigating pharmacies in non-English speaking countries and you don't want to get caught empty-handed.

  • Rule #1 is DO NOT bring your curling iron or straightener. European outlets are different and you're probably just going to burn your hair off. If you can't live with natural hair (which is de rigueur in Europe anyway), buy a Babyliss when you get abroad.
  • Shampoo. Go full-sized, buying it internationally might be a bad idea.
  • Dry shampoo will save your life. Embrace it.
  • Any sort of serum or anti-frizz control for that natural hair you're rocking.
  • Bobby pins and hair bands, because there will be topknot days.
  • A round brush for that perfect blowout, and a comb for wet hair. These can be purchased abroad.
  • Macadamia or Moroccan oil, for when you ignore me and inevitably burn off your hair.
  • Go for trial sizes and miniatures. If you're going to England, just go to Boots and buy everything. It's toiletry heaven.
  • One eyeshadow palette instead of multiple small colors.
  • Creamy blush and bronzer to avoid broken powder trays from over-jostled bags.
  • Tweezers and brow filler for bold eyebrows. Very European.
  • Waterproof eyeliner and mascara, perfect for train rides and getting petit dejeuner hungover.
  • Go for BB Cream instead of foundation in glass bottles or powder, because it has SPF 30 and the tube won't break.
  • Concealer. You're going to look more tired than usual.
  • Chapstick is always important. Go for the tinted kind if your lips are the same color as your face (and welcome to the club).
  • If you can't stand naked nails, go for mini versions of your favorite polish so you have more color choice.
  • Same goes for perfume. Rollerballs and trial sizes are your friend.
  • Yummy body wash. Full size.
  • Sunscreen, because being the color of a lobster is not chic. Bonus if it doubles as lotion, it'll free up room in your bag.
  • Razor. The one I bought in Normandy when I forgot mine for a weekend destroyed my legs.
  •, that is. You will have blisters, and you might fall down the stairs in the subway. When you do, European band-aids will let you down.
  • Tampons. Most of the world uses them sans applicator. Bring all that you'll need.
  • Ibuprofen. Trust me.
  • Birth control. In the immortal words of Golden Girl Blanche Devereaux, better safe than pregnant.
  • Tissues for the purse and random foreign allergies.
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Don't forget basics like your toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant.
We're almost done! Hang on!
If the worst case scenario, in which your checked luggage is lost or somewhere in Slovenia instead of England, becomes real life, you want to be prepared. Make sure you have in your carry-on:
  • A whole outfit. Top, pants, underwear, shoes. A scarf if it's cold.
  • Deodorant and a toothbrush and toothpaste to keep you fresh.
  • Your entire cosmetics bag.
  • All of your important medicine and contraceptives.
  • Dry shampoo, a hairbrush and hair ties.
  • Your phone and computer chargers to keep you mobile.
That's it! You're ready to fly! I plan on doing more of these study abroad posts, so let me know if you have any suggestions/questions for topics. Look out for the best (and worst) of Paris this week.


  1. Absolutely love this post Meredith! It's super helpful and I will definitely be looking back at this in the future :) xxx

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