No matter how many times I go abroad, the night before the flight is always the most nerve racking to me. I usually begin packing a couple of days before I leave and then go back and double check my packing list to give myself time to repack forgotten items. Inevitably, I always forget something no matter how many lists I make or times I repack. The reason I think this is the most anxious and sometimes exciting moment for me is that packing is where great trips are made or broken. We have all been on that trip and forgotten that one thing we cant live without. In most cases you can live without whatever it may be for the weekend, but when you go abroad for large periods of time its one more thing that your forced to waste your traveling money on. Thats why, to a large extent, what you pack or dont pack directly affects what type of experience you are able to have abroad. For example one of my good friends went to New Zealand (NZ) and took his snow skis, Golf clubs and lacrosse gear. He paid a pretty penny to have them travel on the airplane with them and spent a lot of energy lugging them around till he got to his accommodation in Auckland City. Auckland city is located on the north part of the North Island of NZ where there is never any snow or any place to Ski. Every golf course is considerable driving distance that is not accessible by public transport. You can begin to see how packing these extraneous things that he had a hard time putting to use became a waste of time and energy, not to mention all the precious room it took up in his small bedroom at the University of Auckland Accommodation. On the flip side, he completely neglected to bring all of his camping gear which could have been put to excellent use in NZ. Its packing discisions like that, big or small, that can have a great negative or positive impact on your time spent traveling abroad and when your studing abroad the repercussions of such descisions are only magnified because they are not easily or cheaply rectified. Thats why I have a list of genneral rules I follow when packing for any trip.
1. Know what you need for your location. From my above example you can see why this is important.
2.Know the amount of space you have. Look, all university accommodations are small everywhere. Its a necessary evil of life thats why when your stuck in the same room for months on end you want to make sure you pack exactly what you need and not a thing more. Over packing can be just as detrimental to you trip as under packing.
3.Make a list. Its always good to be organized and making a list that you can see and mull over a week or so before you leave forces you to stay accountable for your trip. Its also useful if you have someone helping you pack and you dont want to have to think about what you need to tell them to put in your suitcase everytime you can simply look at your list and know that you need X shirts, . This saves a lot of dilibiration and consequently valuable time you could be using getting to the airport or sleeping the night before.
4. Have someone else double check your packing against your list. We are all human and people are forgetful. That is why regardless of how good you think your memory is always have somone else open up your suitcase and go over your list with you to make sure you didnt forget to pack something you thought you packed.
5.Make sure your organized, but keep it flexible. You are never going to remember everything on your list 100% of the time and you are also never going to know everything you need the night before you leave. For this reason I always remind myself that traveling is nothing if not an exorcise in personal flexibility. When you start packing and your running out of room its ok to pack three pairs of jeans instead of four even though three is on your packing list. Just write down the amendment so you know exactly whats in your luggage and move on. Dont freak out and add two more suitcases just because you have written down that you need 8 pairs of shoes. Over packing will do nothing but create a lot more unnecessary hassle and stress than leaving the items behind would have.
6.Know what you can and cannot buy abroad and pack accordingly. There are alot of things that we are used to packing. Things like toiletries and books are great for a weekend trip to the beach, but not so much for long stents abroad. toiletries will rarely make it through security and if you have them in your checked luggage you can expect a mess later. Thats why i never pack them. When i go abroad. I wont be showering on the plane, and Ill need to go to the store as soon as I get there any way so why waste prescious packing space on them anyway? Even things like Iphone chargers your going to need an adapter to use, so just buy one abroad with a local plug. It will save you time, space, and the hassle of having to carry adapters with you everywhere you go.
These are the rules I have come to learn are essential in packing for long trips abroad and they have helped me so far. If NZ helps me think of any new ones ill be sure to list them, but for now i better start putting my rules into action before I miss my flight to NZ!!!