When you travel overseas, you must take THIS

Updated May 24 2016
Day 157
Photo by pasukau76. Used under Creative Commons license.
Soon I am heading off on a four-month research trip to Italy. I need advice about how to pack up my whole life into two suitcases! My planning-every-detail brain is near imploding.

Two things are on my mind.

  1. I need a good capsule wardrobe, appropriate for six months of Italian weather.
  2. What single item would you not be without when in a foreign country alone for ages?

-Katy

After you've packed your testicles-spectacles-wallet-and-watch-type stuff, what's an unforgettable MUST TAKE OVERSEAS item for you?

  1. Uhm, as far as I know, you can buy most stuff in Italy. Don't forget your papers. And look up cheap ways of communication. Oh, and you need a dictionary. ^^

  2. Have you ever traveled to Italy before? I studied there for 5 months (January to May). It was chilly, but not cold in the beginning of my time. Of course, I live in Illinois and was going to school in Minnesota. The main thing I noticed about clothes while there is that they are very fashion forward. My landlady fixed my dryer in a pair of Armani jeans. Other than clothes, I would pack a camera for the visual memories, and a journal for the spiritual memories.

    • "I would pack a camera for the visual memories, and a journal for the spiritual memories."

      What a lovely way of putting this, thanks! I've been debating over whether to keep a journal, and I think you've swayed me.

      • If you aren't someone who is good at keeping a journal (I'm not), before your trip create a form that you can fill in every day/week that has questions to prompt you. Like – today I ate at, or today I saw…The best part of the day was. I've done this for trips and I have found it helps a lot.

  3. I spent a school year studying abroad in the UK. I wish I had packed less clothes like shirts and jeans (especially t-shirts. I had far too many t-shirts!)and more socks and underwear. For me, laundry was expensive so I would rewear my external clothing but underwear and socks became my limiting factors. The thing I was really glad I had packed, and your mileage may vary on this, was a few boxes of my own brand of tampons. Not that they don't have them overseas, probably, but when so much else in your life is different from home it's nice to have something familiar. And, they're consumable, so it leaves more room in your suitcase when you return!

    • Thanks for this perspective – I will try to remember enough socks! Also agree on the tampons… there is serious brand loyalty here, for me anyway.

  4. I always pack a black maxi dress. They can be dressed up or down easily, are so comfortable, good in warm weather and, with a pair of leggings, cold weather.

    • A "multiple socket adaptor" ( I have no idea how to say that in English, but I hope you get the idea) so you can charge your phone/camera/laptop using just one outlet and just one international adaptor.

      • Totally agree on the adapter – but I'd recommend bringing at least 2. They can be a bit heavy, but it's worth it to be able to charge your cell phone and your camera battery at the same time instead of having to create a "charging/electrical use schedule" for all your electronics.

        If you're going to be there for a while, or travel overseas a lot, look into getting European chargers for your phone or laptop so you can cut out the adapter entirely for those items. For instance, Apple makes a an adapter set for their laptop power cord that interchanges easily with various countries' plugs.

      • The adapter was what I was going to recommend, but keep in mind they don't always convert the voltages properly. Attempting to charge my phone in France completely killed it (but my camcorder charged just fine). So if you have a bunch of pictures and stuff be sure to back them up – just in case.

        • I second having two adapters and also be prepared for your electronics to fail! My iphone got fried on a train from Amsterdam to Austria, and it was out of commission until I could plug it into a computer a few days later in Italy.

          • Same for other electric stuff, too. I fried my hairdryer in Europe because even on the low setting, it got much hotter than it should have. You might just want to buy on cheaper Italian one.

        • anything with a converter box (camera battery charger, real non-mini phone charger, laptop cable, etc.) should be fine plugged straight into the a socket converter

        • Adding to the adapter issues…I was studying in London for a few weeks and brought my US flat iron and an adapter I got at the local walmart. The first time I tried to use it in London, I walked away for a second and came back to a flat iron that was smoking and then on fire! My roommate for the trip bought a real UK flat iron at a local beauty store for cheap, so I recommend doing that with those types of things. Also, good walking shoes are a must. People in Europe walk a lot more than here in the US (I miss that soooo much), and my already-worn-out sneakers did not give me enough support on the cobblestone sidewalks. I bought an awesome pair of boots there with heels to give me some arch support and they saved my butt. If you bring dress heels, make sure they're supportive and the actual heels are thick…my dainty kitten heels got caught between cobblestones and it took two male classmates to rescue them. Last thing: bring ONE good coat that you can layer for all types of weather, preferably one that's nice looking. I brought 2, a nice wool one and a long rain coat (and rain boots I never used), and had to take one out of my suitcase to not be over weight (coats are heavy!). My wool one looks nicer and is very versatile, so I never even wore my raincoat. I think those were my biggest lessons-learned.

  5. I HIGHLY recommend cutting it down to just one suitcase and a backpack, rather than two suitcases. There is nothing worse than running to catch your train while trying to corral two unruly rollers. Only bring enough toiletries to last a week or so, and then just buy them when you're settled in. Look into getting a diva cup. Bring a pair of running shoes. Even if you're not a runner now, physical activity might be just what you need to 'get away' when you're feeling overwhelmed. Consider packing only high-quality, versatile items like what you might find from Patagonia or Smartwool; you can get away with packing a lot less if your wardrobe can be dressed up or down, and can be worn more than once without washing. I don't recommend jeans, because they take forever to dry (you will most likely line-dry your clothes), and are too casual. Go nuts with dresses, they are an entire outfit in one small package. Add tights for cold days, flats for warm days.

    • Good point about toiletries, but some things are not available in every country: it's very difficult to find good conditioner in many countries (including the countries of Central America, India and Turkey) for example…or any conditioner at all. Tampons are another problem.

      All other toiletries can be purchased abroad I've found.

      • I know in Italy you can get most of the same brands you find in the US, so it's important to check the availability where you're going. If you can get it there, it's better to save valuable suitcase space.

        When I was in Italy the only thing I had a really hard time finding were USB drives and other computer accessories. I finally had my parents mail one to me. They're readily available in electronics stores there, but most of those are outside the city walls and I didn't have a good way to get to one.

      • I don't have Italy-specific experience, but I have found that it is always useful to get specific info about what toiletries will be available from someone who shares your cultural perspective (and possibly racial identity)… For example, I have traveled to places where sunscreen above SPF 10 was totally unavailable even though the climate was very hot, so if you need any particular type of skin/hair care products, it would be useful to bring those with you. Depending on where you are traveling, the locally-available products might be ones that you are not comfortable using for ethical/health reasons as well. (I am thinking of my own travel experiences where virtually all lotions and face washes I could find contained "skin whitening" agents.)

    • Another reason to have fewer suitcases is in case you want to travel after your four months and dont have a place to keep your stuff. I had a friend on exchange whose family came to travel with her, and they had issues because their rental car was way too small for all their luggage.
      However, if you know you're coming back right away, two suitcases isn't terrible for one trip to your apartment and back. It might be worth it to cab, if it means having extra comforts for your apartment.

    • Lol. I'm not much of a peanut-butter eater, but I am seriously considering taking a box of tea bags. Is that weird? When I've been in Italy before, I've found their tea horrible, and it's just such a comforting thing for me.

      Don't try to take the English away from their tea…

      • Oh wait, are you English?
        The English things I missed when living in France were cheddar, ribena and marmite… not that easy to pack the first two but the latter is easy!

        • You can get cheddar in France, but it's very expensive. As an American, I missed, strangely enough, barbecue and Tex-Mex flavours–things I never thought I would crave as much as I did!

      • I wasn't really one for peanut butter either…until I couldn't have any! I begged my parents to ship Skippy to Italy, and hoarded it the rest of the semester.

        You never know how much you really want it until you can't have it…

      • I bring teabags everywhere – I don't drink caffeinated teas and I can't be sure that everywhere will have a good herbal range, so I always back a box or two of rooibos, mint or camomile if I'm not confident I'll find them there.

    • for realz. when i studied abroad in italy for a semester, i made sure that i packed a nice sized bottle of peanut butter. that sucker was gone before mid semester and got the folks to ship me some more. but yeah, if you aren't a pb fiend, then no worries. if marmite's your poison, stick with that ๐Ÿ™‚

    • be careful with pb, unless you want stuff searched like crazy. i have a a friend who likes to bring hers & under an x-ray, it shows up really weird. so, they always go through her stuff.

    • When I lived in Ireland for a year, I had my parents ship me peanut butter, Kraft mac n cheese, Reeses cups… I had to wait until I got back to the States to have root beer and sourdough bread though. Those were really hard not to have!

  6. Depends on the country.

    No, seriously.

    For some countries it would be a relatively safe/non-pickpocket attracting bag (zipper with snapped flap over it, thick, hard-to-razor fabric, can go across my chest like a messenger bag, inner/hidden zipped pockets, preferably waterproof). I'd definitely want that in Egypt, India, Turkey. For others it'd be tampons or conditioner depending on what is available locally (menstruation cups are a great idea, but terrible to use in an Indian toilet). Both are great in developing countries or the Middle/Near East. In yet others, it would be a waterproof backpack cover – very hard to come by locally but extraordinarily useful in rainy conditions. I wouldn't need that in Egypt or Turkey but during a monsoon or a rainy season (like in Central America) it's a life saver. In Asia, JEANS THAT FIT – seriously. At least two pairs, maybe three. In countries that get cold – a good winter jacket: hard to come by in styles/types that Westerners favor.

    I guess for any given country, a good daypack-sized backpack of decent quality, because it's much easier on the back than a shoulder bag and very hard to come by abroad – either what's available is good quality but twice the price, or is crap quality.

    Almost everything else can be bought abroad, although some things are a lot more expensive (ie sunscreen and bug spray).

    Close second: Swiss Army Knife. The really fat kind.

    • Just make sure your Swiss Army knife goes in your checked luggage. I live in fear of having my beloved inherited Swiss Army knife confiscated by some TSA employee because I forgot to take it out of my carry-on.

    • "For some countries it would be a relatively safe/non-pickpocket attracting bag (zipper with snapped flap over it, thick, hard-to-razor fabric, can go across my chest like a messenger bag, inner/hidden zipped pockets, preferably waterproof)."

      I went to Italy for a few weeks with some people who had lived there for a few years, and they warned us over, and over, and over about pickpockets. Never ever put anything valuable in a backpack and always be vigilant about anything you're carrying.

      • This is true. My cousin and husband had their laptop and passports stolen when they were in Italy. I believe they stole these items right out of their trunk.

  7. I am a huge fan of Jersey dresses! They can be crumpled up in a ball, don't take up any space, and can be layered with leggings & sweaters for cold weather and are comfy and airy in the summer. I brought nothing but dresses on my trip to France and didn't regret it.

    I second the European outlet adapter. I'd also recommend bringing TWO cameras. Mine got damaged halfway through my trip and I missed out on a lot of photos.

  8. Six months in Italy? Make sure your waistbands have a bit of give to them! You haven't eaten until you've eaten in Italy. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I definitely agree with the leggings, dresses and sweaters for your wardrobe. My must take item is extra memory cards for your camera so you're not having to dump them every day if you take pictures like I do.

    • hahaha – the food is excellent in italy, to die for – that's fer damn sure! i was afraid of gaining weight during my semester abroad in florence, but i did soooooo much walking that it didn't really matter.
      four months in italy, huh? what region/city are you going to be in? italy is awesome, i quite envy your trip!

      • Well, I'm travelling around a lot to visit stuff in many museums, but technically I'll be a visiting student at the University of Venice. How did you find Florence? I'm definitely wanting to do some city-hopping on my way south!

        • oh, how fantastic! florence is grand! if you're doing a museum crawl, you'll definitely appreciate the Ufizzi & Accademia. that whole city is a work of art. i was overwhelmed and grateful that i spent a semester studying italian & art history and got to see everything that i wanted to- and then some. i'm an american from southern california, so we don't have much old architecture around here and everytime i stepped outside, i was amazed by the buildings that surrounded me.

          if you get a chance to go to fiezole, go at nite – it's beautiful to see an overview of florence all lit up & pretty-like.
          oh and (i normally wouldn't say this but…)if you aren't a fellow vegan, please have a slice of crostata/torta di nonna (italian custard pie) & a cappuccino for me at a coffee shop in the piazza della repubblica; i was there over 12 years ago, so it probably isn't there! buon viaggio & have the time of your life!

  9. if we're talking fashion, a simple dress, a cardigan, tights are good, classy COMFY flats, & a stylish very long scarf will turn into dozen of outfits if you know what you're doing….

    however in general, since leaving america, one thing i'm crazy happy to have is my goody spin pins.

    • Also good if your staying in hostels. That one bathroom per floor can get a bit … sketchy. if you have to get up in the middle of the night you might not want to be barefoot.

  10. I'm going to be the voice of dissent and say that I never pack dresses, because I never wear them. I don't like how they don't flatter my figure (almost doesn't matter what the cut is), can't stand leggings, travel to countries where they'd be inappropriate unless they were ankle-length, and am generally just not into dresses.

    But that's just me. YMMV of course.

    I do pack a few skirts though.

  11. When I lived in London for four months, I found the one item I was most eternally grateful for was a travel umbrella my brother gave me for Christmas. I kept it in my purse and pulled it out when I needed it- since I walked and used public transportation to get everywhere, it was invaluable! That umbrella got me through rainstorms across 5 countries!
    I also think a large, zippable purse that fits a good amount is helpful, along with a little journal and a few pens inside. You can use this to write down directions (a good help in foreign countries as you're getting around!) and notes to remember later. On another note, I'd highly suggest getting a little portable map of the city you're living to keep with you at all times.

    And YES! on the capsule wardrobe and adaptable fashion items- I'm actually thinking of going through my closet thinking along the same lines to reduce my huge amount of clothes!

    • If you're in the UK (or anywhere in Western Europe really) I definately recommend an umbrella because rainy weather can mean drizzle that just does not stop all day, or even for days on end.

      But it does vary greatly between countries. When I lived in Georgia, USA for example I never really worried about getting caught in the rain because I knew it'd stop as fast as it started and then the sun would be out to dry me off.

  12. Bring a journal. To write impressions down, to vent and deal with homesickness. At the back of the journal, make a list of important addresses (family and friends, but also police, insurance, bank, medical help, air line). Such a list will be incredibly helpful if something happens or you are just homesick and want to write postcards to your friends. And do research cheap ways of communicating.

  13. I work in the exchange office at my university, and have befriended 4 semesters worth of exchange students. Make sure to bring a few memory type things, but don't go to overboard. You need to make sure your living quarters feel like home. As for clothes, Scarves are a must in italy. Everyone wears scarves all the time according to my italian friends. Bring classic staples, and don't forget a nice dress for a night out. skinny and boot cut Jeans, khakis, T-shirts, a blazer type jacket, polos, tanks. My friend from italy once said it is not what you wear, its how you accessorize it. Flats, knee high boots, and a good walking shoe. Just because you are moving away doesnt mean you need to stop dressing like yourself. That is one regret I hear from many of my international friends. They bring clothes that are travel appropriate, and then spend the whole time they are living here feeling not like themselves. You are not on vacation, You are living somewhere. If you are not comfortable in what you are wearing, then its not worth it

    • "Just because you are moving away doesnt mean you need to stop dressing like yourself."

      This is definitely a reminder I needed! I've spent ages thinking about what would be appropriate or the most versatile… maybe I should be thinking more about what clothes and things are the most *me*.

      Do you have any other tips from your job? It sounds like you're a great person to talk to about this!

      • I found while living in Europe I cared a wee bit more about how I looked than at home, so don't forget you can always update your travel wardrobe when you arrive! And in terms of dressing for the seasons, if youre having someone visit halfway through your stay, send your winter things back, or anything you've realized you don't need, and perhaps bring anything you've forgotten, or more tea bags :).

      • Ask me questions, I may have answers ๐Ÿ™‚

        Be prepared to have wardrobe envy. I have it all the time.

        Remember since you will be there for 6 months, try not to pack your suitcase too full, you WILL buy things. My friend from germany is leaving to go home this week, and he is WAAAY over weight to go home because he bought all kinds of clothes here that he cannot get back home (Hollister and Abercrombie are super expensive apparently ๐Ÿ™‚ ). Your in Italy for heavens sake! You will be shopping

        Invest in an ipad or kindle or whatever because books are a must. I plan on moving abroad and have spent the last year downloading my favourite books from my collection of 2000+ physical books so I can have my favourites with me without having to actually bring them. Plus, an ipad is an amazing tool for a traveling student. I never bring my laptop to classes anymore. Also, sometimes you can get textbooks in ebook format.

        Invest in a poster or a few postcards from you hometown or city or whatever to post up on your walls. They are small, and weigh nothing and can make it feel homey. I know a lot of kids also bring digital picture frames.

        iPod. Possibly a small set of speakers, because you will make friends, and possibly have get togethers, and no one ever seems to have speakers when you are hanging out with a bunch of international or exchange students.

        FOOD. Bring your favs you cannot find, or have someone mail it to you. I spent four months listening to my english friend talk about food she missed. I went to a little fake german town today with abovementioned german friend, and he spent the whole day talking about food he missed. My foods to bring are Cheez wiz, Oreos, and some Canadian stuff ๐Ÿ™‚

        make sure to make skype dates with friends and family and stick to them. just cause you off adventuring does not mean you get to forget everyone at home, because you will be going back to them eventually

        If you have any other questions, feel free to ask!!!!

        Katie V

  14. 1) scarves.
    2) camera.
    3) a cross-the-body purse or concealed belt-wallet. (this is safety, not necessarily fashion, people on scooters will not hesitate to take your shoulder bag off of your arm while zooming by in some of the larger cities… which can dislocate your arm.)

    then bring the basics. a darkwash pair of jeans that flatter you will be a great staple, and walking shoes. don't bring any shoes you wouldn't want to walk in. if you don't have a cute pair of dress shoes that you can walk around all day in, buy some. in Italy you will be walking, sometimes when you don't expect to.

  15. Oooh, awesome! I was there for two weeks this summer, and they were the best two weeks of my life!

    1. Comfy shoes (LOTS more walking there than in the US, and the roads are a lot more uneven. Make sure they are broken in!)
    2. Basics will get you the furthest (simple black shirts, plain pair of skinny jeans, etc). Its easy to buy cheap scarves over there to mix things up – plus, most Italians keep it chic and simple (few graphic tree, etc). Modest too! (You could tell the Americans from the tube tops and hoochy skirts, LOL)
    3. Italian dictionary if you aren't semi-fluent (many speak English anyway, but they love the effort!!!)
    4. If you plan on doing sightseeing while you are there, it helps to get a map here with everything you want to see on it already.
    5. Definitely any electronics. However, don't even bother with a hair dryer or straightener – buy there or go without. Same for a cheap cell phone for calls home.

    • If you're going to Europe and you have an old GSM phone (AT&T, Tmobile) it pays to bring it. Get it "unlocked" before you go. Most carriers will do this for free if you've been with them long enough. If you don't have one, ask around. Many people have old "dumbphones" gathering dust in a drawer.

      Then when you get there, you can just purchase a pay-as-you-go SIM card for it rather than wasting money on a phone you'll only need for a few months. I've done this in both Italy and Germany and it works great.

    • Thanks, Krista! I'm actually English rather than American – but what you say is very true. I couldn't believe some of the things American high school students were wearing when I was in Greece last year – they stood out a mile! Best to keep it modest, in my book. Or at least have modest options, there's an awful lot of beautiful churches. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. -Half the clothes and twice the money still applies, even though you aren't backpacking.
    -I agree with those who have commented to bring simple, classic pieces – dark jeans, black tops, little black dress etc – and dress it all up with accessories like fun scarves. Dark items like this can also be reworn even when you can't get to a laundromat as often as you'd like. ๐Ÿ™‚
    -A nice pashmina can be used for warmth at night, or thrown over a dresser to pretty up a temporary room, and many other things. And it packs up tiny!
    -Comfy flats for walking. Tieks are amazing: http://tieks.com/boutiek/

    If you'll be there in cooler weather a comfy pair of knee high boots with dresses/skirts and tights will take you very far!

    This website is now just an archive but these ladies have it nailed down:
    http://www.academichic.com/2009/05/28/one-year-capsule-wardrobe-annotated-edition/

    • What an amazing website! I've never seen that before, thanks so much. This is exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for. (And pretty much how I dress too, to be honest. Or rather how I would dress if I made an effort every day like those gorgeous ladies!)

  17. English books.

    Depending on what city you're in, there may or may not be English books available and I found that the selection was generally pretty limited. I ended up reading a lot of schlocky bestsellers because that's all I could get a hold of.

    If ebook readers had been as cheap as they are now when I went abroad, I definitely would have brought one. The cheapest Kindle is down to $80, and you can find a ton of free public domain books for it.

    • Oh, definitely. I've treated myself a Kindle, on the condition that I am not allowed to fill up my luggage with non-work books. We'll have to wait and see if this works out, but it's a start. ๐Ÿ™‚

      They're actually also very useful for backing up files, I've found, and much nicer for reading online articles (if you send them to the Kindle as a pdf). So I hope I'll get plenty of use out of it.

    • Good thought! If you already have an iPod or a smart phone, there are loads of free public domain books available on free readers there, too.

      • I have loaded tons of books from my library. Audiobooks! Both types of novels: those advanced readers like As well as purely trashy ones too.
        Love to listen while riding transit, or to block out unwanted conversation, though I don't do this as much traveling as when in my own area.
        Also, if a reader has a great voice and the book is trashy I don't mind if I sleep through 15 minutes of it. I can set the book to turn off 15, 30 minutes a great feature. Can't listen to more sophisticated novels though when even a minute or two can leave out important details.
        Take your library card, and you can load from all the way round the world. A library cards a lot smaller than a book.

    • I wholeheartedly agree with this! I always go with one bag and a carry on and then a medium duffel bag rolled up in my suitcase. Since international flights allow 2 checked bags usually. Be careful though. When coming back from India I had 2 checked bags and 2 carry ons (allowed on international flights). This became a problem when I had to take a domestic flight from where I came into the US to get home. I met a really nice family that was able to hold on to one of my carry ons (a clear plastic bag with pillows in it so they could see exactly what they were holding on to) so it worked out well. I don't know if you would even have this issue in Europe, but it's good to think about.

  18. For me the number one travel accessory is my MP3 player.

    Partially because I'm a big music fan and wouldn't go without, but it's especially important on long journeys and in unfamiliar places because it does double duty as an instant dose of home and for shutting out other people. I don't get claustrophobic exactly but too much time in enforced closeness with strangers (on a plane for example) stresses me out. But if I put my headphones on and stare out the window I can forget about it for a while.

  19. This is a weird one, but my friend who spent several months in Italy found herself seriously missing Mexican food. She had her parents send her some taco seasoning. Then when I was in France the same thing happened to me and I asked her to send me some. Taco seasoning! ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. I always enjoy taking enough of my favorite deodorant to last my whole trip. There is plenty of deodorant for sale in Italy but when you are trying a million different new things each day it's nice to have something stable even if it's the smell of your morning routine.

    • On the other hand, I have half a stick of French deodorant at my mum's house left over from when I lived there and every time I use it I'm taken back to my lovely little flat and happy life. Sometimes a new scent can be perfect for an exciting new thing in your life.

  21. I just spent 6 weeks travelling around to a few different countries, with vastly different climates. I took a few (like, 5?) dresses, and loads of tights, scarves, and two cardigans. It took up way less space than pants & shirts, but kept me warm (look for fleece tights!) in the cold places, and kept me cool in the hot climates.

  22. I STRONGLY recommend my favorite accessory: a merino wool Buff. They can be worn as, well, anything really. They're great cause they wick away moisture and keep you cool in the summer and in the cooler months they provide excellent protection against the cold. Because its merino wool, they don't stink when sweaty and will even keep you warm while they're wet! I have one myself and wear it as a scarf, hat and balaclava when its really cold. ULTIMATE MULITASKER!

    • Merino wool in general is an excellent fabric for traveling! It can go a long time between washings without getting smelly, so that lowers your laundry load. Like you said it'll keep you feeling dry, and it keeps you warm even if it gets wet. It wicks sweat beautifully. Someone else mentioned Smartwool and I second that recommendation. Their tights and socks are especially useful for travel like this. They also make tops, long underwear, sweaters, gloves, hats, underwear, etc. The prices might give you sticker shock but you'll get a lot of use from every piece.

      Another useful travel item is quick-dry underwear (like what ExOfficio makes) that can be washed in a sink and will dry overnight. You can travel for weeks with only 2-3 pairs if you want to.

  23. For Italy, definitely take a good pair of walking shoes! (I brought my trusty Doc Martens boots.)

    Music fiend that I am, I never travel without my iPod, but since you're going on such a long trip, I'll assume you're bringing some sort of computer.

    Don't forget to have at least two photocopies of your passport on hand, in case yours gets lost or stolen. It's not a bad idea to have the contact information of the nearest British consulate on hand just in case, either (write it on the passport copies and program it into your phone).

    Clothes-wise, you can't go wrong with black, and your bag should be a cross-body, plain style (again, black is a good idea, and it shouldn't be too big). Being young and more than a little irreverent, I brought an army-green messenger bag covered in rock-band patches. Between the bag, the black clothes, and the Docs, I definitely looked like a broke art student, and no one tried to grab my stuff (but everyone was still really friendly – it was Italy, after all).

  24. A camera, phone card, and adapter are high on my list no matter what! When I was in the UK for sixth months, I also journalese about my experiences almost every day – and I almost never write in a journal!

    Also, nice skirts, sweaters, and scarves! European women are CRAZY about pashmina style scarves and I always like to fit in as much as possible so my looks don't scream tourist. ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh, and flip flops mark you as a huge tourist if you're worried about that like I am!

    • Haha *journaled

      I also just remembered – comfy shoes, though avoid running-style shoes (non-running Pumas, etc seem to be an exception) also if you're worried about fitting in because Europeans don't wear those casually like many Americans do.

      • It's good to keep in mind that Europe isn't one big country. Each country will have its own fashions, customs, danger levels and so on (although you're better off being 'too safe' than sorry). Plenty of "European women" wouldn't be seen dead in a scarf (in Scotland it's certainly not in vogue) and plenty of "Europeans" wear trainers and sneakers casually.

        I've not stayed in a foreign country for longer than a holiday, but learn roughly what the weather's like before you go (a lightweight waterproof jacket probably doesn't go amiss in many countries, and most can be easily scrunched up into a bag) and pack light because you'll almost certainly buy clothes and things while you're over there.

        One thing I found when travelling to Egypt was to dress appropriately for the weather you're going to, not the weather you're coming from. We were the dafties dressed in shorts and t-shirts while it poured down in Glasgow (and hoodies, because it was freezing!) but we were the smart ones arriving in Egypt. The year before, I'd worn jeans and a vest top and even that was too warm O_o But then, it depends when you're going, of course.

  25. I went traveling through Eastern Europe for a month last year, and also traveled a LOT when I was a kid. You don't need to take very many clothes at all. I brought WAY too many last year. You can (and probably will anyway) buy what you need there.

    One thing I brought that I found SUPER useful was a travel power strip. It's super small but has 4 outlets + a USB adapter. I found that pretty much everywhere we stayed, there would only be 1 power outlet in the whole room, and we needed to charge phones, laptop, and cameras.

    I brought some solid shampoo and conditioner, because I didn't know what would be there, and I didn't want it to leak on my luggage. You can also get solid moisturizers–which can be doubly-great because airplane travel is so skin-drying, and you won't have to deal with those pesky liquids going through security.

    Small reminders of home are always nice too.

  26. 1) I agree with whoever said you should pack clothes that make you feel like you, but it doesn't hurt to pack smartly so you at least have a semblance of that elusive "capsule wardrobe". For me, I like to pick a base colour (black/grey, brown/tan or blue) and make sure everything goes with that. (But you're going for longer, so you could have all three if you wanted)
    2) Make sure your shoes go with everything too! I moved to France with nothing but a pair of bright green shoes. That clashed with most of the other things I took. D'oh.
    3) Buy a pay as you go Italian sim as soon as you arrive (take a cheapie unlocked handset, it's nice to be able to have your home number turned on too) and memorise the number (if you want to meet people!)
    4) Back to clothes, I'd recommend making sure included in your outfit is one or two good solid outfits for much colder weather than you're expecting and one or two options for hotter weather. I once spent August in the south of France and had only really packed clothes for the hot weather I was expecting. It rained all month and I very rarely felt comfortable in my clothes.
    5) The basics, chargers, memory cards etc. I'd second the swiss army knife suggestion. I like to take a carabiner (but that might just be me!) – it's always useful somehow (sometimes to hang extra bags off my luggage, sometimes to hold my washbag off the sink in a scuzzy bathroom, or to secure my camera strap to my bag if I'm worried about pickpockets…)
    5) I'm sure I'll think of other things… A few frameless photos are nice to have around… write lots of letters home so you'll get some back… have a blast!

    • Thanks, annabel, these are really great suggestions! Thanks for sharing from the perspective of someone who's done this.

      …but surely bright green shoes go with everything, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • You'd think so, but most of my clothes were a clashing shade of teal! I just remembered that back when I went nationwide was the only bank that didn't charge for overseas transactions, which can be useful. Look into that sort of thing maybe? And have fun!

  27. I studied in Italy for 4 months. I don't remember anything important that I felt I NEEDED. Italy felt very home-y to me, actually, and I felt the langauge was the easiest to pick up of any I'd studied.

    I can only think of two things — obvious practical security stuff: one of those pouches for keeping important documents & cards in; your passport, credit cards, bank cards, etc., of course! Photocopy all of those things, front and back, and leave a copy with someone you trust back home; put another copy in a sealed envelope and stash it somewhere people won't look. This is INVALUABLE if you lose your actual passport or something. A travel lock, one of those combo locks with a thin wire — bc if you travel around on your own, they are great for locking a backpack shut, locking it to a train luggage rack; locking hostel lockers, etc.

    The other thing is yes, you can buy ANYTHING you need in Italy, unless you're a weird size. I am really tall and couldn't find any shirts long enough in the body and sleeves. Also would have had trouble buying size 11 shoes if I had needed them.

    Depending on when you go, yes, ITALY GETS COLD!! I was freezing the whole month of December when I was there, despite buying additional layers. I took my packing advice from a boy who had been there the previous year and never gets cold. Layering is good.

    But, in general — less really is more when you travel! And Italy is wonderful, almost everyone there is communicative and helpful, and you will have a great time no matter what you forget!

  28. 1. Maybe someone already said this, but bring enough of any prescriptions you may need in their original packaging with original labels, placed in your carry on bags.
    2. I studied in Austria, and don't know the OTC medication situation in Italy, but my roomie got several colds and would've loved to have some kind of cold medication that worked. She disliked the herbal stuff that they kept selling her.
    3. Ditto on copying important documents!
    4. I had this backpack meant to stash a laptop in a separate compartment right against the back. It was great for carrying documents, wallet, etc. because the compartment wasn't easy to spot but my important things were easy for me to find.

    • For us Americans, Italy (most of the parts of Europe I've traveled through) has pharmacies with green "+" signs–these will sell European-brand OTC meds as well as a lot of what Americans can only get via prescription.

      If you're prone to sinus infections, for example, note the prescription treatment you usually get at home and ask for it by name–for these you often don't need a prescription and don't have to deal with a foreign health system.

  29. One thing I found essential when traveling and studying/living abroad: a mini sewing kit! Limited packing space=fewer clothes=harder use=really annoying to have to buy a needle and a spool of thread and whatever else you need when a button falls off or whatever.

    Any over-the-counter medicines you prefer, but always check whether they're allowed in the country you're traveling to. (I'm assuming restrictions are pretty similar within the EU, but I'm not sure.) I do know that I missed NyQuil (super-strong cold medicine) when I was living in Japan. Some of the ingredients are banned there so I couldn't bring it with me, and my colds always lasted twice as long because I couldn't sleep at night without it. Small bottles probably goes without saying. For me, having paracetamol and antacids was useful, too.

    • Definately agree about the sewing kit. I have a big box at home with all kinds of stuff in it but when I went to uni I put together a small kit with a few needles, pins, some commonly used thread colours and spare buttons. It took up barely any space but was incredibly useful.

  30. My thank-goodness-I-brought-this list when I studied in Italy:
    1. duct tape and dental floss, for fixing tears in suitcases and other heavy fabrics until a more permanent solution presents itself
    2. a bathing suit (we spent a weekend at my host family's beach house–totally unexpected, but prepared!)
    3. plastic zip-top bags: good for keeping dirty laundry separate in a small suitcase/bag, for waterproofing postcards and collected ephemera, separating a wet bathing suit, containing squishy toiletry bottles…you never realize how much you use them at home!

  31. I lived for 3 years in Japan. Based on my experience, take any medication, medicated creams/shampoos etc. along you're not 100% sure are easy to get. Should you get sick, you don't want the extra hassle of hunting down medication.
    The other advice: plan a trip home a few months after you moved. It's hard to forsee exactly what you will miss in the new country. Maybe some special food they don't sell there, a special toothpaste you want, you name it. Once you know your needs, you'll know what to take. But seriously, there are probably very few things you can get in the US and not in Italy. Just take what you'd use at home.

  32. I'm Italian so reading the answers was really interesting! However, Italy is really big and diserve, so it would have been helpful knowing where you are going. There are some places where winter is really cold, and others where is mild, places where it rains a lot and others where it never does, places where you can find organic high quality tea, good books in english and adaptors and others where it could be very difficult. As an Italian I suggest you not to bring many clothes and buy most of them here, we have a wonderful selection of fashionable items for all prices. Essential things are medicines (and possibly a private insurance, research if you need one or if you can access public health care), camera, underwear and socks, eletronic equipment, flip flops and possibly a guide? Consider checking prices for transactions with your card abroad, in Italy we don't really use credit cards too much (and you pay some taxes when you use them to pay), so you should be able to get cash, and it's better to know beforehand how much it is gonna cost you everytime you get it. Pay attention to pickpockets in train stations and on the metro, especially in big cities, and consider avoiding travelling by train in the night(this is my personal advice, feel free to do as you wish, of course) If you can specify where exactly you are going I may have other suggestions ^^

    • Hi V! I'm going to be all over the place – technically based in Venice, but also spending time in Rome, Naples, and further south. But I guess I'll be "living" in Venice more or less. Any tips? Any cities I should definitely see? I'm not going to be rushing to get down south from Venice, I may take some detours. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Venice is super humid and you will need rain boots, in case there is "acqua alta". It's pretty cold, so bring your warmest clothes ๐Ÿ™‚
        I'd definitely suggest Firenze, Urbino, Siena and if you are going South you should really go to Sicily, it's a magic place ^^
        Good luck and enjoy your stay!

  33. I'm LOVING these comments! I'm taking a three week trip next summer (first ever long / ocean-crossing / traveling-alone trip!) and am getting lots of great ideas.

  34. Youre European so make sure you apply for you EHC card with plenty of time. This will give you NHS treatment within Italy if you become ill.

    Very few people are mentioning money, the UK debit card system is generally based upon visa debit but Italy has the old maestro system (very like the link system from the late 90s), you should be able to use most cash machines but I would recommend having a secret stash of emergency cash that you ONLY use in an emergency. When I lived in China it was a 40 min walk to the nearest bank that took european cards and I had to use the emergency money to bail out one of my flat mates after midnight on a sat night (I got the money back monday morning but he was grateful I had it!)… an extreme example but still good lesson.

    Tea is very light and a large box of it posted from the UK will be better for the space in your luggage.

    What I missed in most countries Ive moved to are the craft things Ive left behind- anything from my knitting gear to some watercolours would have kept me sane and took ages to source in a new country so I would recommend if you have a hobby, dont leave it behind just because it seems superfluous or you think you wont have time. Bring a small kit or the minimum to keep you doing that hobby for the first few weeks and keep it up, it will distract you and give you consistency with home when you may be stressed or homesick.

    Apart from that I have found that if you are flexible you can find anything you need no matter where you are and its good to have to learn how to adapt, think of it as a challenge!

  35. i'm sure it'll be pretty easy since your going from western culture to another western culture. not as many huge shockers, but i really suggest looking up some ex-pat forums about the place you'll be staying, just trolling. it can help you see some of the gripes people have & also solutions. good idea before you go.

  36. When I go visit Italian relatives, I actually take a bunch of small peanut butter jars and/or packets to give away — it really is a novelty there.
    Like the actual Italian commented earlier, it really depends on where you are going. And definitely take half the clothes you think you'll need — shopping in Italy is awesome (and then when you come home and get a compliment on a sweater, you get to say "Oh, this? I got that when I was living in Rome….")
    Speaking of Rome, if I am going anywhere for more than a couple of days, or if I know I'll be back to a place a bunch, I highly reccomend one of these: http://www.amazon.com/Moleskine-City-Notebook-Roma-Rome/dp/8883706218
    I think they also make one for Florence.
    My London and Paris ones have been worth their weight in gold both as mini-journals and re-tracking down awesome restaurants and night clubs.
    I hope you have an amazing time!

  37. I definitely second the travel towel recommendation! I brought mine to Ecuador and was so happy with it that it's now my regular hair towel at home!

    As tempting as it can be, just don't get into "what if?" scenarios in your head and end up packing everything ever. Worst case, you can buy it there! The first time I went backpacking solo I brought waaaay too much stuff with me, and half of it never left my bag!

    Write down the serial number of your camera. If it gets stolen, you can use sites like stolen camera finder to track whether people are using it and hopefully get it back.

  38. I recently moved back to the States from Italy after being there 3 years. They are very casual. You can wear jeans absolutely everywhere. I second only one suitcase and a backpack. Get a large backpacking type w/o a frame. I could easily fit 2 weeks of clothes plus camera and other stuff. It's way easier to manage than 2 suitcases. One really comfortable pair of shoes is important – you will be walking everywhere. I had a pair of 3 season leather sandals that I bought there (but I lived in southern Italy). I wore (and still wear them) everywhere. I look at them longingly in the wintertime….

    Remember that you do not need to bring every bit of stuff that makes you comfortable in the US. You are exploring a new place. Stuff will just weigh you down. When I traveled, all I brought were clothes, my camera, and my kindle no matter how long the trip. Everything else I could live without and I found that I really enjoyed myself much more when I wasn't distracted or weighed down by extra stuff.

  39. I thought of one more thing, a small, battery powered travel alarm clock. They're especially handy on those days when you need to catch an early train, or to set to remind you to stop studying and meet someone. this is the one I have, only mine is white. It hardly weighs a thing and has a flashlight function for finding the toilet at night!

  40. A notebook, journal, some sort of paper. I was traveling for ten days during my stay in New Zealand and didn't bring any paper, and by day three I was writing on the back of a soup can label because I didn't want to forget anything. Put that one in the carry-on.

    Other things I missed were Mexican food, my regular brand of tea, pumpkin baked goods (I went during the fall, haha) and buffalo sauce for wings. The latter three made up the best care package I've ever received!

    I've heard from an American ex-pat acquaintance living in Italy that it's impossible to find tampons. BYO! One packing tip I've heard is to bring your shampoo, soap, etc with you so that you use it up along the way and have room for souvies on the trip home.

    Finally, do bring your towel. During that above-mentioned trip mine served as a blanket and pillow as well as a regular towel. Very useful. Look out for book swaps (take one, leave one) and bring a deck of cards.

  41. Here are a few things that i have found useful traveling around Europe.
    Be sure to bring:
    Versatile clothing ie. stuff that is easily layered & dressed up/down with accessories. I would suggest not clogging your suitcases up with stuff going there, because you will probably wind up bringing some new stuff back.
    When you travel to Europe: BRING COMFORTABLE WALKING SHOES!!!
    You have lots of cobblestone & whatnot that make traversing the streets in stilettos next to impossible. (For Fancy Pants:Bring wedges! They don't get stuck in the cracks) Also lots of things that you may want to see will probably not be car accessible and a lot of the main shopping districts in many European countries are pedestrian only.

    As far as toiletries: Europeans tend to use applicator free tampons, so if you're not comfortable using them then bring your brand.
    If you're into a specific brand of shampoo/conditioner you may find that you can get it there, but you will pay an arm and leg for it because container sizes are not the standard US "jumbo" sizes, they are generally a lot smaller!

    Other than that bring the standard camera/phone electronics. (Don't forget the voltage is 220 in EU versus the US 110). You may also want to insure these high $ items against theft before you go & get a kensington lock for your laptop. Italy gets a lot of tourists & therefore has a lot of professional thieves & pickpockets.

  42. i studied in siena for 4 months, and the one thing i really wished i had brought more of was leggings and long underwear. i have these silky ones that layer really easily under pants and other leggings. because they have no dryers for the most part, things take FOREVER to dry in the winter. so sometimes id be stuck at home, really cold, because a bunch of stuff was drying. i recommend layers as well, tights tights tights! bring maybe one warm cashmere type scarf with you, you will assumably be going to markets and will want to buy EVERYTHING. bring knee high boots if you have hard to fit feet/calves (like me) because it will be really hard to fit all the lovely leather shoes everyone raves about over there. i have a drapey cardigan that was super helpful cos it was so versatile, as well as a few belts for cinching things around the waist. i basically brought my favorite clothes with me, after i narrowed it down to what made the most outfits with other pieces. bring your own makeup and skin stuff, but buy your other toiletries there. also: duty free makeup and booze at the airport. just saying.

  43. I moved to Germany with only a summer's worth of clothing and then decided to stay here. This, my friend, is what I learned from this brilliant move:

    1. Clothes: IMO it's more important to dress "yourself" and not in the most versatile way (or maybe this is not mutually exclusive for you). Pay close attention to the clothes you wear the most throughout seasons–and do not take something that you hold up and think, "I might wear this…" You should not be concerned about "mights" here! Layers are always good though… cardigans and such…
    2. Rechargeable batteries/charger for your camera.
    3. Pictures of your family to hang up. Sometimes browsing pictures on your computer is not enough.
    4. Load money on a Skype account so you can (very very cheaply–unless you have EU coverage on your phone?) call home and/or make calls to handle businessy things (I had to call my bank in the US a couple times, for example).
    5. Toiletries can be bought in Italy, but if you are very brand specific (I love my Dove solid deodorant whereas the German shops tend to sell more spray or liquid roll-ons… erm… for example), then bring that! You will see that it's nice to stand in a shop and not have to search for something resembling what you want.
    6. Don't know how cell phones work for EU calls but I just went to a cell phone provider and got a prepaid phone so I could have a local number for people to call.
    7. Make sure your bank and credit card companies, if any, know you're going overseas so they don't get alarmed about charges in Florence. Also make sure you know their rules on ATM charges and such.
    8. Don't know your personality, but for me, mindless trashy gossip mags for the trip there–whether for you that means plane or train–is nice when you can't sleep or concentrate.
    9. I completely agree with the sewing kit and bathing suit (because you just never know and these are small items to pack). I also agree with the medication. It's always good to have a small first-aid kit with bandaids and antiseptic, then you can stuff in sample packets of over-the-counter pain or cold meds. These things can be a huge comfort when you're sick (in the US I stock up on Pepto-Bismol, Tylenol, Dayquil).

  44. I have to say a good book! Sometimes there is nothing like reading your favourite book in a strange city to make you feel like you're home. A photo of loved ones is great too. Or a favored perfume or scented candle that you can wear/burn.
    Also scarves. They can instantly dress up casual jeans and a t-shirt, and they can keep you warm! Pashmina's would be best because they can double as a blanket or wrap on a plane/train/bus.
    And as a lifeguard/instructor, a first aid kit is INVALUABLE. You never know when you'll need an aspirin/tylenol, band aid, or some alcohol wipes. If possible, get a first aid kit with a triangle bandage (or 2 or 3). The bandages can be used with gauze to help bandage a larger area, keep a broken arm/collarbone/splints for a broken leg in place while you are going to the hospital, and bonus, they can be used as a head wrap or thin improptu shirt/skirt (for the daring) if you are in a pinch. Cold/flu pills could be helpful as well.
    A thin raincoat that can be packed into a small pocket could also be helpful. You could pack it into a backpack incase of rain, and just repack it when the rain is done. A small stylish reusable bag could be helpful as well, for any impulsive souvenir purchases or to carry home purchases from the market. You can get some now that look darling as decorations hanging from your bag. This is an example: hadorable and functionable!

  45. Don't know if anyone else has suggested this but a roll of duct tape. I got the idea from a book of travel advice my Mum gave me, and I have to say it's great stuff to have along. Fixes tears in backpacks, hangs up a drying line for your laundry in random places, but the best thing I ever did with it was halfway up the Angel's Landing hike at Zion Canyon in Utah- a hiker going in the other direction was hobbling along as his boot had fallen apart- much to the amazement of my friends, I whipped the duct-tape out of my daypack, and fixed his boot for him. It was a very proud moment.

  46. I recommend taking your favourite slippers/ slipper socks/ house shoes. When you get back from a long day, it makes a real difference having comfy footwear that you're familiar with.

  47. Hi all – thanks again for all the great advice! I've now been away for two months (blimey) and I thought you might like to know how I'm getting on…

    Short story: it's been great! Learned a lot, met a lot of people, loved all your advice on packing, which definitely came in handy.

    Longer story: I arrived on the day when Italy very suddenly started the coldest week it's had in 30 years. Some towns had over two metres of snow; Rome was totally cut off. There wasn't much snow in Venice, but it was crazy windy, and 8 below zero (Celsius).

    It was cold. I was unprepared. But you know what, I coped! Someone pointed me to the nearest Wilkinsons/Walmart type thingy, and I bought blankets, extra clothes, etc. I found H&M and bought more warm clothes. Lesson learned: you can't prepare perfectly for everything!

    There's been other stuff I didn't bring that I had to buy (plate, bowl, spoon, tupperware for storing food), but all quite cheap and easy. I would say, freak weather apart, all the advice above on clothing etc is spot on!

    Thanks again!

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