When I started packing for China, I was freaking out. How can I pack for my entire wardrobe for four months into a suitcase and a half? I couldn't do it.
I tried so hard. I looked up tons of different websites on tips for packing. They helped a little bit. I learned a lot the second I got back from China. A few people were asking me lots of advice on how to pack for an extended stay abroad and since I'm packing again I thought I would share my secrets.
For China I was there for four months. I packed a suitcase and a half (I shared a suitcase with a friend), a carry on and a backpack.
For Germany I will be there for nine months and I'm packing one suitcase, a carry on, and a backpack.
Packing again for Germany has made me realize how much China helped me tremendously.
Here are some small tips:
#1 Neutral colors will be your friend.
If you bring your hunter green jeans, your coral cardigan, and your bright orange skirt, you will limit your outfit choices. It's better to bring things all in the same color palette. Choose one pop color. For Germany, I chose green. I'm bringing a few things that are green and the rest are black, grey, white, cream, navy blue, etc. Also think about patterns. Those black tribal leggings might not go with everything.
#2 Roll your clothes
It seriously saves space.
#3 Invest in a backpack.
My suitcase is a cheap knock-off one from Wal-Mart. I didn't invest in a suitcase. Why? I'm not going to be lugging that everywhere. I'm going to bring all my clothes over in it, unpack my stuff, then shove it under my bed. On my vacations, I'll be packing my stuff into my backpack and lugging it around multiple cities and countries. It seriously is the best thing to invest in. It'll be on your back for hours and it'll be carrying your very valuable things. This is my backpack.
#4 Pack versatile things.
Along with neutral colors, make sure you can wear the item with multiple things. For example, a cropped blouse that you can only wear with your one pair of high rise jeans should not come with you. I don't care if it's your favorite blouse. It stays at home. When I'm deciding what to pack I make as many outfits in my head with the item I'm thinking of. If I can't make it work with almost everything I'm already packing, I don't do it. The more outfit choices is the key. It'll be what keeps you from going insane.
Bring your accessories!! They take up hardly any room and they'll transform your outfit. Especially statement necklaces and scarves.
#6 Pack durable things.
When I went to China I packed a navy blue maxi skirt (it fell under not versatile category also), I wish I didn't pack it. It was a dry clean only, fragile skirt and now it's slightly ruined. Chinese washing machines also were very rough on my clothes. I got a couple holes in my sweaters. You aren't going to get your amazing washing machines (and dryers! they don't even exist in China). Especially if you're going to do a little backpacking. You might go a couple of weeks without washing your clothes and most likely line dry.
*also white. white gets dirty very quickly. I, of course, am still packing white but if you have the choice, go for grey or black. If you have a lovely white blouse that fits in any of these categories but you'd die if it was ruined, don't bring it.
#7 Don't skimp on underwear.
Just don't. They don't take up any room. You can't wear dirty underwear but you can always wear a dirty shirt. It'll give you a little longer on the laundry loads also. Sorry to get all TMI and real on you but that's life.
#8 Wear your chunky items while you're traveling.
I wore my boots on the plane because I knew I'd want them but they took up sooo much room in my suitcase. That chunky sweater will take up too much room too. if you wear it on your back, problem solved!
#9 If you use it every day here, you will want it too.
I didn't bring a facial mask that I loved. I thought about it a lot and it didn't help my skin either. It probably would've helped me with my insane break outs I had. The point is, there's a reason you used that thing every day. I used that mask to draw out my impurities and because I didn't bring it, my pores clogged and I broke out.
#10 If it makes you feel better, bring it.
Some people would say "don't bring your hair dryer" or "don't bring any make-up, go natural". But no way in helllllllll-o I'm not bringing make up. I feel so much more comfortable with make-up. I would feel self-conscious without make-up and you can tell me that I'm crazy but that's just how I feel! I will make space for my make-up. However, I would never bring a hair dryer BUT you might need to blow dry your hair every day because otherwise you hate your hair if you don't. I'm fine if I do nothing to my hair but that isn't the case for everyone just like how clear skin isn't in mine. You'll be taking millions of pictures and you'll want to at least be somewhat okay with how you look.
If you're going somewhere, don't pack a huge coat. It takes up too much room. Either buy a cheap one there (they're usually better for wherever you are because they're made for the weather you're going to have there), or pack layers.This not only is just great for more outfit choices, it's still very warm. In the freezing beijing, I wore lots of layers and would actually get kind of get a little too warm. I wore a long sleeved t-shirt, a button up shirt, a cardigan, a leather jacket and a scarf to keep warm. It worked!
#12 Stuff it in your shoes.
That's a lot of empty space in your shoes. I stuff them with my socks, small leggings or tights (etc....) that way they keep their shape and you get just a teeny bit more space!
#13 Don't bring...
-Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, you can pretty much buy anywhere. Don't bring the full bottles. But do bring travel sizes. They're helpful to have when you first arrive so you can shower ASAP. It's also nice to have when taking backpacking vacations and staying in hostels.
-Towels, pillows, blankets. You can for sure buy towels there for super cheap and then chuck them once you leave. Double check with your program if you're going with a study abroad group, to see if they provide bedding. From what I've read, most of them do. If not, I would maybe buy it when you're there too. That would take up too much room.
-Your foundation. It'll be harder to buy it in another country but you could probably buy replacements after staying there for a while.
-Phrasebooks for languages. They were super helpful in China. We couldn't pronounce anything but we could point to the chinese name of something we were trying to find and then bingo! there it was.
-"Just add water" food (very optional). Let's get real, chinese food was not what it was cracked up to be. Since I ate in a cafeteria, I (and other people) brought a few things like soup, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, or oatmeal. All you have to do is add hot water and you have an american meal.
-A sewing kit. You're going to wear out your clothes. You will need something to repair them.
*Some small things I loved having were:
-denim button ups
-a small day pack for small day trips
I'm sure I missed a lot of things but that's what I have so far! I'll maybe do an updated post when I get back from Germany too.
If you have any other packing tips, please do share.