Going abroad with CIEE Open Campus gave me an amazing opportunity to be based in not only two different countries, but in two different continents. However, being in two totally different locations of the world meant packing for every season. From January to May, South Africa transitions from a hot summer to warm fall, while Germany is transitioning from a brutal cold to a brisk spring. I had to bring everything, including bathing suits, athletic wear, and professional clothes for my internship.I have now mastered the ultimate guide of essentials and want to share the tips, do’s, and don’ts to packing for 4 seasons in 1 checked bag!
- General advice is pack enough for 2-3 weeks. Because I had to pack for so many types of environments, I really was only able to pack for 1 and I was still okay just mixing and matching!
- Wear your heaviest clothes: Yes, you’ll look ridiculous. I wore my hiking boots, a sweatshirt and winter jacket to summer Cape Town.
- If you can purchase an item in that country, don’t pack it! I know it's hard not to bring a whole bottle of your favorite shampoo or even a straightener, but you’ll be able to find almost everything you need abroad.
- Don’t forget to leave space for souvenirs! Compression bags are a game changer -- definitely use those to maximize your space.
- I used a large check in bag, a rolling carryon bag and then a larger sized tote. In those bags I stuffed in a cheap fanny-pack, crossover, and a bigger backpack, which I would later use for weekend country hopping.
IN TWO CARRY ON BAGS
Important IDs and paperwork
- Passport/ Visa
- Covid test and vaccination cards (I had a COVID one and one for Yellow Fever)
- Paperwork in a folder
Acceptance to university/ abroad program with dates
All flight paperwork (including return)
Medications and toiletries
- Use travel size toothpaste for entire trip
- Buy bigger sized hair products once you arrive
- You can buy sunscreen/ bug spray/straightener there and anything else that is not essential
- Research the country's norms for feminine products. Some countries don’t sell tampons, so having that knowledge and bringing your preference of products may be essential!
- This was life changing after a long flight to have fresh clothes and just in case luggage gets lost. Putting 2 outfits in here saved room in my check in bag.
- Bring about $100 of local currency money
- Debit card and credit card (make sure your credit card does not have foreign transaction fees. Research your country to see which mode of payment they use more)
- 1-2 adaptors: They are super annoying to pack (believe me, I learned the hard way). Buy one off of Amazon that has multiple different types of adaptors respective to each country and multiple ports for multiple chargers.
- Portable charger
- I had enough room for a Canon camera
- Small padlock for when traveling on the weekends to keep things safe
For warmer months and casual wear
- 2 bathing suits
- 1 pair of jean shorts
- 4 pairs of leggings
- Pair of light colored jeans
- 3 t-shirts
- 3 nicer cute going out tank tops
- 2 dresses: one casual for any time and one nicer more formal dress
- 4 pairs of athletic shorts and shirts for doing anything active
- 2 sets of pajamas: sweatpants, shorts, t-shirts
- Jackets: 1 sweatshirt, 1 sweatjacket
- Shoes: they take up so much space!! (flip flops, sneakers, Blundstones ([to dress up and hike], Flats [necessary if you're doing an internship])
For colder months and nicer wear
- Pair of black jeans
- 4 pairs of nicer shirts that can match with anything
- 2 thicker sweaters
This is based on the cultural norms that I learned about the countries I went to. Cape Town had more of a casual outfit culture, whereas Germany and other European countries allowed me to dress up more nicely. My biggest tip? Learn about clothing norms BEFORE you travel!