Being about halfway through my second trip abroad in Spain, I have had plenty of time to reflect on my packing and weather or not it has been effective. The first time I traveled? Could have been better. My stay lasted a month and half and I brought some unnecessary stuff and didn’t bring a few useful things. This trip? Mejor (Spanish for “Better”). Three months sounds like a long time, but you don’t need to pack the world.
So, here is my advice on packing:
- Less is more. You only need about a week’s worth of interchangeable outfits to wear on a regular basis. Bring clothes that are appropriate for both work and leisure. In my experience, dress codes in Spanish schools are relaxed, so jeans and nice shirts are acceptable. Just don’t show up in flip-flops and super revealing outfits!
- Bring something for every occasion. The first time I traveled, I wished I had more formal clothes. This time, I wish I had more work-out clothes. My advice is to bring one or two outfits for each occasion. I.e. one formal outfit, one work-out outfit, one swim-suit. You never know what situations might arise while you are abroad, so it is helpful to be prepared.
- Don’t Skimp on Underclothes! The amount of underclothes you need largely depends on how often you’ll do your laundry. However, it never hurts to have more, especially if you will be traveling a lot and don’t have the time or facilities to wash your clothes. You can get away with wearing shirts or pants a few times without washing them, but socks and underwear? Not so much. In this case, extra is better.
- Think Comfortable! When you are abroad, you will be giving up some of the “comforts of home”. Don’t give up simply feeling physically comfortable. Think about what you wear around your own home and bring it with you. I personally miss the ponchos that I wear around my house. If it is something appropriate to wear around your host family and will help you feel better after a long day, bring it.
In Summary you Need:
About 7 interchangeable outfits, a few special occasion and comfy outfits, a pair or two of shoes and pajamas, and extra underwear and socks. Also, don’t forget to check the weather in your location. You might also need a coat, hat, etc, if you are travelling in the winter.
Consider Your Host School and Family:
- When in doubt, bring more candy! The kids lose their minds over candy in general, but especially foreign candy! It’s great to watch them get so excited over something so simple, and candy is a great prize or holiday hand-out. My advice is to research which candies don’t exist in Spain (like nerds, candy corn, and cow-tails) and bring them, as these sweets are even more exotic.
- Bring a gift for your host-family! Remember that your host family is inviting you into their home without compensation. Bringing them a small gift is a nice gesture that helps establish a good relationship.
- Save space in your luggage so that you can bring home souvenirs. This is especially true if you are living with a host family, as they will likely give you gifts to bring back to the states.
- Follow your program’s checklist! This post is by no means comprehensive! Your program coordinators will give you a list of the most important rules to follow while packing (I.e. how to pack toiletries and which documents to bring). This post is just meant to supplement the “official” packing checklist.
Overall, we always learn by doing. You will probably have your own list of necessary packing modifications after going abroad yourself the first time, but this is mine. Next time I travel, I will get it just right. The third time is the charm!