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Travelling abroad: Why it's important to pack light

This article tells you why it's important to pack light when travelling to your study destination.

Antony Chacko

International flights have very strict limitations on baggage size and weight. So pack according to the restrictions listed by your airline, and add clear identity tags to your luggage.

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Just the thought that your dream of studying abroad is soon to be a reality is so exciting… Now, imagine packing for that fantastic future - total pandemonium! How many kilograms can I carry? Should I carry a first-aid kit with me? Are woollens required? Your mind is probably filled with a flurry of questions scampering around in your head. Relax. No need to panic. First, figure out what you need to take with you for study tenure abroad.

Pack Light. This is very important because for one, you will need to cart around your own luggage (wheeled luggage is most convenient in such a situation), and two, you don’t want to pay for excess baggage. International flights have very strict limitations on baggage size and weight. Make clear luggage tags, indicating your name, domestic contact number, and the address and phone number of your host destination – keep this information inside your bags as well. 

All in the hand!

On international flights, you will be generally allowed one piece of hand/cabin baggage(you should be able to place the bag in the overhead cabin locker without assistance) plus a laptop or handbag.Make sure you keep your passport and tickets in a protective holder and carry it in your hand baggage/ handbag while travelling. Alternatively, it is also advisable to keep your passport, credit cards, medical insurance documents and money in a pouch or a money belt as close to your body as possible. Leave copies of your passport data page, insurance document(s) and visas with family or friends for addressing in case of an emergency. 

Ensure that you pack copies of your passport, visas, etc., in your main luggage and in some part of your hand luggage or perhaps even laptop bag.For you safety, it is essential to carry contact information for friends and family members at home, emergency numbers in the places you will be staying or travelling through, and university contact details inclusive of your local guardian (if any) and international students admission officer. Money is usually a major cause for worry for most students. Do carry enough currency to meet initial expenses at your destination, as well as contact numbers of the university and those you can contact in an emergency. 

For safety, instead of carrying large amounts of cash, you can use travellers cheques (note the serial numbers and give a copy to your folks as a precautionary measure) or/and a debit card that allows you to withdraw cash from ATMs abroad without paying an exorbitant premium. Carry some local currency of the country you are heading to in case you will need to hire a cab or buy some food at the airport and so on. At times, you may need to carry a basic amount of currency – for example: pounds and sterling to be used during transit/stopovers at Heathrow Airport. 

Useful items 

Invest in a pre-paid calling card (don’t forget your cell phone!) and use that to keep your family posted.In your hand luggage, if necessary pack an extra pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses and cleaning solution (less than three ounces), medicines (inclusive of vitamins, supplements and over-the-counter drugs) in original bottles along with the prescription, basic toiletries - containers must be less than three ounces each and must be placed in a quart-sized, clear plastic bag – a change of clothes and a cardigan/sweater, and a local vocabulary cum guide book. Avoid packing sharp items such as scissors, pen knives or anything of that nature. 

The beauty is to pack what is of immediate and precautionary requirement in your hand luggage – don’t try to fit your house into it! 

Essential electronics only!

Nowadays, most students carry their laptop along with them, with a portable USB flash drive for back-up and storage purposes. For those who like to record and capture memories, remember to take your digital camera along with extra batteries. Pack your chargers in one of your bags. You don’t want to be left stranded without any backup/ recharge option for your cell phone, camera battery or laptop. It may be difficult to get used to living without certain electronics during your study tenure, but it’s better to be safe than sorry - don’t bring anything you can’t afford to lose.

Wear a wristwatch and use your mobile/cell phone to regulate your schedule. You can adjust the time as and when necessary to get used to the time difference – this will help you establish quick patterns, enabling your body to acclimatise with the new time zone and surroundings.

Limited clothing and cant-live-without toiletries...

Find out about the weather of the country that you are heading to and the type of clothing you will need while there. Besides dressing for the weather, it’s important to find out what clothes are considered acceptable in the region. What’s ‘in’ in your home country may be unacceptable in certain other nations, or may serve as a way of accentuating your national identity in an unflattering way. For example: In many countries, shorts are worn only at the beach, and in some, particularly for women, displaying your legs is socially unacceptable. 

Pack items of clothing that can be easily washed and dried. Generally, laundry facilities are available, but tend to be quite expensive when you are surviving on a student budget.  Apart from regular attire such as jeans and t-shirts, pack several changes of inner wear and socks. In most countries, you will be able to find clothing stores that sell clothes that are specifically friendly on a student’s pocket. Seasonal items such as gloves, scarves and rain boots are usually available on sale, and can be purchased in your host country.

Certain toiletries that you use at home may not be available abroad. This is particularly true for products specific to your culture. If you think you may have a hard time finding certain hair, facial, religious, hygiene and cultural toiletries and cosmetics, be sure to pack what you’ll need for the duration of your trip.

List everything!

Before zipping up your suitcases, make a detailed list of everything you've packed, inclusive of in which suitcase/ piece of luggage, and keep that list in your personal hand-bag/ satchel.

To avoid being robbed, do not wear conspicuous clothing or jewellery and carry excessive amounts of money. Also, do not leave unattended luggage in public areas. Most important of all, do not accept packages from strangers! If you want more information you can refer to books on study abroad. 

Voila! You are ready to master your packing plan now... the first step in preparing for your journey. Bon voyage!

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Have trouble packing the right stuff?

Lavanya Madhanraj Lavanya Madhanraj,
Study abroad expert.
Tips on what to carry and what not when you are packing for your study abroad trip. Get your queries clarified by our advisors by requesting a call back or call 1800 103 2581 / 1 800 103 9634 (toll-free) today!