Before I left for my study abroad, I found many packing lists, but they all lacked in specificity. Below is a less general packing guide that may be instrumental to starting out your adventure relaxed–the necessary, the nice, and the excessive for a North American girl studying abroad for 6 months or more in Spain.
Remember, even if you’ve never been outside of the country, not to worry, Europe has stores, too. If you don’t pack sunscreen and decide later you don’t want to age prematurely, hope is not lost.
- Plenty of underwear (socks are more expensive in Spain)
- 4 dresses
- 3 pairs of jeans
- 10 shirts
- 3 pairs of shorts
- 3 skirts (1 maxi)
- 2 light jackets
- 2-3 pairs of shoes
- Workout clothes, if you workout
- Packable down jacket — even if you are going somewhere warm, bring this, bring this, bring this.
- Bathing suit
- Concealable strap for passport, money while traveling
- Headphones (if you prefer Bluetooth headphones and are going to a smaller city, they are hard to find, and it’s better to consult your friend Amazon España if you lose your wireless Beats in the airport like I did)
- Reusable bag for laundry/groceries – I brought one for laundry and bought one for groceries there. Plastic bags at grocery stores are an extra 5 cents. Save a euro while you’re there, and don’t contribute to the dwindling health of the Earth when you don’t have to.
- Currency — even if you have a travel card, get some cash in Euros. If you are responsible enough to do this with a few days’ notice, your bank is the cheapest way to exchange your money. If you wait to do it at the airport, you will have the highest charges to exchange. Many places in smaller cities don’t accept cards. If you don’t have cash, ask if they accept cards before you order your wine.
- Neck pillow — I was stubborn about this one and insisted I would tough it out so I wouldn’t bring one more thing. This was a mistake, and in my connecting flight I ended up spending $25 on a mediocre one I later threw away for something better. Get a thinner one so you aren’t sitting at an 80 degree angle for 8 hours.
- Electronics (laptop and charger, phone with multiple chargers)
- Outlet adapters for whatever continent you are visiting, you may also need a more heavy duty one to power any hair iron or dryer that requires more power.
- Toiletries, hygiene things (see: make-up, hair products, hair tools, deodorant, toothpaste/brush, bobby pins, hair ties, etc.) Most make up brands are available abroad for about the same price, but this is less true for hair products.
- Medical things — pain medicine, allergy medicine (new places, new plants), band-aids, Neosporin, Peptobismol, Nyquil, etc.
The Nice: (Note: Some Nice enough to be Necessary)
- Portable charger
- Journal — cool even if you aren’t a sentimental person. Write down the names of places you go. It could be helpful for a friend later.
- Plastic bags — these come in handy more than you’d think. Even though there are obviously some in the grocery stores, they aren’t as good of quality.
- Sunscreen, Aftersun lotion — you can also buy it in Spain for about the same price, but insider tip–this is available at pharmacies (farmacías) and larger athletic stores only. Pharmacies are usually open daily from 8AM-10PM. They are marked by a green cross and are everywhere.
- Travel guide — it’s much better than relying on google later
- Photos of some people you like a lot — you aren’t too cool for it. Bring some photos. It’s cute.
- Small padlock — if you are going to travel in hostels (which will be some of the best nights of your life if you opt to do it while in Europe), bring a combination lock with a thinner piece that will fit into small lockers, which are typical.
- Cheap flipflops to shower in at hostels or shady bathrooms
- Key ring — for your new apartment keys
- Vibrator — this is your decision, but to be realistic, you might want this, especially if you’re in a long distance relationship. Or if you want TSA to have a more interesting bag inspection. Put it in your checked bag. Don’t forget the charger.
- Toilet paper — take a handful from the airport and put it in a pocket of your carry-on, and when you get to Spain, keep a packet of them in your purse. A lot of bathrooms are curiously lacking.
- Peanut butter — if you’re a fan, it is expensive in Spain
- Bed sheets — My program insisted I should have to bring these. This didn’t turn out to be true, and they weighed a lot in my bag. On the off-chance your apartment doesn’t provide them, it is cheaper to buy them there.
- Flashlight — you probably have a cellphone
- Language dictionary — see “Flashlight”
- Water bottle — most people don’t drink the water in certain regions of Spain, you buy it from the store, so using your Nalgene won’t be so convenient
- As you get it all together for your exciting journey ahead, there are a few other things to keep in mind:
- Your checked bag should weigh at or under 50 pounds unless you want your wallet to be raped at the airport. Bring heavy things, if they are plane-approved, in your carry-on.
- Snacks from home are rad / Even if it’s not awesome / Airport prices suck