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The Ultimate Study Abroad Packing List

Studying abroad is an exciting experience. However, many study abroad students are traveling outside their home country for the first time and may not know what to expect. They may find themselves wondering, "What do I pack to study abroad?" This article provides a comprehensive list of necessities to pack in your bags for your trip to study abroad, and is based on the experience of previous international students who provided information about what they wish they brought to study abroad when they first studied internationally. This is a packing list for international students to the US, but can be applied no matter where you are studying. 

Travel Documents

While you can replace documents, it can take time and will likely cost money. Planning ahead and getting everything together will relieve you of potential stress, as you'll know that you have all your travel documents in one place and are ready to carry them on your person until you reach your destination. Most study abroad students will need most, if not all, of the following documents on their trip:

  • Passport
    Some countries require that your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the expected duration of your stay abroad.
  • Visa
    Check whether a visa is required to study in a specific country. It can be a very long and laborious process for some countries such as United States. You may need to start the process months in advance.
  • Copies of your birth certificate, social security card or similar
  • Driver's license, school ID
  • School related paperwork such as an admission letter
  • Proof of Study Abroad Insurance
  • Emergency contact list
  • Credit cards, debit cards
    Inform your bank of your travel plans before you leave so that they don't decline your legitimate charges thinking they are fraudulent transactions.
  • Travel tickets, including itinerary
  • Boarding passes (you can print at home in advance or pick up at the airport)
  • Cash
    Visit a currency exchange before traveling to obtain cash in your host country's currency in case you need cash after arriving. In addition to having the currency of your host country, make sure to carry the currency of your home country for use when you return home.


Electronics are an essential part of today's life and you definitely need them. However, make sure not to carry redundant items. Some of the items you should include are:

  • Laptop
  • Cellphone, including a charging cable and a portable power bank
  • Camera with spare memory card
    Alternatively, you can just use your cellphone.
  • Adaptors
    Different countries have different voltages and different shape of plugs.
  • Headphones, preferably noise-cancelling ones


You should usually carry only the small size (travel size) toiletries. Unless you are going to a remote location where it would be difficult to get them easily, it is the best to buy larger sizes in your host country.

You can consider packing the following items:

  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Soap
  • Toothpaste, toothbrush, tongue cleaner
  • Deodorant
  • Hair brush and/or comb
  • Lotion
  • Hair Products
  • Contact lenses and contact solution
  • Nail Manicure set
  • First aid kit that includes bandages, pain reliever, antiseptic ointment
  • Over the counter medicines for headache/pain relief and colds or allergies
  • Toilet paper (You never know the customs in a foreign country)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Females must include a few additional items in their toiletry kit
    • Feminine products for at least one month
    • Makeup
    • Hair styling tools (make sure you have an adapter if needed)
  • Prescription Medications
    Be sure to carry a sufficient quantity of any prescription medications that you regularly take.

Big or bulky items such as towels, laundry detergent, bedding, or etc. should not be packed when traveling to study abroad, it will be easier to purchase them in your host country.


Before you pack clothes, you definitely need to research the climate of your school, and what you will likely experience throughout the school year.

Keep in mind that you may have time to do your laundry about once a week.

Your specific needs may vary and not everything in the list may be applicable to you, but you should consider packing items from the following list as appropriate for you and your destination:

  • At least 7 to 10 sets or pairs
    • Underwear
    • Undershirts
    • Socks
    • Bottoms (Denim Jeans, Dress Slacks/Pants, Shorts, Skirts, etc.)
    • Tops (Button Up, Long/short sleeved, T-shirts, Blouses, etc.)
    • Sweater/Sweatshirt
  • Shoes
    • 1 or 2 pairs for day to day
    • Walking/Gym
    • Dress
  • Belt(s)
  • Dress(es)
  • Special Occasion attire
    Bring a couple of nice outfits in case you need to get dressed up for a special event
  • Night Clothes/Pajamas
  • Workout clothes - 2 pairs
  • Warm weather
    • Swimsuit
    • Flip flops

If you have checked your destinations typical climate, season and current weather and you need to be prepared for colder weather, consider:

  • Outerwear
    • Jacket
    • Raincoat
    • Warm, Heavy Coat
    • Gloves/Mittens
    • Hat
    • Scarf
    • Umbrella
    • Rain boots (wellies) or Snow boots

Make sure you research the local culture and customs. People dress conservatively in some parts of the world. You are not expected to show too much of your skin in such countries.

Other Items

In addition to the above listed categories, you may want to consider bringing the following:

  • Reusable water bottle
  • Overnight bag - In case you take an adventurous trip
  • Sunglasses
  • If you have prescription glasses, carry at least one extra pair
  • Umbrella
  • Foreign language dictionary


In light of the coronavirus pandemic, there are a few extra items you should make sure to have with you.

  • Facemasks (disposable or, if reusable, at least 3-4)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disposable cleaning / sanitizing wipes
  • Rubber or latex gloves
  • Medical thermometer
  • Daily vitamins


Knowing what you should pack helps alleviate stress and allows you to enjoy your trip while you study abroad and make the best out of time away. Even if you forget a few items, you have no need to worry because most of the basic items are available almost everywhere in the world.

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