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Getting Ready to Travel?

The Do’s and Dont’s of Smart Packing

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By Emilie Swartvagher


Do: Pack Light


This may be something you’ve heard over and over again, but do not pack your suitcase to maximum weight capacity. If you do, how will you be able to bring home all your shiny new  souvenirs? Pack your most versatile clothing items -- ladies, this means your LBD (little black dress), a pair of slacks, a button down. If you’re going somewhere that’s typically chilly or rainy, ditch the wellies, winter coat, scarf, hat, gloves, and snow boots. Chances are you’ll be able to find an inexpensive coat at one of the local stores (Primark in Dublin sells winter coats for as little as 17 euro). Not to mention that the best place to get weather appropriate clothing is usually in the place you’re intending to live. 

Don’t: Pack Brand New Clothes


Instead of planning your next shopping spree weeks before you leave, choose to pack old clothes. Don’t buy brand new pajamas when your flannel pants and an old tee-shirt have been good enough until now. The idea is to pack things that won’t be coming back with you at the end of the semester. Plus, the money you save on buying a whole new wardrobe can go to food, cultural events, and souvenirs (and yes, clothes shopping too). When you’re getting ready to return, packing those old bars of soap or half empty shampoo bottles will just waste space. Donating clothes and self-care items before leaving, as well as throwing away what’s unwearable, is a great way to free up space in your suitcase. It can also help the community around you (female toiletry items are always in need)!


Do: Ask “Can I get this when I’m there?”


A toothbrush kit might be a good idea for the plane, but do you really need to drag a 32 oz bottle of shampoo and conditioner across thousands of miles? How about those expensive wall converters for your charger? Oftentimes we can get our travel items locally, for almost the same amount as the U.S. For the sake of convenience, try researching where you can buy items locally so you won’t have to worry about lugging anything around with you before you arrive. When I doubt, ask yourself, “Can I get this when I’m there?”


Don’t: Bring Multiple Suitcases


A carry on, laptop, and checked bag. That’s the general limit of luggage on flights. Do not bring more than that! Try challenging yourself to bring even less than what’s allowed. It’s never practical to bring everything you own on a trip. Think about how much luggage you can carry on your own. If you’re arriving at the airport and need assistance carrying out your luggage, it may be a sign that you’ve overpacked!


Do: Remember, It’s Just A Semester


As much as you love your jewelry box, stamp collection, or signed baseball jersey, can you survive four months without seeing them? If so, it’s probably best if you left them for safekeeping at home. They’ll always be there when you get back!


Don’t: Promise EVERYONE A Souvenir


Don’t make the mistake of telling everyone you know that they’re getting them a souvenir. Mom and Dad, yes. Your next-door neighbor? Your first grade teacher? Probably not. It’ll weigh you down when you’re repacking and if you forget someone, it’ll be embarrassing (trust me). 


Protip: Postcards are cheap, transportable, and LIGHT. You can buy a lot of them for very little money, and write personal messages on them. You don’t even have to mail them, bring them back with you and distribute them with a little something if you want. I bought a bulk container of european candies (which cost no more than 10 euro) to give out to people and everyone loved them!

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