Packing Tips

A Packing Checklist

As travel guru Rick Steves says, you'll never meet a traveller who, after five trips, brags, "Every trip I pack heavier." The measure of a good traveller is how light she travels. You can't travel heavy and happy.

Furthermore, too much luggage marks you as a typical tourist. If you are off campus for a month, limit yourself to 20 pounds in a carry-on size bag. A 9" x 22" x 14" bag should be your self-imposed limit. You'll walk with your luggage more than you think you will. Before leaving home, give yourself a test. Pack up completely, go into your hometown, and practice being a tourist for an hour. Fully loaded, you should enjoy window shopping and walking pretty much non stop for an hour. If you can't, stagger home and thin things out.

Most airlines will allow only one free checked item, and the cost to check additional luggage is very expensive. Travel with one checked item only, and one carry-on.

If you are off campus for a semester, or longer, remember that you will want to purchase items once you arrive at your destination. Before you go, find out what attire is typical where you are going. Avoid looking like an American tourist. Leave the Gustavus sweatshirt and the baseball caps at home.

Spread out everything you think you might need on the living room floor. Think in terms of what you can do without - not what will be handy on your trip. When in doubt, leave it out. A backpack or rolling suitcase are both good options. Avoid bringing any kind of bag that you can't put on your back or roll behind you. Dragging a suitcase is a drag.

Be aware that weight and bag limits vary between different airlines. Check with your airline before packing.

What to Pack

Make sure to check the TSA List of Prohibited Items


  • 1 pair of rain-proof walking shoes
  • pajamas, slippers
  • 1 pair of flip-flops for the shower
  • poncho/rain jacket
  • socks
  • 1 light jacket
  • underwear
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 1 hat
  • 1-2 shorts (may be inappropriate in certain cultures or climates)
  • 1-2 long skirts/trousers
  • 1-2 nice outfits
  • 2-3 long shirts/blouses
  • winter coat, gloves, hat, scarf (depending on location and season)
  • 1 sweater (depending on location and season)

Medicine and Toiletries

  • prescription medicine in original pharmacy container (carry copy of all prescriptions)
  • toothbrush and toothpaste tissues
  • soap and shampoo in small containers (buy more on arrival)
  • feminine hygiene products
  • comb and brush
  • razors/blades
  • sunscreen, moisturizers, cosmetics (in small containers)
  • extra eyeglasses and sunglasses (carry prescriptions with you)
  • deodorant
  • extra contact lenses and cleaning solution
  • First Aid kit
  • tweezers, nail files, polish, etc.
  • contraceptives and condoms
  • linens (if not provided by program Site)
  • bath towel/face towel


  • watch (inexpensive, reliable)
  • money belt or neck wallet
  • camera and film
  • umbrella
  • flashlight
  • address book; lightweight stationary
  • luggage locks and tags
  • envelopes
  • journal
  • moist towelettes
  • books, guides, maps and train schedules
  • batteries
  • English-language paperbacks (to read and swap)
  • battery-operated alarm clock
  • dictionary
  • music/CDs
  • day pack/small compressible knapsack with small locks for backpacks
  • adapter and voltage converter
  • appropriate plugs (for overhead train racks and plugs in most other countries' hostel lockers)
  • plastic storage bags
  • laundry soap and sleep sack (a folded over sheet hemmed up one side)


  • passport and visas (plus several photocopies)
  • tickets and rail passes
  • International Student Identity Card (if you purchased one)
  • driver's license (U. S. or international)
  • hostel membership card
  • cash, traveler's checks or travel fund cards, credit cards, calling card, etc.
  • copies of the above for reporting lost or stolen cards and traveler's checks
  • copy of course approval form from Gustavus
  • copy of letter of admission to study abroad program
  • Gustavus catalog (can also be found online)
  • e-mail addresses, fax numbers and telephone numbers for destination and of study abroad advisor, academic advisor, registrar and financial aid office at Gustavus

You should not take expensive jewelry or luxury items that may be lost or that would mark you as a worthwhile target for a casual thief or pickpocket.

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