Table of Contents

31 Top Study Abroad Packing List Items for 2024 + What NOT to Bring

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I am originally from Australia but studied abroad in the U.S. to get both my Bachelors’s and MBA degrees. I volunteered for 2 years in Europe and almost 1 year in India. My wife also studied abroad at Oxford for 2 months over a Summer to study photography.

We believe studying abroad is one of the most beneficial experiences possible for a college student. By learning outside of your domestic bubble, students have the opportunity to take in new cultures, see the world, and find new passions.

No doubt, preparing to go abroad as a student can be challenging (and daunting!), so we’ve put together a list of what to pack, what to wear, and what NOT to pack before you study abroad.

asher riding bike snow
That's me riding my bike in the snow while studying abroad!
See our product selection criteria and guidelines here.

What to Pack for Studying Abroad – 31 Essentials

  • 1. Universal Power Adapter

    The outlets in your new dormitory or apartment will likely be different from where you are from, no matter the country. This universal adapter has dual USB ports and built-in fuse protection and should suit your needs well. It works for 100+ popular countries and is backed by a lifetime replacement guarantee.

    Power Adaptor

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  • 2. Jet Lag Relief

    With study abroad programs spanning the entire globe, jet lag relief will be of huge support as you adjust to your new time zone. This brand uses chamomile and other botanical herbs to fight exhaustion rather than jamming your system full of harsh stimulants like caffeine.

    jet lag relief

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  • 3. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

    You’ll be studying at cafes, coffee shops, libraries, and an assortment of places near campus. While it may seem normal to hop on public or free Wi-Fi networks, these are susceptible to hackers that can steal your passwords, credit card numbers, and private information.

    Anytime you surf the web (whether it’s on your desktop, tablet, or phone) – ensure you have a double layer of encryption with a virtual private network like NordVPN. It’s too affordable to ignore and even frees up access to websites that may be censored in many countries (common ones they block are YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Paypal, etc., and it would be a PAIN to go without these for a whole semester).

    Another major perk that many people don’t realize – you can get cheaper flights and products because they can’t track your cookies or IP address! You’re welcome.


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  • 4. Quick-Dry Travel Towel

    A towel is one of the most versatile items in your packing artillery. This one dries 10x faster than cotton and will serve you throughout your travels as a drying rag, sweat bandana, seat cover, packing cushion, and much more. It’s one of the most absorbent microfibers we’ve found and is light as a feather for packing.

    Quick-Dry Travel Towel

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  • 5. Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger

    Your phone will be dying quicker than usual from taking pictures, using your GPS to explore new places, and googling answers to your favorite study Qs – so it’s wise to have a backup portable charger on hand. You don’t want to end up with a dead phone when it’s time to call an Uber or use the GPS. For smartphones, cameras, and more – it holds enough juice to charge two dead phones.

    Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger

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  • 6. Travel Insurance for Study Abroad

    Your insurance provider typically does not cover you overseas, which could mean facing outrageously expensive hospital bills and paying out-of-pocket. Even if you’re on your family’s insurance, it likely will not cover you when you’re abroad. Travel insurance is a wise safety net because it protects you in case of flight delays, cancelation, baggage loss, theft, international medical expenses, and other common travel issues.

    We use Faye because they are the best in the game! Most providers are like dinosaurs and make you do tons of paperwork, pleading for the money that is rightfully owed to you. Faye, on the other hand, sends you money through their mobile app and makes the claims process super easy. They support you when you need it most and prevent an already expensive study abroad trip from becoming irrecoverable! Even if your parents chip in, it’s smart to spare everyone’s bank accounts from any potential emergencies.

    Faye Travel Insurance

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  • 7. Windproof Travel Umbrella

    We recommend arriving to your new home prepared for whatever the elements have to offer. This windproof umbrella is compact and comes in a handy carrying case, making it perfect for on-the-go. It weighs less than one pound so you can store it in your purse or backpack.

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  • 8. Snacks From Home

    Last time I went abroad, my stomach had a hard time adjusting to my new Thai diet. For the first few weeks, I desperately wanted something “normal” to snack on instead of diving headfirst into the local cuisine. In case this happens to you, bring with you some healthy granola bars, crackers, or any other simple snacks that can get you through that transition time.

    Snacks From Home

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  • 9. Neck Wallet

    This top-quality neck wallet will help you keep important belongings well organized and easily accessible. Having a neck wallet will be especially useful during your travels and upon your arrival while you settle in. Jet lag alone could lead to the misplacement of important documents like your passport! But this baby will discreetly hold your phone, passport, credit cards, cash, and anything else small that you want to keep covertly stashed under your clothes.

    Available on with an exclusive 15% discount using the coupon code “HERO”.

    Neck Wallet

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  • 10. Hanging Toiletry Bag

    Europe and Asia are especially known for painfully small bathrooms. You likely won’t have a ton of countertop space or storage room, so bring this hanging toiletry bag to consolidate your liquid bottles. It unfolds to display 4 giant pockets that hold your hygiene, makeup, and self-care products. It’s like a built-in shelf that can fit on any door, shower pole, towel rack, or hook.

    This one by Eco Sun is perfect for dorms, hostels, or hotels. It’s TSA-approved and designed to be leakproof and stain-resistant, so it will secure any loose bottles or cosmetics that could spring a leak during rough transit. It’s way easier than organizing tons of little plastic sacks and still has clear pockets so you can easily see everything. Stow away the 360-swivel hook and take it with you wherever you roam!

    hanging toiletry bag

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  • 11. Filtered Water Bottle

    Most of Europe will have drinkable tap water, but sadly, a lot of the world does not have access to clean water. Even if bottled water is available, you don’t want to encourage that degree of plastic waste. This is why we recommend having autonomy over your water supply with this Brita filtered water bottle. It noticeably improves the taste and quality of your water (and if you need a more powerful one, the Grayl filters out bacteria, viruses, microplastics, and sediment).

    Filtered Water Bottle

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  • 12. Multivitamin

    Navigating foreign pharmacies can be overwhelming! And not to mention, overpriced! Many of your recognizable products won’t be available overseas and the product selection can be completely different (and often in another language) – so pack your staples from home and stock up on vitamins, Advil, cough drops, anti-nausea meds, and cold remedies. Make sure you ask your doctor for a 6-month supply of any prescription medications before you leave as well!


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  • 13. Natural Feminine Products

    It can be difficult to track down the type or brand of feminine products that you’re used to in the States. For example, in Asia, tampons are only available in big cities. If you bring a big supply with you, that’s one less thing to worry about while you’re abroad. Women also don’t always realize that many brands use bleach to make the tampon white – use these organic cotton ones that are kind to your insides instead.

    Natural Feminine Products

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  • 14. Location-Appropriate Clothing

    Do some research about the country you’re headed to. Check the weather, the dress code (if any) at your in-country school, and definitely find out what kind of clothing is culturally appropriate. It’s always a good idea to keep a multipurpose scarf on hand to cover your shoulders in case you want to wander into a cathedral in Italy, or a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka.


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  • 15. Packing Cubes

    These organizers come in handy when you’re trying to pack your suitcase or even a daybag. I use two of them in my big backpack for multiple-day trips for clothing (it comes with laundry bags to separate clean items and dirty ones). Plus, you can carry a couple of smaller ones for essentials or school materials, moving them from your bag to your classroom to your drawer at home.

    packing cubes

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  • 16. Walking Shoes

    There’s a lot of exploring to be done in foreign lands! You may also be doing a lot of walking if you don’t have a primary mode of transportation wherever you’ll be staying. Go easy on your feet, and bring some comfortable sneakers. Here’s a pair for men and a pair for women.

    Walking Shoes

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  • 17. Kindle

    Students are forced to read a lot for school, but you may enjoy a fantasy novel or recreational piece between classes. The last thing you’re going to want to pack in your overly stuffed suitcase or backpack is a bunch of heavy books. Download your travel guides and reading material that will keep you occupied at airports, on trains, and everything in between.


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  • 18. Universal Waterproof Phone Case

    The world is 70% water. If you’re going anywhere near it, use this universal phone case that prevents damage by moisture, sand, or debris. For days of snorkeling in the Caribbean or playing on the beaches of France – this case converts any smartphone into an instant underwater camera (with sound!) Don’t neglect to attach a flotation strap in case anything sinks or gets too far out of reach, it will remain buoyant.

    Universal Waterproof Phone Case

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  • 19. Lightweight Backpack

    You won’t leave home without this one. A solid backpack like this can hold your computer and notebooks when you’re going to class. It will keep you organized and balance out the weight on your back, unlike a purse or laptop bag. It’s also great for weekend excursions and counts as your carry-on item for the flights!

    Lightweight Backpack

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  • 20. Luggage Locks (TSA-Approved)

    When checking your luggage at the airport – your things can be out of sight for long periods of time. We use these luggage locks to keep sticky fingers from roaming around our suitcases, backpacks, and more. They’re great for lockers and TSA-approved, so you won’t have any security hold-ups getting to your flight.

    Luggage Locks (TSA-Approved)

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  • 21. Noise-Canceling Headphones

    A good pair of headphones will let you listen to your podcasts while your roommate is sleeping, focus during studying, and entertain you on airplanes. These are noise-canceling and not too expensive. Wearing them in the library or common areas is also the international symbol for “leave me alone! I’m studying and need my quiet time.”

    Noise-Canceling Headphones

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  • 22. Cooling Towel

    For any warm areas, you don’t have to suffer through the balmy summers or sweat through long days outside. This cooling towel is a godsend (and slightly magical!) Simply add water and wring it out – it drops to 20-30 degrees colder than the outside temp for up to an hour. Need more frosty relief? Just add more water and enjoy it all day long.

    cooling towel

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  • 23. Motion Sickness Patches

    Long flights, windy roads, and coastal excursions don’t agree with everyone’s stomachs. If you’re prone to motion or seasickness, use these patches as a preventative measure. My wife field-tested this and many similar products – like a real scientist (or maybe a guinea pig) she tried them all, so you don’t have to! This one came out on top as the most effective for fighting nausea and dizziness.

    Motion Sickness Patches

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  • 24. Flash Drive

    You’ll need a flash drive to back up all of your files on a regular basis. Learn from my mistakes in school and the early days of working, I’ve lost all my files enough times to say it’s not worth it! Now I back-up everything on cloud-based storage AND a physical hard drive like this one. You never know when technology will fail you, and sometimes it’s best to have an old-fashioned contingency plan.

    Flash Drive

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  • 25. Travel Sheets

    Travel sheets are a game-changer. Not only can you use them in your hostel or accommodation, but you can also put a layer of protection between you and any dirty areas. You can use these on planes, trains, and long bus rides. They’re also nice if your stay does not have any sheets or they’re below your standard of cleanliness.

    Travel Sheets

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  • 26. Clothesline

    Many parts of the world do not believe in air conditioning, tipping, ice in soda, OR oversized laundry and dryer machines. It can be a slight culture shock, but most global citizens prefer the classic wind-drying method with a clothesline. This travel option will be perfect for hanging fresh clothes when your house mom or hotel doesn’t have an electric dryer, it works indoors or outdoors.


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  • 27. Raincoat

    Rain is a common thread between most regions. For places like London, Paris, New York, and Costa Rica, a rain jacket will serve you well. This one is very stylish and lightweight but will give you that layer of warmth while keeping you dry.


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  • 28. Activated Charcoal

    Food poisoning can hit when you least expect it. Since anything from fine dining to street food and tap water can cause it – you should be overly cautious with some detoxing supplements. We always travel with these because new places are known for shaking up your digestive system and forcing you into a brief adjustment period. These activated charcoal supplements remove harmful bacteria from your body more quickly so you can feel better, faster!

    Activated Charcoal

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  • 29. Pocket Blanket

    For picnics in the quad, backpacking, concerts, festivals (or times when you just want to hang outside for a while), a pocket-sized blanket is such a genius idea. Imagine just whipping out the perfect blanket when your group wants to stop and enjoy a sunset or watch a parade or evening show. You’ll be the MVP! This one is waterproof so your clothes won’t get wet, and it folds back up into this tiny carrying pouch.

    Pocket Blanket

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  • 30. Journal

    Ten years from now, you’ll want to look back on your time abroad without having to scroll through Facebook or Instagram. Keeping a physical journal can help your mind process all the cool new experiences you’re having and serve as a first-hand record you can look back on down the road. Here’s one with a built-in organization system for class, and here’s a classic one for sentimental reflections.


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  • 31. Thank You Note for Your Host

    If you are staying with a local family, be sure to thank them at the end of your visit with a handwritten note. There is something very special about a keepsake in your own handwriting. And if there is a language program, they would love to receive the note in their native tongue to show how far you’ve come!

    Thank You Note for Your Host

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What to wear while studying abroad:

What you should wear obviously depends on the country you’ll be studying in, and the prominent religion there. Definitely spend some time researching your destination’s cultural norms and weather forecast before deciding what to pack. A quick Google search of “what to wear in Berlin,” for example, should answer any questions you may have.

What NOT to bring while studying abroad

  • 1.Heavy liquids in bottles

    Even though you can pack liquids of almost any size into your checked baggage, weight rules still apply. Don’t weigh yourself down (and pay extra) unless it’s absolutely necessary. Instead, bring travel sizes of your toiletries!

  • 2.Too many clothes/ shoes

    You’ll probably want to buy things while you’re there. Bring dual-purpose, neutral-colored clothing that you can mix and match.

  • 3.Culturally inappropriate clothing

    You’ll get stared down (and lose respect) for wearing a tank top in countries like Myanmar where it’s unacceptable to show your shoulders. Research, research, research!

  • 4.Books

    They’re just too heavy. Invest in a kindle!

  • 5.Non-compatible electronic items

    The voltage system in your new country might fry your hair straighteners, blow dryers, etc. It’s better just to buy those things in-country or bring extra adaptors.

  • 6.More than one full suitcase

    Remember to leave space so that you can bring home souvenirs!

FAQs about Studying Abroad

  • 1. Why should I study abroad?

    You can work towards your education goals while you see the world and dive head-first into a new culture. What’s not to love? You might also make lifelong friends, pick up a new language, and stand out on grad school applications!

  • 2. Where will I live while I’m abroad?

    It depends on the city you’ll be studying in. Some foreign academies have on-campus housing (dormitory or apartment-style), while other programs will offer to book off-campus housing for you. Check with your specific program as soon as you’re accepted.

  • 3. What will it be like going to school in a different country?

    It will likely be scary at first (navigating a new city to your new classes with new teachers and friends!), but then awesome and life-changing.

  • 4. Can I travel during my program, or have friends or family come visit me?

    During my time abroad, our school gave us plenty of three-day weekends to travel. We also took lots of traveling field trips as a class! It obviously depends on your school, and how strict/ lenient their policies are. As far as I know, friends and family are usually very welcome to visit your campus while abroad!

  • 5. What travel documents will I need before I leave?

    Passport, student visa (if necessary), copies of health insurance, travel insurance, state ID/driver’s license, medical and vaccine history (just in case), and plane tickets.

  • 6. How much does it cost?

    It totally depends on your program. Check with your school and see if your tuition covers your time abroad!

  • 7. How can I better deal with culture shock before I leave?

    It helps to do a ton of research about the place, and look at plenty of travel blogs. Learn a few phrases in the local language, and maybe try some new foods from the place you’re going to. If possible, ask your university to put you in touch with somebody who has studied abroad with your program before you go!