The Ultimate Study Abroad Packing List

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The Ultimate Study Abroad Packing List

This study abroad packing list is based on exactly what I packed when I studied abroad in Paris.

Studying abroad is by far my favorite college memory! I spent my sophomore spring semester studying abroad at Sciences Po in Paris and I loved every second of it.

This packing list is tailored specifically to girls who are studying abroad in Europe (since 90% of my readers are female and probably a similar percentage are studying abroad in Europe!)

If you are not a girl or you’re studying abroad somewhere other than Europe, you will need to tailor this list slightly to your needs but overall it should still be a good guideline.

Study Abroad Packing Considerations

Like I said, this study abroad packing list is mainly geared towards studying abroad in Europe. Here are a few things to take into consideration when packing for your study abroad:

  • Where are you studying abroad? Will you be in a big city like London, Paris, or Florence or a tiny rural village in Tuscany? Consider the location of your study abroad and how it will impact things like your ability to go shopping once you arrive.
  • What time of year are you studying abroad? Most people study abroad during the fall or spring semester, but a lot of universities now offer summer programs too, so what you’ll pack for summer vs. winter in Europe is going to be very different.
  • How long are you studying abroad? For example, packing for one month abroad is a lot easier and requires less luggage than packing for five months abroad.
  • What’s the culture and style like? People dress a lot nicer in Europe, and most places are more conservative than the US. For example, even in the middle of summer, you won’t see locals wearing shorts and tank tops in Paris.

Everyone’s study abroad situation is going to be different, so be sure to consider these factors and tailor your own study abroad packing list accordingly!

Study Abroad Packing List

And without further ado, here it is! The complete study abroad packing list (based on exactly what I packed for my semester-long study abroad in Paris!)

Clothing to Pack for Study Abroad

  • 2-3 comfy travel outfits
  • 5-7 day-to-day outfits
  • 3-4 cute going out outfits
  • 2-3 sets of pajamas
  • 1 set of workout clothes
  • Underwear and bras (at least a week’s worth)
  • Socks (at least a week’s worth)
  • Swimsuit (destination dependent)

The most important thing to note about packing clothes is to pack outfits you already wear at home!

Otherwise, you’ll pack a bunch of random clothes you never end up wearing. It’s also best to take a minimalist approach when it comes to packing clothes, because you’ll probably end up buying some new clothes when you’re abroad anyway.

Outerwear to Pack for Study Abroad

  • 1-2 winter coats (destination dependent)
  • Hat and gloves (destination dependent)
  • Light jacket
  • 1 cozy scarf (that can double as a shawl/blanket for travel days)

It’s quite cold in most parts of Europe during the winter, fall, and spring. There was maybe one day between January and May in Paris that I didn’t need to wear a heavier winter coat outside.

Even in the summer, it can get chilly (especially at night) so be sure to pack a light jacket or coat.

Shoes to Pack for Study Abroad

  • 1 pair of stylish but comfortable boots
  • 1 pair of cute but comfortable tennis shoes
  • 1 pair of cute going-out shoes

Yes, I’m really recommending only three pairs of shoes! I pretty much wore the same pair of black leather riding boots or Adidas Superstars every day in Paris. 

If you’ll be studying abroad somewhere warm (like Europe in the summer) you will want to substitute sandals for the boots. And if you’ll be staying somewhere with communal showers (like residence halls or hostels) then add a pair of shower flip-flops.

Toiletries to Pack for Study Abroad

  • Toothbrush and travel-size toothpaste
  • Travel-size shampoo, conditioner, and soap 
  • Deodorant
  • Hairbrush and comb
  • Medications if needed to last the duration of your study abroad
  • Cosmetic products
  • Nail file and nail scissors
  • Hair ties, bobby pins, etc.
  • Hair straightener/curling iron*

A quick note on hair styling tools: A lot of people will tell you to leave them at home and buy cheap ones when you get to Europe because your American hair styling tools will not work due to their higher voltage. I have had this happen to me at a hotel in Paris before but at my apartment in Paris, my hair straightener worked just fine. It really just depends on where you’re staying.

Technology to Pack for Study Abroad


Important Items to Pack for Study Abroad

  • $100 cash in the local currency (you can withdraw more once you arrive but it’s good to have some currency already just in case of an emergency)
  • Passport, visa, driver’s license, student ID, and other ID/documentation
  • No-fee debit card (I use the Charles Schwab debit card now – there are no foreign transaction fees and they refund any and all ATM fees at the end of each month. I sure wish I’d had this when I studied abroad because I wasted a lot of money on fees!)
  • No-fee credit card (here are some good travel credit cards)

Miscellaneous Items to Pack for Study Abroad

  • Notebook/journal
  • Small pencil pouch with school supplies
  • Flash drive for school
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Sunglasses
  • Travel size hand sanitizer
  • Small first aid kit
  • Over-the-counter meds like Advil, allergy medication, vitamins, etc.
  • Compact umbrella

Luggage for Study Abroad

So how do you actually PACK all of these items? Here are the luggage solutions I used:

  • BIG suitcase for most clothing, shoes, etc. (I checked this suitcase)
  • Smaller carry-on suitcase for remaining clothes, toiletries, and miscellaneous items
  • Carry-on backpack or multipurpose camera bag for your electronics and other miscellaneous items
  • Large Longchamp tote bag and smaller Longchamp purse (these are the two bags I used on a daily basis in Paris, but I packed them folded up in my suitcase on the way there)
  • Packing cubes to organize stuff in your suitcases

Note: I NEVER ended up using the backpack once I got to Paris. It was my college backpack back in the US but no one in Paris carried backpacks to class. I switched to using my large Longchamp tote bag for class instead, and it’s perfect for Paris or anywhere in Europe.

What NOT to Pack for Study Abroad

And now that you know what to pack for study abroad, here are some things NOT to pack:

Super casual clothes: If you’re anything like me, you may be used to going to class in an oversized Greek life t-shirt and athletic shorts/leggings, but that look would make you stick out like a sore thumb in Europe. People tend to dress a lot nicer for class here.

Bed linens/towels/washcloths: Even if you’ll be staying somewhere that doesn’t provide these things, you are better off buying a cheap set of them once you’re on the ground in your study abroad destination than wasting space in your luggage packing them.

Books: You’ll have plenty of long travel days where reading is the perfect way to pass the time, but books are heavy and take up a lot of space in your luggage. You are better off getting a Kindle or other e-reader to bring with you instead. 

Hangers: This is something I see on a lot of packing lists and I don’t understand why! Hangers are awkwardly shaped so they take up a lot of space. If you’re staying somewhere that doesn’t have hangers, you can easily go out and buy them for cheap anywhere in the world.

Too many clothes/shoes: It will be tempting to overpack for study abroad, but trust me, taking a minimalist approach is the way to go! You don’t want to pack a bunch of clothes you never end up wearing, so stick with packing outfits you know you like and wear, and remember you’ll probably end up doing plenty of shopping while you’re abroad too!

Final Study Abroad Packing Tips

  • Start packing at least a few days before you leave for study abroad so you have time to do any last-minute shopping and aren’t in a rush.
  • Remember to keep your packing as minimal as possible!
  • Pack, unpack and then pack again. See what you can eliminate because I guarantee you will overpack the first time you do it!

Good luck and have a great time studying abroad! 🙂

More Tips for Study Abroad

For more tips on studying abroad, be sure to read the following posts:

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Study Abroad Packing List

Denise, travel blogger at Wander Her Way

About Denise Cruz

Denise is a marketing executive who escaped corporate to travel the world… twice. A Brazilian native living in the U.S., she’s lived in 4 countries and visited 35+ others. After side-hustling her way to financial independence, she curates solo destination guides, slow travel tips, and travel blogging advice on Wander Her Way. When she’s not on the road, you can find her in Miami with her dog Finnegan.