The Golden Rule of Packing

Lay out everything you think you will need, eliminate half, and take more money!

Note for on the plane

Have a small carry-on bag packed with essentials (toiletries and a change of clothes) in case you go one way and your baggage goes the other. Pack at least 2 days worth of clothes, your toothbrush, toothpaste (in a clear plastic bag as it is considered a gel), and any necessity you will need into your carry-on. This way you will have enough to get you started in your new country until your luggage arrives. Keep your passport, visa and traveler’s checks and acceptance letter from your university/program separate from your checked baggage in a folder with other documents giving you permission to enter and stay in the country. You will probably have to show these papers when you arrive at customs and passport control.

Packing Suggestions


Plan your wardrobe carefully so that you take as few clothes as possible. Remember that you will be carrying your own bags! Casual dress may be the rule, but sweatpants, sweatshirts, and U.S. T-shirts are not normally worn around town outside the United States.

Airlines these days are constantly changing their baggage weights and limitations both for domestic and international travel. It is best to check with your airline one to two weeks before you begin packing so you know what your limits are. Also read up on what you are allowed/not allowed to bring in your carry-on based on TSA regulations, as rules about liquids and gels vary. 

Your program will likely provide you with a country-specific packing list, so check with them regarding specific packing questions or visit this Packing website.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Packing!

Don’t pack: anything which you can buy in your host country

  • i.e. toiletries, school supplies, towels
  • You should bring enough toiletries to last for the first few weeks.
  • Bring an extra pair of contacts or glasses. Contact solutions will be different abroad, and can be very expensive, so talk to your optometrist about alternative options.

Don’t pack: as many clothes as you can jam into your suitcases.

  • Laundry is generally very expensive to do abroad, so hopefully you will do as the locals do and wear your clothing more than once before washing. Bring clothes that will dry fast.  You will also want to save room in your suitcase for clothes and souvenirs you buy abroad.

Do pack: versatile, sturdy, easily interchangeable clothes.

  • Bring clothing that you know is going to last through some heavy use.
  • Dark colors are better than whites and comfortable walking shoes are a must.
  • Do pack some nice clothes for when you want to go to the theater, a concert or a nice dinner.
  • Pack comfortable clothing, being sensitive to local customs. 

Do pack: culturally appropriate clothing!

  • Wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts is not appropriate when visiting places of worship.
  • Women should be aware of what they are wearing when traveling or living in Muslim countries and visiting the places of worship. Bring, or better yet, buy a sarong to wrap around yourself when you want to go into a place of worship. In general, women need to be careful as to how much skin they are showing as to not attract unwanted or insulting attention to themselves.
  • Men should also learn about local norms before they pack.  For example, in some countries men simply do not wear shorts outside of their homes or the gym.

Do  pack: clothing that is appropriate for that country’s climate.

  • Research the local weather patterns in the country or region where you are going to be living. When they say “rainy season,” believe them!
  • Also remember for those of you going below the equator, the seasons are opposite!

Do pack: necessary medicines and prescriptions.

  • Bring a copy of your prescriptions with the generic name of the drug. If any medications contain narcotics, carry a doctor’s letter attesting to your need to take them.
  • Items that you take for granted may not be readily accessible or of poor quality. This includes over the counter medicines, contraceptives, sanitary napkins, and tampons.
  • You may want to bring antacid or anti-diarrhea medication for an upset stomach and traveler’s diarrhea.

Do pack: extra passport photos  for visas and other official documents you will need to apply for abroad.

  • Passport size photos can be made at Walgreens on South Street, CVS on Main Street, and at the AAA office on Lexington St.

Do pack: a little of yourself! You will want to share with your host family and new friends what Boston and your home state are like. You will be amazed how interested your new friends and host family will be in your home. A list of suggestions:

  • a book of your home state or region of America
  • photos of your home, family and Boston
  • things to decorate your room or flat
  • a few small gifts from Boston, Brandeis, and or your home state (key chains, books, cards) to give to your host family, children, or friends
  • Consider packing some of your favorite foods to share or small amounts of ingredients to make your host family a meal (i.e banana bread or pancake mix)

Do: put your name and address on the INSIDE of each piece of luggage, in addition to the outside tag. Make sure you receive a claim check for each item you check.  Believe it or not, they do often check overseas to make sure you have a claim ticket for EACH bag.