Plan your wardrobe carefully so that you take as few clothes as possible. Remember that you will be carrying your own bags! 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 before you begin packing so you know what your limits are. Consider having space available to bring items back with you.
Pack a travel plug adapter/conversion plug. Research the type of plug that is used in your destination and bring one with you or bring an universal adapter. Pack any charges and cords in your carry on luggage.
Pack necessary medicines and prescriptions and keep in your carry on bag if you will need them in the first week. 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. Work with your program to make sure your medications are legal in your host country!
Pack items that you take for granted may not be readily accessible or of differing quality. This includes contact solution, over the counter medicines, contraceptives, sanitary napkins, tampons, and hair products. You may want to bring antacid or anti-diarrhea medication for an upset stomach and traveler's diarrhea.
Don't pack: All of your valuables in one spot. Keep a portion of cash and a backup I.D. in another safe location when traveling.
Avoid packing anything which you can buy in your host country, which could include things like toiletries, school supplies, towels, and detergent.
Pack a few things from home to share with your host family (photos, small gifts from your home state, your favorite foods)!
- See if your program has a suggested packing list!
- Pack once and then eliminate half--you likely won't need it!
Note for on the plane
- Have a small carry-on bag packed with essentials (toiletries, cell phone charger, money/credit cards, 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 to get you started in your new country.
- Keep your passport, visa, traveler's checks, phone numbers and addresses for your program, acceptance letter from your program, and any other documents giving you permission to enter and stay in the country with you. You will probably have to show these papers when you arrive at customs and passport control.
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.