25 Essentials That Should Be on Your Study Abroad Packing List

Last Updated on September 15, 2023 by Natalie

Looking for the ultimate study abroad packing list?

Studying abroad is more than just an educational experience; it’s a transformative journey that expands your horizons, challenges your comfort zone, and enriches your life,

Whether you’re gearing up for a semester in a European capital, an exchange program in Asia, or a cultural immersion in South America, one thing is certain: preparation is key!

Here are 25 study abroad essentials that I packed for my study abroad journey (or totally wish I would have!)

study abroad

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Packing lists for study abroad experiences may vary slightly, especially depending on location and time.

This study abroad packing list will be perfect for anyone packing for 3 months – 1 year abroad.

If you’re just going for a couple of weeks, this list will still totally help, just consider what you will and will not need.

These 25 study abroad essentials will help you have a smoother transition into your educational journey abroad.

Click here for your FREE study abroad packing list so you don’t forget a single thing!

study abroad packing list

Here are 25 Study Abroad Essentials

1. Universal Travel Adapter

buy unversal travel adapter from amazon

This travel adapter is my favorite because it works in the UK, Europe, Asia, Australia, and the US! If you can only buy one thing for your trip abroad, I would consider this the most essential for your study abroad adventure.

In fact, this is so important – I always travel with 2!

If you use something that blows it out (like a hairdryer or curling iron) then it can be a pain to replace, so I travel with backup.

I also love this adapter because it has 4 USB ports rather than the traditional two.

This can be very handy, especially if you plan on traveling around in hostels during your time abroad.

2. Quality Backpack + Day Bag

During your study abroad experience, you will likely travel around a bit (especially if you are living somewhere)

Luggage fees on airlines can cost you a pretty penny if you aren’t careful. Using these two tried and true bags, I spent six months backpacking Europe and didn’t spend a dime on luggage fees.

Before I left for my backpacking trip, I knew I needed something that was completely functional and the highest of quality.

I did oodles of research on the best backpacks in the world.

The Osprey Backpacks fit on most airlines and worked perfectly for me to live out of for months.

I’m convinced that Travelon’s Anti Theft day bag is the most perfect travel day bag ever. It’s so spacious and features anti-theft clasps on every zipper.

3. School Bag

buy unversal travel adapter from amazon

Whether it’s a canvas bag or a traditional backpack, a school bag will be needed!

This Kate Spade canvas bag is perfect for holding a few books and a laptop.

Alternatively, canvas bags are a really fun souvenir if you want to wait until you’re abroad to purchase one.

4. Journal


You will certainly want to document your exciting and new experience abroad.

I know a journal can be a bit old school, but you will be so happy once you’re older to look back on this experience.

5. Mini Sewing Kit


Believe me, when my mom snuck this in my bag before I left, I actually rolled my eyes when I found it!

However, I was relieved to have it when a few of my favorite tops needed stitches.

A sewing kit is handy to have, and it’s so tiny it hardly takes up any room.

6. A Laptop


If you are a student, you may already have this.

I’m sure you can always use your university’s library facilities if you don’t have a laptop.

However, with so many online courses these days, it certainly is more convenient to have one by your side.

The laptop that I’ve had forever is a Microsoft Surface Book.

The best thing about it is that it’s SO light, perfect for traveling.

7. Kindle


Traveling is all about packing light. Having a kindle (or your preferred e-reading device) is going to save so much room rather than lugging thick books around.

Whether you’re an avid reader in your free time or you have a long list of books for your program, a kindle is definitely a study abroad essential.

8. Travel Bottles for Liquids


Liquids overall are just such a pain to travel with. These bottles make things a little easier, especially if your favorite products don’t come in travel sizes.

9. Travel Credit Card

study abroad

A travel credit card is an often overlooked travel necessity.

When you use a debit card for a purchase or withdraw from an ATM in a foreign country, you are charged a fee every time you swipe that card.

I started with a Capital One Venture Card when I began traveling, and I highly recommend it.

Obviously, credit cards are a serious discussion among youth and I would encourage you to do your own research and consult with your friends and family before making any big decisions about your credit.

10. Headphones/earbuds


Airpods are something I truly can’t live without! Whether it’s watching my favorite Netflix show or my morning run before class, my AirPods are in my ears constantly.

11. Water Bottle


A student essential whether you’re abroad or at home! This sleek water bottle will keep you hydrated and stylish.

12. Extra Phone Chargers


I would recommend traveling with 2 phone chargers.

Similar to the adapters, a phone charger is not something you want to be without – even for a day!

It’s best to have a couple of extras on you just to be prepared.

13. Swimsuit


This may seem rather random but you never know when you’re going to take a dip.

Swimsuits are small and easy to stuff in your bag, it may be worth having one just in case. Even if you are studying somewhere cold and not tropical, you could find a super cheap flight to Lisbon or Morocco and want to go for a swim.

14. Tennis shoes


Good pairs of shoes are a suitcase staple.

I typically pack my favorite running shoes, quality sandals, a cute pair of shoes to go out in, and cheap flip-flops for hostel showers and the beach.

15. Unlocked Cell Phone OR International Phone Plan


Be sure to research your specific cell phone and how it will work in the country you’re going abroad to.

I have an iPhone and made sure to get it unlocked before I left.

An Unlocked Phone just means that your phone can be assigned to a different carrier abroad. This means you can easily buy a sim card in your study abroad country and use it in your phone.

Your phone carrier may also have international plans.

However, buying a sim card abroad is typically very easy and will be way cheaper than any international plan you sign up for. Also, half the time those international plans barely work!

If you aren’t careful, your phone plan can cost you thousands of dollars in extra international fees.

16. Travel Insurance

If you’re going abroad through a school, they should have insurance included within your fees (but always double-check!)

However, if you plan on traveling before or after your term, your school insurance likely will not cover it! Travel insurance is extremely important for your finances and your health.

17. Luggage Tags and Labels.

I’m a big fan of labeling literally everything I own. My luggage has these luggage tags and valuables like my journal, backpack, etc. are labeled with scotch washi tape.

Include your first & last name so people can find you on Facebook.

Also, add your country code before your phone number, and your e-mail in case they can’t contact you via phone number.

18. A Small Variety of Clothing Options

study abroad things to get

Pack whatever clothing best fits your destination. Additionally, you’ll want to pack a few different seasonal options just to be extra prepared.

Don’t worry about having the perfect wardrobe.

You can buy clothes anywhere and you may even prefer to buy new stylish clothes in your study abroad destination.

19. Towels & Sheets

Depending on your university abroad and the move-in packages they offer, it’s very possible you won’t have towels and sheets for your bed.

While every university is different, just communicate with the study abroad office to find out so you can arrive prepared.

Want the ultimate travel hack? Order these things on Amazon to be delivered the day (or the day after) you arrive!

You could even get your roomies’ phone numbers from your study abroad office and see if any of them can keep an eye out for your package.

20. Extras of EVERYTHING! Medicine, Contacts, Retainers, Glasses, etc.

It’s not that you can’t access these items in most countries, but it can just be a bit more difficult.

You’ll need to stock up on contacts, birth control, any special type of medication, and anything else that is particular for you and more tricky to get abroad.

21. Light Rain Gear

Even if you are going somewhere warm, this packable jacket can be a lifesaver! I also always carry a small umbrella with me.

22. Luggage Locks

Locks are good to have as a staple travel essential. You’ll especially need these if you take backpacking trips on the weekends where you’ll be staying in hostels.

I personally have both kinds of locks shown above. I travel with 2-3 in case I lose one.

23. Toiletry Bag


This toiletry bag is one of my all-time favorite travel products.

As a woman, toiletries take up the most space in my bag. Face creams, hair products, feminine care, medications, etc. It’s always the little things that add up the most.

24. Sunglasses


You’ll definitely want some sunnies for your adventures abroad!

25. Planner

Call me old-fashion, but I’m still a paper planner girl!

The first week of my study abroad was loaded with so many mandatory meetings and events. I was so happy I brought my planner to keep track of my jam-packed schedule.

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  1. These are such great recommendations when traveling abroad (even if you’re not a student). Power cords is one thing I always forget when traveling. And I love that packable jacket.

  2. I have studied abroad as well and I would definitely say that the travel adapter and a good pair of hiking shoes were the most important for me. Oh… and EXTRAS of everything is so important too! I always stock up on my contact lenses before I travel somewhere for a long time!

  3. Ah I miss my study abroad days! I actually have the osprey backpack myself and it has been very handy during my travels! Nice comprehensive list!

  4. I’m so in awe of people who are brave enough to study abroad! I love travel but I’ve never travelled long term – I can’t imaging living somewhere else for such an extended time! It sounds like an incredible experience though and there are some great recommendations on this list. Living in the UK, I can fully back the idea of having a foldable waterproof jacket! It was one of the best investments I made to carry in my bag with the ever changing UK weather! It’s definitely a great investment to throw into my suitcase too! Thanks for the brilliant guide!

  5. This is a fantastic list for general travelling, even if you’re not studying abroad!! Having a foldable rain jacket is a must whenever you’re travelling.

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