This is one article I religiously googled and searched for the second I got the acceptance letter/email to study abroad in Spain.
I’m all about organized and functional packing anywhere I go thanks to my parents, who travel frequently for work. They taught me some of their tips and tricks of the world of travel.
One thing the numerous articles and YouTube videos didn’t touch on was that functionality part. Almost everyone had suitcases and backpacks stuffed full with all of their belongings.
What I don’t think they realized as they were packing is they’d be buying things while abroad (gifts, clothes etc.). Once it comes time to leave, where are you going to put it all? Even if you do happen to find space for it, that 50 pound limit is a killer.
Hopefully this will help those anxious packers and/or give more of a full picture of what packing for four months looks like.
I will do a follow up post after my time abroad to provide further information of things I maybe didn’t need and things I wish I had brought.
Without further a do let’s get to the reason you’re reading this post.
I was limited in what I could take for luggage with my program because we weren’t flying directly into our home city. We took a bus from Madrid down through southern Spain; stopping in Toledo, Cordoba and ending in Sevilla. I used one large suitcase, a carry-on and a back pack for my personal item. Make sure you check the baggage policy for the airline you use.
Packing cubes– I invested in some for the trip and became a huge fan. They keep my luggage organized and maximize the amount of space for packing in the suitcase. I bought mine on Amazon for $30.
This was the hardest part. How do you pack for 4 months? Sevilla is warmer than Colorado and Iowa combined, so how to pack for a partial Mediterranean climate when I don’t live in one?
Well, I shooed away the dust bunnies and brought out my warm weather clothing for starters. Since I’ll be traveling to other countries and cities that are on the colder side, I still needed to pack warmer clothes too.
And my #1 rule… I can’t stress this enough… LAYERS LAYERS LAYERS! Not only are they essential for Spring time temperatures with colder mornings and hotter afternoons, you don’t have to take as many clothes. And have room to purchase some cute pieces while there as well.
*Side note: This is what I brought. Not everyone and their location is the same so bring what you will wear based on the climate and your style.
- Tank tops (4)- (neutral colors for versatility)- When it gets warmer you can switch a t-shirt with a tank top. Just be aware if you plan on visiting cathedrals or religious sights you have to keep your shoulders covered. That’s where a cardigan comes in handy.
- T-shirts (5)- (different colors)- Can be used with cardigans when colder and by themselves when warmer. They’re easy to mix and match with outfits.
- Yoga pants (3)- For working out and/or hiking. Be forewarned though that athleisure is not really a thing in Spain. They like to dress up.
- Long sleeve T-shirts (3)- It can get colder at night in Sevilla and they provide a little more warmth under a coat. Also great when traveling to colder parts of Spain or Europe.
- Jeans (3)- I brought blue, black and a maroon for a night out outfit. You will probably wear jeans every day the first couple of months. Be prepared to re-wear if you’re one of those people who only wears things once.
- Scarf- 1 (for colder places and nights)
- Shorts (2)- For when it’s warmer. Also shorts aren’t as common in Europe as they are in the states. I’ve been told they’ve only recently started becoming a style.
- Cardigans (3)- super versatile, put on when chilly and take off when hot! Good to mix and match as well.
- Raincoat- I purchased my Marmot at Eddie Bauer. Works great and have already had to use it twice.
- Warm coat- I brought my North Face ski coat liner and its been perfect for Sevilla.
- Dresses (3)- Another cooler type of clothing if you don’t want to reach for the shorts. Gives a more put together look with limited work which I like a lot.
- Sweaters (2) (one lighter and one heaver)- In Sevilla if its a little cooler outside but you don’t want to carry around a coat, having a heavier sweater is nice to put on. Also, for any trips you might take to colder regions you wont be focused on not freezing.
- Swimsuit– may have the opportunity to visit a beach or pool/hot tub once it starts getting warmer, don’t want to be without a suit when that happens.
- Underwear/bras (Underwear pairs (10) Bras (10))– This is the one thing you should bring plenty of since you’ll be re-wearing clothes. It will be nice to change your underwear between outfits to keep clean down there, ya know.
They are truly a girl’s (or guy’s) best friend but be efficient in what you pick. They are bulky and often add the most weight to your suitcase. Here are some of the shoes I decided to bring.
- Blondo black healed booties ($150)- waterproof, 2 in. heals, comfy and great walking boots with some style, decent price. You pay for quality and you don’t want them breaking only a few weeks in.
- Nike Epic React Flynit 1 ($95)- for working out, running and a comfortable durable shoe.
- Sorel black thick healed booties– they are probably the comfiest healed shoes I’ve ever owned. I can wear them on a night out and not have aching feet by the end of the night. They have an industrial look to them which is pretty popular here. My style isn’t available anymore but I’ve never been disappointed by a Sorel boot.
- Chaco’s ($100-$150 new)- Comfy durable shoes (after you break them in) for warmer weather. I don’t go anywhere without my Chacos; they are my babies. Also I recommend looking at the sale section for a more wallet friendly price. It doesn’t lessen the quality since most of them are just last seasons styles.
- Yoga Sling 2 by Sanuk ($40) – The padding is made out of yoga mats and as a result are easy on the pressure points when walking around. The sandals also come in multiple colors and patterns.
- Eddie Bauer hiking boots– My plan is to try and get in some hikes while in Spain and I don’t want to ruin my running shoes. These hiking boots also have more traction and ankle support making it less likely for me to get hurt.
- Jewelry– bring what you will wear/ is versatile for many different outfits. I brought a pair of fun dangling earings from Francesca’s for a night out but everything else is pretty neutral.
- Hats– only like 1 or 2. They’re a nice statement piece but don’t go over board. Chances are you’ll only wear one of them.
- Hair ties/scrunchies/bobby pins- pretty self explanatory. Bring what you need but you can always buy it there if you forget something.
- Sunglasses– mine are Ray-bans but any form of eye shades works just fine.
- Purse/s– make sure its a travel safe bag that zips up with limited front pockets. Any big city you go to, even in the U.S, there will be pick pockets. I brought one cross-body and one shoulder bag with only a zipper on the top.
- Belt- keep those pants up!
- Money belt– if you’re in a place like Barcelona (the pick pocketing capital of the world) a money belt is the safest bet.
- Umbrella- for singin’ in the rain.
- Water bottle– you will have to pay for water in restaurants since they rarely serve water just from the tap and from bottles instead. It’s nice to cut costs and be more environmentally friendly by just bringing water from home with you.
- Travel size shower necessities- to save room in your bag, don’t bring full bottles of shampoo and conditioner or body wash. It takes up room you could use. I bought bigger bottles when I got to Spain and plan on leaving them here. Of course if you use a specific type that you NEED and they don’t sell it here, feel free to bring it. Do the research before hand.
- Makeup– Bring at your own discretion. It’s hard for me to tell someone what to and not to bring since everyone’s make-up routine is different. I guess try and stay away from palettes and makeup that you’d only use once. I just brought my normal make-up routine with maybe one going out palette.
- Hairdryer/curling iron/flat iron- DON’T BRING THEM! It’s the same as the shampoo. Buying them here is actually better because even with adapters, appliances from the U.S. often get fried. You can buy cheap ones at a local store.
- Medication– This requires planning ahead of time. If you’re on prescription medication, make sure to tell your doctor you’ll be out of the country for about four months so they can subscribe you enough to last. You can’t use a U.S doctor prescription in any other country than the U.S. Also stock up on cold and flu, Advil, allergy pills or anything else you might need if you get sick. It just makes it easier than having to go to the pharmacy.
- Vitamins– you will be exposed to new germs and it’s essential to keep health conscious so as to not get sick your first couple of weeks. MANY people got sick the first week here.
- Vaccinations– If you’re going to Europe you most likely won’t need extra vaccinations beside what’s already recommended in the U.S. Traveling to third world countries or just unsure ask a doctor or look on the CDC Website.
- Bring your everyday toiletries– It’s okay if you accidentally forget your deodorant, lotion, toothpaste etc. You can buy it there.
- Adapter/s (2)– the plugs and voltage are different in Europe than the United States. Adapters are essential if you want your laptop and phone to survive. Get a dual adapter and converter. It’s easier than having to keep track of multiple plug-ins when it’s all-in-one.
- Laptop/phone chargers– Can’t use them if you can’t charge them! Chargers are expensive so triple check those before you leave.
- Camera– bring one if you have it, but phones today tend to have great picture quality so if you don’t that’s totally fine. It’s nice to have so pictures don’t take up all your phone storage. I have a Canon PowerShot SX530 HS. It’s not a DSLR but it definitely does more than your typical point and shoot.
- Kindle– I love to read and this way I am able to have multiple books without all the weight and added bulk to my suitcase. It even fits in my person item.
- Headphones– I’m sure this is an easy one but I just need to cover all my bases!
Tips and Tricks
- TSA approved locks– these have definitely come in handy. They are great to put on your suitcases when traveling but also commuting to and from school. I can lock my backpack and not worry about anything getting stolen while it’s on my back. I bought mine on Amazon for about $20.
- S-Biner Microlock– They can hook to a zipper on a purse and then attach to the strap and make it harder for sometime to unzip it if you’re nit paying attention.
- Copies of Passport and Visa– Always make sure you have copies of important documents and identification in case of left. For a passport leave your real one at home, unless traveling or need it for a museum, and take the copy with you.
- Wait to buy school supplies– you can bring a notebook and some pens to write with for your first couple of days but they have places everywhere to buy school supplies.
- Journal– I know it sounds silly but it’s a great way to write down what you did in your day. That way, if you forget a name or place you can go back and look it up. It’s also a healthy way to vent and express frustrations you may feel. Study abroad can be an emotional roller-coaster being so far away from home.
- Phone plans– I used CellHire and got a 2G Spanish SIM card for $40 a month. This has worked great for me and been a much cheaper alternative to a international plan with my cell provider. I do suggest a SIM card because it allows you to call and/or use without wifi in case of emergencies while abroad.
Okay, I know that seems like a hell of a lot and a bit overwhelming but bare in mind this is for an entire semester. I also have about half of my carry-on and a little in my check bag free for anything I acquire while here in addition to everything above.
Some of the things I am bringing like toiletries I won’t be bringing back which free’s up even more space.
I hope this helped ease your mind and/or help you in your packing journey for study abroad or taking a leap of faith. Keep a look out for my next articles on my First Week in Sevilla and A Weekend in Granada!