Pont Neuf in the evening overlooking the Seine with fresh graffiti along the locks of love.
Sometimes, I think that the deepest circle of hell would simply be a room where you are stuck having to pack your suitcase over and over again. Re-thinking what to bring and what to leave behind, and then realizing you forgot one thing or another, or not having it all fit, etc. I know that in my previous introduction I admitted that I love packing– but that doesn’t mean that I’m not willing to admit that in lieu of that fact, I must also have some masochistic tendencies.
So here it is! HOW TO PACK. Yes, the actual execution of the deed.
How to Pack:
This is section deserves an entire extended post for itself, so I’ll try to be as brief and concise as possible. I’m sure that I’ll continue to expand on this topic as the need arises, but here are the bullet points:
1. Pack larger and bulkier items first.
This includes things that cannot be folded, rolled, or molded in any way to jam into a crevice or lay flat. Anything that is in a box, case, etc. should be added first in order to pack other items that are either smaller or more malleable around it.
Examples are bottles, shoes, boxes, etc. It’s easy to jam in a jacket or extra pair of socks at the end of your packing marathon, but good luck trying to slip in that clunky hair dryer.*
*Side note: ask me about hair dryers sometime… I have my share of personal horror stories from toting them abroad that I assure would provide some insight if you’re considering it.
2. Space Bags. Look them up.
When you need to pack the puffy jacket, raincoat, 6 sweaters—and don’t forget your scarves— for the potentially eminent cold weather that may you encounter at your location, Space Bags are your best friend. They’ve allowed me to pack almost as twice as much clothing for the same space in a suitcase. They also protect clothing from any liquid you may have packed and could potentially spill during your journey.
On a related note, Ziploc bags are also awesome. If you’re packing any liquid, powder, etc. in your check-in luggage, put them it in plastic Ziploc bags. If anything spills or explodes, it won’t ruin the other contents in your luggage.
3. Learn to fold and roll.
A 10-day trip to the Bahamas may allow you the freedom to toss your clothes into a carry-on, but packing to move abroad for a year or more doesn’t grant you that luxury. Folding and rolling will not only save space in your suitcase, but also the headache of a messy unpacking adventure when you finally arrive to your destination. I’ve tried to organize a closet jetlagged; it’s not fun. That would definitely be the sequel to that hell-circle of perpetual packing.
4. Save smaller items to stuff in last.
Things such as socks, underwear, tights, and tanktops, etc. can be stuck into the tiny crevices that exist in the edges of your suitcase and spaces between any clothing that you’ve zipped up in a space bag. I know that isn’t necessarily to most organized way to pack them, but in the end, when I re-packed my suitcase for the seventh time, saving the tights and socks to stuff into little pockets of emptiness was better for trying to fit everything inside.
As promised, here are some resources I found helpful:
- EagleCreek has a very nifty info-graphic on their travel blogging section.
- DesignMom’s article details her move abroad is great at addressing the fact to pack depends on your personal situation.
- Apartment Therapy’s article tries help you not forget some vitals things that she did. (I’m also victim to a few.)
- Well-Organized Woman is exactly that. And she provides a very extended and detailed checklist.
- Seventeenth & Irving’s article “How to Pack 2 Weeks in a Carry On” is fantastically helpful. I’ve referred to it every time I’ve prepped and packed for a trip.
This is a continuation of the previous post re: How to Pack for a Move Abroad
I think the mere act packing for a trip can provide great life lessons and insight to one’s self. It forces you to think: what can I live without and what can’t I live without? Ultimately, that’s the question you’re answering whenever you’re packing for a trip, no matter how long or short of a trip that it is.
1. Research your country.
You should learn some essentials about your new home as soon as possible. In the near future, I’ll write about different way you can research your new home and add a link here, but for now, I’ll briefly advise some essentials to look up and learn:
• The weather.
Is it cold or is it how? How cold or hot? Does it rain a lot? How on earth will you know which clothes to pack if you don’t know what kind of weather to expect? This should outline your intentions about what clothes to pack (and possibly purchase before your departure).
In Paris, I know that their summers are brief and their winters are often rainy—and last much longer than any “winter” I’ve experienced in sunny Florida. However, being here these past few days, I wish I had packed a pair of shorts against the advisement of my friends.
• Their culture and economy—as well as yours.
Are certain items cheap or expensive? Do you plan on having an expendable budget for buying items such as clothes, toiletries, etc.? Do you want to blend in or stand out in regards to your attire?
When I visited China, I could buy many things cheap, but in France everything is more expensive—especially since I’m mentally converted all the euro prices into dollars. I actually just returned from the Monoprix store and found my favorite nail polish for sale for 11.90 € (euros)… that’s almost SIXTEEN dollars for an ounce of polish! Essie nail polish back home is at most $8.00:
So think thoroughly about what your budget will be and what you can and cannot live without, and figure out whether purchasing items in that country will be cheap or too expensive. I need to have contact solution and my fancy shampoo, but I’m not paying $16-20 a bottle when I could’ve stock up and brought it with me for less than half that price.
2. Write down what you need (and want) to pack.
What things MUST you take with you? And what things can you live without or wait to buy there?
Plan ahead and write it down—especially if you’re planning to purchase and pack a supply of something that you don’t want to buy over at your destination.
As a mentioned before, I stocked up on toiletries for the year (contact solution, tampons, shampoo, etc.) I had a friend who lived and worked in Switzerland for a year, and she hated having to spend what little extra income she had on essentials rather than being able to save it for something like going to dinner with friends. I actually just looked up how much it cost for me to purchase my shampoo here in France. The cheapest price was on Amazon.fr it’s cost was 60% of my weekly income. Granted, I’m not making a lot of money at the moment, but regardless I can’t spend 60% of my week’s income on shampoo alone, even if I do insist on that particular kind. So for now, I’m glad that I already brought some here.
Writing it down will also make the actual act of packing much less overwhelming. Opening an empty suitcase and thinking “now what?” always leave my mind blank. If that’s something you suffer from as well, then you’ll be glad to have that list.
Packing can be something done in an hour or two– or in my case a week or two. It depends on your personality, but regardless, it’s an essential step in traveling, but it’s significance is heightened when you’re moving to a place rather than just visiting.
Every step taken to a big move abroad is overwhelming. During my final hours back at home before my flight, I had to deal with many errands to complete and qualms to relieve; the last thing I wanted to do was pack, let alone figure out what to pack. So if you’re prepping for move abroad, whether it’s to study, work, etc. the advice from many that I’ve received is to take some time to plan what you can regulate and control– because plenty will be happening that you can’t!
Remember that the space in your suitcase is precious, and shipping things from back home or back to home is expensive. So unless you plan to have many friends and family members visiting regularly to some space to spare in their luggage, you’ve only got one shot at packing right.
xx – J
I’m going to be honest from the get-go here: I love packing.
I’ll plan what to pack, pre-pack, and re-pack until my heart’s content. I’ll usually start planning what to pack for a trip the moment that it’s booked and sometimes even before. However, I know that most other (perhaps normal) people don’t share this passion for packing that I possess.
Although I agree that you can almost always pack for a two or three week trip the night before, there’s no way around the fact that packing for a move abroad must be done thoughtfully and ahead of time.
When I first began drafting this post, I realized that I could probably ramble on for pages—but I’d rather not. Just like packing, remaining concise is key.
Packing for a move— whether it’s temporary or permanent— is much different than packing for a trip. You’re not just visiting for a brief stint, but you’re planning to make someplace your home for a period of time that outlasts your travel-sized bottles of shampoo and toothpaste.
Therefore, I’m breaking this subject into several stages that I’ll post over the next few days. This allows me to still provide all the information that I’ve learned from my experiences, but it also allows you to pick and choose what you want to read.
For this topic, I offer the following:
• How to Prepare
• How to Pack
• Resources that I found helpful for more reading.
For those looking for information on how to pack for a trip and not necessarily a move, don’t worry. I think this should still be helpful and I’ll also provide links that I’ve used in the past for reference. How I packed for my move to France derives from my own lessons and readings from packing for various travel destinations.