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Packing and Baggage

It is important to follow the guidance below so you can avoid any potential mishaps that may occur with international travel. When preparing your bags for travel, it is better to pack light and practical items.

Packing For Your Time Abroad

The time has come to pack for your adventure abroad. It may sound simple, but it can actually be one of the toughest steps in the process. Trying to stuff your whole life into a single suitcase is daunting, especially since you don’t really know what awaits you when you step off the plane. Packing is more than shoving miscellaneous items in a suitcase. There are a lot of factors you need to take into consideration when packing for study abroad.

Checked Bag

Each airline has different policies on the amount and weight of baggage you can check, what can or cannot be packed, and any associated fees. This information is available on the airline's website.

Be sure to label your luggage so that it can be returned to you if it is lost during the course of the trip. It is also recommended to have the address of your final destination inside.

Consider adding unique identifiers such as a bright ribbon or colorful luggage tag in order to easily identify your bag at baggage claim upon arrival.

For your security, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screens all checked baggage. Checked bags should not be locked; TSA will cut off any locks in order to examine the contents. You can find more information on the TSA Security Screening website. However, we do recommend that you pack a small lock so that you can secure valuables in your suitcase during your stay abroad.

Checked Bag Packing Recommendations:

  • Clothing and Shoes
    • Research the local clothing trends for your host country.
    • Bring clothes that are easily layered for various climates; you may experience multiple seasons.
    • Select items that do not need ironing, can be air-dried, and are durable.
    • Try to bring clothes that are interchangeable (i.e. any top can be paired with any bottom).
    • Pack sensible and comfortable shoes that you can walk around in for long periods of time.
  • Personal Care Items / Toiletries
    • Preferred hair/body/face products. Though many personal care items/toiletries can be found in your host country, they might not have your preferred brand(s). Additionally, some items (e.g., deodorant, toothpaste, menstrual products) may not be the same quality you are used to or may be more difficult to find. If you choose to pack any liquid items, we recommend placing them in a clear ziploc bag to prevent them from leaking onto other belongings.
    • Preferred beauty tools. Though these may be available in your host country, they may not have your preferred items (e.g., hair dryer, straightener, curling iron, electric razor, etc.). However, please note that the voltage varies and there may be power limitations. In such cases, it is recommended to buy small electrical appliances in your host country. See converter and adapter information provided in the Technology section below.

Carry-On Bag

For most international flights, you may carry on one bag and one personal item (e.g., purse, briefcase, laptop bag, backpack, etc.).

Certain items may be exempt from the one item rule, such as assistive devices (e.g., canes, crutches, etc.). Additional information about traveling with disabilities and medical conditions can be found on the TSA Special Procedures website.

A carry-on bag must fit under your seat or in the overhead bin. Check the carry-on luggage size dimensions of your airline before you start packing. Some airlines may require that a carry-on item be checked if the item cannot be safely stowed on your flight.

Carry-On Bag Packing Recommendations:

  • Passport and Important Travel Documentation
    • See Travel Documents section of the Pre-Departure Guide.
    • Do NOT pack these in your checked bag as you will need quick access to them upon arrival to your host country. You will typically go through Customs prior to collecting your checked luggage.
  • Money, Electronics, and Valuables
    • You should plan to take at least $200 worth of your host country’s currency to help you get by for at least 24-48 hours.
    • Laptop, phone, tablet, headphones, charger(s), converters/adapters.
    • Jewelry that is expensive or extravagant. However, only bring these items if they are an absolute must. There is always a chance that they could be lost or stolen.
  • Clothing and Outerwear
    • Include a change of clothes in the event your checked bag gets lost.
    • You may want to consider wearing/carrying certain outer garments (e.g., coat, hat, scarf, etc.) on your flight to save space in your bags.
  • Personal Care Items and Medications
    • Follow 3 -1 -1 Rule: (3 oz. liquids/gels, 1 quart size clear plastic bag, 1 bag per traveler). You only need enough for your first few days, as most toiletries can be purchased upon arrival.
    • Toothpaste, toothbrush, glasses/contacts, contact solution, hand sanitizer
    • Prescriptions and medications; you don't want to be stuck without them if your suitcase gets lost.

Register Items Before Departing the U.S.

This generally pertains to students studying in countries with notable/valuable product exports. If your laptop computer was made in Japan, for example, you might have to pay a duty on it each time you bring it back into the United States, unless you can prove that you owned it before you left on your trip. Documents that fully describe the item (e.g., sales receipts, insurance policies, jeweler's appraisals, etc.) are forms of proof.

To make things easier, you can register certain items (e.g., watches, cameras, laptop computers, MP3 players, etc.) with Customs before you depart as long as they have serial numbers or other unique, permanent markings. Take the items to the nearest Customs office and request a Certificate of Registration (CBP Form 4457). This certificate shows that you had the items with you before leaving the United States and all items listed on it will be allowed duty-free entry. CBP officers must see the item you are registering in order to certify the certificate of registration. You can register items with Customs at the international airport from which you’re departing. Keep the certificate for future trips.