Here's what to pack for your spring break abroad

Here's what to pack for your spring break abroad

By Owen Clarke | Contributing Writer 

Next week's spring break holidays will take students far and wide: maybe to home in New Jersey, to Florida to escape the cold or even to the mountains for a week of hiking. But a lucky few will take leave abroad. If you fall into this category of globetrotters, you're going to need a few essentials in your suitcase. Packing for a trip abroad can be tricky. You'll want to make sure you have everything you need, but at the same time, over-packing can be cumbersome and expensive. Here's our list of must-haves for your spring break trip abroad. 

Travel adapter for outlets

If this is your first time out of the country, or out of the Americas (most South American outlets work with U.S. plugs), you may not know that outlets aren’t the same in other countries. The safest bet is to go to Target or Walmart and pick up a worldwide plug adapter ($15) that comes with four or five different outlet plugs in one. This way you’ll also have other plugs for future trips.

Backpack

If you’re going for a week or longer, it'd be a good idea to snag a pack that’s 40 liters at least , but there’s a lot of hype currently on ultralight packs. If you can fit your gear into a smaller pack, go for it. For simple hostel to hostel backpacking, there’s not really any need to get technical when buying a pack, but if you’re doing something more intense, like a multi-day trek, obviously you’ll want to be careful in choosing a pack. Do your research, check your budget and pick what’s right for you.

Travel-sized toiletries

If you aren’t careful on this one, you'll have the TSA to reckon with. It’s pretty easy to buy new toiletries if you lose yours during security checks due to size and quantity requirements, but who wants to waste money when you could have just prepped beforehand? Most superstores have an aisle specifically stocked with travel-size toiletries for this purpose. You can visit the TSA website for an updated list of size requirements.

Journal

Even if you aren’t one for writing stories or journaling, it’s always good to have pen and paper handy to take notes, copy down addresses, prices or ticket numbers. Just be sure it has a nice, worn leather cover so you can post artsy Instagram pics with it.

Camera

Smart phones may have knocked the camera to the wayside for the casual photographer, but there are still valid reasons to carry a designated camera abroad. For one, you aren’t taking pictures with your most valuable possession (getting an $10 disposable Kodak stolen, broken, or lost is way easier to deal with than having the same thing happen to your iPhone). In addition, with a disposable camera, you get the hip, trendy value of – gasp – actual physical photos you can hold in your hands and pin to your wall! Also, don’t knock their quality before you try them out; some of those disposables take great pictures. You can buy a disposable camera for about $12 at CVS. That way, when you’re trying to snap a pic on safari and a monkey snags your camera, or when you’re snapping pics kayaking and you drop your camera in the water, you won't also lose an $800 phone. 

Daypack

Who wants to walk around a bustling plaza or go on a day hike through the countryside carrying a 40-liter pack? Nobody. Not only is it uncomfortable and cumbersome, but it marks you as a tourist and paints a bullseye on your head for pickpockets and muggers. Drawstring or mesh bags work fine as daypacks, but you can also find cheap synthetic backpacks that can transform to the size of a sandwich bag but don’t chafe your shoulders like drawstring bags. Target has one for $15. These are perfect for holding a water bottle and snack for your day’s walk through Rome, and for keeping your stuff close to your person on a crowded Mexico City subway. Leave your big pack at the hostel or hotel and take your small pack out with you during the day.

Sturdy shoes

Unless you’re rich enough to be carried around in a litter (You’re in college. You’re not) or are a very boring person, chances are you’re going to do some walking on your trip abroad. Bring some footwear for the occasion. Naturally, your footwear will be determined by your location of choice, but everyone going out of the country should have at least one pair of close-toed, sturdy shoes that they feel comfortable walking several miles in.

Water bottle

Depending on where you’re going, tap water may or may not be drinkable, so you may end up drinking a ton of plastic bottled water. Still, a hard plastic bottle is a huge help. If tap water is bad news and you’re drinking plastic bottled water, you can consolidate multiple 12 oz. bottles into your larger, one-liter bottle before you head out for the day. If tap water is safe in your destination, then you can soak up all that free tap water in your handy water bottle, while also reducing your plastic footprint.  

Flashlight

Being in the dark sucks. Flashlights are great for reading or writing at night. They’re also particularly useful for those 16-bunk hostel dorms, if you need to find something in your pack during the night but can’t turn the lights on without waking up 15 aggravated Germans. 

Passport (with photocopy)

Duh. This one is obvious, but it’s so essential. The key thing to remember about your passport is to always have a printed photocopy with you in your pack, as well as the physical passport. That way, if your passport gets jacked (there is a thriving market for U.S. Passports abroad), you have a backup. 

Most likely a photocopy won’t get you on the plane home, but if you can show the U.S. Embassy a photocopy, it will expedite the process of getting you an emergency passport and getting you home.

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