(Photos courtesy of the Gannon University TRAVEL Program Facebook page – hop on over (when you’re done reading here, of course!) to see more from our student’s travels!)

Gannon University is filled with countless opportunities to go abroad. Over the course of my 3 years at Gannon I have had to the opportunity to go to seven different countries and Hawaii. While all of these trips have been for a variety of different purposes: service, travel, or academics, one thing that has always been an adventure: packing.

Like it or not, packing is a part of any travel experience and can have the ability to shape a significant portion of your trip. So, here a few tips that I would give to any student looking to travel (whether through Gannon’s Office of Learning Abroad, T.R.A.V.E.L. Program, or even on your own!).

  1. Start Early

Traveling can be stressful. You do not want to mix the stress of traveling with the stress of packing. The best way to combat stress is being prepared. So start early. Give yourself enough time to go through everything that you need. I would suggest giving yourself a minimum of a week to pack. This allows you time to buy things you also may need without hassle.

  1. Plan

I know this one may seem obvious, but it is worth emphasizing. Don’t just make a mental list and throw things into a suitcase. Be intentional and take time to really know what you are going to need. Trust me, when you get to your hotel after a long day of traveling to find that you forgot underwear then you will be wishing that you took time to plan.

  1. Packing Lists Matter

Speaking of planning… if your trip leader has been gracious enough to provide a packing list then certainly go over. A lot of times it will provide you with some insider tips as well. For instance, some areas that you are going may have expectations on how to dress. This is especially true when you are going aboard. Make sure to read the list and do your best to pack clothes that respect the culture that you are going to try to immerse yourself in.

photo courtesy of the TRAVEL Program summer trip to Japan
  1. Know Your Destination

If possible try to do some research on where you are traveling before packing. If you are going abroad try to get a feel for how locals dress and what sort of attire is considered respectful. Are booty shorts acceptable or do women primarily where things below the knees? These things matter and can impact your trip. Also check the weather where you will be traveling constantly. If you were thinking it would be mid-70s but it turns out to be low-60s then that can make for a rough week.

photo courtesy of the TRAVEL Program summer trip to Japan
  1. Pack Light

Speaking of what can make for an unpleasant trip.. Nobody wants to carry around pounds of luggage. Do your best to pack as light as possible. Check to see if where you are staying will have laundry available. If so, then pack just enough outfits that you can wash. Your Instagram followers won’t think less of you for wearing the same outfit twice. Plus, if you are using public transit then hauling large suitcases for miles can be exhausting. Lastly, make sure to leave room for souvenirs if you are looking to purchase any. You do not want to go over the weight limit for the plane. Please, don’t be that guy.

  1. Check to see if you can check in

If you are flying most planes allow you to check on set of luggage. Make sure to confirm this with your trip leader of course but if you can check your bag. This frees up hands and makes going through security a lot easier. Also, you are able to bring more liquids inside of your checked bag. So in the off chance that you purchase a bottle of wine while abroad you can store it here which you couldn’t do otherwise.

  1. Keep it Fresh

After traveling for sometime luggage can get smelly and gross. Unfortunately, smelly luggage can lead to smelly clothes which can lead to smelly humans. No one wants to be smelly. I have found that bringing scented garbage bags for dirty clothes and packing my clean clothes with dryer sheets have helped me feel more clean. Another option is to put outfits inside individual gallon bags. This also makes organization and scent better. Ultimately, you will find your own method, but freshness is something to consider.

  1. Know Your Itinerary

Just like planning knowing your itinerary can also be taken for granted. Your itinerary is literally a snapshot of your trip. Make sure to read it and think of what you ideally would be wearing each day. This can give you a ground zero and may help you set up outfits better than the packing list.

  1. Write it all down

Writing down a list of all of the items that you want to pack and listing which bags that you want to pack them inside can be extremely helpful for planning but also when you are repacking to come home and want to make sure that you haven’t forgotten anything.

  1. Bag liquids

When you are going to security it is important that you can only bring one sandwich bag worth of liquids with no more than 3 ounces per container. Put all liquid containers into the sandwich bag. Trust me. This makes the security goes so much quicker. Also bag any liquids if you can even in your checked luggage. The pressure from the flight can cause things to leak and the bags keep it from ruining your luggage.

  1. Check twice

Please make sure to go over everything at least twice. Make sure to go over your list again and double check that you really do have everything. And have a great trip!

photo courtesy of the TRAVEL Program summer trip to Japan