Narrowing down your possessions for a long trip can be difficult. The phrase “only pack the essentials” is very subjective. For you, the essentials might be t-shirts and face wash, but for me it more closely resembles boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese and a jar of peanut butter. Apart from advising you to bring underwear, socks, pants, etc., I have provided a list of 5 pieces of suitcase-packing wisdom I have acquired from my journey to Italy.
I brought one carry-on briefcase, one duffel bag, and checked my main bag. While I advise you to leave some space in your luggage for the new items you will most certainly acquire abroad, I did not follow this advice. Stay tuned in 11 months for my guide on “How to Take Everything Back to America That You Bought Abroad Because You Are a Compulsive Shopper.”
Here are my top 5 packing tips when preparing for a year abroad:
1. Bring things from home you don’t think you can find abroad
Some examples include American books and magazines, peanut butter, and to-go coffee containers. To-go coffee is a rare commodity and it is very unusual to see people carrying around porcelain or plastic drink containers (or even water bottles). While it is possible to find these coffee containers in some kitchen or novelty stores, if you have a favorite one from home, you might as well just bring it.
It may even be useful to bring things that you don’t want to search for. In Italy, there are no superstores and very few department stores. If you want paper, you go to the paper store. If you want perfume, you go to the perfume shop. If you want makeup, go to the makeup store. You get the point. Shopping for multiple types of items can be a hassle so bring smaller items with you that aren’t worth searching for in Italy right away. For example, I brought a mini stapler and some staples, ibuprofen, and a USB drive.
2. Make sure your clothing items match
If you are like me and wear mostly black, white, and blue then this isn’t usually an issue. It can be tempting to bring your favorite items without thinking about what outfits you might have. Pack outfits instead of your favorite items of clothing to prevent this problem.
3. Only pack appliances that run on 220 volts
American appliances run on 110 volts and cannot be used without an adapter or converter in some cases. Many appliances come in dual voltage options so purchase those before you leave. I found a travel hair dryer on Amazon for about $10 before I left that has both 110 and 220 volt options.
4. Bring a light cardigan or shawl
Obviously this only applies to the ladies, but if you plan on visiting any churches make sure you have something to cover your shoulders in the summer months. While covering up is not technically required at every church, it is a sign of respect.
5. Pack a washcloth
Apparently washcloths are a very cultural item. Italians often use sponges or loofahs instead of washcloths to clean themselves. While you may be able to find one at Coin or a home goods store, I recommend bringing one with you. I have been able to find smaller towels, but not as soft and fluffy as the ones I buy in America. If you have roommates in Italy, be careful. You can’t always be sure that small towel hanging by the sink is for your hands and not for post-bidet use.