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Packing 2 suitcases for 6 months in England

Hi all,

I've really appreciated the help that you've given me in planning for my study abroad semester. I just started packing and will be bringing 1 large suitcase and 1 medium-sized suitcase for my semester abroad (both need to be checked), as well as a backpack and a purse.

In terms of clothing for Mid-January to Mid-June, how do you suggest I pack?

So far, I have made the following list:

2 pair jeans

1 pair casual pants

2 pairs walking shoes

1 pair sandals

1 pair dress shoes

2 dresses

2 pair shorts/1 pair capris

8 t-shirts/short-sleeved shirts

5 long sweaters/shirts

1 vest

1 spring jacket

1 winter jacket

1 scarf

1 pair mittens

10 pairs socks

1 pair earmuffs

3 pairs CuddleDuds

1 pair house slippers

1 swimsuit

1 towel

1 set of bed sheets/mattress cover/comforter/pillow and cases

Can you think of anything I'm missing? Also, if I wanted to bring a power strip (that can plug into a wall and then I can plug 6 things into that), will an adapter be enough? I'm scared something will go wrong and I will ruin all of my electronics. Should I just buy 5-6 adapters (~$1 each)?

I will also be bringing:



Passport/travel documents


Student ID

Credit/debit cards



Can you think of anything that I'm missing? I'd appreciate any help that I can's hard to imagine packing an entire wardrobe that will work in winter and summer :)

Posted by
11443 posts

I would say to think of your trips as two in one.

The first is your semester abroad. There is nothing wrong with packing a full size suitcase for this since you'll be in one place and not moving that one around. (See if you can fit everything into one suitcase and backpack rather than two. You still have to lug it to and from your destination.)The key difference for packing for winter and spring is layering. (The only way I can see you taking two cases, a backpack and a purse is if you are traveling by plane and cab only. If you're traveling at all by train, you're in trouble. You have to manage on your own.)

The second trip will be any traveling you do around Europe. For this use only your backpack. You can check Rick's list for Women or the many others on the net. Think 2-3 days worth of clothes and wash along the way.

Lastly, is there any way to ship the majority of your stuff without having to lug it by yourself?

Do you have to bring your own linen from home or can you just buy it there?

Posted by
9363 posts

As a former study abroad student myself, I can tell you that you aren't going to want to have that much stuff with you. At some point you will have to muscle it to or from the airport (or at least out of baggage check) by yourself. And since you'll be there for several months you're going to want to buy a few things while you are there. I'd leave one of the dresses and maybe half of the tops. If you layer, you can adjust your clothing to bridge the seasons. You're not likely to need the earmuffs (what are CuddleDuds?). Are you required to bring your own bedding (we lived with families)?

Posted by
36 posts

Thanks for the tips so far. CuddleDuds are long underwear/legging type things to keep me warm. I prefer earmuffs to hats, as I find them more comfortable. I'll work on leaving some shirts and dress clothes behind, but I really find it difficult to leave anything behind :)

With regards to Frank II's comment, I was planning on only bringing a backpack with me while traveling, so thanks for the tip. Do you recommend that I bring a laptop with me as well (I will have both a full size one and a netbook with me)?

Also, I am having trouble with picking a cell phone plan to get once I arrive. Should I just wait til I arrive in London to go to a store and pick out a PAYG phone? Should I consider how low roaming charges will be for when I go to continental Europe? Finally, (I know, many questions) if I pick up a phone in London, will it be "roaming" in Leeds? If so, I guess I'll just have to wait a few days to buy it once I get to the university.
I do need to bring my own linens and comforter, or I could buy bedding once I'm there. I planned on bringing it with me so that I've already allocated the space in my luggage to bring it back. Do you know if there's really inexpensive comforter/sheet sets in England? If it's under $50-60, I may be able to buy it there and just leave it once I come back home. I was also planning on bringing a not-so-new set so that if I accumulate a lot of souvenirs/new things, I can just leave it, but it keeps me from overpacking clothes and other things.


Posted by
9363 posts

I don't see the need for both a laptop and a netbook. A netbook would be easier to carry and does everything you would need it to do, including using Skype to make phone calls home.

You won't find it as cold in England as it is in Chicago in the winter. My study abroad semester was in Austria where it really was cold. I'd be very surprised if you needed long underwear that much, so you might cut a pair of those to save some space.

Because you'll need them right away, before you might have an opportunity to shop, you should take sheets, but you might think about taking a thinner blanket and buying a comforter once you get there. Frank's idea of having some things shipped ahead is a good one, too.

Posted by
9110 posts

The brightest keychain led flashlight you can find.

Posted by
1829 posts

"Also, I am having trouble with picking a cell phone plan to get once I arrive. Should I just wait til I arrive in London to go to a store and pick out a PAYG phone? .... Finally, (I know, many questions) if I pick up a phone in London, will it be "roaming" in Leeds?"

Buy a PAYG phone in London from somewhere like the Carphone Warehouse (it seem like stores on every street). Very cheap handsets when bought with airtime, no roaming charges within UK borders and free incoming calls. The phones are unlocked so maybe buy a local Sim card when you travel out of the UK. Ask the store assistant for a plan that includes calls home to the USA, some very good deals around. See link for prices and store locations. You should be able to walk out the store with a fully functional phone.

You can buy cheap bedding at places like Primark or larger supermarkets or even Marks and Spencer's value range, see sample prices

As others have said bring clothes that you can layer, it will give you the most flexibility in dealing with our somewhat variable climate. Also, I understand that it is the "look" to have at the moment! Again you can buy very cheap fashion clothing at Primark, New Look etc.

PS - meant to add this link so you can see typical prices for a whole range of branded goods, stores UK wide

Posted by
15 posts

Hi Sherry,
I'm studying abroad in Rome right now, and am here for a total of 9 months. Let me just say, it’s a wonderful experience studying abroad, however you are going to regret having packed so much! I would recommend this amended list:
3 pairs of jeans: harder to shop for jeans in Europe as sizes run smaller and shorter than in the U.S., I'm 5'7 and have trouble finding pants that fit here.
1 pair casual pants: yes, definitely some sweat pants or track pants for lounging around indoors or to work out in
I think you're right with that minor amount of shoes, with one pair of the walking shoes on your feet while traveling to save space.
2 dresses- maybe just bring your favorite of the two, and then shop for another in London which will be more trendy.
About shorts and capris- that weather is far out on the horizon, why not save the space and pack none since you probably won't be able to start wearing it until April at the soonest, and then you can buy what Europeans are wearing in 2010
8 t-shirts/ss- In my own experience, I didn't pack any long sleeve shirts and as soon as I arrived here I wished I had. Maybe 3 long sleeves and 5 short sleeves. Unless you're on a frugal budget, you'll be surprised at the amount of shopping available/desirable. :D And sweaters are always good, dark solid colors blend in well in Europe.
1 vest- why? I have yet to see anyone in Europe wearing a vest, and it sort of makes layering more difficult. Unless you love vests! :)
With the spring jacket, might as well wait til it's warm enough weather to go out and purchase the fitting clothing. For now you save space and later get to add European clothes to your wardrobe! My biggest tip for clothing would be to pack less but the best of what you have, and subsequently buy clothes as the need arises in England.

Posted by
15 posts

Continuation of my long-winded post, haha:
Scarves: I cannot tell you how popular scarves are, everyone wears one everywhere I go, even men and they look quite good in them too. I have 5 scarves, all in different colors to match whatever I'm wearing. Also, they pack flat easily.
As for underclothes, I would suggest packing a few more than usual; unless you have personal access to a washer and dryer, laundry may not get to be done as often as you are accustomed to. Maybe nix one pair of the CuddleDuds,(which sound very cozy and now I want some) again to save space.
With a towel, a thinner fabric or preferably microfiber is good, because it can air dry between uses.
Maybe I would suggest bringing just a pillowcase and sheet set, then upon arrival you can find a cheap department store or IKEA, gloriously notorious for cheap prices, and I checked and there are 12 locations throughout England. Packing a comforter would take up a lot of space.
I’d say bringing a power strip is a wise idea, you may not have enough power outlets in your room, and then everything’s together in one spot. But maybe an extra adapter or two for short trips to keep things charged.
For your camera, make sure you have a memory card, maybe a 2GB and then you can transfer pics to your netbook, I would vote netbook because it’s so portable, and you can carry it to and from school every day without breaking your back or feeling as if it’s conspicuous that you have a large valuable laptop on your person.
As for toiletries, I highly recommend bringing a spare of any essential makeups, skin cleansers, or perfumes from the States that you prefer, otherwise your family will have to ship more to you when you run out and can’t find it in the U.K. But it’s not necessary to pack things like Shampoos, deodorants, and toothpaste as they are easy to shop for here, if not fun to try new brands, and they often have American brands too.

Posted by
15 posts

Probably a first for the Helpline, a 3-Part post: haha, because I wish someone had helped me pack better for my study abroad:

One thing I used to conserve a lot of space in my suitcase was those vacuum-seal packing cubes, you just vacuum out the air and save about 2/3 of the space. I even vacuum packed my own pillow and it was almost flat! I like my pillow firm so if you’re picky about that you may want to bring your own. The thing is, on your return home and trying to pack up all your treasures again, you can leave unnecessary items like linens, sheets behind to make room.
Whew! That’s a lot, doesn’t it feel? Some helpful extras I might suggest/things I wish I’d brought: Actual photographs of family to put up, a couple washcloths, more ponytail holders/bobby pins, scissors, mini sewing kit which I’ve ended up using 2x already, a good book to read in downtime, more batteries because they’re ghastly expensive here, although they weigh a lot it’s quite worth it, and of course any comfort items like a favorite plush blanket, mini travel pillow, heck even some DVDS to watch on your netbook. Also, I brought with me a small paperback picture book of my state, as people are always curious about where I’m from and what my city looks like. Being from Chicago, you’ve got a lot to show off! Have a great time in England! One trip I can HIGHLY suggest is to Canterbury, it was magical and felt very spiritual, and even more so if you’re religious. Feel free to PM me! Jan

Posted by
3428 posts

Buy linens there. Take 2 or more washcloths. Spring coat should be a "windbreaker" type- with hood and possibly removeable liner. 1 pair walking shoes- buy another there if needed. consider buying electronics there- then no adapter issues. 3 pair jeans, 2 "casual" pants, 1 sweat/lounge pants. reduce # tops and dresses/skirts- buy there. You will love the markets- food, flower and clothing as well a household stuff, etc can be bought.

Posted by
31521 posts


One question regarding "travel documents" - do these include some form of medical insurance?

Regarding your Laptop, Camera and other electronic products it's important to check EACH device to ensure this is designed for operation on European electrical systems. Look for a "nameplate" or similar label either on the Charger or on the device itself to determine the Input Voltage ratings. If these state "100-240 VAC, 50/60 Hz", the device will work fine in Europe without a Voltage Converter (but of course you'll need a Plug Adapter).

You might want to pick up a few spare Memory Cards for your Camera, as these tend to be more expensive in Europe (and especially the U.K.).

I'd suggest packing at least two of the U.K. Plug Adapters and perhaps two of the Euro styles (in case you decide to take a quick hop to the continent for a short vacation).

You can use a Power Bar to charge multiple devices. As I recall, Monster has a "travel" Power Bar that's rated for operation on 220 VAC electrical systems. Some Chargers aren't designed for "continuous duty operation" so it's a good idea to unplug them when charging is complete.

As a previous post mentioned, Cell Phone shops are ubiquitous in the U.K. (Carphone Warehouse is one choice, but I believe Tesco, a large supermarket chain, has their own version as well). You might want to check the websites for the various networks to have a look at the pricing and plans offered by O2, Orange, Vodaphone, Virgin and the other networks. Also, have a look at the choices in PAYG handsets. I've roamed on various networks, and found that O2 and Orange seemed to have the best coverage.

Good luck and happy travels!

Posted by
8868 posts

Januelle had a lot of good suggestions, including Space Bags. She recommended the vacuum bags, but I would suggest the bags you just squeeze the air out of. That way they can be used even if no vacuum is available. Since you are looking to just transport to one place where you will be staying I think it would be better to have a heavier bag, but only one. Don't underestimate how hard it will be to haul multiple bags around.

Posted by
4740 posts

Hi Sherry, I lived in London for a year and these are some of the things that I'd suggest.

-Electrical adaptors (both for UK and Europe). Bring several of the UK variety so you can charge laptop and another device like a camera or ipod at the same time. Make sure everything is marked 110-240. Laptop, ipods, cameras are generally fine. I would buy hairdryer and such things in UK. Buy the powerstrip in the UK also.

  • A raincoat with a hood (note that your jacket might be a reasonable substitute) and a small umbrella that fits in your pocket (note you can easily buy a small umbrella there). The hood is so useful when you happen to be out and it starts raining. Plus it keeps your hand free to carry other things.

-I would not take up your luggage space with too many toiletries. Most U.S. brands are readily available in U.K. plus Boots, a pharmacy chain ("chemist" in British English) has a great selection.

  • I agree with prior suggestion of just going to a place like carphone warehouse for a cell phone.

-Bed linen - beds aren't exactly the same sizes as U.S. I'd consider buying after you arrive at a place like IKEA. I'd choose a duvet (with removable cover) over a comforter.

  • I agree with comment about making sure to bring the jeans you prefer. I also had a difficult time finding jeans that fit me well in Europe.

-I disagree with earlier comment about skipping the earmuffs. Bring them. I wore mine all the time when it was cold.

  • I can't think of anything else at moment as you can buy virtually anything you forgot there
Posted by
8868 posts

If you buy the power adapter there I wouldn't think you could plug your US devices directly into it. If you bring one from home and put an adapter on the plug it would be better. Just be sure it is dual voltage.

Posted by
4740 posts

Andrea, I think you are thinking of converters. Adaptors do not have a voltage. They simply adapt one type of plug to fit the outlet.

To clarify, the adaptors should be bought in the U.S. because it will be hard to find a U.S. to U.K. adaptor in England.

Posted by
8868 posts

Thanks Laura, my mistake. I have never taken a power strip so I never checked into what was needed. I just figured that buying one there wouldn't work because it is made for UK plugs, not ours. If you had to have an adapter for each plug, why bother to take the strip.

Posted by
8868 posts

I guess I just don't get it. Why buy a strip there and have to have an adapter for each plug, rather than buy one here that will only require one adapter to plug it into the wall?

Posted by
36 posts

Actually, Andrea may be right. If I bought a power strip in England, wouldn't all the socket things be for British electronics? I'll just bring a power strip from the US and use one adapter. Can I not do this? I mean, then all of my electronics would fit in without an adapter and I could just buy one to fit on the American power strip....unless I"m missing something...

I've been thinking about all of your suggestions and I decided to buy linens and a comforter/duvet thing abroad. I'll just take an old sleeping bag with me for emergencies. I also bought a windbreaker with a winter coat lining, so that should be OK for winter and spring. How cold does it really get? I'll have scarves, earmuffs, and mittens too.

I'm also planning on going to buy some space bags to limit everything to one suitcase. I've eliminated a few shirts, but what are the chances I'll still be under 50lbs?

Posted by
8868 posts

Steve, isn't what you just said in the first paragraph of your last post what I said originally in my 3:52 p.m. post?

Posted by
11443 posts

For your smaller devices, why not leave all the chargers at home, and just take one....


I not only use this when traveling, but I use it at home as well. Only need one outlet and I can charge up to six small gadgets.

Posted by
8868 posts

Frank II - I think you have the best solution. And Steve - it was me that said I didn't get it, not Sherry. Sherry was agreeing with me.

Posted by
31521 posts

Frank II,

Thanks for mentioning the ChargePod; I forgot about that.

I used one on the last trip and it worked great for charging Cellphones, IPods and similar devices that operate at USB voltage levels. When ordering a ChargePod package, it's necessary to specify which Cables & Plugs are required for each device (there's a WIDE selection available).

Just to clarify a point that Steve mentioned, for those thinking of buying a Power Strip for trips in Europe, DO NOT use North American power strips that have Surge Protection or RFI/EMI Filters built-in!!! These are NOT designed for use on 220VAC electrical systems.

For those interested in Surge Protection for electronic devices, have a look at NOTE this does NOT provide any Voltage Conversion so any devices connected must be designed for "world" operation. Also, this is provided with a Euro-style Plug assembly, so a Plug Adapter would be needed for use in the U.K.


Posted by
2349 posts

Sherry, to find out what your suitcase will weigh, you'll just have to pack it and see. Then put on your jacket, your day bag or back pack, and take your suitcase to the nearest L stop. Lug it up the stairs and onto the train. Change trains a few times. Now go back home and reduce the stuff you're taking!

You will need to take more than an average vacation traveler, because you'll be living there. But a trial trip around town will give you some motivation to lighten the load.

Posted by
47 posts

I'd consider packing a small Swiss army knife or Leatherman. It doesn't have to be big. When I studied abroad I had one of the key chain sized knives that had a knife, file, and scissors. I found it so useful that I've carried one around with me to this day.

Pretty much everyone I have known that has studied abroad has at least wanted to freshen up their wardrobe considerably after acclimating to the fashion of the country they visited. Keep that in mind when packing t-shirts and such--know that you will want to shop if you can afford to. ;)

Posted by
21855 posts

,,,,it's hard to imagine packing an entire wardrobe that will work in winter and summer :) .......

You don't. You buy what you need when you need it.

Let me suggest something that may be too late to follow. Also follows a little along kg's earlier comments. When our son went abroad for a semester the Study Abroad Office at the Univ of CO issue a number of guidelines. Limit to one suitcase and a small day bag. Limiting clothing to a max of one week wear and less if possible. The reasoning for the limited clothing is that they found that students want dress like their peer group who were wearing mostly European purchase clothing. There is an active second hand market among students for clothing plus when you are there everyone knows where the bargains are. He really took min clothes which worked to his advantage.

When we visited over Spring break, he asked us to bring an empty suitcase. He sent all of his Am clothing home with us including shoes. When he got ready to return he sold some of his clothing, donated some, and carried some home in his original one suitcase. He told some interesting tales after wards of students who had not followed the guidelines very well.

Remember, this is not the Peace Corp is some remote corner of Africa. Everything you may need or want can be purchased. Power strips, adapters (beyond one or two) are available. Granted -- may cost a little but there is also a cost to purchase things here that you may not need. I would cut you list in half -- across the board.

Posted by
11443 posts

The devices to be charged with the Chargepod do not have to be USB, or mini plug,...they just have to have some sort of plug. And if they have a charger, they have a plug. All you have to get is an adaptor for your device. It's about 4 inches long and weighs less than an ounce. (And it's easy. You go to the Chargepod website, look up your "gadget" and they tell you which adaptor you need. You can order direct through them, through Amazon, or lots of other places.)

Except for the computer, the Chargepod will charge everything Sherry said she is taking or thinking of getting. No power strips, no numerous bulky chargers....just the one device.

And won't your desk/counter look so much neater with just one little device charging everything rather than the mess we saw in the photo?

Oh, and they also have a device called a Fueltank. Fueltank Uno and Fueltank Duo. When fully charged, either from their own charger or with the Chargepod, can then recharge one or two devices when you are on the go and not near a plug. Each holds 3-4 charges for your chosen gadget. They use the same adaptors as the Chargepod. Great for plane, train, long days in class, etc.

Posted by
47 posts

You also might want to bring or ship a few local gifts with you as well. For example, when I studied abroad I brought some along some small jars of marionberry jam (a local specialty) that worked well as gifts. Also consider bringing a few favorite recipes as well (you can save them on your laptop/netbook) in case you want to make some comfort food, or if you end up making dinner for anyone. (I studied in Finland and multiple people asked me to make a 'traditional' American meal).

Posted by
8868 posts

FYI most women don't use an electric razor for their legs...

Posted by
11443 posts

I wasn't suggesting you take the Chargepod, Steve, I was suggesting Sherry take it in regard to what she mentioned.

No, it will not charge a PC, but it will charge almost all digital cameras with internal rechargeable batteries.

And since she didn't mention an electric razor, neither did I.

The real question is: what is your problem? I offered Sherry an idea to help with weight and space, without saying anything negative about what you wrote, and you are going on and on about why a chargepod is no good for you. I didn't suggest you use it, I was talking to Sherry.

Wow, you must really hate me...trying to make me look bad, trying to discredit everything I write. Is your need to "be right" and seen as "the expert" that big?

Remember, this is a board where people come to ask questions and share their knowledge of Europe. It's not "Steve's Europe Board."