One of our professors told us he would go easy on us for final exams, in the understanding the we are currently stuck in чемоданное настроение (lit., “suitcase mood”)—the state of feeling flustered and “in limbo” as a result of impending travel. In preparation for returning home, I will share some travel/packing advice I almost always follow. Being a careful packer is one of the better things you can do for yourself as a study abroad student, as you’ll avoid overweight baggage fees and won’t have to haul so much around—while still being prepared for a variety of scenarios.
1.) Pick out the clothes you want to bring, and put half back. Maybe even 2/3 back. It was tempting to bring all my best outfits this semester, but I was ultimately better off sticking to just a few. You should pack with the intention of layering, but never pack anything that can only be worn in combination with something else specific. Then if you lose/damage one part of the outfit, you effectively lose use of two articles of clothing.
2.) Pack as many “useful” things as you can in your carry-on. That way, if the sent baggage gets lost or delayed (about 40 million bags are lost each year by airlines), you can go about your business without having to go shopping all over again. I try to put enough clothes, toiletries, reading material, and snacks for two days.
3.) Pack things you aren’t too attached to. Once again, I was really tempted to bring my favorite everything so I would look great in all the photos that inevitably get taken on study abroad. Even so, I intentionally packed winter clothes, a towel, sneakers, and books that I would be ok with leaving in Russia, so I could make room for any souvenirs or new clothes bought over the course of the semester. Our program directors let you drop off clean clothes in the AIFS office, so they can be donated to orphanages.
4.) Bring a lot of bags. The Ziploc bags for liquids, or just reused shopping bags to keep all your clothes in. It’s much easier for me to find stuff when it’s not just floating loose in a big duffel or suitcase. They’re also good for keeping wet/dirty clothes in, and it’s not like plastic bags weigh anything anyway.
5.) Don’t put wrapped gifts or carefully-packed boxes in your checked bag. If security decides to go through your bag, your careful work will most likely be ripped up and casually thrown back together.
6.) If you’re traveling with a friend (on spring break) and you’re both sending checked bags, split your stuff between each other’s bags. If one of you loses yours, it’s not as big a deal because both bags have half your stuff in them and you can still get by.