Packing UP: Study abroad in the northern hemisphere

So maybe you’re sticking with familiar, cold weather, but it doesn’t matter- you’re going abroad, which makes any temperature almost tolerable!  London, Paris, Luxembourg?  I wouldn’t be complaining!  But, I would be dreading the thought of packing for 4-5 weeks worth of warm, bulky clothing.  I used the same suitcase for 5 weeks worth of clothes for Australia as I did for 10 days worth of clothes for London, but don’t let this fool you– I overpacked, of course!

London, England March 2013


Let’s start with the basics.  Every trip, no matter where you’re going, uses the same basics:  jeans and tees.  Here you’ll want 2-3 pairs of jeans and a handful of tees for layering.  Long sleeve tees don’t have to be boring.  Try them under an open chambray shirt or over a long, flowy tank to expose the lace trim.  The main idea for any long trip is to make sure each piece can be used in multiple outfits.  This is easily done if you stick to a sort of color scheme with your clothes.  Just like with my tips for going abroad to the southern hemisphere, I recommend making a list of each piece of clothing and making a mark next to it for every outfit combo it can be used in.

See how I used 2 sweaters, 2 shirts, 3 pairs of pants, 1 coat, and 2 pairs of shoes to make 5 outfits that have plenty more options of combinations:

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You could add the scarf and/or hat to any of the outfits to switch them up a bit.  The grey sweater from Outfit #1 could be worn alone with any of the pants and the grey shirt from Outfit #2 could be worn alone or under the chambray shirt with a necklace.  Dress up any of the shirts or sweaters with a skirt and tights for an evening out or sub the wool coat for a down jacket when you’ll be outside for a long time.

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The biggest concern when it comes to packing for cold weather is the bulkiness of the clothing. Thick sweaters and coats add up in size and weight a lot quicker than tanks and swim suits, but that’s ok!  It requires us to limit ourselves a little more but, then we just remind ourselves we’re on our way to London and everything gets better.

Coats:  You don’t have space in your suitcase to make a coat your main fashion statement.  Stick with your basics.  I’d suggest 2 coats:  a warm wool coat that can be used on warmer days or evenings out when your outerwear needs to be a bit more presentable.  Your second should be a warm down coat.  It’s not necessarily attractive but it is practical and for the amount you’ll be walking outside and site seeing, your comfort (I mean warmth) will matter more than anything.  Wear this one (stuff it in the overhead) on the plane to save space in your luggage.

Accessories:  This is where you can give away a lot of valuable space to something you don’t need.  This is my weakest area because I love scarves, wool socks, and winter hats.  Of course these are important but it’s more important to be selective.  Bring 2-3 scarves with different color schemes to maximize usability and the 1-2 hats you can’t live without.  Limit yourself to one bag for cosmetics and a small bag for jewelry.  Consider buying shampoo, conditioner, etc.. when you get there.

Shoes: Be realistic about the amount you’ll be walking.  I’d say heels are a no-go unless you’re living close to the bars you’ll be going to.  Cabs are expensive when you live in a city with excellent public transportation.  You’ll want a pair of sneakers and waterproof boots like bean boots.  Throw in a pair of ankle booties and neutral flats.  Stay away from those navy oxfords that you only really wear with that one outfit, plus they give you blisters.

Last piece of advice:  if you never take your coat off in a given day (it might happen more than you think)… repeat the outfit that was hiding underneath!

Happy Travels!

-Molly Dougherty

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