Student Reflections

Packing as a First-Time Traveler

Clara McCourt
May 8, 2023

I don’t remember the last time I was on a plane. In my twenty-one years of life, my furthest vacation destination was the sunny state of Florida. This trip is different; in a few days I begin five weeks in London. As a study abroad newbie, there’s a lot on my mind. However, in order to start my adventures abroad, I first need to figure out what to bring with me!

Packing has been a struggle for me, as I quickly realized that I can’t fit my entire closet in a suitcase. As a packer, I’d compare myself to a defunct early 2000s clothing store — everything must go. But not packing enough is equally annoying, because I don’t want to spend five weeks setting up camp in the laundry room. 


I decided my best course of action would be to prepare for layering — England’s weather is unpredictable, and I didn’t want to get caught in sweaters in the summer or shorts in the rain. I set aside some light jackets, cardigans, and shirts so I’m prepped for whatever Mother Nature decides to throw my way.

On top of that, London is a fashion capital — I was advised that the British stay away from sweatpants and workout clothes, which sadly are an American staple. In true fake-it-til-you-make-it fashion, I wanted to make sure that I was dressing my best. I set aside my best pants and “going out tops” (whatever those are). I wanted a mix of clothes that are comfortable yet put-together.


I also needed some Britain-specific things: UK power converters, walking shoes for our day trips, and a new rain jacket (My current one is ten years old and eye-burning neon pink). The last thing I want to be is an embarrassing American, so I did my homework on what other people bring for similar trips.

Finishing Touches

To ease my stress, I mentally packed in my head for about a week to prepare for the big day. Maybe this wasn’t the best coping mechanism, but it gave me something to focus on rather than staring at an empty suitcase. I made a list to stop myself from shoving all of my possessions into a bag. Passport? Necessary. My broken cell phone from eighth grade? Not necessary.

After some hemming and hawing, I limited myself to three bags — a large suitcase, a carry-on duffel, and my backpack. I shoved in a sizable chunk of my wardrobe, with room to spare for whatever souvenirs I pick up along the way. It’s only when I zipped up my suitcase that I felt that I had planted a flag on the peak of Clothing Mountain.

After my packing extravaganza had ended, I ran into a new problem — I’m five feet tall, and can barely carry my groceries home from Trader Joe’s without channeling Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Three bags, plus my Mary-Poppins-style purse of necessities, is a little more than I’d like to carry around. 

I fly to London tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to everything — but right now, I’m most looking forward to checking my bag.