Thursday, November 1, 2012

What my suitcase SHOULD have looked like

Now that Raymond and I have been abroad for a couple of months, I know how I wish I had packed for this trip. Even though I lived abroad once before (Guatemala, summer 2010), I agonized for weeks over what to bring to the UK. In the 24 hours before our flight I went through multiple suitcases and repacking scenarios, trying to figure out how to take as much as possible while still keeping under the weight limit.

Remember this photo from the night before we left? I only ended up with a fraction of all that stuff, but  I wish I could go back and take out more!

This is how my suitcase should have looked. Some things I got right, others... let's just say I wish I could have a do-over. I'll tell you, hauling 70 pounds of luggage (a suitcase and heavy carry-on) up subway stairs in London is NO FUN!

My "Top 10" things I should and should not have packed:

10. In this digital age, I have plenty of pictures on my phone and iPad (not to mention an unlimited amount on Facebook), so I didn't take the time to pick out actual prints to bring with me. I wish I had! Since I'm basically living out of a suitcase for the semester, my dorm room is pretty bare in comparison to my room back home. A few pictures of my family would have made a big difference, especially in the first few weeks when everything was new and a little hard to adjust to.

9. I wouldn't consider us addicted to the television, but at home Raymond and I do occasionally like to sit at night and watch a program or a movie. I thought ahead to bring my favorite, The Proposal, on DVD but Raymond forgot IronMan in Kansas. We've wished for the movie many nights when we just wanted something "comfy" that reminded us of home. True, we could probably buy the movie and stream it online, but we're trying to save as much money as possible. The DVD that sits packed in a box in Kansas would have been a light addition to his suitcase that brought us the joy of home!

8. When we travel, we do it on the cheap. That means hostels! My flip flops have been one of the most important things I packed and brought with me, because I can shower without feeling gross about the floor. I'm glad I brought them because they're hard to find in winter in England (go figure). Also, a small hand towel has been great as hostels do not provide anything but sheets and a bed!

7. I admit it, I brought too many dresses. At home, I wear a dress almost 4-5 days every week. I love them, and I have to dress professionally for my job! Here, it's cold and I prefer my jeans. In hindsight, I wish I had only brought one dress and packed more shirts and sweaters.

6. The same goes for my shoes! Anyone who knows me knows how much I love shoes, especially heels. Unfortunately, I should have saved the space in my suitcase and only brought one pair. You see, I walk about 10 TIMES more here than I do at home, which makes the heels I wear daily in Wichita not very practical in England. I've worn them a couple nights down at campus events... and that's about it. Also on shoes, when we left it was summer so I brought what I thought was my most versatile and warmest pair of boots. What I didn't realize was that they were about ready to fall apart (and they did, in London). I had to buy a new pair when I could have just brought a different pair from home. Darn, I had to buy shoes! :D But seriously, we're trying to save as much money as possible, remember? Moral of this post: check your shoes and buy new ones at home if necessary (they'll be less expensive in the USA).

5. An absolute must for this part of the world: an umbrella. I'm also glad I brought my rain coat, even if most locals don't wear them. I probably stick out like a tourist badly, but guess what? I'm always dry!

4. More deodorant. I know, this sounds silly. I'm living in England, I should be able to hop in any drugstore and pick up more deodorant  right? WRONG! Yes, it is widely available, but only in the aerosol version. If you're American and you're used to stick deodorant (I've used both but much prefer solid), make sure you bring enough to last your entire trip. I've only found about one brand of stick deodorant and it was three times the price I would pay at home. Worth the weight in the suitcase, and it will leave some extra room for the trip home.

3. Power converters. This is quite possibly the most important item for your suitcase, since wherever you are going will not have them for you. Why would they have a converter, their electronics work in these sockets! If you want to charge your cell phone and computer ASAP, I suggest having a couple ready to plug into the wall right away.

2. A backpack. I LOVE purses, and brought two of my favorite saddle bags with me. While they look great and I love to use them during the day around campus, I ended up buying a cheap backpack for traveling after our weekend in London. Eventually, one-shoulder bags start to kill your back. Trust me, the backpack just works better for overnight stays. It only cost me 9 pounds, but again, this is something I easily could have brought with me and saved a little money on.

1. The number one thing I wish I could UNPACK: my Chi hairdryer! I picked up this fantastic dryer at TJMaxx about a year ago for less than half the retail price (great bargain). I had been warned not to take any appliances like that, but I carefully read the directions on my power converter and it said the voltages would be okay. WRONG. The very first night we were in Italy after a very long day of traveling, I blew my converter because I tried to dry my hair. It's yet to be known if the dryer will be okay... I can't test it out. I plan on taking it back with me and hopefully it works at Christmas, otherwise I hauled several pounds there and back for absolutely no reason (and killed a great hair dryer). Really sad.

Hope that helps anyone planning on studying abroad! Feel free to comment with any other questions or concerns. Happy November everyone, last night we reached 4,000+ hits on the blog! Thank you SO MUCH for all your love and support!

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