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Luggage and Packing

Packing can be one of the more exciting, yet frustrating, pre-departure activities. This page will explore some of the constraints you should bear in mind when packing.

The first thing you should take note of is the difference between checked luggage and carry-on luggage.

Essentially, checked luggage is luggage that you surrender to the airline when you check in for your flight and collect your boarding pass at the airport. The luggage gets stored in the hull of your plane and you will not have access to it again until you arrive in your host country, go through immigration screening, and collect it from baggage claim. Carry-on luggage, as the name implies, is luggage that you take with you on board your flight.

Airlines have different allowances for checked and carry-on luggage. Please check with your airline for the:

  • Exact number of bags they permit you to check in and carry on;
  • Weight limit for each bag;
  • Size (dimensions) that is allowed for each bag; and,
  • Fees they might charge for each checked or carry-on luggage.

Be sure to look for the requirements that apply to you. If your flight itinerary involves multiple fights, please check the baggage allowance for each leg of your itinerary. In some countries, your domestic transfer may have a more limited baggage allowance and you might find yourself having to dump items in order to get your luggage onto the plane.

Keep your passport and all other immigration documents in your carry-on luggage. This includes all documents you need to enter your host country. Do NOT pack them into your checked luggage!

Please also be aware of the various regulations that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has laid out regarding what you can carry onto planes, including:

If you would like to lock your bag, please make sure that you use only TSA-approved locks. A list of TSA-approved locks can be found here.

Should I buy a power converter?

First we need to distinguish between voltage or power converters versus plug adapters. Power or voltage converters change the voltage of your electrical equipment, while plug adapters allow you to use the plug pins of one country in another./p>

For your safety, we discourage you from relying on voltage converters while overseas. Any electrical appliance that you bring, for example your laptop, digital camera, or cell phone, should be compatible with your country's voltage system. The U.S. has a 110-120 voltage system, while some other countries use a 220-250 voltage system. You should check your electrical product before taking it overseas. If the power box states that it is compatible with both ranges of voltage, you should be fine.

While you should not rely on voltage converters, you may and would most probably want to obtain one or two travel plug adapters. If the voltage on your electrical equipment is compatible with your host country's voltage system, you may still likely need an adapter for your equipment's plug.

The picture above shows an easy-to-use multi-country plug adapter. You can obtain it from Of course, you can also find other plug adapters in the travel section of stores, such as Target.

Other Packing Tips and Resources

Do not take curling irons or hair straighteners with you, even if the product states that it is a curling iron or hair straightener suitable for travelers. We have heard stories from students who brought such items from the U.S. and ended up blowing fuses in their host country's accommodation or the actual product themselves, and even burning their own hair. If you need a curling iron or hair straightener, it would be best to get an inexpensive one from your host country.

Suggestions for items to pack:

One-bag packing (especially for short-term programs, unless pursuing internship):

Review the Directory section in the Lonely Planet or Let's Go guide for your host country. There is usually a list of suggested items you should take with you.

Talk to returnees or other students who have been to those countries. The Study Abroad Office has Student Peer Advisers who would also be happy to answer any questions you have about packing.

Finally, remember that you will very likely bring home more than what you left with. Therefore, leave room in your suitcase for those extra items that you would like to bring home with you.

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